May 30, 2011

#TheList, No. 181: Just So Stories

A Collection of Rudyard Kipling's Just So StoriesKipling, R. (2008). Just So Stories.  London: Penguin Group.

These are all short stories Kipling made up with his daughter as well as to preserve her memory.  The stories each tell the origin of something, like How the Leopard Got His Spots, or the How the Camel Got His Hump.  They're cute and silly and perfect to be read aloud to kids.  Kipling's daughter passed away when she was 6.  The stories involving the creation of writing and the alphabet involve a father and daughter working together to create something, reflecting Kipling's relation with his own daughter.  

The captions to the illustrations, which were also drawn by Kipling, are probably the best part.  They each repeat part of a story, but Kipling adds in a few new quips to give the stories some extra oomph.  The only problem is that about half of the pictures depict something before it occurs.  It gets really annoying to have to skip the pictures and go back to them once the story is complete, but it might just be a problem with the layout of the edition I have.

I remember in 4th grade, we read one of Kipling's stories and then had to make our own.  I was on a 101 Dalmatians kick at the time, and I'm fairly certain my story involved Dalmatians painting spots on themselves.  Not my best work.

May 26, 2011

Roald Dahl's The Witches

I reread The Witches because I thought it was on The List.  It's not.  I need to start double checking before I do this now because this is the third time in a month this has happened.  Oops.  But it's still an awesome book, and while like every other Dahl book it doesn't paint a nice picture for children, it doesn't set out to scare them either.  It creates a problem and the kid (or in this case, the kid-mouse) solves it. 

Anway, here's where my reading of Dahl's Boy could potentially come in handy for a quick connection between this novel and his early life.  But why use that when a story from my own life, in my obviously unbiased opinion, would be so more entertaining?  Well, at least for me and maybe my Mom.

The WitchesIn 1990, this novel was made into a movie.  At the time, I was 3 years old and had no knowledge of said movie.  When I was about 5, I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a woman looking at me through my window.  She then proceeded to take off her face.  Was I hallucinating?  I sure as hell hope so.  But it was enough to scare the bajeezus out of me. 

Anyway, flashforward a few years to me channel surfing and while passing a standard kids' channel, I happened to catch a glimpse of that same lady who was outside my window that night.  And she was taking her face off.  Despite being a few years older, the sight of that is still fairly unsettling, but I toughed it out and waited to see what this movie was.  Then I did what any sensible nerd would do: I found the book it was based on and read it.  Yay!
Sidenote: I just realized that the main witch in the movie is played by Anjelica Huston, which possibly explains the slight nervousness I experience whenever I watch "The Royal Tenenbaums." 

May 23, 2011

Julie and Julia

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking DangerouslyJust like when I finished watching the movie (Meryl Streep...swoon!), all I want to do now that I've finished reading this book is cook like a fiend.  But I don't really cook.  Sometimes I like to pretend that I do can, but really, cupcakes inside of ice cream cones is about as domestic I can get in the kitchen, or anywhere really.
So to remedy this desire to cook, I'm currently preheating the oven to make some of my Trader Joe's frozen Orange Chicken.  Frozen foods are a godsend.   

But yeah, the book.  I love it.  I mean, I love memoirs so it's probably no surprise that I couldn't put this down.  I'd heard the complaints from a bunch of people that this book was graphic when it came to dissecting meats, Julie Powell loves to overswear (as she SHOULD because swearing like a sailor is healthy, or at least I've come to believe this), and she's a whiny brat about 85% of the time.  All are true. 

But the book is still so much fun to read because you get to witness how cooking French food makes her spiral down into a crazy psychotic mess, which you wouldn't think possible when you read how psychotic she was before she started her "project" (basically, she cooked every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogged about it in the days when blogs were a relatively new construction).  

Who will love this book:
1) Democrats --> Despite being from Texas, she hates Republicans and isn't shy about vocalizing her disdain for all they stand for.  She also worked for a government agency that dealt with the aftermath of 9/11, during the dark age of Republican leadership, so she's got a lot of good stuff to comment snidely on.  Yayness!

2) Food lovers -->  Duh.

3) People who love to cook --> You'll love making fun of her stupidity when it comes to cooking pretty much everything in the book.  

4) People who hate to (or just can't) cook --> You're not alone.  Plus, this woman made a pretty awesome profit on her ability to burn crepes.  She got a bunch of magazine and television interviews, a book deal, and Amy Adams to play her in a movie.  Not too shabby.  Next time someone makes fun of your apple pie with the plastic wrapper still stuck to the pre-bought dough you can tell them to shove it because one day millions of people could potentially see a movie based on your life and this moment will be a great scene to have in the movie trailer.  

Who will hate this book:
1) Vegetarians --> At least I'm assuming they would.  Among other things, she has to debone a duck and scoop marrow out of a cow bone, and does not shy away from discussing them.  Not one bit. 

2) Julia Child --> Granted, she's no longer able to read the book, but apparently she hated Julie.  Julia thought she was capitalizing on her success or didn't think Julie was taking cooking seriously, either way, she was not a fan.  

3) Republicans --> See above.

Aaaand my oven is done preheating so it's time to have a dance party to Gaga and pretend I know how to cook. 

May 18, 2011

Liz Lemon Hunger

It's been awhile since I've actually liked a book that wasn't a memoir or a reread.  I've decided that there's 2 reasons for this:

1) I'm always hungry when I'm reading and like Liz Lemon when she doesn't get her sandwich from the Teamsters on sandwich day (which should be a national holiday if it's not one already), I am not a happy person when I'm hungry or when someone takes food away from me.  Right now I'm mourning the fact that I'm out of wasabi peas and how just last week someone stole Reese's from me (NOT OKAY).  If my parents wanted to punish me more effectively when I was growing up, they should have taken away my food, not force me to eat stuff I didn't like.


2) I keep comparing books I read to Fey's Bossypants.  Which isn't fair, I know, because Bossypants is perfection and as a memoir, it's obviously structured differently than a novel.  It's also about Tina's life so it's clearly better than most fiction.  Yes, I love Tina Fey and it's her birthday today and you should read this blog entry my friend wrote about her because I said so.  

The Astonishing Adventures Of Fanboy And Goth Girl (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)But luckily, when I read Barry Lyga's The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, I was on a 4 hour bus trip from NY and had a 1.5 pound bag of candy and chocolate covered pretzels next to me to maintain my hyperness after meeting Sheldon from "The Big Bang Theory" and consequently getting next to no sleep due to excitement.  To sum up, I was in a good mood  because I wasn't hungry, had extra food, and had met Sheldon, so I was ready to actually enjoy a book.  Basically, the story is almost the typical social outcast loves comic books, creates his own graphic novel, meets a girl (gasp!) and so on and so forth.  There are elements to the story, however, that make it not so typical, so aside from the fact that I was happy whilst reading (see above if you've somehow forgotten what makes me happy), they're the reasons I really liked this book. 

This book does a far better job than the book Drawing a Blank: Or How I Tried to Solve a Mystery, End a Feud, and Land the Girl of My Dreams when it comes to revering comic books and graphic novels.  I read Drawing a Blank for a class project and it was all over the place.  The discussion of comic book history felt forced in Drawing a Blank, but in Fanboy it was more organic and actually made me want to start reading more graphic novels, something "The Big Bang Theory" also accomplishes for me...hence why my high from meeting Sheldon has something to do with my liking this book so much.  But moving on.

Donnie (Fanboy) clearly loves comic books and what I love about this book is that his love is never challenged.  I used the word love too many times just then and I don't care.  Anyway,  usually the nerd goes through a phase where a character tries to force him from his hobby, (like the Time Machine episode of "Big Bang"...I'm really in a Fey and "Big Bang" rut, aren't I?) but that doesn't happen here because there's a more endearing story on the surface than the nerd needs to get a life plot.  The only thing that happens with this storyline is Goth Girl argues that graphic novels are better than comic books.   Truth?

Goth Girl is a huge mess.  A suicidal, pathological liar, flashing comic book conventions, kicking guys in the balls mess.  I love her.  She'd normally be the one the hero has to "save," but that doesn't happen because the novel isn't a comic book.  She, like my comedian love Fey, is all about girls kicking ass.  There's a sequel called Goth Girl Rising that came out recently that I'm going to have to read now.  While eating delicious fattening food.  

May 16, 2011

Search Terms

-panopticon related to the disreputable history
-"cautionary tales" +"children's books list"
-ap we didn't start the fire lesson plan
-what happened pp 80-150 in the giver

These are just some of the search terms people have used to end up at this blog.  Only 1 of them led to  what I would consider an actual match.  Unfortunately for that last search, which I assume came from a student who hadn't done his/her homework, it wasn't the match.

Sometimes you can get lucky with longer search phrases, but most of the time you're not going to find exactly what you're looking for.  Being specific in your search doesn't mean use more words.  Search engines just bring up results that contain those words, usually in order of popularity.  Just because the terms are all present in the site doesn't mean that they're actually related to each other in their presentation. 

Adults have a hard enough time figuring out how to search for information, but children who are just learning how to use search engines are usually worse.  Not only do they never look past the first page of results, but their search terms are atrocious.  According to research, if children don't find what they're looking for, they either change their spelling, rearrange their search terms, or add more words.  Then they repeat the process over and over.  With the rise in technology and in turn, the rise in ridiculously young children using it, children  are developing bad search habits before properly learning how to search for information.  Hence why people (cough, librarians) need to interfere before their bad search habits become too fixed. 

This video, while frightening, is pretty adorable.  Unfortunately, the kid's name is Bridger.  Oh well.

May 11, 2011

#TheList, No. 965: Witch Child

Rees, C.  (2002).  Witch Child.  Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.

This book has taken me far too long to read.  It's horribly embarrassing because I adore the Salem Witch Trials.  I used to read anything and everything about the SWT.  There were books from my library that I'm pretty sure remained in my possession for a full year because I would constantly renew them.   My obsession with witches is 1/2 the reason I was am obsessed with Sabrina the Teenage Witch (the other 1/2 is my love for Clarissa Explains it All).  I even did a project on them recently because of my love for that history.  So I should have loved this book, right?

It is such a SNOOZEFEST.  I'm fairly certain that some pages were copied and sporadically repeated throughout the novel.  There are parts I only vaguely remember reading because watching ants march down the sidewalk was a far more interesting experience than paying attention to what was written on the page.  Speaking of ants, read this terrifying zombie ant story. 

But Witch Child tends to get favorable reviews: it's on the List (but so is Twilight...), it received rave recommendations from a bunch of literary magazines and journals, teens love what am I missing?  The main character, Mary, is apparantly a real witch, which is kind of a twist for this type of historical fiction, but nothing fun happens with that revelation.  That's not even a spoiler because you find out almost immediately.  It's followed by horribly boring descriptions of people sewing and gardening and nothing remotely exciting occurs until there are only about 40 pages left.  ZzzzzzzzZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZ. 

The historical aspect of the novel is slightly interesting, but the fiction part of historical fiction is sorely lacking.  The Witch of Blackbird Pond and even Gallows Hill, by Lois Duncan, which is only indirectly about about SWT, are far more entertaining reads. 

May 4, 2011

Attorney Update

I'm being scolded once again by the 87 year old attorney who thinks my going to librarian school is worthless, but also an opportunity for him to publish a series for kids on Native Americans.  As you may or may not recall, this series was to star an Indian chief named Wolfman.  Well it's Wolfman no more.  Now his name is Lone Star Wolf, which is wonderful because we can get Chuck Norris to pose for the cover art as an intoxicated cowboy. 

In addition to being born on the first Thanksgiving before the Pilgrims arrived, Wolfman Lone Star Wolf was "born many moons ago" on "a clear night."  I'm hoping he'll say that there was a full moon so we can add werewolves to this testament to U.S. history.  Now these additions to the Wolfman Lone Star Wolf saga may not seem that amusing, but I should note that they followed his declaration of "no liquor for the Indians!" which he shouted, unprovoked, as he walked by my desk.  Adorable. 

May 2, 2011

Librarians Getting Their Groove On

Thanks to the majesty of social networking, I happened upon this amazing AMAZING event.  Librarian book cart drill team competitions.  That's right, librarians who dance with book carts.  Why didn't I know that this existed prior to this weekend?!   This is an amazing opportunity for library visibility and hilarity.  As soon as I'm a librarian, I'm so going to win one of these contests and my team's going to win it in tap shoes.

I went on a youtube spree and this one might be my favorite: