Jan 29, 2012

Club Monaco on Notice

I was walking in a mall one delightfully snowy evening, in a perfectly content mood, when this display caught my eye.  It wasn't the clothes designed for the person who hates color that ruined my happy demeanor.  No, it was the blatant destruction of books used to highlight such boring ensembles.  Torn up books, books just hanging by a page from the walls, and books just tossed onto the floor like yesterday's garbage.  It hurts my soul.  

But it does look cool and I think that what upsets me the most.  I hate that I like it.  Damn you, Club Monaco!

Jan 26, 2012

#TheList, No. 314: Not so Fast Songololo

Malusi, also known as Songololo, goes with his grandmother to help her with her shopping for the day. He's the youngest and used to getting hand-me-downs, so when his grandmother buys him new red shoes, it's like the best thing to ever happen in the world. I understand Songololo; when your grandmother does something special for you, you cherish it. My grandmother used to fight the McDonald's workers when they gave out those Teenie Beanie Babies in Happy Meals in order to make sure that we never got the same one twice.   It was wonderful.  Granted, during those weeks we had to eat McDonald's breakfast, lunch, and supper, and believe it or not, kids can get sick of fast food. 

My first impression of this book was that it was incredibly dated.  I could probably attribute that to the fact that the copy I checked out from the library was falling apart and had a stamp on the first page reading "Withdrawn from Library" with a big red X.  But moving on...

The illustrations really set it apart from more current picture books.  The illustrations are surprisingly detailed watercolors and the facial features of the characters are wonderful.  However, only the last few pages include any pictorial background.  Instead, the majority of the pages feature only the characters and text against a white background.  It really threw me off that the characters were drawn to fill the pages and nothing relied on background images.  The colors are also fairly dull when compared to the vibrant, eyecatching colors used today, probably out of necessity to make people buy books.  Even though it made the book feel dated, it was refreshing to see such a strong focus on the characters, allowing a child reader/listener to connect with them while the story occurs.

The content was semi-dated/surprising as well.  While walking to the bus stop with his grandmother, Malusi kicks a beer can down the street.  I've never seen a picture book with a picture of beer before in my life.  Littering? Sure.  Beer? No.

I think the only thing that would trip up kids is some of the terminology.  The story takes place in South Africa and the story was written in 1985, so the language is sometimes tricky.  The sneakers that Malusi longs for in the store window are actually referred to as "tackies."  Kids are intuitive and can most likely figure it out by virtue of the fact that he's pressed up against a window display full of red sneakers.  The term "Songololo" isn't explained until the second to last page and I think it adds to the story.   Songololo ends up just being a special name the grandmother has for her grandson, but learning of their long-lasting special connection late in the story just solidifies the strength of their relationship readers witness in the book.  I looked up "songololo" to see if it had any significance outside of a special nickname, but it just means "millipede."  The perils of using Google: they always show you a preview of image results when you look up something.  Ew.

The best part of the book that kids probably won't understand or notice, are the ridiculous clothing styles of the other characters (again, it was the 80s).  My favorite: a woman crossing the street wearing a jacket that says "I <3 Elvis" across the back.  Just. Awesome.

Jan 18, 2012

#TheList, No. 138: Guess How Much I Love You

This book contains the classic game we like to call One-Upsmanship.  I love to play this game because I'm a horrible competitive person.  Oh you've been to a Dropkick Murphys concert, have you?  Well, I've performed with them onstage (true story):
       ^^that's my leg!
McBratney's picture book (illustrations by Anita Jeram) is really adorable.  At first I thought it was a nostalgia entry, and maybe it is, but it was written in 1994, which is the same year Friends debuted and I refuse to believe that the show is that old, so I'm not going to consider it a nostalgia book!  It's a great book for kids and here's why:

1) The illustrations:  They're simple, yet expressive.  Too detailed pictures would make the book seem heavy, when it's just supposed to be a light tale about how much a parent loves his kid.  The colors stay the same throughout the book, keeping a child focused on the story, rather than spending time dissecting all of the changes.  That makes it especially good for parents, because I'm sure this is the quintessential go-to-bed book. 

2) Anthropomorphizing.  The characters in the story are hares, specifically Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare.  The two characters could easily have been humans, but that's not as fun.  Kids love animals.  What was smart was choosing hares and having them constantly drawn in human positions: standing, jumping, stretching, holding each other, etc.  Kids are seeing the furry animal, but also seeing a reflection of their parents or whoever looks after them, which can be a comforting sight.  Either that or they see what they want as their next pet.

3) It's reassuring.  Every kid, actually every person wants to know that she's loved.  Look at Drew Barrymore's IMDB listings.  That poor girl has been looking for love all over the place.  Hearing that someone loves you, or even loves you more, is comforting to a child.  They're always worried that they're going to be returned to the stork, so it's wise to let them know that, hey, you're pretty cool.

4) One-Upsmanship (best game ever).  It's a horrible game for adults to play with kids, but we can't help it.  These kids are all proud that they can walk, but we've been doing that for 20+ years. Get on our level, kids!  No, but in all seriousness, that's what children are all about.  As soon as they learn how to do something, or think of something clever, they're off on a mission to brag about it.  Hell, I learned how to tie my shoes with a splinter in my eye and I wasn't about to let my Mom bring me to the hospital until I showed her what I could do.  The constant back and forth between father and son in this book is therefore familiar to children reading or hearing this story and is, again, comforting.  

5) It doesn't involve any creepy crawling across floors to stare at a sleeping adult like in that Robert Munsch book. It's just a simple message: I love you, a lot.

TV Scenes in Libraries Pt. 1

I think it's clear by now that I'm a fan of libraries. Libraries, bookshelves, and books. Even cupboards.  Sidenote, I really want a picture of me inside a cupboard so my blog title will be literal. It's also fairly obvious how much I love TV shows and all of the glory they bring. So, TV shows with scenes set in libraries are golden. Like Betty White, but better.

1) Friends, "The One With Ross' Library Book"
Friends is an all-time favorite. Ross has his dissertation published and after searching through his school's library catalog for funny names (Wendy Bagina), he realizes that the library owns a copy of his book.  He brings Chandler along to admire this accomplishment, only to find out that it's kept in a dusty section where students rendezvous to get busy.   In order to protect the integrity of the library, but more so his book, Ross decides to patrol the stacks to make sure the students are keeping it in their pants.  In doing so, however, he meets the one person who has checked out his book. She's impressed that he's so young (he did skip 4th grade) and then the scene cuts to them getting busted by actual library security.

2) Boy Meets World, "And Then There Was Shawn"
Hands down the best episode of BMW, "And Then There Was Shawn", is a spoof of slasher films, especially cult ones and all the 90s teen slasher films that were popular: I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream, and I can't think of any more because I don't actually like them. The students annoy life mentor/teacher/super man Mr. Feeney, and land themselves in detention with a random guy named Kenny, so when he's the first to die they can make the obligatory "he killed Kenny" joke. Anyway, people keep getting killed because they're locked inside the school with a killer, they decide to explore, and that leads them to the library. In the library there's a great death scene for Eric Matthews and guest star Jennifer Love Hewitt (the two were dating at the time - fun fact), as they get crushed to death by knocked over books. Awesome.

3) All That, Various
Alright, All That was a wonderful sketch comedy show that aired during the golden age of Nickelodeon (the 90s) and Lori Beth Denberg's greatest recurring role, in my opinion, was the Loud Librarian.  1) The character is an alliteration, 2) she's a complete stereotype of librarians except for the fact that 3) she's LOUD.  Library school students are constantly subjected to "QUIET!!!! THIS IS A LIBRARY!!!" but it's okay, we love it.  Watch this, you're welcome: 


Later: Chuck, Felicity, Buffy, Parks and Recreation, Golden Girls, SNL, etc etc etc.  Suggestions anyone?

Jan 15, 2012

#TheList, No. 896: Nausicaa

Since beginning Library School, I've become a huge fan/supporter of graphic novels.  Once I become a real librarian and not a pretend one, campaigning for large graphic novel collections will probably be my main focus.  They help increase spatial reasoning, strengthen inference making skills, build vocabulary, etc.  I love telling this all to people who think graphic novels are somehow of lesser value than prose fiction, but will happily dissect all of the hidden meanings in comic book movies.

Nausicaa, a series by Hayao Miyazaki, while not my favorite book, definitely belongs in a young adult graphic novel section and on "The List."  But before I delve into the series' plot, I need to rave about Miyazaki.  He's the writer/director/genius behind "Princess Mononoke," "Spirited Away," and "My Neighbor Tortoro."  Seriously, if you haven't seen these or any of his other movies, you need to check them out.  They're beautiful, completely different tones than the children movies from Disney, and make you think.  They also all tend to have strong female centric characters, which is something still lacking in American children's movies.  The movies aren't always, if ever, cute, and they offer more than just the classic good vs. evil.  They're like anime versions of Harry Potter.  Love.  I had a professor who only let her children watch his movies and not even the English dubbed versions.  She wanted them to see the images and make up their own stories.  Pretty cool.  

Nausicaa was originally serialized between 1982 and 1994 and was then combined to form longer graphic novels, which is what usually happens.  The novel I read contained Volumes I and II of the collection.  Apparently a movie came out in 1984 that included the first 16 chapters.  The English version has Shia LaBeouf voicing one of the characters, so maybe stick to the original.

Miyazaki's Nausicaa is a combination of the Nausicaa from The Odyssey and a Japanese heroine who was a "princess that loved insects."  Miyazaki combined the two characters to make a strong princess character dedicated to saving her people and nature.  The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world heavily poisoned and polluted and inhabited by survivors and lots of giant insects.  A war ensues in this story and the insects are manipulated into fighting.  This upsets nature lover Princess Nausicaa who is an awesome flier and swordsman (swordswoman?) so she sets out to make it right.

It's a good adventure sci-fi story.  I liked it, but you have to be super invested in reading this to be able to follow the story.  I'm not a hardcore sci-fi fan so I struggled a bit to understand everything, but sci-fans should have no problems.  It's definitely a more advanced graphic novel, and yes, graphic novels have different difficulty levels, so it's not something you can just hand to anyone.  

But it's good, so if it sounds like your cup of tea then read it.  And definitely, definitely, definitely check out Miyazaki's films because they are just wondrous. 

Hillary Reynolds Band

Shameless promotion of my friends' band's new music video. =)

Jan 13, 2012

Youtube vs. You Could Be Reading

This morning, during my daily exercise of looking at funny pictures on the interwebs, I found this amazing library campaign from the Milwaukee Public Library.  I love this.  It's clever, funny, and catchy because anyone will stare at something that has facebook on it (we even went to go see a movie about it that had JT playing a washed up Napster genius...c'mon).  I really hope it's effective.

Jan 12, 2012

Happy Birthday Charles Perrault

Do you like fairy tales? (nope, not looking at you, Swift)  Do you like Disney movies?  Perhaps you enjoy critiquing Disney movies for their blatant sexism and pushing like a drug the idea that girls just need to get married to be happy?  Well then you should wish Charles Perrault (my long lost ancestor, I like to believe/tell people) a happy 384th birthday today or a belated birthday if you read this later.  Do it.  

Perrault started off studying law, did some architect work and some writing, and then decided he was just going to write children's stories.  Fun fact: according to the Wikipedia, Perrault suggested to Louis XIV to include fountains representing Aesop's fables in the Versailles gardens. 

So once he decided his literary focus was going to be for the kids, like a 17th century version of no child left behind, he published Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals aka Tales of Mother Goose.  It included Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and Puss in Boots, among others.  So basically a lot of stories with women in submissive roles.  Like all the stories and movies and chick flicks/lit that comes out today! Hooray!!

But no, in all seriousness, the motivation behind them were the morals children could take from these sometimes graphic stories.  The morals were fitting for the time period (I think?), but need a drastic revision for application today.  And that's what fractured fairy tales are for!  Also, his stories are on The List (yay!) so I'll finally be reading the book my 5th grade dance teacher gave me solely because I share his last name. 

Jan 8, 2012

#TheList, No. 304: A Chair for My Mother

Word of advice: don't read this right before you go to sleep thinking, "well it's a short book, I'll just read it fast and then write about it in the morning."  No.  You will instead be depressed and unable to sleep.

It's a picture book, so that part about it being a fast read is a fact.  Story summary: A young girl's home burned up in the past, so now she, her mom, and her grandmother are saving up all their change to buy a new chair for the mom to rest in after work.  It's cute, until you start thinking about how this tiny tot is working at a diner alongside her mother just for a few measly dimes so she can one day get a chair.  And you thought your not being able to afford both Instant and DVD Netflix was bad.  You're selfish.

The story is executed really well.  There are a bunch of layers underneath the main premise of getting that chair.  Spoiler alert, they get the chair.  Phew.  If they hadn't, I would have been distraught.  Anyway, aside from the efforts made to get the chair, there's a lot here about the strength of family and friends during a difficult time.  Even further buried in the story is the lack of father.  It's clear that he's not there, but the reason why is unspecified.  I actually like that it's not touched upon; doing so could either add an extra element of sadness or unnecessary anger.  It's interesting that he's not there and it remains interesting because of the small mystery around it.

Images are obviously an important aspect of a picture book (#Duh).  The painted illustrations effectively blend people and objects together with warm colors, creating a haunting effect at times, especially after the revelation that the family lost their possessions in a fire.  Illustrations demonstrating the strong community and their success at buying a chair are far brighter than the first half of the story.  It's subtle and effective.  
This story is full of potential library activities and lesson plans: 1) Have kids talk about what they would do to help their family get a chair; 2) Discuss reasons why Rosa (the kid) only puts half of her money away for the chair; 3) Draw their own version of the story; etc. etc. 

So check it out.  Not before bed.

Jan 2, 2012

#TheList, No. 79: What Do People Do All Day?

I love Richard Scarry. I didn't have the books as a child, but I was familiar with the Busytown inhabitants from the cartoon rendition that eventually aired on Nickelodeon. So it was fun to read through and see all of the characters again. Oh yeah, this is definitely a nostalgic addition to The List.

But it's a nostalgic entry that has merit. Kids love to point to things in books while they're being read to and constantly ask "what's that?" Everything is labeled is in this book, which makes answering those sometimes pesky questions slightly easier, plus it helps kids who are reading on their own for the first time.  Funny pictures and valuable lessons.  Score! 

In What Do People Do All Day? Scarry covers the day to day actions of various employees, including farmers, masons, firefighters, doctors, etc.  I only have an abridged version, so I'm not sure what was cut out, but it looks like the majority of the occupations covered in the book are very hands-on types, which I like because I feel like those are often glossed over for office jobs in a lot of children's literature (from what I've read, at least).  What I do know is that Scarry's books were reworked to cut down on some of the sexism and stereotypes.  Some of it is still prevalent (I can't decide if the Farmer buying his wife earrings in the shape of eggbeaters is sexist or hilarious), but there are more female workers, male teachers, and such, which is nifty.

Another bonus for the adults reading this with kids: the pictures are often hilarious.  They're full of subtle jokes kids won't understand, like the Rabbit family pulling up to their new house with a four level car just stuffed with baby bunnies. 

All in all, I love Richard Scarry and I think his books are incredibly useful tools for helping kids learn about various aspects of life as well as some pretty handy vocabulary.  One last thing...check out the butcher on the cover of this book.  Bottom left hand corner.  And now you're freaked out.