Aug 27, 2012


One day when I own a place with stairs, I will be doing this!

Aug 24, 2012

Friday Five: Libraries in Music Videos

I'm back in action from my mini blog-vacation.  It's a low key day so here are some music videos that feature libraries.  It's always fun to dance and sing and be ridiculous in libraries, or at least that's how I feel. 

1. Paul McCartney, Dance Tonight

Ghost figures dance around in his private library.  I've always suspected that this is what ghosts do.

2. Cascada, Everytime We Touch

She messes up the card catalog. A part of my soul feels wounded, but it's so funny.

3. She & Him, In the Sun

C'mon, it's Zooey Deschanel dancing in a high school library.  She's not the best dancer, but she's so adorkably cute for trying.

4. Tears for Fears, Head over Heels

Bonus hilarious literal music video version:

5. Rufus Wainwright, Out of the Game

Helena Bonham Carter as a librarian. 'Nuff said.

The Handmaid's Tale

I'm still processing this book in my mind right now even though I finished it exactly one week ago.  So I'm not going to go into severe detail except to say that this novel by Margaret Atwood is a haunting dystopia where the focus is on women's rights.  If you like dystopias, read it.  Read it now.

The current political climate made this book all the more haunting.  The absolute insane crazy bananas statements about "legitimate rape" and female bodies being able to fend off evil sperm to prevent pregnancies are terrifying, even if they've since been apologized for.  Regardless, people still believe similar notions.  Reading this novel while these fights are going on was a chilling experience. 

I could rant about this to no end, but I'll leave you with this:

Aug 12, 2012

Throwback: The President's Daughter

It being an election year and all, coupled with the fact that I love to reread books I loved when I was a youngin', I decided it was a great opportunity to reread Ellen Emerson White's The President's Daughter.

It's a world where the first female president of the US is elected and the story examines the impact it has on her family, not on the country.  I like that.  The arc about the sometimes strained relationship between Madame President and her teenage daughter Meg can sometimes get a little tired, causing you to sometimes want to scream at the book "WOULD YOU NOT BE UPSET IF YOUR DAD WAS PRESIDENT AND AWAY ALL THE TIME?!" but it's still a fun, quick read when it delves into her relationship with the rest of her family and her friends.

I learned recently that it's the first in a series of four...the first written in 1984 and the fourth written in 2007.  I cannot wait to read the rest of the series to see just how different the first and last are. Why? Because The President's Daughter is incredibly dated. That's not a bad thing.  It's fascinating really. 

Here's what I really love about the book:

-There are about 100 references to Tab.  TAB.  Teens today don't know what Tab is.  I didn't even know what it was when I first read this book in the 90s.

-There's obviously no mention of social media. The campaign managers constantly remind Meg and her brothers to be on their best behavior because their every move will be scrutinized. That is completely false.  Well, for the time the book was written, it's true.  But compared to the live-tweeting that takes place these days, hese kids practically live in the middle of nowhere.  There's a scene where the opposition's children decide to throw a tantrum and knock things out of Meg's hands and threaten them in public. That would NEVER happen today and if it did, it would be all over Twitter in a matter of seconds.  It would probably be Instagrammed too, because that's a thing.

-The way the campaign works is also completely different.  In real life,not a day goes by that my in-box isn't flooded with e-mails from the Obama campaign, that I don't read a bunch of articles about what Obama's family is doing, that I don't look at memes that compare Mitt Romney with Lucille Bluth, etc etc (my personal beliefs, although it's pretty clear that I'm a crazy liberal).  In this book, there's a more obvious separation between the candidates and the public.  That is unheard of today. 

-The last part that made me love this throwback experience was that the first half of the book takes place in Boston, something I either glossed over years ago or just plain forgot.  The references to landmarks that I pass daily made it a pleasant reading experience.  It also resulted in a lot of laughter.  Case in point: On the T, Meg takes the Newton line from Government Center to Chestnut Hill and it takes 20 MINUTES.  I actually laughed out loud on the T when I read that.  It's more like a 20 minute wait for that T to show up and then you spend 20 minutes at the Fenway stop while pushy Red Sox fans figure out how to board. 

All in all, this throwback made me happy.  I think it's definitely worth reading, not because it's a work of art, but because it's fascinating to compare a pretend 80s presidential campaign to what's going on around us now. 

#TheList, No 648: The Snow Spider

I have a problem. I'm heavily devoted to Harry Potter.  Actually, it's not a problem. It's a standard.  When I read any book/series with a plot that relies on a child coming into his magical powers, I can't help but hold it up to HP.  I can't speak for the rest of the trilogy, but to me, The Snow Spider failed...miserably.

The gist of Jenny Nimmo's book is a young boy goes on a quest both to find out if he inherited his ancestors power and to locate his missing older sister.  There's a lot of familial strife in the story, obviously with the hole in the family from the sister's absence, but also because the parents' lack of magical skills distances them from their son's attempt to practice magic.

If you follow the Hero's Quest or the Monomyth, you'll find the "wise old man" who guides the hero throughout the journey (i.e. Obi Wan Kenobi, Dumbledore, etc. etc.).  So in this book, when the grandmother gives our little magician, Gwyn, five unusual birthday gifts to see if he has inherited the magical powers of their ancestors, I figure, okay here's our wise old [wo]man.  The feminist in me smiled.

But she gives Gwyn NO guidance.  Instead, she says (I'm paraphrasing) "figure it out yourself, I'm going to go dance and be that relative that you think is drunk at parties, but is really just crazy."  When Gwyn makes a (fairly horrible) mistake, she actually gets angry with him for failing and places guilt on his shoulders.  There's a difference between withholding information and waiting until the right time to teach someone (a la Dumbledore).  I don't know if she smartens up in the remainder of the story, but there was a significant disconnect between me, the reader, and this character I assumed would be the one to voice the specifics about this setting.

About halfway through the book, Gwyn's parents undergo abrupt character changes.  While I liked that this added some complexity to the family unit, for a children's book that I was already having issues with (she puts the grrrr in grandmother), I felt like the abrupt changes were throwing the book into disarray and weren't emphasized enough to be used to develop the characters.

But that's just my opinion.  The book (which pre-dates HP by about 10 years), has won some awards so it definitely has an audience and is doing something right.  But in a world with HP (yay), I think it can be replaced.

Aug 1, 2012

#TheList, No. 256: Ramona the Pest

Now, I read books in a cycle: Adult, Young Adult, Children's, Memoir.  Or I try to at least.  Sometimes the cycle changes due to how much room I have in my bag that day (yes, here is where my refusal to get an e-reader comes to kick me in the butt).  So I grabbed a random Ramona book off of my shelf to put me in a good mood.  I happened to pick the one that is featured on The List: Ramona the Pest, number 2 in the 8 book series. 

In this book, Ramona starts kindergarten and has to deal with learning what behaviors are appropriate at home vs. at school, how she can't be the center of attention all the time, and how to read and write, all why still being herself.  It's a lot of responsibility for a five year old to take on.  Cleary is able to get this serious 5 year old business across while maintaining a great deal of humor.  For instance, when Ramona is learning the National Anthem, she mistakes "the dawn's early light" for "dawnzer lee light," and thinks she's figured out that lamps are called dawnzers.  It's a joke that's sprinkled throughout the book until she's finally corrected by her family's laughter. 

Kids reading this will recognize how she feels because they're most likely going through the same troubles themselves, or they remember when they made such mistakes.  Adults reading this to children (or themselves...) will laugh because it's written convincingly in a determined 5 year old voice. In any other point of view, Ramona would, indeed, seem like the world's largest pest.  Plus they remember making those mistakes as well.  Case in point: Grease was my favorite movie in 3rd grade and I thought that Rizzo cut class when she said she "skipped a period." I didn't put two and two together until a few years ago. 

Oh Beverly Cleary. You created one of my favorite children's literature characters of all time. Not only did you do that, but you put her into a realistic and humorous (humorously realistic?) series. Adults love it (Exhibit A: me) and kids understand it (Exhibit B: me as a kid).  Not only is Ramona is a well-written account of how many children think and act, but you wrote a working mother into the story and a father losing his job, which was such a rare thing to see in a children's book in the 60s, but a realistic fact of life.  For that, I thank you.

Ramona has been a character since 1955.  Since then, the books have been republished numerous times with different covers to appeal to different generations.  One of my favorite things to do is compare covers so here we go (the dates may be off, I'm relying on the Internet, and we all know that's a mistake):



1979 or 1982




The audio book is apparently read by Stockard Channing, which made me laugh for about 5 minutes just now, because she's the actress who played Rizzo in Grease.  So this entry just ended perfectly.