Thursday, April 28, 2011

Picture Book: The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by D. and A. Wood

The Little Mouse was published the year I was born. I'm inclined to think that's why it's such a good book. Well, maybe it has to do with the awesome story and Don Wood's super cute illustrations!

Summary from back cover: "The little mouse will do anything to save his strawberry from the big, hungry bear. The bear holds all the cards, but who is playing the fox's role?"

The narrator speaks to the mouse throughout the story, alerting him to the bear's presence. I loved how the mouse tries desperately to hide the strawberry but is ultimately convinced to share half the berry with the narrator. It's such a cute story, with a little suspense and a lot of humor, that I envision young children really enjoying it. The Little Mouse is definitely a classic!

Publisher: Childs Play Intl Ltd., 1984     Pages: 32
Rating: 4 Stars     Source: Public Library

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: Lost & Found by Shaun Tan

Tan’s paintings create a surreal reading experience that is fantastic and poignant. The paintings themselves are exquisite but difficult to define. Their concepts are rather abstract in that Tan represents emotions and everyday experiences by slightly altering traditional metaphors. Tan uses the unexpected and foreign to create a different perspective on the familiar. From observing the pictures, it appears Tan uses many different substances including oil, pencil and text clippings that look like they are from  newspapers or books.

Lost & Found is a collection of three previously published stories, The Red Tree (my favorite), The Lost Things, and The Rabbits (written by John Marsden and illustrated by Tan). While the stories can be dark they remain stories about humanity and the human experience. The themes are presented in such a way that anyone should be able to relate.

Categorizing this book, defining its genre and audience, is difficult. On his website, Tan explains that he does not write or paint with children in mind yet, it is children who often pick up on the subtleties in his paintings. It is a testament to his ability that Tan’s books reach a wide audience. If you have not heard of or read anything by Shaun Tan, I highly suggest you give his books a try.

Publisher: Author A. Levine Books, 2011     Pages: 128
Rating: 4 Stars     Source: Public Library

Friday, April 22, 2011

Reading through Authors at the Book Blogger Hop

This week's question comes from Christina who blogs at The Paperback Princesses.  She asks: "If you find a book you love, do you hunt down other books by the same author?" 

My Answer: Yes, I do...eventually. If I really liked a book I'll look up the author and see what else s/he has written but it may take awhile before I read the other books. I think I do this for two reasons. First, I do enjoy variety so if the author is a genre writer then I might hold off just so I'm not reading the same type of books. Secondly, I was not a big reader as a kid or teen. So, in a way I always feel like I'm playing catch up and need to get a base-line of background reading hence the need for variety. Actually, I think the second reason is dumb and just me pressuring myself unnecessarily. 

Examples of authors' books I've hunted: 
                 -Amy Tan                  -Charlotte Bronte          -Tobias Wollf  
                 -Sherman Alexi       -Jane Austen           

If you're hopping by, hi! Do say hello! And check out my poetry giveaway in celebration of National Poetry Month! There are some fun poems made out of book titles by myself and other bloggers as well. Not sure what a book titles poem looks like? Then check out the link!    

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

    Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld is my first steampunk read. When I picked up the book with its shiny elaborate gears on the cover I knew I was in for a different type of story than my usual science fiction reads. Steampunk, at least traditional steampunk, falls under the science fiction category of alternate history.  And in the case of steampunk that means an alternate Victorian era history.

    In short, Leviathan is about two teenage characters on opposites sides during World War One (1914-1918).* Deryn, wishing to serve in his majesty’s military, disguises herself as a boy and changes her name to Dylan. She becomes part of the crew on a the Leviathan, a huge genetically engineered hydrogen whale capable of flight - a new twist on the dirigible.** Alek is the fictional son of Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, whose assassination sparked WWI.*** Alek must flee for his life and evades capture by traveling in mechanical bi-pedal “tanks” known as walkers.

    Darwinists (Allies)

    -What they make: beasties (like the Leviathan)

     -How they make them: DNA manipulation and incubation period

    -Maintenance requirements: organic food supply and healing time

    Clankers (Axis)

    -What they make: gadgets and machines (like walkers)

    -How they make them: gears and pistons

    -Maintenance requirements: oil supply and spare parts

      Westerfeld creates a fantastic world with its bizarre creatures and machines. I enjoyed reading to see how these creations helped and hindered Dylan and Alek. There is a fair amount of suspense and quite a bit of action and violence. Dylan and Alek are faced with uneasy decisions which ask them to handle grown up situations. There are a slew of interesting characters to help them along the way. My only complaint is with the totally abrupt ending. I enjoy series and do not mind waiting to read the next book to find out what happens but Leviathan’s ending left me going “Really, that’s the ‘end’?” If you’re a one-and-done sort of reader this book may not be for you. I, however, will be putting the sequel Behemoth on my TBR list.

      Publisher: Simon Pulse, 2009     Pages: 338
      Rating: 3.5 Stars     Source: Public Library

      *While technically the Victorian period ends with Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, many consider the Victorian age to last a decade or two longer calling it, no surprise, the “Long Victorian Era,” therefore including WWI.

      **Steampunk revels in dirigibles.

      *** In reality, Ferdinand did have a son, Max. He and his sisters were exiled after the assassination.

      Sunday, April 10, 2011

      Musing of a Grad Student: Update and Advice

      The end of my second semester as an LIS student draws near! Here are a few things I've been learning so I will be a competent librarian some day.
      • I am now able to make a database using MYSQL and create web forms using PHP. This means that I can take user input (from the web), store it as data in a database on a server and  recall the data and display it to the user on a web page. I'm not that good at it yet (it takes me a long time) but I can make a very simple database function. 
      • Having worked at a medical library for six months I am familiar with many medical database resources. I like using PubMed's MeSH terms! It's so easy but most people don't know about MeSh terms because...well, MeSH is a dumb acronym and no one knows what it means. I am no longer working there but my reference desk experience at the Health Sciences Library was valuable training.
      •  My new job as a children's department intern at my local public library is going great! I'm looking forward to helping with our Book Babies program and other programs, too! It's a very busy library so I'm trying to keep up and learn as much as I can!
      I recently attended a conference called "Unpacking the Library" held by my Library and Information Science Student Organization in which a university librarian on "The Hiring Squad" panel made a remark to this effect: It's better to get the "B" and have work experience than to get the "A" and have little or no work experience in libraries. I am usually a very grade-driven student but I've changed. It's not that I don't take my classes seriously but I think the advice is sound. I am learning as much if not more on the job than I do in class. I'm trying to make my classes work for me. I'm getting what I need out of them. And frankly, I don't need an "A." I need to be learning and I am.

      I work at my job but I need my job to work for me, too. If you're not getting the experience and skills you want to list on your resume seek out opportunities to get those skills. Take temporary jobs (I did and for two weeks I worked in our Special Collections Library. I know more about archives than I did before!), volunteer (I did at an after-school program for a few hours to get experience with kids), market yourself (I make it known to everyone that I am interested in working with youth and that's partly how I got an awesome internship - word-of-mouth!). Make your time in school work for you. It's the best opportunity to try out different areas of librarianship to see what you like doing. By being pro-active you'll build your resume. "The Hiring Squad" made it clear that the degree just isn't enough. Besides, you're a library student so working in a library should be fun!

      Thursday, April 7, 2011

      Book Poetry Contest and Poetry Giveaway

      In honor of National Poetry Month I have created my own bit of verse. I chose books from my shelf that sounded like spring and put them together. In case you can't read sideways here's what my poem says:

      Shadows on the rock
      Gone with the wind
      A walk in the woods
      Just listen

      Make your own Book Poetry!

      Enter your poem for a chance to win an uncorrected proof of Robert Hass' The Apple Trees at Olema (2010). Hass is a winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize and served as Poet Laureate of the U.S. from 1995-'97. In addition to Hass's book the winner will receive a gently used copy of Emily Dickinson: Selected Poems. 

      Your poem must be made from complete book titles but can be about anything! I'm looking forward to your poems! Feel free to leave a poem even if you don't care to win anything.
      You can enter one of two ways:
      Option 1: Leave your book poetry poem in the comments below along with your email address (1 entry).
      Option 2: Create a blog post of your book poetry poem and leave the URL in the link list below (2 entries). 

      One extra point for tweeting this page. Leave the URL to your tweet in the comments!

      Contest open to U.S. residents only. Must be 13 or older to win. The contest will close April 30th. The winner, chosen randomly May 1st, will be emailed and must respond with a mailing address by May 3rd or a new winner will be chosen. The winner's poem will be shared on the winner announcement page.

      Wednesday, April 6, 2011

      Review: Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey

      Ruth and the Green Book shows how racial segregation affected an average African American family. When Ruth's dad buys a car the family decides to drive from Chicago to Alabama to visit her grandma. There were few places the Jim Crow laws didn't reach and the "open road" was no exception. Many hotels, restaurants and service stations refused to serve Ruth's family. After eating and sleeping in the car, Ruth's excitement about her vacation is tainted with worry and fatigue.

      A friendly traveler gives Ruth's family a copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book. Published by Victor H. Green from 1936-'64, The Green Book listed gas stations, barber shops and homes of those willing to give African American travelers a place to rest, eat a good meal and fix up their cars between destinations. Ruth enjoys picking out  "Tourist Homes" from the book. Cooper's illustrations capture the scenic countryside and intimate family dynamics as Ruth's family travels to grandma's house.

      If you are interested in The Green Book you can view a full 1949 edition in PDF here. It's a lot of fun to look up your state and see the names of people and businesses from a town near you that accommodated traveling families like Ruth's during the Jim Crow era. Ruth and the Green Book is a touching story great for early elementary students. Listen to a podcast with illustrator Floyd Cooper here. This book counts towards the POC Reading Challenge!

      Publisher: Carolrhoda Books, 2010     Pages: 32    
      Illustrator: Floyd Cooper     Source: Public Library
      Rating: 3.5 Stars

      Friday, April 1, 2011

      Review: We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson

      If you like history, sports or awesome art then you need to read We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson. It turns out "America's favorite pastime" has a complex and fascinating history.

      The players in the Negro League lived for baseball. Conditions weren't always great for these ball players, and sometimes conditions were terrible, but they knew they were doing something important.    

      Nelson's oil paintings are fantastic. Several reminded me of trading cards with players striking a pose. Some show the team on the road and others catch players in action swinging the bat or pitching the ball.

      The book immerses the reader in baseball. Each chapter is an "inning" building suspense to the end of the League's history. The book also immerses readers in the history of racial segregation and shows how these men wouldn't let anything stop them from playing ball - their way.
      Summary: "Using an 'Everyman' player as his narrator, Kadir Nelson tells the story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through its decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947. The voice is so authentic... But what makes this book so outstanding are the dozens of full-page and double- page oil paintings--breathtaking in their perspectives, rich in emotion, and created with understanding and affection for these lost heroes of our national game."

      While I found this book in the kids section the narrator is compelling and has an adult voice. Baseball enthusiasts of any age will appreciate this amazing true story.  This book counts towards the POC Reading Challenge! For more information visit the book's website!

      Publisher: Hyperion Book, 2008      Pages: 96
      Rating: 4 Stars      Source: Public Library