Friday, December 31, 2010

Last post of 2010

Well, it's my very last chance to post in 2010 and I realize I still owe you a venn diagram, but that will have to wait a little bit longer. I also owe you some thoughts about believability in fiction. On that note, I've just finished listening to another book in the fantasy genre, Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy which I enjoyed very much. It's sort of a cross between a fairy story and a hard-boiled detective novel. When 12 year-old Stephanie's uncle dies, she inherits his estate which includes the key to a magical object that an evil sorcerer would kill her to obtain. The titular character was a friend of Stephanie's uncle and, believing he was murdered, tries to find out what the killers were after. Stephanie joins Skulduggery, a living skeleton and an elemental mage, in his investigations and discovers a magical world in which she plays an important role. This book was very smartly written and the banter between Stephanie and Skulduggery is sharp and witty.

So again, we have a story with unreal characters and action, in which magic and magical creatures exist, and yet the story seems more believable than the one set in the real world in which a group of kids receive no consequences for breaking and entering (Swindle). Why is this? I think the answer is that no matter what world the story takes place in, there have to be rules, laws, and logic that must be obeyed. For instance, if the story is about vampires, there is already an accepted mythos that writers have been working within since Dracula was published. We all know that vampires drink blood, are undead and immortal, cannot go out in the sunlight, and must be killed by driving a stake through their hearts, in general. There is some variation of these rules among different writers, however, if they stray to far from the accepted rules - like vampires that sparkle in the sun - they lose some credulity.
In real life, if a group of kids broke in to someone's house and caused a lot of damage to the property, there would most definitely be consequences. These are the rules that we live by and accept. I just didn't buy it when the man suddenly felt guilty about cheating the kid out of his baseball card and decided not to press charges for the break in. It just didn't ring true to his character as it was set up in the first part of the book. Plus, I'm not sure that once the police were involved that they would just let it go either.
I've read or heard author interviews where they comment about this sort of thing, and they talk about finding truth in fiction, that within the world of lies they create, they can express something honest about the real world. I think the stories that I like best come from authors who do this best, at least from my perspective, because what feels true to me will be different for someone else.
So I guess the point is, a believable story follows its own rules and conveys truth about the world that we can relate to.
And this is what I was working on while listening to Skulduggery Pleasant:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Life Outside the Lair

The Book Fair is over. If you didn't get chance to stop by last week, you've missed it. Luckily for you I got a lot of books from the Book Fair for the library. Lots of good stuff, it's pretty exciting! All these books you see in this picture will be in circulation as soon as I finish cataloging and processing them. I really enjoy getting the books ready for the shelves. I get my hands on each book and get a little bit intimate with them, typing their ISBN numbers into the computer, reading their summaries, printing their AR labels, checking their page numbers, looking at their illustrations. You may be wondering how distracting it is having all these awesome books sitting around begging to be read and the answer is very. Occupational hazard. I often lose a quarter of an hour reading the first chapter of a book or a picture book. Shh, don't tell!

While I'm waiting for my hold request on Crispin: the End of Time to be fulfilled, I thought I'd go ahead and listen to something else by Avi, so I picked up The Seer of Shadows from the public library. This was a wonderful ghost story, smart and spooky and well-told. The story takes place in 1870's New York and spirit photography is all the rage amongst the society folk. However, Horace Carpetine, a photographer's apprentice and a skeptic, knows first hand how the 'spirit images' are made. But, as it turns out Horace has a special gift that allows him to actually photograph ghosts and, in so doing, bring them back to the world of the living. Horace is a thoughtful character. When his master employs him to help create a fraudulent spirit image in hopes of financially benefiting from a grieving woman's loss, he is torn between doing what's right and losing his position or doing what his employer demands. The story has a satisfying resolution and the end is touching. I'd recommend this for grades 5 and up.

While listening, I finished a pair of fingerless mitts. They ended up too small for me so Katie nabbed them. Now here hands will always be warm while playing Monsters.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Final Dispatch from the Secret Lair

Today is the last day to shop at the Scholastic Book Fair. I want to thank all the moms who volunteered their time to support this event which in turn supports the library. Extra special thanks to Saskia Choudry for taking on chairperson duties again this year. Saskia, you are a rock star! Here is a picture of what the library looked like before the Book Fair came in and also a picture of the Book Fair.
The library will open again next week with lots of new books to check out before the break.

In other news, I have finished three audio books this week and a pair of socks. However, I have not done any holiday shopping or any other kind of preparations for the coming holiday, but that's none of your concern. You want to see the socks, right? I named this project A Study in Emerald, after a short story by Neil Gaiman.
Getting back to the books, the first audio book I finished was Crispin: At the Edge of the World by Avi. This is the sequel to Crispin: The Cross of Lead which I listened during the summer. Crispin: A the Edge of the World felt like a bridge book to me. A third book in this series was released this year, Crisin: The End of Time, which I will be listening to soon, and Edge felt like it had no other purpose but to get the reader from the first book to the second book. It picks up right where Cross of Lead leaves off and follows Crispin and Bear as they flee from their pursuers. Along the way, they meet a young outcast girl and she joins them as the attempt to leave the country. The story is well written and the characters are strong and empathetic but the story felt a little pointless, except as a lead-up to the next one.

The next book I listened to was Swindle by Gordon Korman. This is the story of boy who finds a valuable baseball card and, not knowing the value of what he had, he sells it to a shifty dealer who tells him it is a reproduction and not authentic. When the boy discovers the true value of the card and realizes he's been taken advantage of, he and his friends plan a heist to reclaim his treasure. The story is amusing but the ending was not very believable. The kids break into a man's home and cause all sorts of damage and they receive no consequences for these actions when they are eventually caught, which left me feeling a little unsatisfied.

This brings me to the final audiobook, The Revenge of the Shadow King by Derek Benz and J. S. Lewis. This is book one in the Grey Griffin series. The story centers around a group of friends who have bonded over a card came called Round Table, a Dungeons and Dragons style game with battling fairie creatures, wizards, witches, and other magical beings. As it turns out, the creatures depicted on the cards are real and have torn a hole in the barrier between Fairie and the real world in search of magical jewel that has the power to destroy the real world. Of course, the kids have to figure out how to stop the fairie creatures from finding the jewel and save the world. This was an enjoyable adventure, and even though it's the first in a series, it reads just fine as a stand alone title.

Now, you may have noticed, as I have, that the second story, which was realistic fiction, I said had an unbelievable ending while the third story, which was very much fantasy, I did not say was unbelievable, even though a small band of 10 year olds save the world. I have been thinking about this and will share my ponderings in my next post.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Fair, Secret Lair, New Hair!

I got my hair done yesterday so here is a picture of me in my secret lair behind the book fair with my new hair breathing air and with another picture to share.  Ha!

The great thing about the book fair, in addition to raising money for the PTA, is that it allows me to get new books for the library. I get to select books from the fair to add to my collection. Here is a picture of two boxes of books that I have selected for our library. So you have that to look forward to when the library opens again.

If you haven't yet come down to the book fair, you have until Friday after school to shop for some terrific books. I picked up School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari yesterday and was immediately hooked after reading the first chapter.  I must finish this book!  

There are lots of other great titles as well, such as The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-fu Cavemen From the Future, a new George and Harold book from Dav Pilkey; The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi of The Spiderwick Chronicles fame; Thelonius Monster's Sky High Fly Pie, Duck, Pete & Pickles, and a Visitor for Bear, all CYRM nominees for 2010-11; and in graphic novels you can find Ghostopolis and Rapunzel's Revenge, both highly acclaimed graphic novels for young people. Or you could come and buy the last copy of The Graveyard Book because you've been putting off reading this book for way too long!

Books make great gifts and the Book Fair directly benefits the library, it's a win-win scenario.  Come on down and pay us a visit and buy some books!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Fair and My Secret Lair

The Scholastic Book Fair is in full swing! Here is a picture of me in my secret office behind the book cases. In between sale times, this is a great opportunity for me to catch up on cataloging, ordering, document updating, and other things that are hard to do when the library is open.

But getting back to Book Fair, come and visit the Book Fair before and after school and during lunch recess this week and buy some books. Books make great gifts! Especially for teachers so be sure to look for your teacher's wish list. Also, tonight (Monday) is Family Night at the Book Fair. There will be special guest readers including Dr. Andrews and a real live fireman from the Santa Clara County Fire Department! Come down and get your copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the Ugly Truth, they are selling fast! Also, we have lots more copies of Duck! Rabbit!, a Marshall Lane Library favorite.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Library Transformation!

Okay, Thanksgiving is over, and Scholastic Book Fair has moved in to the library, so we are now a book store. Classes started previews today and will continue tomorrow and kids are making their wishlists. We have lots of copies of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth (the fifth book in the series) so be sure grab one of those! Lot's of other Marshall Lane favorites such as Judy Moody, Geronimo Stilton, Fancy Nancy, Star Wars, and Fly Guy. This is a great opportunity to buy some terrific books for holiday gifts. Plus, the proceeds of the book fair directly benefit the library so be sure to drop in and say 'hi' and buy some books for your favorite readers or for yourself! Also, the Book Fair Committee (Saskia Choudry) could use some volunteer help next week so please come down and give us a hand. It's easy and fun!

Now I've noticed - and you probably have, too - that I haven't reviewed many books or audio books recently. This is because the material I've been consuming lately has been more on the adult side and involving things like zombies, dream lords, and the dystopian future. However, I have some audiobooks cued up on my ipod ready for listening as soon as I finish one more thing. So, if you've read something recently that you think is worth sharing, post a comment about it here so the blog won't be totally devoid of reviews.