Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Of Female Adventurers, or: You Go, Girl!

The other day, a third grader was lamenting the fact that all the great adventure stories have boys as main characters. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl, Alex Rider, Charlie Bone. She likes the stories but she wanted more adventures with female main characters. I couldn't agree with her more and I commiserated with her as I also love adventure stories. I handed her Adam Rex's The True Meaning of Smekday because we happened to be standing in the FIC S section. I hope she likes it.

I know what you are thinking. You're thinking there are lots of great adventure books with female main characters. Laura Ingalls, Alice (of Wonderland), Dorothy Gale, Pippi Longstocking. But do we have to go back 60+ years to find female adventurers? Now I mean no disrespect to Judy Moody, Allie Finkel, Ramona Quimby, or Clementine. These are all terrific characters but they are not grand adventurers. And I know they are out there, they just didn't come to the top of my head at that moment the way the boy adventurers do. So I thought I had better make a list. So here it is, all of these books can be found in the Marshall Lane Library.

The first half of this list are books that I have read and enjoyed

The Golden Compass (and its sequels), by Philip Pullman: Fantasy-Adventure "Lyra Balacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subjects of gruesome experiments in the Far North."

The Firework-Maker's Daughter, also by Philip Pullman: Fantasy-Adventure "In a country far tot he east, Chulak and his talking white elephant Hamlet help Lila seek the Royal sulphur from the sacred volcano so that she can become a master maker of fireworks like her father."

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex: Science Fiction-Adventure "When her mother is abducted by aliens on Christmas Eve (or "Smekday" Eve since the Boov invasion), 11 year old Tip (short for Gratuity) hops in the family car and heads south to find her and meets an alien Boov mechanic (named J-Lo) who agrees to help her and save the planet from disaster.

Clemency Pogue, Fairy Killer (and sequels), by J. T. Petty: Fantasy-Adventure "Clever and resourceful Clemency must travel the world to reanimate fairies she has accidentally killed by proclaiming she does not believe in fairies.

Falling In, by Frances O'Roark Dowell: Fantasy-Adventure "Middle Schooler Isabelle Bean follows a mouse's squeak into a closet and fall into a parallel universe where the children believe she is the witch they have feared for years, finally come to devour them.

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman: Fantasy-Adventure " Looking for excitement, Coraline ventures through a mysterious door into a world that is similar, yet disturbingly different from her own, where she must challenge a gruesome entity in order to save herself, her parents, and the souls of three others. (It's debatable whether this is actually an adventure but she does travel to another world and the story is exciting and Coraline is a very smart and strong character so I included it)

The Search for Wondla, by Tony DiTerlizzi: Science Fiction-Adventure "Living in isolation with arobot on what appears to be an alien world populated by bizarre life forms, a twelve-year-old human girl called Eva Nine sets out on a journey to find others like her.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi: Historic Fiction-Adventure "As the lone 'young lady' on a transatlantic voyage in 1832, Charlotte learns that the captain is murderous and the crew rebellious.

Igraine the Brave, by Cornelia Funke: Fantasy-Adventure "The daughter of two magicians, twelve-year-old Igraine wants nothing more than to be a knight, and when their castle is attacked by a treacherous neighbor bent on stealing their singing magic books, Igraine has an opportunity to demonstrate her bravery.

The rest of this list are books I have not yet read.

The Outlandish Adventures of Liberty Aimes, by Kelly Easton and Greg Swearingen: "Ten-year-old Libby Aimes escapes her prison-like home by using a strange concoction of her father's, then tries to make her way to the boarding school of her dreams, aided by various people and animals.

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, by R. L. La Fevers, and Yoko Tanaka: Theo must return a legendary amulet to an ancient tomb in Egypt in order to avoid a black curse that threatens to crumble the British Empire.

The Dark Hills Divide (and its sequels), by Patrick Carman: Fantasy-Adventure "When she finds the key to a secret passageway leading out of the walled city of Bridewell, twelve-year-old Alexa realizes her lifelong wish to explore the mysterious forests and mountains that lie beyond the wall.

The Cry of the Icemark, by Stuart Hill: Fantasy-Adventure "Young princess Thirren of Icemark must form an alliance with others to protect her kingdom from being overrun by the army of general Scipio.

Savvy (and its sequel), by Ingrid Law: Fantasy-Adventure: "Recounts the adventures of Mibs Beaumont, whose thirteenth birthday has revealed her 'savvy' -- a magical power unique to each member of her family -- just as her father is injured in a terrible accident."

Stolen, by Vivian Vande Velde: Fantasy-Adventure "A girl finds herself running through the forest at the edge of a village with no memory of anything, even her own name, and later learns that she might be twelve-year-old Isabelle, believed to be stolen by a witch six years before.

And when you get to middle school, my dear third grader, be sure you read The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.

By no means is this list comprehensive. It's a start and it's specific to the ML library. If you have any suggestions to add to the list, please tell me all about it by leaving a comment! If you want a pdf copy of the list, contact me and I'll send it to you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Right. Back to books.

Whew! I feel like I'm consuming a lot of media these days. But there are so many great stories being told!
I found out that a Judy Moody book is coming out this summer so I decided I had better read the book since I've been meaning to for so long. I read it on the Kindle app on my iPad, it was on sale for $0.99! I enjoyed it. It was cute story and Judy Moody is quite a character. If you like Judy Moody (by Megan McDonald), you might also like Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, Moxy Maxwell by Peggy Gifford & Valorie Fisher, and Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry. All funny girls with unique perspectives.
I want to tell you about my new favorite book to read aloud. It just came from Junior Library Guild today and it's called Press Here by Herve Tullet.
This is an interactive book that seems almost magical. On the second page, the reader is asked to press a yellow dot. On the next page, a second yellow dot appears. Press the dot again and a third dot appears on the following page. Gently rubbing the dots changes their colors and shaking the book scrambles the dots. So far, I have read this book to kinder, 2nd, and 3rd classes and they all delighted in it equally. I can't wait to read it to the rest of the classes this week!
Another book I've been reading, well, listening to, is A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. This book is not yet in the Marshall Lane Library, I wanted to read it first because I'd heard that it's pretty dark and grim. I'm about half way through it and I'm finding that it's not so much grim as it is gruesome. This is in keeping with the original Grimm's fairytales, which were not actually meant for children. They were grown-up tales, some of them pretty horrific, that were sanitized or 'bowdlerized' for children. I tend to think this book would fit better in a middle school library. Though, if you are a 5th grader with a taste for blood, you can check it out from the public library. I would recommend reading it rather than listening to it. I don't care for the reader of the audiobook, I think the voice in my own head would sound better. Um, I think you know what I mean here.
Other stories I've been enjoying: Doctor Who. If you aren't watching this series (Saturdays on BBC America), you must start now! Last Saturday's episode was written by my favorite author Neil Gaiman, I may have mentioned him before in this blog. You may also have seen a picture of him signing a copy of the Graveyard Book on my Author Shrine in the library. If you are a Doctor Who fan and haven't read anything by Mr. Gaiman, you need to pick up a copy of The Graveyard Book or Coraline immediately! I've also been really enjoying Game of Thrones which is based on a series by George R. R. Martin and it's Totally Not For Children so I won't discuss it here. In comics, I'm still working my way through Sandman, Walking Dead, and Transmetropolitan. These titles are also Totally Not For Children, but I still check in with the Comix for Kids app to see if anything interesting pops up. I think I'm going to pick up Atomic Robo and see how that goes.
And finally, while I've been doing all this media consumption I've been working on a baby blanket for a dear friend's first baby. Here is a picture:

Lastly, you should follow Adam Rex (Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, The True Meaning of Smekday) on Twitter. Today he tweeted a really funny poem about a smelly elephant in an elevator. Well, that's all I have to say for now. The library will be closing soon but the blog will continue on through the summer like it did last year. If there is anything you think I should read, tell me about it!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Warm Fuzzies

I love my job. Tonight I feel very appreciated. I was presented with the Classified Employee of the Year for Marshall Lane. When I was presented with the award, my principal Dr. Carrie Andrews said some nice words about me and I think I might have said "thank you" but my brain tends to fall out in front of large groups so I didn't say anything else. I'd like to say something here.
I've been in charge of the library at Marshall Lane for the last 10 years and the lab for the last 3 or 4 and it has been an honor to work alongside so many wonderful educators. They do important work and it gives me great satisfaction to support them in their work. It also gives me great joy to help kids connect with books.
When I was first hired to be the library clerk, my two daughters, who are both in college now, were still students at Marshall Lane and it seemed like the perfect job for a mom with kids in school because I'd have afternoons off. And back then, I didn't have to be at work until 10! It was a fun little job and the library had it's own grant so there was lots of money to spend. Ah, the good ol' days. Then my youngest graduated 5th grade and I found myself with a decision to make. Do I leave Marshall Lane since my kids have left or should I stick around? Well, that's when I realized that I really loved the job and I decided that not only would I stick around, I would really throw myself into it. Plus, the library was going to move to a new building and that would be awesome! (For those who don't remember, the old library is now the teachers lounge!) I wanted to learn more about my job so I joined the calibk12 mailing list so I could evesdrop on librarians (which I still do!) and I started going to workshops and then I went back to school and earned an A.S. in Library and Information Technology from Cuesta College.
I've learned so much in the last ten years and I've strived to put that knowledge into practice at Marshall Lane and to continue learning and growing. I'm inspired by the amazing teachers I work with who are so creative and so dedicated to their craft. I'm grateful to my principals who have listened to my ideas and encouraged me to run with them. I'm thankful for our supportive parent community; the volunteers without whom the library and lab could not function and the PTA that ensures that the library gets new books every year and helps keep our technology current. But the best days are when students bring me drawings that say "Reading Rocks" or "I love the library."
Truly this education thing is a team effort and I'm so proud to be a part of the Marshall Lane team. It feels really good to know that the people I have such respect for have noticed what I do and value it. Thank you all!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Search for WondLa

I finished listening to this fantastic book this morning. It was read beautifully by Teri Hatcher who was the voice of the mother/other mother in Coraline. Apparently there are some interactive elements to the book itself. If you have a webcam, you can go to a website and unlock animated maps using icons from the book. This is called WondLavision. This seems a little gimmicky to me and this story totally does not need gimmicks. Now to be honest, I haven't tried WondLavision yet because the library copy of The Search for WondLa has been checked out and on hold for a long time. Apparently the kids have discovered this little gem as well.
The story centers on 12 year old Eva Nine who lives alone in a future world in an underground sanctuary. She is being raised by a robot called Muthr and knows no other human contact. When her home is attacked by a vicious alien hunter, Eva sets out to find others like her guided by her 'Wondla,' a scrap of cardboard with a picture of two humans -one young, one adult - and one robot. I really don't want to tell you more than this because the joy of this book is in the unfolding riddle of Eva's existence. Here is a book trailer to tease you a little bit more.

Something else I wanted to share with you is that Comixology has come out with a Comics app for kids called Comics4Kids for the iPad and iPhone/iPod touch. I know I've mentioned here that I've been reading comics on my iPad in the Comixology app and that those comics are meant for adults. So I got pretty excited when I saw Comics4Kids and downloaded the app immediately. At first I was a bit disappointed because there weren't many comics in the app but each week more get released and I'm sure the selection will soon be as huge as Comixology's. For now, there are lots of Archie comics, Sonic the Hedgehog, Atomic Robo, and a short runs of a handful of other comics. I'm hoping that soon they will also have Bone, Babymouse, Star Wars, Amelia Rules, and more. I'll keep my eye on it and let you know. In the mean time, did you know that the public library carries comic books and graphic novels? Here is a link to the Santa Clara County Library webpage and catalog so you can see what they have.
One last thing, I know that physical access to the library is limited right now due to testing but you can still explore the collection and put books on hold using the library's online catalog. While you are there, why not submit a review of a book you've read recently to help others decide what to read next. If you're feeling shy, you can just rate your favorite books. You need to log on to do these things, you'll need to know your 5 digit student number and the first five letters of your last name. Be sure to log out when you're finished!