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I post what I think about books, children's and adult's, and what is going on in my life as a librarian and a storyteller.
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1. Teen Story Slam

Nuff said.  More tomorrow.

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2. Moonpenny Island

Moonpenny IslandI hated growing up.  And that time - just before the world turned upside down - when I was still a child but I felt it all leaking away - I fought that time with every sobbing breath.  It took me a while to realize that you don't just - poof! - grow up.  It happens bit by bit.  I didn't like learning about adulthood's inevitability.  (There are those who think I fight it still.)



In Tricia Springstubb's Moonpenny Island, Flor and Sylvie are perfect friends.  This is a good thing.  They are the only 11-year-olds on Moonpenny Island.  But the end of summer brings enormous changes.  Sylvie leaves to go to school on the mainland and Flor is alone.  Flor's older sister, perfect Cecelia, has started acting strangely.  And her parents, well, they should not be acting that way at all.

On a small island, it can be easy to put people in slots. Flor must open her eyes.  She needs to see people as more than just labels.  Ceclia is not "perfect".  Perry is more than just the "bad boy".  Joe Hawkes is not "trash".  And her best, best BEST friend, does not have to stay the same always.

A young visitor to the island - a paleontologist's daughter - a family crisis, and her own impetus nature force Flor to truly see her island, and her family, for the first time. 

Good book.  Read it. 

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3. Happy Irish Day




So, in the 1890's one Garrett Nolan left his green, green isle and traveled west to this land of ours.  He was my great-grandfather.  I think that makes me 1/4 Irish.  But, isn't that silly?  I've never been to Ireland and I have barely been out of this valley of Lehigh.

New PolicemanBe that as it may, today we celebrate all the Irish immigrants who made this land their home AND we celebrate the British Roman citizen who loved Ireland, St. Patrick.  He was wise enough to describe Christianity in the terms of Celtic mythology making the two belief systems compatible.  Or so I have been led to believe.

When I think of Ireland and books about the same, I think immediately of Kate Thompson's The New Policeman.  Fantasy and lots of mythology and the theft of time and the loss of magic.  I only read the first book and no I find that there are 2 more.  I am so happy to add those to my list of books to read.

Before Maryrose Wood wrote her famous series about the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, she also wrote a series about the daughter of The Queen of the fairies.  The stories take place in Ireland where the teen has gone for a summer bike trip and falls head over heels for the tour guide.  She also discovers her legacy and a brother, who may or may not be a pooka.  The first book in the trilogy is Why I Let my Hair Grow OutThese books are a fun romp through the Celtic pantheon.

And, of course,  Hibernian Nights, by Seamus MacManus, belongs on any list of books about Ireland.  This collection of Irish tales is stupendous and fun. 

May your day be fun of green, sunshine and peace.
May your blessings flow over and troubles decrease!







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4. Professor Wormbog - revisited

Grandkids let us revisit the books we hid from their parents because we could NOT BEAR to read those books one more time.  My son and I had a deal:  If I was an overly grumpy Mom - and we both had to agree that that was the case - I had to read  Little Monster's Word Book by Mercer Mayer.  And he had me read the CIP info on the back of the title page, the ISBN on the back of the book and any print he could find.  I loved the book a lot, just not every night for months on end.  Hence the arrangement.   ( I would never choose a book I personally disliked for this routine. Animal Crackers - a book of animal jokes - was another Grumpy Mom book.  I have a copy in the attic, just waiting for the right moment.)

I never hid this book by Mercer Mayer;  Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-zoo. I enjoyed the story, the fun-filled illustrations and the ending.  So did my boy, and now my grandchild loves this book, too.

  Enjoy!
Here is a video the author/illustrator made in 2007.

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5. SLJ's BoB Round 1

Before I head over to see which book was chosen in this morning's Battle of the Kids' Books, I must state my choice to move on.  As intricate and complicated as Children of the King is, I hope that Brown Girl Dreaming wins this first round. Jacqueline Woodson's memoir in verse is magnificent. 

Brown Girl Dreaming     Let's see if today's BoB judge agrees with me.

Update:  YES!!   http://blogs.slj.com/battleofthebooks/

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6. Children of the King

The BoB competition starts on Monday, March 9th, with Brown Girl Dreaming facing off against Children of the King.  I have chosen which book I hope will win but it is not an easy choice and I won't be surprised if my choice bites the dust early.
Brown Girl Dreaming             The Children of the King

Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett offers, at least, two story lines.  Cecily and her older brother Jeremy accompany their mother, Heloise, to the family seat, Heron Hall, to wait out the War.  Their father stays in London to do "important work". They arrive with scores of evacuee children and end up taking home 10-year-old May.  Uncle Peregrine answers questions about the castle ruins on the estate by telling a story about an historical Duke's rise to power. The stories intertwine as the German assault on London begins and worsens. 


 May, whose audacity surprises, maddens, and delights Cecily, discovers two boys hanging around the castle ruins.  Who are they?  What are they doing in a centuries old ruin?  Why do they speak so imperiously?

Meanwhile 14-year-old Jeremy is tortured by his inactivity.  The pressure of duty - to help in the war effort, to behave nobly - makes him irritable and demanding.  His mother refuses to listen to him - or to hear what he is actually saying.

I sometimes wondered for whom Hartnett wrote this book.  The sophisticated language hints at so much more than it says.  Hartnett offers the most insight into two characters, childish Cecily, and controlled Heloise.  Cecily is the main character, although she seems to fumble along after other people. But the glimpses behind icy Heloise's composure enlarges the audience to adults who enjoy historical fiction and stately language.

I will tell you if I believe this book will rise BoB victorious in a future post.  In the meantime, compare Children of the King to The War that Saved My Life for two different experiences of WWII young evacuees.

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7. Life happens


holespoles:  林明子(Akiko Hayashi)



We had no water for 11 days.  Heat?  Check!  Power?  Good!  Water?  No, sorry.  We spent a lot of time filling up jugs and dragging them home, visiting relatives just to use their showers and washing machines, and melting snow.  Yes, I even resorted to melting snow for flushing toilets.

Since we are doing a lot of babysitting at the same time, I am not reading much - except for awesome picture books like Aki and the Fox by Akiko Hayashi.  Kon the Fox gets into a lot of trouble on the train ride to visit Grandma .  I have always wanted a sequel to this book.  I found the second illustration on klappersacks.tumblr.com

AND 10 Minutes to Bedtime by Peggy Rathman.  The little hamster kicking his soccer ball makes my favorite listener giggle every time.






10 minutes till bedtime

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8. Treehouse series

This is NOT Mary Pope Osborne's Treehouse.  You will see what I mean when you visit this site.
This series is so BOY that I - not being a BOY - had trouble reading the first book.  Andy and Terry started with a 13-story treehouse.  Then they added 13 more stories in the second book, The 26-Story Treehouse.  Can you guess the title of the forthcoming book?*

This treehouse does not have magic time-traveling powers.  It DOES have the scariest roller coaster in the world and a baby dinosaur petting zoo, 2 or more swimming pools, and an anti-gravity chamber.  Among other things.

Check them out.  Click here.

* Here's a hint:

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9. BoB Battle Plan










It distresses me that the books I have read already in this year's SLJ's Battle of the Kids' Books are toward the end of the battle.  No fair!  I DID read Brown Girl Dreaming.  But not another title until The Madman of Piney Woods in Round 5.  And then, I skip to Round 8, where I read both titles, We Were Liars  and  West of the Moon. I had better start reading aggressively.  There are trips to my local libraries and bookstores in my future.BattlePlans2015_SLJcom

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10. Mister Max!


 The Book of Secrets (Mister Max Series #2)

I told my mother - age, 80 plus - about all the books I read while away and she asked, "Have you read any more books about that boy who starts a detective business?"  Um?  I honestly could not remember the series she was referring to.  It had to be a book I lent to her but...

Then she added, "His parents were in the theater.  And he called himself something like a solver."

Bing!  YES!  Mister Max by Cynthia Voigt.  And, no, I had not read the second book in the series.  But, now I have!!!  I am so lucky my mother has a good memory.

Mister Max : The Book of Secrets  continues the story of Max Starling, or Mister Max, Solutioneer.  The problems Max must solve range from a schoolboy's concerns about the boy's father, to the mayor's problems with arson in the Old City.  There is a possible romance, a coded letter from Max's missing parents, and some spatting with his self-proclaimed assistant, Pia Bendiff. 

Max's grandmother has some secrets of her own that Max has to unravel as well. 

Voigt travels into dangerous territory here, as in, Max finds himself in peril, tied up and blindfolded.  And, the coded letter makes his parents' plight all too real.  Max and his grandmother have to do something to bring Max's parents home.

Max is an astonishingly perspicacious 12-year-old.  He is able to phrase questions and offer solutions in the most convincing and subtle ways.  When it comes to his personal life and the people closest to him, he does not see things that clearly.  Whew!  I was afraid he was going to be a super-teen.  I enjoy his stubborn streak and I want to shake him all at the same time. His insistence on being independent, even though he found the money his father hid in their house, is a little maddening. He's lucky his grandmother is so understanding!

 I think I will pre-order Mister Max : The Book of Kings so my mother doesn't have to remind me of the books I want to read.

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11. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

I loved Rundell's book, Rooftoppers. Cartwheeling has a much different setting.   Rooftoppers began and ended with the scent of magic realism.  Cartwheeling, on the other hand, hints at an all too concrete tragedy even while the heroine is enjoying her wonderful life.

The villainess in this book is smarmy and manipulative. (Do those two words mean the same thing?)  So, I skipped a few pages and got into the meat of the story.  Wilhelmina Silver has been a wild girl on the farm her father manages in Zimbabwe.  She rides, runs and fights as well as the boys, if not better.  Her life is one long adventure.  And everyone loves her - her father, Captain Browne who owns the farm, all the workers and their families and especially her best friend, Simon.

Then disaster strikes in the form of a new, pretty wife for Captain Browne.  In a trice, Will is orphaned - (these are the pages I skipped so I can only guess that Mrs. Browne did not do her best to nurse Will's father back to health) - and shipped off to Boarding School in England.

Much catty bullying and impotent glaring and despair follow and then Will runs off into a brand new wilderness, London. 



One of the best things about this book is the balance in the characters.  The bullies end up having good points - well, ok, reluctant remorse.  The teachers are not all bad.  And the boy who befriends Will has his limitations.  People are people - spotty and real.

Yep.  The ending is quite satisfying.  Rundell's writing does not disappoint.

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12. Storytelling

Skip over to the Storytelling Page for news of our Winter events!!!

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13. BoB

I went away.  Internet was expensive and spotty.   I am back.

So, it seems, is Battle of the Kids Books.   Here are this year's contenders.  I have only read FOUR of them.  Oh MY!  I must get some eye drops and those clips that keep your eyes open and hire a house minder so that I can read, read, read.

What I Read While I Was Away:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - best book of the batch!
Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones - so good, sigh!
The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud - can NOT wait for the next book in this outstandingly fun and creepy series

Three adult mysteries - one set in Singapore (Aunty Lee's Delights), another featuring crossword puzzles (The Crossworder's Delight) and a short story starring Hercule Poirot.  All a lot of fun.

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel - surprisingly good and suspenseful

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp - galloping adventure

I started The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett.  Not quite done with it yet.  Considering that the first version was written - and published - when Sir Terry was 17, it's pretty darn good.  I am, I confess, a Pratchett fan.

Still in pjs - retirement is awesome! - now I must get moving or the day will be done before I know it.


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14. Bits & Pieces

Displaying


Book Expo has opened registration for their 2015 event.  May 27th through May 30th - Wednesday through Friday.  No Saturday.  I wonder if Saturday will be BookCon and only BookCon.  We will see.  Anyway go to www.bookexpoamerica.com for the latest Book Expo news.

I read Way Down Deep by Ruth White.  I read the sequel first so this felt like catching up.  Still, very good.
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin.  I am so in awe of Ann M. Martin.  Period.
Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen.  What is not to like about a baby centaur and a community that tries to protect one?
I started The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier.  It has no trace of hope in it and that creeps me out.  BUT, I did just start the book.

BTW, for some strange reason, Blogger will not let me add links today.  So you will have to search for these books online yourselves.  Sorry.  (Except for Book Expo.  That link works.)

And that's all, folks!

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15. Cookbooks!!!!

Do you - or someone you know - love cookbooks?  Check out today's Shelf Awareness for Readers.  Oh my! YUM!
Crown: Portlandia Cookbook by Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein

Seriously!  Everyone who is anyone in the cooking world - well, a lot of them anyway - has a new book coming out.  Even Portlandia (see above)!

Even if cookbooks leave you lukewarm, check out Shelf Awareness for Readers for the most current book releases.

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16. Thankful for....



OK, books I have read recently that I have to review.  (Not all in one day, although I read one yesterday and one today.)

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata

Dangerous by Shannon Hale

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

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17. Happy Thanksgiving

The pumpkin pie is done and so is the rhubarb strawberry crisp.  Soon I will start chopping onions and celery for the stuffing.  The bird is thawed and, for non-traditionalists, there's a ham in the fridge as well.

Tomorrow, I will clean and set up and get down my mother-in-law's china - which is now mine. 

And family and friends will gather.  We will eat and chat and laugh and maybe even quarrel, but I hope not.

Snow has been falling all morning.  I feel warm, full, and grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, today and every day.

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18. Story Cabaret 11/14/2014 8 pm

Oh, you lovelies!  Come out on a dark November night to the warmth of Touchstone Theatre's cafe for Story Cabaret, an event for adults.

The date is Friday, November 14th.
The time is 8 pm.
The place is Touchstone Theatre, 321 East 4th Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015.
The cost is $10 - which includes a glass of wine.
The featured tellers are Chaz Kiernan - and Karen Maurer. 
 

Yep. ME!  No wait, that's Chaz.

Hey, it was a hot day!!  The things I did for my job!
 That's me, right there is an outrageous getup.  (You should see me with the paper crown.)

And you, too, can tell stories about anything you like.  The theme is "In Celebration of......"  All those dots mean, "Pick something".  Easy, right?

But there are rules.
Rule #1.  The stories must be personal.
Rule #2.  The stories must be true or very, very, very close to truth.  I mean, no one expects you to remember exactly what your physics prof said when she caught you sneaking the spectrometer out the window.
Rule #3.  No notes allowed.  Um, except I think I broke that rule last time.  Because I read a whole book.  It was a picture book, written by Neil Gaiman. Come on!  Neil Gaiman!!! I agree.  That, alone, is worth breaking a rule for.  (And it was only the last five minutes.)

I promise you 30 minutes of true or almost true stories about......... something.   It will be a great evening.  Join me - and Chaz - and that nice glass of wine.

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19. Storytelling AGAIN!!

Yup.

On Saturday, I will lead a family workshop on storytelling for kids 7 and up.  Younger kids can attend if their parents come along.  The workshop will be at Cops'n'Kids Lehigh Valley at the South Campus of Northampton Community College.  Click on the link to find a complete list of CopsnKids events.

I am reading Story Proof by Kendall Haven.  The subtitle is The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story. Haven has studied thousands of pages of reports in brain and cognitive science and they unanimously agree.  Humans need stories.  Humans learn best through stories.   As Rudyard Kipling is purported to have said,

"If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten."

That is the truth.

I keep promising myself that I will make a list of the odd little facts, household tips, and attitudes that I have picked up from stories - either oral or written.

For instance, I learned that if you put your cream in the cup before pouring the coffee you don't need to stir.  And it's true.  I read that in a YA novel about a boy whose mother was a wandering diner waitress.

I learned the best way to clean up a shattered glass from a book.  The book was about a boy whose father was the headmaster at the lad's school.

Things stick in your head when your hear them, or read them in a story. 

So join me on Saturday and hear a good story or two.


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20. Telephone


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21. Story FUSION 2014

The tellers are coming!  The tellers are coming!

Frantically, I try to absorb all the research on stories and learning and then I must put all that stuff into context and condense it into sound bites. And then I have to provide adult learners with activities that will make them feel easier about  incorporating storytelling into their work lives.  And then I have to organize all this stuff so that it makes sense.  And THEN, I have to NOT blank out when presenting.

So here's my to-do list:
Create the certificate of participation - because it's the thing I would forget to do if I don't do it NOW.
Make an enlarged resource list - which I will make available here.
Collect definitions of the word story.
Collect quotes from studies to support the research.
Organize how I hope to present this stuff.
Practice it - so I don't blank out when someone takes me down a shady tangent.

Oh, did I tell you?  I'm leading a workshop for teachers and librarians about telling classrooms and storytelling clubs.  On Saturday.  From 9 to 12 noon.  At StoryFUSION.  JOIN ME!

Also, I am the MC on Saturday night - for Mary Wright and - TA DAH!!!  Jennings and Ponder!

This is the MOST wonderful time of the year!!!



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22. Lyrics

I have a problem.  I long for days with no to-dos in them - just puttering.  I like puttering.  BUT - but, I have so many things I want to do.

One of the things I want to do is write more song lyric-y poetry.  I even want to write more songs.
So I signed on to a FB group that challenges the members to write one song a month using a prompt suggested by members of the group.  And by write, the group doesn't expect a handwritten score that can be played by a quartet.  No, all the group wants is a YouTube, or an mp3, or an iTunes of the song.  Your phone can record the song, even.

Except my phone can't.  And after the first three or four months, I stopped trying.

Here are the prompts I missed:
one perfect day
an antique photo in a shop
tattoo
something to love about everyone
glimmer

I decided to cheat!  I decided to roll all those themes into one song.  Here are the lyrics I wrote:

 On a perfect day, one spent with you,
I chanced upon a scene
Of an old farm house in a dusty frame
So gray it was almost green.

And you smiled as if you had a thought
You had to keep from me
You bought me that dusty frame
Since that old house spoke to me.

There is something to love about everyone
You whispered that night in our bed.
That old farm looked like a promised land
to that farmer when he wed.

There is something to love about everyone
Was your mantra from then on.
That farmer’s work,  or my strange love
for a place that was long gone.

That frame is safely packed away
with the other things you left
When you knew that your time on earth was done
and I found myself bereft.

And your mantra I’ve etched into my skin
A glimmering tattoo
There is something to love about everyone
Because I once loved you.

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23. Craft Fair again????

Oh, dear friends (and Friends), the Lehigh Valley Friends Meeting Craft Fair approaches. (Oct. 18th) I should be planning the arrangements of all the tables, setting out yard signs, contacting the crafters and making sure they all show up, sending emails to all the bake sale donors and volunteers.  But instead I want to:
- read
- play the accordion, or the piano, or the kazoo
- bake muffins for me and mine and NOT for strangers
- write another adventure of the Advent Avenger, or the Halloween Hero, or the Thanksgiving Titan; (Titan?? where did that come from?)
- doodle
- do 6 or 10 or 15 sudoku puzzles and a few crosswords
- take down the wash
- make supper

ANYTHING!!!  ANYTHING but what I should be doing.  It is an affliction - this tendency of mine to ignore my responsibilities and just fritter.    Puttering is guilt-free.  Frittering is fraught...just totally fraught.

Anyway, if you are in Bethlehem, PA on October 18th - stop by the Lehigh Valley Friends Meeting and spend money.  I will be the heavyset flustered woman in the weird hat.  You will have fun.

10 am to 3 pm. 4116 Bath Pike, Bethlehem, PA 18017  And there will be homemade soup and bread, fresh pressed cider and music, sweet, sweet music.


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24. Almost missed this! Ivy and Bean

It's still October 18th!  So we can still celebrate those friends-to-the-end, Ivy and Bean.
Check out all the fun here.

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25. The Death of Bees



Any book that opens with teen girls burying their dead parents in the garden is going to be a page turner.  Marnie (whose fifteenth birthday is the day of the secret interment) suspects her 12-year-old sister, Nelly of suffocating their father, Gene.  Nelly suspects that Marnie is the culprit.  Neither of them are overly concerned since all they want to do is stay together.  Hence the hiding of the dead bodies.  (Mom's death was something else entirely.)  Gene and Izzy were NOT model parents.

Lenny, the aging neighbor watches the girls from his window, missing his dead partner, Joseph, and wondering where the parents have gone.

The girls struggle through school, and with friends and boys (Marnie) and social ineptitude (Nelly), until a crisis forces them to seek refuge with Lenny.  They find a safe place there.  But nothing lasts forever.

Sex, drugs, violence - this book may be about teens but it is written for adults or New Adults as 20-somethings are now called in the publishing world.  Marnie and Nelly are both very smart.  As they alternate telling the story, with some help from Lenny, they uncover what a truly neglected life they have led.  All the reader really wants is for them to have a home with Lenny - he's so lonely and he can really cook! - and get on with their lives.  But murder is not a victimless crime.  Someone always has to pay.

I can't get this book out of my head.  Some of the observations attributed to Marnie and Nelly are so apt, so well-put, that I want to memorize them.  Or post them on a sampler on my wall.

When Marnie catches her bible-thumping grandfather swigging whiskey from a bottle she reacts this way:
"I go back to my room afraid, because people like Robert T. Macdonald carrying righteousness like a handbag are dangerous and I never considered him dangerous before and now that I do I am scared."

"People...carrying righteousness like a handbag are dangerous."  We see them every single day.

Click for Lisa O'Donnell's NPR interview here.

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