Monday, June 15, 2009

Things I Would Stand in a Midnight Madness Line For

I would assume that if you are reading all the same blogs I am, you have been privy to the following revelations. In case you have missed these newsy bombshells let me share what gets my little heart skipping about in a conga line. From what I can gather 37% of blogging is reporting on what has been read in other blogs. Ihope to give credit where credit is due to breaking the news.

Rob Reiner the meathead who directed such masterpieces as The Princess Bride, Spinal Tap, and A Few Good Men (AKA the best written piece of cinema ever) will be directing the movie version of my favorite Wendelyn Van Draanen book Flipped.

Truthfully, I rarely get excited about movies of my favorite books. And I usually pass on buying a movie ticket or even a $1 rental, but I'm willing to give the son of Carl a chance to impress me. Also it can only increase interest among my young students in one the most kid assessable authors currently juggling up to 3 series.

For those of you who, along with myself, have been suffering Grandma Dowdle withdrawal ever since A Year Down Yonder secured its Newbery award oh so long ago. Never fear she is making a return!

Can you bear the magnificence of it? Do I need to find a defibrillator? There is nothing like a loved character, who's time, it would seem, has come and gone, showing up on your door step. Now if I could get a glimpse as to what Lunna Lovegood is up to since evil at Hogwarts was eradicated. (Thanks to Collecting Children's Books for both of the above tidbits.)

The countdown to more Kate DiCamillo is shrinking. It was quite some time ago that I got wind on the Internet about her upcoming The Magician's Elephant. But now the galleys are out and the lucky show-offs are blathering about it at Goodreads.

By most accounts it is a quiet story, but loaded with plenty of brilliance. I did secure the first chapter, as an insert in June's School Library Journal. I can report mystery, longing, and one spectacularly ridicules event.

I just found out about this final revelation mere moments ago. I can thank Educating Alice for this wildly exciting bit of news. My hands are still a bit shaky from the awe of it all, and the defibrillator is cooling off in the corner.

Let me drag on the unveiling just a little bit longer. While the tale of Harry Potter was still being trickled from the conciseness of Ms. Rowling. I had a horrible thought that I might or she might die before I could read that finial page. As you can assume we both survived. Once the world of Potter was safely delivered, I was content to enjoy my other pet series' whenever they should happen to appear, without the worry of impending doom. And then I discovered the world of Megan Whalen Turner's Eugenides. Never since an obsessive romp through space with Miles Vorkosigan have I enjoyed a character more than that crafty Eugenides. It was not nearly enough to have written a thoroughly upside down, inside out, brilliant protagonist, but Mrs. Turner has managed to write plots so tricky and complex that reading them one time through is not enough, not nearly enough. When I discovered Goodreads I created a virtual shelf, series-to-finish-before-i-die, just to put the following book on.

Here it is:

I realize brilliance takes time, but honestly the King of Attolia came out so long ago I could have suffered several heart attacks, been invaded by numerous forms of cancer, eaten by a grizzly, or fallen off a mountain in the meantime. I truly hope Mrs. Turner is wearing her seat belt and eating plenty of anti-oxidants.
I am making this bold statement in the hopes that it reaches sympathetic and empowered ears.

I will bake cookies for, or turn over the pink slip on my first born to anyone that can get an ARC of A Conspiracy of Kings into my greedy little hands.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

What to say about a book that a reader should know nothing about before opening
the cover? One’s tongue must tread very carefully, while exuberantly bandying about ones utter enchantment with the work, least it slip and let out one of the book’s many, many delightful secrets. With a great deal of care and some trepidation, here are a few things that I would like to say:

  • Some books have clever tight plots and leave the reader guessing its mysteries right up to the end, and some books have great characters that are a joy to hang out with, rarely are both fused together in such a way as to leave no fissure to disparage. When You Reach Me is just such a rarity. It is perfection from opening quote (Albert Einstein), to closing four-word statement.
  • This book is accessible to its target age group, 9-12. This is a clever book. I know I just said that. But really it is very, very clever! Sadly cleverness puts many books outside the reach of many young readers. Not used to nuance and subtlety many books that I most enjoy, are just too clever for their own good, or at least the good of many of my students. I have not the slightest doubt that When You Reach Me will be completely assessable to my fourth-grade and up student body, heck we can even throw in most of the third-graders (we do have above average students). Do you understand what this means? This is a treasure that can be used to intrigue reluctant readers as well as challenge gifted readers. It will make an excellent classroom read-aloud or discussion group book. I dare any teacher to be bored by it!
  • I am not the first, and I will not be the last to bandy about the N word. Come January if this baby is not announced over the ALSC podium, I will run naked down Broadway (and believe me no one wants to see that, no one!).

  • Now comes the moment when I introduce a little device I am going to call the Kid Lit Social Club (KLSC). This is where I get to break down the barriers of time, location, publishers, genre, and book binding to throw characters from the currently discussed book into the path of other characters from children's literature.

    The Gang from When You Reach Me at the KLSC

    Miranda will naturally be BFFs with Meg Murry, after all they will always be the same age.

    Miranda can also form a support group with Lynne Rae Perkins' Debbie for the recovery of those who have been dumped by long-time best friends.

    Miranda can also join a enigmatic code cracking club with the duo from Wendy Mass's Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life.

    Miranda and Richard can both join Lucky's friend Lincoln, as members of The International Guild of Knot Tyers.

    Marcus should enroll in a social skill awareness class with Emma Jean Lazarus.

    Marcus and Julia will most likely get a scholarship to attend Connie Willis' Oxford.

    Colin can hang out with Sammy Keyes' pal Casey Acosta at the skate park, where they can discuss the allure of capable, witty females.

    Annemarie's father can trade recipes with DJ Swank's Dad.

    Sal and Alvin Ho can hold a discussion group on lesson's learned when one tries to shun female friendship.

    The Laughing Man can trade tactical strategies with Miles Vorkosigan.

    Now can you think of any other characters that would strike up an acquaintance with the gang from WYRM?

    Saturday, June 6, 2009

    It Reached me Sooner than Expected

    Monica Edinger is officially my favorite person this weekend. She, and I can only assume her utterly brilliant students, have brought me joy, heretofore only experienced by audience members gyrating in unseemly ecstasy in the pretense of Bob Barker, Drew Carey and possibly Dick Clark. She has made what by all accounts was to be a pretty decent weekend something worthy of the following gloat fest.

    This Saturday is the day employees of public education look forward to for 9 months; the day when a glance at the calendar shows square after dated square of classroom free bliss. Days without the dictatorial bell signaling when we and our charges can get fresh air, take nourishment, or void our bladders. Days where, if desired, we can spend the day in elastic-waisted fleece or fail to touch a comb. Weeks stretch before us, free from enforcing excessive running, chatter, and gum chewing. Oh bliss!

    This is what I planned on doing my first weekend of freedom. As you can see I walked out of my newly inventoried and abnormally organized library, loaded with plenty of fodder for a 48-hour readathon.

    I never went as far as entering Mother Reader’s challenge. When I came across it several weeks ago, I had grandiose thoughts in the back of my head that it would be a good way to get this long neglected albatross of a blog off the ground once and for all. Naturally I was delusional. With a background in dyslexia, distraction (ADHD), and a tendency to Narcolepsy if left in a stationary position for prolonged amounts of time, even an obsessive book addict like myself, is not going to make any sort of showing in a reading challenge, no matter how much bubbly caffeine is involved.

    I also had pressing landscaping issues, of the sort pictured below, mocking me every time I passed through my front door, and my back and side door for that matter. I no longer had the excuse of long work hours, to appease the collective suburban disdain for slipshod lawn pride.

    The weekend began well enough, with a night out with my husband, who was also prone to celebrate his upcoming break from his role as a School Psychologist. We spent our new found leisure on dinner and a movie. The Brother’s Bloom being the later, which, with a bit more rumination and at least one subsequent viewing, may well make it into my top 25 movies of all time? But this is not a movie blog. I will not bore you with the pleasure of staring into Adrian Brody’s spellbinding eyes for 2 hours.

    On our return home I was met with an entryway filled with shattered glass which I am blaming on our cat infestation colliding with a decorative wall plaque. As I was gingerly scooping up shards and slivers of what had previously been known as a loving gift presented to me by my crafty sister, my husband walked in with the mail.

    Are you ready for it; this is the point in the story when the mundane and common takes on the sheen of spectacularness. At this point the poor unsuspecting man had no idea what sort of commotion his next sentences were about to elicit.

    “Hon, it looks as if someone sent you a book? Were you expecting something?”

    My senses on full alert I pivoted, sharp, potentially dangerous, debris carelessly brandished, as my frantic hands reached for the white envelope resting in his unsuspecting grasp. My eyes saw Monica Edinger name scrawled in the upper left hand corner - and all hell broke loose.

    As stated before I had a shared experience with embarrassingly enthusiastic game show contestants. Once the squealing, jumping, dancing, rejoicing, and envelope shredding had subsided, I stood panting in the middle of my kitchen, my prize clutched to my chest facing my bewildered spouse.

    What, you may be asking, along with my abused and bemused husband, was I holding that would elicit such abandon? If you think you can bear the blinding magnificence of it, I will show you:

    There you have it!

    I know you are saying to yourself, how could she possibly be holding it in her kitchen when the publication date is weeks away? How could she have the hottest book of the summer? She is in no way cool enough, or privileged enough to be on the galley give-away gravy train.

    Let me take you back in time and tell you the story.

    It all began when I read Betsy Bird's tantalizing review followed by Monica’s own. Up to that point, I had eagerly been waiting for mid-May to get my hands on little Calpurnia Tate, when suddenly my focus was diverted to this enticing morsel by Rebecca Steed, with its enigmatic title, and unassuming cover, dangling far off in the distant future. It was enough to break the heart of an obsessive kid lit extremist like myself. How could I contain the craving until July?

    I had a fleeting hope of getting my hands on a galley when Betsy dropped down this challenge to finish off her fabulous top 100 picture books of all time. I was determined to guess the top ten and demand her galley of When You Reach Me as my spoils. Alas, I was taken out by sweet little Trixie in the first round - the little strumpet. I do however want to boast that I got the top nine of the ten - little good that did me.

    Dejected and suffering from PCD, (post countdown decompression), I was not as vigilant in my blog reading as I should have been. A few days ago, after a long day of inventory and delinquent book repo, I was doing my daily blog perusal long past the customary time. When what to my wondering eyes should appear - but a possibility of achieving my heart’s desire! Monica was giving away a whole box of the precious objects!

    Oh, the world stopped! I scrambled for a coherent reason to explain my desire to get my grubby little hands on one. For the next hour I was unbearable as I tried to limit myself to a mere 140 characters to convince Monica and her class why I must be one of the ones chosen. As I’m sure you can imagine, after reading this horrendously long post, brevity is not a strong suit, not at all.

    I can’t quite remember the exact wording of my carefully, and excruciatingly edited request, but I believe I intimated that some of my students might somehow be in danger if I were not to receive a copy. Finally satisfied I sent off my hopeful plea, only to be desolate moments later. As I had linked to Educating Alice from Fuse #8, I had failed to see this post. And as my school day had ended hours before, I’m sure Ms. Edinger’s class, two time zones ahead, had long since made their selections and were now tucked in their beds. Once again I was thwarted, or so I assumed. But as you know there was some kind of divine intervention. Or did the participants find encouraging messages as they checked their pockets, backpacks, reading material, and footwear?

    Whatever the reason I’m so grateful my mailbox contained such a treasure. I spent this day reading what is sure to be one of my top 10 novels of all time. It is not a common occurrence, for the reasons listed at the beginning of this post, for me to finish a book in one day. But I devoured this, plump and juicy bit, by rich and satisfying bit, up to the final emotion-filled paragraphs. And all I want to do now is open it again and start all over!

    Thank you Monica and class! (And, um . . . If you so happen to have a copy of Catching Fire laying about, I could threaten another class.)