You are currently browsing the archives for January 2010.
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A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts is haunting me

  • Posted on January 31, 2010 at 12:00 AM

I’ve carried this book around for 7 months trying to tell you about it. I’ve begun 3 different blog posts and let each one dissipate. Finally I cannot take it any longer and I must tell you to go buy A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts for your middle and high school collections. Your horror-loving students will thank you. Plus you may knock down a few walls of falsehood and misconceptions about Chinese culture in the process. 

I finished this short story collection by Compestine (Revolution is not a Dinner Party) today and feel incredibly enthusiastic about this title.  Often when I get requests for horror stories, I scramble to find titles that will definitely scare the readers because many writers of children’s ghost stories don’t quite create stories disturbing enough for the Serious thrill-fright seekers.  This volume definitely deserves some serious attention.

My reading note on it is posted in goodreads and

It’s due out late October and I wonder if anyone else has read it and if so, would you share your thoughts? – fairrosa cyber library of children’s literature 
by Ying Chang Compestine

The publisher did not oversell this title when they decided on “A Collection of Deliciously Frightening Tales” as the subtitle of Compestine’s newest offering. Eight nightmare inducing stories are great for reading alone and sharing at any haunting hour.

It is truly rare to read stories set in modern day China for children and I appreciate the authenticity in Compestine’s writing, backed up by researches and her own life experience. It must be noted, however, that since these are stories mainly about greedy and corrupt people, the pieced-together large picture shows a fairly unsavory angle of China, old or new. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Compestine has an agenda, but I would say that matter like organ harvesting, cooking and eating endangered animals, and government corruption and bribery are serious topics that, might make a Chinese reader feel uncomfortable or even ashamed: especially when the author includes notes after each “course.” On the other hand, these are human rights and animal rights issues that the Chinese and the Chinese Government should address. In this way, this book serves as a political treaty, exposing atrocities for the world (and young readers) to examine. I will recommend this to many of my students and their teachers who are always on the lookout for something really scary to read!

The recipes are authentic and wonderful — but I can’t bring myself to try or make these dishes after reading the stories and remembering how they are tied to the stories.

Controversial Covers

  • Posted on January 30, 2010 at 11:00 AM

This January while many bloggers were focusing on the ALA Youth Media awards, there arose another issue in the biblioblogosphere: covers with characters that don’t accurately portray the author’s description inside, particularly of POC (persons of color). For those of you who thought we’d dealt with the issue after the cover of Justine Larbalestier’s Liar and The Mysterious Benedict Society, voila! The cover of Magic Under Glass was spotlighted.

You can read articles about the controversy at Salon "Publisher whitens another heroine of color" or at Jezebel "Magic Under Glass: The White-Washing Of Young Adult Fiction Continues." Was it the blog at Black-Eyed Susan’s on "Celebrating MLK with a Protest" that brought this controversy such attention? 
What’s the big deal with the cover anyway? Questions like this buzzed through the blogs. Would you protest a cover by hurting the author and not buying the book? Wouldn’t this reinforce the theory that people won’t buy books with main characters of color? How would you respond? Would you boycott an entire publisher’s line? Read some of the comments for varying opinions. Would you contact the publisher?  Will it do any good to contact the publisher when this keeps happening?

So how did author Jaclyn Dolamore respond to the controversy? Check out her blog "Wit, Words, and Joie de Vivre" for her viewpoint.  Here is the official book trailer created by Dade W. Bell. Note the female character more accurately reflects the description by Dolamore. 

How did Bloomsbury respond on their website:
"Bloomsbury is ceasing to supply copies of the US edition of Magic Under Glass. The jacket design has caused offense and we apologize for our mistake. Copies of the book with a new jacket design will be available shortly."

I have been told I am very naive and that I want to believe the best in people. This year, in fact, my New Year’s resolution is to "Treat others with grace and kindness. Do more to help. Spread good cheer." In other words, I want to keep a positive attitude and work for change in a positive manner.

I believe we must continue to encourage publishers to market books with "poc" persons of color. We must hold publishers accountable for perceived racism and demand actions. We must continue to purchase titles with poc on the cover. I see that the publisher has responded. Will they ever make this mistake again? Absolutely,  as will many other publishers. I accept that the publisher responded and apologized. 

Those bloggers who are reading and watching will catch and will draw readers’ attention to errors. Many are resentful that I need to be vigilant. Do I advocate boycotting? NO! I do not see that a boycott helps the cause of increasing the number of titles published each year with POC. That’s my personal opinion. I want everyone reading more titles and publishers producing more titles. Share them with me and I’ll share them with others. I expect bloggers to do the same.

Add these blogs to add to your blogroll to view how some bloggers are addressing these issues:
The PoC Challenge .  
Color Online
Reading in Color 
Amy Bowlan’s series on Writers Against Racism
Debbie Reese’s blog American Indians in Children’s Literature  and her comments on the POC Challenge:
About the "POC Challenge"
Second post: The POC Challenge
The Facebook page Readers Against WhiteWashing
Mitali Perkins blog post Brown Faces Don’t Sell Books? A Poll For Booksellers and Librarians
La Bloga (Chicana, Chicano, Latina, Latino, & more. Literature, Writers, Children’s Literature, News, Views & Reviews)
Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind (a children’s and young adult blog about books set in Asia and books with Asian characters (regardless of where they are published and whether or not their authors and illustrators are Asian), and Asian authors and illustrators (no matter where they are in the world). 
Speaking of challenges, S Krishna issued theSouth Asian Author Challenge to encourage people to read books by South Asian Authors – South Asia being India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

As far as personal opinions go, would you like to know what I thought of Magic Under Glass? Great! Because I’m going to tell you anyway. I wouldn’t bother to chime in on this controversy if I didn’t believe the title was worthy of bringing to your notice.

I enjoyed reading Magic Under Glass and finished it in one sitting. It was a surprising first novel by Jaclyn Dolamore and I will seek out the sequel she is already working on Magic Under Stone. The author’s words quickly wrapped around me and drew me into the arms of the story of trouser girl Nimira, tortured Erris, and wealthy though weak sorcerer Hollin Parry. 

The romantic developments and mystery reminded me of reading the Victorian Gothic romances of my childhood. The difficulties of facing prejudicial society with evil machinations subtly vibrating in the background underscore this work. It’s almost as if you are reading a dance. You glide gracefully along, you romantically gasp at certain moves, yet throughout there is a hidden beat that keeps you on your toes and prepared for any sudden changes in tempo.

The main character’s identify as being from another country is interwoven throughout the story with just 3 references to skin color that I could find. The importance of her country of origin featured far more than race in her cultural values, expectations, and differences within the society where she was living. Her attitude towards the discrimination towards fairies and the fairy taxodermy were progressive in a society that attempted to demean her opinions due to her sex and working class.

I’d like to echo several bloggers who pondered why the publisher called this Magic Under Glass when the glass mentioned played such a tiny role in the story. In fact, I kept expecting more to come from what was under the glass, but it was not developed. This is one part where the author waltzed when I wanted a vigorous tango. Perhaps this will come forth in the sequel; regardless, I think it could have had a different title. 

The cover appealed to the romantic part of my soul that loves long flowing gowns, upswept hair and lacy curtains. The arc had sat on my bedside table for weeks because I anticipated it to be an entertaining romantic read to fill my heart rather than a focal point of racial controversy. I would love to hang out with author Jaclyn Dolamore at an event where we could where various dresses from that period. Anyone care to join me in the sheer romantic thrill of corsets and flowing tresses? During a bookfair several years ago I rented this gown and wished I’d kept it. Anyone want to go shopping through thrift stores for Victorian gowns? 

In the meantime, do not allow controversies over the cover to prevent you from putting this book Magic Under Glass in your library. It is a wonderful first novel and deserves to be on your shelves (with the new cover).

Capstone's new site

  • Posted on January 29, 2010 at 5:46 PM

Capstone Publishing has a new website  They’ve sent some press releases but since you are probably as busy as I am, let me share some interesting links. Rather than just focusing on their titles, Capstone seems to be looking at two markets: Librarians and Teachers. 

Varied services are offered depending upon your role, but I like the Educator Resources including bookmarks, reader’s theatre scripts, videos, an online Google calendar of events that you can copy to your own school library calendar, Reading Olympics tools, lesson plans, standards correlations, and more.

The bookmarks suggest both Keyword search terms and Dewey Decimal Numbers like these search terms for Really Scary Stuff: ghost, alien, monster, unidentified flying object, haunted house. Readers are encouraged to Check the Shelves: 001, 130s.

Readers know I am a strong advocate for downloadable and printable bookmarks. I love having nonfiction tie-in’s and bookmarks that inspire further searching, thinking, and reading. These bookmarks are not simple lists of series titles published by Capstone Publishing. They are beginning pathfinders for elementary readers. There are small cover photos of 2-3 titles that fall into each category, but these are not just promotional booklists. 

Reminder: Send in your fav teen titles

  • Posted on January 28, 2010 at 10:14 PM

January 2nd I announced The Search for the Top 100 Teen Titles. The February 14th deadline is swiftly approaching so I wanted to remind you of the rules and to prompt you to enter your titles. Don’t let your voice be unheard.

Here are the rules:

Vote for your top ten teen titles of all time (again, not just this years’). These are the titles that appeal to teens including young adult novels, nonfiction, and picture books for teens (ages 13-19).

What? Nonfiction? Yes! If you know teens, then you’ll realize a true top 100 must have nonfiction. Picture books? Yes, there are picture books that appeal mainly to teens. I’m not talking about Brown Bear, Brown Bear either so don’t be silly. You can only enter ten titles so I trust in the collective to allow the top 100 titles to rise to the top.

List your books in order of preference. #1 will receive ten points, #3 nine, etc.  

Tell me what you like about each title.
 This way you can share what you truly feel about each title and not worry about being "politically correct" in your top ten list. I will include anonymous excerpts in my countdown so you have the opportunity to agree or argue. Now doesn’t that sound like fun?!
Email your submissions to me at by BookLover’s Day (AKA Valentine’s Day February 14, 2010)  OR you can fill out the google form Top 100 Teen Titles by Valentine’s Day.

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Sequel Sunday

  • Posted on January 24, 2010 at 1:06 PM

Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoy exhibit halls at ALA midwinter and Annual? I had two full hours on Friday night and managed to come away with over 80 books. Many were advanced reading copies, some I Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Sidepurchased, others were gratefully accepted donations. 

I admit I pleaded heavily with Jekel Loves HydeLerner for their only copy of the new biography of Michael Jackson. I returned eight times to remind them how much I wanted this title and finally on Monday at two minutes to ten, they caved to my pressure.

What was the first question boys asked me when I walked into school less than one hour after landing at the Nashville airport? Did you find any Michael Jackson books? 

I was able to waive it at them, get it processed immediately and in their teacher’s hand to read-aloud before the week was out. PHEW! These are the students who said they were going to lock me out if I didn’t return with a Michael Jackson biography. They are a tough crowd! Thanks to Lerner for coming through.

Today I declare is Sequel Sunday as I catch up on the second novels of some highly popular middle grade and young adult literature that was published last year. Why? I had students telling me they needed help finding books to read. When I’d ask them what was the last good book they remember reading, they told me: 

Hearts at Stake
Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark SideJasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware
The Brain Finds a Leg
Carbon Diaries 2015 
Whales on Stilts

Students, you are in luck because I have uncorrected advanced reading copies of the sequels to all of those. In fact, I’m reading them and noting errors to tell the publishers about. Silly publishers to give OCD librarians uncorrected books to read. 

9780802798404Alyxandra Harvey scored with a romantic Vampire royal family in book one of the Drake Chronicles – Hearts at Stake. My tween/teen girls delighted in savoring the romance of Nicholas, Lucy, Solange, and Kieran. Even though Hearts at Stake was told from two girls’ perspectives, the students were totally enraptured with the intense action and r-o-m-a-n-c-e so they persevered.  

When I announced I had Blood Feud in my purse, they wanted details. Is it the same family? Who’s going to be the love interest? There are 7 children in that vampiric royal family. Will there be more fighting and history? Will Lucy remain human? What about Aunt Hyacinth? Did she survive the sun? What about those hounds? Sorry there is no cover illustration available yet, but I’m sure it will come closer to release date.

Do I dare tell them they must wait until August 2010 for the hardcover release of Blood Feud? Naw! I think I’ll let them loose with the ARC and wait for them to realize the third book will be released in January, 2011. I wonder how long it will take them to beg for that title. Many publishers don’t produce ARC’s after a series is a success. I’ll probably have a small group draw up their ideas for the author Alyxandra Harvey and send them on. Poor authors who think they can control their characters once they are set free in YA literature. The readers take over. 

Blood Feud incorporates the French Revolution into vampire history and is sure to drive my students to seek more historical titles of that age. If you missed Hearts at Stake earlier this year, be sure to snap it up and prepare for the demands for the sequel. Great female characters in this series who don’t dilly-dally all wishy-washy like some females in vampire books. (Don’t tell the girls, but I can’t wait for the next in this series either.)

The Carbon Diaries 2017 by Sacci Lloyd deals far more with the human survival aspect ofThe Carbon Diaries 2015 our environmentally at risk world than with the disaster aspects of The Carbon Diaries 2015. I’ll place this in mature hands who want to focus on relationships more than the eco-thriller aspect. Science titles predicting droughts and future problems with water will go on display with 2017. I’ll also be able to group some history and geography titles as the main characters become global activities in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Check out the differences in covers available. for 2015. I couldn’t The Carbon Diaries 2017find a copy of the 2017 cover I’m reading, but you can see the UK editions are vastly different from the US Brain Finds a Leg, Thecovers.

The Brain Finds a Leg by Martin Chatterton was "wicked funny" according to the boys who read it. Along comes The Brain Full of Holes just in time for my comedic lovers. 

The girls dared me to find other titles with fast-moving dialogue and twisted humorous plots so I recommended Whales on Stilts and its sequel Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware in the Pals in Peril series by author M. T. Anderson.  Brain Full of Holes, The

Last but not least on my sequel reading today is Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey. Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side is one of THE top titles we read last year. Romantic. American. Frustrating. Dramatic. Climactic. and oh, so very satisfying in the end. 

Jekel Loves Hyde is not a sequel, but it is definitely an exciting edition to this author’s repertoire. I knew this was coming because two of my girls stormed in demanding to know why I had not told them The Wedding of Antanasia Jessica Packwood  and Lucius Valeriu Vladescu was available to read online. They could hardly accept my response that authors don’t feel any need to notify me every time they have a new title out. The students could hardly believe this and suggested that I put a reminder on my blog to authors to email me. <sigh> Give these students a page and they demand the whole chapter. 

Anyway, when we realized the wedding was online, the girls were so excited they mutineed at going to related arts classes. Only when I agreed to let them spend lunch time reading, were they willing to go to class. They are going to be so thrilled to read Jekel Loves Hyde. Once they discovered that authors put advance notice of their works in progress online, the library club students have determined to explore all author facebook fan pages, kidlitosphere pages, and author web pages to make sure I don’t fall down on the job. These students don’t realize how lucky they have it, but I can take the pressure. 

Back to reading sequels. Enjoy your Sunday.

first they came for – working draft

  • Posted on January 23, 2010 at 11:52 AM

First they came for the school librarians,
but that was a teacher issue at a local level and they have public libraries, right?

Then they came for the military library budgets,
but we thought the troops were too busy and someone else would donate and deliver books, right?

Then they came for the special scientific libraries,
but the government said they could google everything they needed, right?

Then they came for the depository libraries of free government information,
but the government said they had digitized everything fairly and given us complete access online, right?

Then they came for the medical libraries,
but we knew all the research to protect us was available somewhere for free on the internet, right?

Then they came for the college library budgets,
but we heard everything was available for free online or at the public library, right?

Then they seized exclusive rights to online magazine content,
but we knew someone could afford to purchase access for all the public libraries, right?

Then they came for the public library budgets,
but we were so busy helping the homeless, the jobless, the people without access to resources, the school children, the scientists, the inventors, the college students, the professors, the researchers, the senior citizens, and the preschoolers that no one was left to help us, right?

Wrong! We are a library eco-system. We depend upon each other. 

Please help me clean this up and make it a stronger piece of writing to share.

Haiti Help while at ALA

  • Posted on January 16, 2010 at 9:50 AM

ALA President and Treasurer Candidates Forum.  At the forum they announce that there are places to donate to a fund to help in Haiti.  The funds will be matched by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.(I think I heard this correctly).  Today there is a donation box in the Registration area.  Sunday and Monday there will be a donation box in the North Lobby (I think this is where the ALA Store is).  I am sure there will be more in Cognotes.  There is a picture on page 4 today with a bit of information.  Checks can be made out to ACCA/ALA Haiti Relief Fund.  They take cash, checks and credit cards.

JFK Presidential Library

  • Posted on January 15, 2010 at 11:07 AM

Took time Thursday to tour the JFK Presidential Library. My school IS the John F Kennedy Middle School, afterall. I wish each of you and our students could visit this as it was an amazing experience.

The tour is self-guided and you walk through a series of rooms that have been created to put you in the moment. For example, there is a room like a tv briefing room. There is a replica of the Oval office, there is a hallway replica of the White House. As I toured each room and viewed the video clips, captions, and artifacts, I was so impressed and so proud to be associated with JFK school.

At the end of the tour, I visited the store and discovered wonderful resources that would aid us in instructing our students and instilling pride of being part of a school named after JFK. I plan to return to school and order more materials to make JFK accessible to students. For example, there were DVD’s and CD’s of speeches and events. Hearing JFK speak was such an essential part of the exhibit. I wish I could work more with libraries to create fascinating experiences for my students. I was able to speak to Nancy McCoy about educational programming. She will connect me with both the elementary and the middle school coordinators so I can design learning experiences.

During a Library Champion reception, I spoke with Kevin of the IMLS group. He hinted that there are people at work in IMLS on helping school libraries and museums work together. Guess I’ll go find out more for all of you.

It was very quick, easy and cheap to get to from the convention center. Walk over the bridge and take steps down to the T World Train Center station. Pay $2 and get on T to the South Station. Transfer to red line outbound to the JFK/UMass stop. Get on the free shuttle there to the museum. Pay the $12 admission fee for adults. Enjoy and learn. There are signs all along the way to reassure you that you are headed in the right location.

Frontline Advocacy & the people of Boston

  • Posted on January 14, 2010 at 8:09 AM

Boston_AttendingWhoever tried to tell me that people from the Northeastern US were distant, cold, or unfriendly LIED. The people of Boston are wonderful, friendly, and helpful. Let me give you an illustration: 

Allison and I walked to ground transportation at the airport not knowing diddly-squat about how we were going to get to our hotel. Nancy and American Libraries magazine had suggested the Shuttle for $17 so we walked up to a bus driver and asked where the shuttle was because we needed to get to the Westin. 

He told us to go wait in the heated shelter for bus #66, radioed the bus so they’d know we were waiting, and called out to let us know how long it would be (less than 5 minutes). When the bus arrived, the driver hopped down to help us load our bags and drove to the next stop which was the T stop for the train. His shift was ending, but he made sure to tell us which stop to get off (2 more). The next driver hopped on, took us to the water transportation stop, hopped off and helped us with our luggage. Then he led us to the dock, showed us how to use the mic (directions are posted), and called a water taxi for us. He showed us where to wait and made sure we were safe. 

When the water taxi arrived, he helped us with bags, gave us a mini-tour of the harbor, told us to eat at the no-name restaurant, helped us unload bags, then showed us the quickest and easiest way to walk the 2-3 blocks to the convention center. The secret was to enter the Boston World Trade Center, take the escalator to the next floor, and walk a straight line to the convention center with no traffic lights and one continuous sidewalk the entire way. 

Each of these people went out of their way to be helpful, friendly, and informative. They provided the basic service we needed, but then went beyond to ensure we had a wonderful visit by being helpful and knowledgable. By the way, it cost $10 one way and $17 round-trip. You can come in on one day and leave another and that’s still a round-trip. The bus shuttle was free. 

The boat (water taxi) was enclosed so we enjoyed the view without being cold. It was a wonderful experience. This is how frontline workers should be. Friendly, helpful, and providing a better experience than we expected.

Why ALA Midwinter? Frontline Advocacy

  • Posted on January 14, 2010 at 8:09 AM

I’m here in Boston reading the tons of committee reports for my liaison visits, executive board duties, etc., but secretly counting down the minutes til the exhibit floors open. I love EXHIBIT HALLS! It’s a chance to meet authors, publishers, and old friends. Moreover, you get to touch the new books. My feet will take me to look at audio books, furniture, supplies, and trends in technology, but my heart will be with the book vendors. 

Boston_AttendingEveryone will tell you the Midwinter meeting of the American Library Association is where the work of the association gets done.  For many committees this is their first meeting; for others, they have already been working all year. The focus is not on programs and yet there are some interesting ones to attend. There are speeches, author presentations, parties with the most exciting event being the Youth Media Awards on Monday morning. 

One of the surprisingly exciting panels this year is Camila Alire’s Frontline Advocacy panel. The website is live (even though its’ still being tweaked), and I couldn’t wait to share the link with you: .  

I’ve spent this early morning reading one section called Where School Is Cool! Frontline Advocacy for School Libraries Toolkit.  These toolkits acknowledge the importance of the frontline people – not just the school librarian. The person working the desk, the person in the office downstairs directing people to the library, parents discussing the library, active students – these are our frontline. I hope you will take a moment to check out the link. 

This will be a very busy conference for me with meetings. I keep my google calendar online so I can graphically view my days and plan how to be in 3 places at once several times. Serving on the executive board involves ALOT of meetings. Then there are the council meetings, orientations, receptions, and forums to attend. Then there are my liaisons with the Intellectual Freedom Committee, the Public Awareness Committee, the Election Committee, the Committee on the Status of Women in Libraries, the Federal & Armed Forces Libraries Round Table, the Chinese American Library Association, and the exciting division ALSC – the Association for Library Service to Children.

Lots of meetings with wonderful people and a couple wild characters, too. One of the events I’m most looking forward to is meeting former Vice-president Al Gore before his lecture. One of my teachers allowed her students to write letters to Mr. Gore for me to give him asking him to visit our school. Here is a paragraph from one of their letters for you:

"I don’t really know about you because I was in kindergarten or the 1st grade. I am sure all of the JFK students would enjoy meeting you. It would be an honor to have you come… Maybe, just maybe, if you decide to run for president in 3-6 years from now, us future voters will vote for you. Keep that in mind. Mr. Gore, please come to John F Kennedy Middle School. So, if I run for president, I could say, "When Al Gore came to my school, he inspired me to run for president. I hope to be an inspiration for someone, too."

Another student wrote: "My dream is to win a Noble <sic> Peace Prize, and become a chef and win Iron Chef. ..If you could please come to JFK Middle that would be great! I would also get to brag to my friends that I met you. Could you please bring the Noble Peace Prize so I can see it up close and in person? Also, if you come could I have your autograph? Will you have the Secret Service with you? Do they ever talk or do they just remain silent?