Friday, August 31, 2007

That's a first grade breakfast!

... and some Grade A hair. He's so thrilled to be in first grade, and I'm so damn proud.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

They'll be gaga at the go-go when they see me in my toga

A few things about the pink hair.

On the beach on Whidbey Island (this picture), Bob said that from behind, it all looked like a black and white photo in which only my hair had been colorized.

If you work with strangers, and you dye your hair pink, you better be on your best behavior. Previously, if someone had a complaint about me, it would go like this: "That librarian with the long hair and glasses wouldn't write my paper for me," and they could have been referring to either Your Neighborhood Librarian or Our Resident Pagan, and we were kind of both covered. Now, however, all they gotta say is, "That pink-haired librarian was a bitch to me," and I got nowhere to hide.

If I'm having a stressy day, or merely in a hurry to get somewhere, and someone stops, stares, smiles, and asks, "What made you dye your hair pink?" it doesn't make me slow down and smile back, it makes me want to snap his or her neck.

I could tell any 8-year-old girl to read Aristotle - in Greek - and she'd take it from me reverently and come back the next week with a book report.

It's fading already. Wah. Sniff.

I know what boys like

The other day I helped a lady who was doing a book club for middle-grade boys. She was looking for "boy books". Now, many people turn up their noses at the idea that books can be "boy books" or "girl books" and indeed, I wouldn't tell a boy not to read Black Beauty or Anne of Green Gables.

BUT... I'm not going to spend my valuable (and hard-won: have I mentioned the pink hair?) credibility suggesting Little Women as a historical fiction choice for a boy. And I have given up on recommending The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce to my fantasy-loving boy readers - I just couldn't take the rejection anymore!

So eventually you conclude: girl on the cover? that boy is not going to read it. Horse on the cover? iffy. Bird on the cover? probably not. Crazy, huh? What's so girly about birds? But he's not going to read it, and he may think that you're clueless for suggesting it to him.

So here are some books in a variety of genres and age ranges that are go-to choices for boys (and also great for girls too - as with names and clothes, girls get to pick from both sides of the aisle). I have read almost all of these. Anything I have previously reviewed has a link. Anything without a link, read the School Library Journal review on Amazon.

First readers (I Can Read):
Nate the Great series by Sharmat. Detective stories.
Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems. Friendship. Super-funny!

First chapter books (Beyond I Can Read):
Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka. Funny adventure stories.
Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series by Dav Pilkey.

Up a level:
Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs series by Sharon Draper
Melvin Beederman, Superhero series by Greg Trine
Secrets of Dripping Fang series by D Greenburg
Mr Chickee series by Christopher Paul Curtis
Encyclopedia Brown
series by Sobol
The Great Brain
series by John D. Fitzgerald
Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

Longer books:
Benny and Omar by Eoin Colfer (UK boy moves to northern Africa, gets into trouble and learns about responsibility. Also, fun. Benny's voyage of discovery continues with the forthcoming Benny and the Babe I think it's called)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (heavily illustrated, lots of funny: for the reluctant reader)
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (African-American hero, historical fiction)
Brainboy and the Deathmaster by Tor Seidel (great for gamers, science fiction but not futuristic)
Cryptid Hunters by Roland Smith (science fiction, hunting for a mythical creature, brother and sister, super adventure)
Alex Ryder series by Anthony Horowitz (first book is Stormbreaker. Teenage secret agent, very actiony!)

Young Adult:
Airborn and Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel (adventure books set in an alternate past. SO good, read them before the movie comes out)
The Guild of Specialists series by Joshua Mowll (Operation Red Jericho and its sequel, Operation Typhoon Shore (reluctant reader, adventure, alternate past. Awesome presentation, with fold-out maps and an elastic band, but kind of pedestrian writing)
Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings (wrenching YA novel about a dead toddler and responsibility. local author)
Hoot and Flush by Carl Hiaasen (super-funny, environmental theme, adventure)
Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis (coming of age, African American hero, funny, terrible mother)
Greg Korman in general (funny, real-life-like)
Walter Dean Myers in general (African American writer, mature themes)
Gary Soto (Latino writer, mature themes)
M.T. Anderson in general
Markus Zusak's two books: The Book Thief and I am the Messenger

3-6 grade: Matt Christopher, Dan Gutman, Rick Wallace
YA: John Feinstein, Chris Crutcher, Hoops by Walter Dean Myers

Fantasy (I define fantasy as anything with any nonhuman sentient characters):
City of Ember series by Jeanne DuPrau (very popular young adult fantasy books)
His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman (first book is The Golden Compass. It's a stunning alternate-world fantasy trilogy that works in some very sophisticated ideas. Movie coming out this fall.) Young Adult
Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer (elves, thievery, funny and engaging. Shelved as Young Adult, but I don't know why)
The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer (excellent sci-fi novel, spectacularly plotted. Young Adult)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan (first book is Lightning Thief. Teenage demigod, great adventure and funny too)
Gregor series by Suzanne Collins. (first book is Gregor the Overlander. Underground world populated by giant rats, bats, spiders, roaches, etc. Really cool.)
The Dark is rising series by Susan Cooper (first book is The Dark is Rising. Wonderful Arthurian fantasy, good relationships, coming of age - very important to read this before the movie comes out!)
How to Train your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell (Vikings, humor, friendship, for younger readers)
Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley (first book is The Fairy Tale Detectives - mysteries starring fairy tale characters, for younger and reluctant readers)
Clan Apis by Jay Hosler (graphic novel about bees, written and drawn by a biologist, funny and real, this is a great book!)

NOTE: Cryptid Hunters and Airborn are very nearly fantasy too.

Historical Fiction:

Gary Paulsen (Tucket's Ride etc)
Montmorency: Thief Liar Gentleman (the first book only) by Eleanor Updale (very clever hero, espionage, crime, Victorian London)
Stowaway by Karen Hesse (historical fiction, Captain Cook's voyage, first-person narrative)
Victory by Susan Cooper (historical fiction, British navy, first-person)
Sally Lockhart trilogy by Philip Pullman (first book The Ruby in the Smoke, Victorian detective novels that you can sell a boy on - tell them the books are rather dark) Young Adult.
Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers
47 by Walter Mosley

USS Constellation : pride of the American navy by Walter Dean Myers
Secrets of a civil war submarine by Sally M. Walker
Onward: a photobiography of African-American polar explorer Matthew Henson by Dolores Johnson
Whatcha mean what's a zine? by Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson
The history of pirates: from privateers to outlaws by Allison Lassieur.
Tracking trash: flotsam, jetsam, and the science of ocean motion Loree Griffin Burns.
Freedom walkers : the story of the Montgomery bus boycott by Russell Freedman.
John Lewis in the lead : a story of the civil rights movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson
Russell Freeman

Friday, August 24, 2007

They clean up good

We are back from the PNW. My brother's wedding, then a few days marching around Seattle, watchin em throw fish, eating pho, checking out the new library, hanging out with our friends. The Sci Fi Museum was particularly great. I bought a dodo. Sunsets, lots of sunsets.

Bob forgot to pack cufflinks (who remembers cufflinks?) so he used the doodads from the kids' Crocs. Suave! Mr Four passed out during the reception, and the bride was a knockout.

It was a great vacation, it was a beautiful wedding, and it was a nightmare of travel. Fucking airlines. Miserable asshole airline personnel. We are so lucky that these boys didn't LOSE their MINDS - cause god knows I came close. Arrived back at the homestead at close to 5am, after boarding a plane in Seattle at 11:30am. All done now.

Friday, August 17, 2007


wear boots.
walk in sand.
stomp your feet to get the sand off.
the pattern the sand makes around your footprint.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Subtle, no?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Every time we say goodbye I dye a little

This is possibly as happy as this child has ever been. I used Manic Panic Red Passion on him and Beyond the Zone in Huckleberry on Mr Four. Even their dad got the gray covered up with blue. Then we went to the mall and got portraits done - hell, I even found a dress! See our adventures on Flickr.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Good goth

Don't get your hopes up, it's just a book review.

I don't like giving bad reviews. The authors always show up and make me feel ashamed of myself. For this reason, I have abstained from reviewing The Flown Sky by Matthew Olshan, the Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, and Drita, My Homegirl by Jenny Lombard.

So, while I don't have too many nice things to say about the Edgar & Ellen series by Charles Ogden, I am going to mitigate my negativity by mentioning a few similar series of books that I liked quite a bit: Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist by Jim Benton, Pure Dead Magic by Debi Gliori, and Secrets of Dripping Fang by Dan Greenburg (reviewed earlier).

These are your inverted-viewpoint books, the books in which the good-looking, friendly characters are simps and the pale mean creepy kids are the protagonists. Think Roald Dahl, kinda.

Frantastic Voyage: Franny K Stein, Mad Scientist book 5, by Jim Benton. Ages 6-10.
Aww, a kid's first evil genius series... can there be anything so cute? Franny, and her yen for world domination, has something of a Nickelodeon look and feel. She (and her not-so-bright sidekick dog, Igor) put me in mind of Pinky and the Brain, and you know that's not a bad thing. Thumbs up.

Secrets of Dripping Fang by Dan Greenburg. Ages 7-10.
Mystery, adventure, family values, monsters. Already approved this vivid and fun series.

Pure Dead Magic, by Debi Gliori. Ages 7 to 11.
In the Pure Dead Magic books, we have Titus and Pandora and their baby sister Damp (good name for a baby). They live an ordinary life with their mother the witch, their grandmother the frozen corpse, pet rats, etc. Then they solve a mystery. It's funny, the details are imaginative, the kids snipe at each other good-naturedly. Thumbs up.

Rare Beasts by Charles Ogden. Ages 7 to 11.
Edgar & Ellen? God, man, you don't realize what a job it must be writing perverse-and-eccentric for kids until you see one that just misses the mark. Edgar and Ellen are twins who live alone in a big creepy house. In the first book of the series, Rare Beasts, they grow tired of threatening each other's life for fun and hatch a money-making scheme involving exotic animals. They steal all the pets in the town, disguise them with fake horns and glitter, and try to sell them, with no success. It's just a horrible book. The kids are not glamorously goth, nor are they smart or even particularly inventive, the details do not sing (although the children do, dreary little threatening songs), and in fact, you are meant to be rooting against them. That's hard to write, and in this case, I'd say it's not worth the effort.

In other news, I have to buy a dress, as the sundress I was going to wear to my brother's wedding will not work in the 60-degree weather that the Strait of Juan de Fuca is currently experiencing.

Juan de Fuca. Heh heh.

Friday, August 10, 2007


It's just coincidence that I composed (almost wrote composted - my mind must be rotting usefully) a haiku today. I am not participating in Poetry Friday. I am against poetry. Except Bukowski parodies.

for Jaime, who runs:

Agh pain sweat cars yech
Running in New York City
Plus stepping in gum

in anticipation of our trip to the PNW:

Packing for four
Ass-hot here, it's sixty there
I can't find our pants

for Bob:

At the Zappa show:
Why don't I remember this?
'Cause I spent college drunk?

Monday, August 06, 2007

In our sleep

You know that part in Dangerous Liaisons when John Malkovich, tricked into breaking up with Michelle Pfeiffer by the devious and jealous Glenn Close, keeps murmuring "It's beyond my control" and Michelle Pfeiffer keeps screaming at him to stop saying that?

Every time I step close to my back vegetable garden I am put in mind of that scene. That overgrown, mutinous thing: whenever I go near it I am bit, stung, scraped, entangled, or, as today, irrevocably grossed out.

I was examining the latest pumpkin (and may I say thank you pumpkins for turning beautifully Halloweeny orange - in AUGUST! you dumbass vegetables will have long returned to compost by the time we'd want to put you on the porch! stupid... pumpkins...), and when I pulled back some weeds - EW! The weirdest mushrooms I have ever seen!

Took a picture, came back inside, googled "dog penis mushroom". Ok: I know better ways to identify living things; I am one of about 230 people who own a copy of G.W. Hudler's classic Magical Mushrooms and Mischievous Molds, for pete's sake. I understand character keys and taxonomy, and I know where to find the online species databases.

But when you want to identify a mushroom that looks like a dog's dick, man there's nothing faster than the straightforward approach.

Stinkhorn. Mutinus elegans. Devil's dipstick.

The kids are into the folk-and-fairy creatures right now. In the car we're listening to The Spiderwick Chronicles (read by Mark Hamill, an interesting choice), and at home they are poring over compendiums of wee folk and dragons. In part, those books are about looking for and interpreting signs of the "magical creatures" around us.

Nibbled leaves, flattened grass, and unusual flowers are all supposed to be evidence of various sprites, fairies, etc.

Yeah. I'd like to see the wings on the fairy who left these in my garden.

(and for Christina, here's how to cultivate them)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

How to train your dragon by Cressida Cowell - review

How to train your dragon by Cressida Cowell. Age 5 to 10.

What do you want me to say? If the kid in question likes stories about monsters that aren't very scary... if the kid likes the funny... if the kid likes the mythical creatures... yeah man, you can recommend this series of books (The Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III) to a lot of kids. Hell, there's a movie contract already, so you know it's got broad appeal. (Either that, or an eleven-year-old orphan, which actually this one does not - Hiccup's father, Stoic the Vast, is alive and well and very loud.)

In fact, we listened to this one on audio. Gerard Doyle was the narrator, and my god - the guy really put his back into it! He even sang! He was so entertaining that while we noticed the occasional overuse of phrases and words, it just didn't bother us. Based on this reading, Gerard Doyle has made my short list of all-time favorite readers (others are Tim Curry, Jim Dale, Chiwitel Ejiofor, Campbell Scott, and Stephen Fry). Thumbs up.

No, I do have one more thing to say: Hiccup is brave and smart and a loyal friend. This is a funny book with a big heart. Extra thumbs.

This is mod

Two words. Miroslav Sasek.

I had a lady today looking for this series of really great children's books from the 1960's? each one was about a different city? and the illustrations were really neat?

Well, first of all, I earned my librarian wings today by discovering the author's name and locating copies of the books at the city library. Based on that description.

And second of all, how come I've never seen these books? Not only are they exactly my taste, but they are exactly the kind of thing my parents were into in the '60's. They are the coolest composed salad at the barbecue.

Miroslav Sasek. This is London. This is Paris. This is New York. This is Israel. This is one old Czech who really got around! Some of them were made into films and are available on the website. Rizzoli's Universe imprint has reprinted many of the books in facsimile editions. They're pretty reasonable on Amazon. But I'm going on the bookfinder to find copies of the originals.

Red lights, green lights, strawberry wine

Europa, arguably Jupiter's most elegant moon.

Science on a Sphere is a gimmicky name for one of the most jaw-dropping science visualization techniques I have seen in my life.

I'll let NOAA, the agency that developed Science on a Sphere, explain what it is:
Science On a Sphere (SOS)® is a room sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe.
Yes, baby. You sit in the dark and the projectors beam synchronized images of a planet, or the sun, or a moon, onto this sphere, and then set it in motion. You can see pictures and movies online here, but let me explain: the sphere is the point. If you have a chance, go see one. We saw the one at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, but they are installed at science centers all over the country.

When they showed the earth, suspended in the darkness as it is in space, glowing blue and green and white, tears came to my eyes. Compared to all the other hunks of rocks in our solar system, it looked to me as complex and lush and vulnerable as a sea urchin's egg.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Nothing a cold beer wouldn't cure

God, hasn't everyone done this by now?

The kids have gotten a massive kick out of it, they've designed avatars for the whole family as you see... so I figured I'd just cut and paste us into one image file.

Holy shit do I suck at Photoshop (or Gimp, the Ubuntu version)! I used to be a real whiz at it... back in the early 90's, before Layers was invented. Now this is the best I can do.