Showing posts with label childrens books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label childrens books. Show all posts

Monday, August 10, 2009

She's doing the Lagos Jump

In no particular order, some recent photos, partly to explain why I haven't been blogging much lately.

Flying A, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

This is the big happy Baby A flying through the sky at the pool. I think maybe some airline should adopt this picture as their logo.

Water makes our faces funny

My men at the pool.

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

How much does this seven-year-old love reading? This summer he has charged through almost a book a day. He's reading books that I call Second Chapter Books - the ones you read after Magic Tree House is too easy and before you start reading morbid 300 page novels. Secrets of Dripping Fang, An Awfully Beastly Business, How to Train Your Dragon, and Dragonbreathare his favorites this summer.

Daddy's sunglasses

I have nothing to say about this picture except my god, how beautiful is this child? It's kind of frightening.

Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman

Here's Rabbit reading to his friends Zee, Legolas, Mao and Zhou. In case you're interested, that's The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by my secret husband David Roberts.

How to fix a boo-boo

Quality parenting. Kid has a boo-boo, apply a cold National Boh to injured area and rub his back. Well done, me.

What is that kid doing?

This is my husband casting a suspicious eye on, I believe, our older son, who may or may not be antagonizing children who wish to pass in front of the swingset. Lest you think my husband is being unduly vigilant (as parents can get sometimes, usually due to years of bitter experience), you can see that, behind him, Joel's Spider-sense has also been activated.

Trust the man with the pitcher

I'm going to come up with my own version of the game Clue. And in it, one possible solution will be: BODY LOTION JOHN, in the ALLEY, with the MARGARITA PITCHER.

New tattoo

Last but not least, I finally got my children inked onto my body. This was a drawing that Zhou did of himself and his brother when he was four. I saved it because I loved the stick figures with their GIANT hands. I was explaining it to a friend the other day, saying, "Don't you love it? With GIANT hands, you could do ANYTHING!" when Zhou piped up from the corner of the room, where he had been quietly using LEGO to build Bucky balls or design new viruses or whatever: "Except sew!"

"Ok, yes, sewing would be difficult with GIANT hands."
Mao looks up from his book, "And dialing a cell phone."
"Granted, darling, you'd have to get a special cell phone."
"Also knitting!"
"Guys! It was a metaphor, ok? Plus, besides, you could totally knit with giant hands."

Hope your summer is just as grand as ours has been. Now I'm off to the doc in the box so they can look at a suspicious rash on a kid. Whee!

Monday, August 03, 2009

You pull back the curtains, and the sun burns into your eyes

Have you looked at your calendar today? Did you realize that today is Milestone Day?

Item 1: Today at the pool, Mao, Legolas and Prosper each passed the diving board test. Swim across the deep end and back, tread water for two minutes. Piece of cake! Wet cake, but still. And THEN, Prosper came back and passed the BIG deep water test - swim the length of the pool, tread water for whatever long, float on your back for two minutes. GO Prosper! Mao failed it, I never taught him how to float.

Item 2: Dances With Chickens got engaged! When her fiancee (ooh, fancy!) gave her the ring, she was too preoccupied with dancing it around like a little puppet and cooing "Shiny!" to remember to say yes. Dances With Chickens funny.

Item 3: This morning, Zhou pulled out this book, sat down, and read it to me, cover to cover, sounding out the words. I didn't know he knew how to read. When I said, "I didn't know you knew how to read!" he said, "Neither did I!" We are so proud, and so is he. When I asked him what he wanted to read next, he instantly responded, "Percy Jackson and the Olympians". I don't put it past him.

In all fairness, I did hear him sort of struggle through Time to Pee! last night with his dad, but I was half-asleep and literally thought I had dreamt it.

What do you hear in your dreams? If it's not a six-year-old reading Mo Willems, you're doing it wrong.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult

Camp. Camp is summer, summer is camp. Drama camp, sleepover camp, orienteering. Art camp, nature camp, G&T camp (for those of us who were truly stymied by the outdoors as children). My kids are in the middle of the two weeks of day camp they get this summer, and they've been coming home every day tired, and filthy, and happy. Makes me smile.

first day of camp

Makes them smile.

We picked this particular camp because of its idyllic wooded location, its all-outdoors all-day programming, and, erm, because it's only insanely expensive, and not mind-explodingly expensive. Seriously, some of this shit is like Montessori on the pocketbook.

So when I found out last year that this camp, which has a (nominal) Native American theme, teaches the kids archery and "riflery" (BB guns), I took a deep breath. The kids were thrilled. The safety precautions are thorough. I figured that they'd be taught that Native Americans hunted for food, and I'm good with activities that encourage thought about food and where it comes from.

Yes. I am aware that I overthink. Leave me alone. In my world, I call it 'rationalizing.'

Wednesday afternoon, Zhou was complaining that he didn't do so well at BB guns this week. He said, "The safety glasses got in the way so I couldn't look through the rear sight and through the front sight and see the lady."

"That's weird," I thought.
"What lady, [Zhou]?" I said.
"The Native lady on the paper," he explained.

Huh. I figured I wasn't understanding this right, or that he misinterpreted the picture on the target. So I asked Mao.

"What were they using for a target in BB guns this week?" God I love talking to a seven year old. You can just say what you mean, you don't have to think of coming up with words that he'll understand, or subterfuge - ok sometimes subterfuge.

"It was a picture of a Native woman."

Great. These idiots at this camp, whose "Indian lore" is as accurate as a tipi standing next to a totem pole, have finally figured out that the best way to refer to the indigenous peoples of North America is "Native," and they do so when they are encouraging children to SHOOT at them. You can't go around calling them "Indians" and at the same time pretend that you're all about respecting the red man. Sherman Alexie's gonna show up and beat your ass.

That afternoon, when I came to pick them up, I asked the hairless teen who was signing them out what they were using for targets during BB guns. Guilelessly, he replied, "Oh, it was a cartoon of an Indian."

Sort of nodding, my jaw locked and my eyes bulging, I growled, "I'd like to speak to the person whose decision that was." Kid took one look at my, I am sure, completely deranged face, and hustled off.

Only to return with another extremely youthful person, a British girl, as it happens. I think I managed to say, "Hi," before I waded in.

"The targets in BB guns this week: how did you decide to use a picture of a person as a target?"

"Oh!" Flail, taken off guard, backpedal. "We used a cartoon of an Indian..."

"Yes I heard that. In what context is it ok to aim a gun at a human being?"

"Well, it was Cowboy Week, so we figured, since the cowboys fought the Indians..."

"Cowboys did not, by and large, 'fight Indians.' COWBOYS, by and large, herded CATTLE. It was the U.S. government that fought Indians, and for the most part, we now consider that to have been a CRIME. Much like every other time that a person aims a gun at another human being."

"Oh, er, um," more flail.

"What do you teach these guys that guns are for?"

"Oh, well, hunting mostly..."

"And what do you teach them that hunting is for?"

"Well, for food..."

"So were you all planning to CONSUME the Native Americans you shot?"

"Well, no, of course not."

"Listen, will you not use those targets again?"

"No, we won't. We weren't thinking..."

"Do you promise? Because it's a long ride up here and I've had a lot of time to think about this. I could go all night."

And I have to hand it to that kid, it was only at this point that she looked at me with true alarm. I think it finally crossed her mind that she had an extremely verbal, old, tattooed punk hippie liberal standing before her, epically pissed off, and, she was beginning to suspect, enjoying herself just a little.

"No, yeh, I mean obviously, you know more about this than I do..." she babbled.

"Yes. I imagine any number of people know more about this than you do. You might consider consulting one of them next time." I smiled. "As long as you promise not to use those targets, we're done here." I looked at her expectantly.

So she promised, and I thanked her, and she wandered back into the lodge building looking a little like a frog that has just endured a session with a tenth-grade biology class, I'm sure to seek out the bottle of bourbon that every camp director I've ever known has had stashed in his/her office, despite strenuous camp policy prohibiting alcohol on camp grounds. They need it, people - don't begrudge.

The other counselor kids, who had been vociferous in their attempts to ignore the entire confrontation, scattered. It was rather wonderful - I felt like the drop of soap in the metal filings experiment.

I snagged the kids, including Prosper, our neighbor, and drove home. On the way I called Bob and related the conversation to him. I love cell phones - the kids thought I was talking to them, despite the fact that I'd already turned on their audiobook (Sea Monsters and other Delicacies, read by the GRREAT Gerard Doyle). They responded to what I was saying to Bob, and I took the opportunity to ask them what they had learned guns were for.

"For killing people!" was the zesty response from Zhou.
"What are they really for?" I asked.
"Shooting targets!" "Hunting!" said the other two boys.
"And what is shooting targets for?" I asked.
"Getting better at shooting!"
"And what is hunting for?" I asked.
"For food!"
"What kinds of animals do we eat?" I asked.
"Chickens!" "Deer!" "Ducks!" "Fish!" "Bears!" "If you're a velociraptor, iguanadons!"
"Humans?" I asked.
"If you're an ogre you eat humans," answered Zhou.
"Yeah but ogres don't use guns, right?" I replied. "Ogres just RRIIIP you LIIMB from LLLIIMB and gobble you up."
"Hobgoblins... hobgoblins use weapons..." "Criminals shoot guns at people..." "Murderers!"
"Yeah well it would be one thing if we were sending you to criminal camp. I'm sure at criminal camp they teach you how to shoot at people. At your camp, there's no reason for a human being to be the target."

When we got home, I walked Prosper up to his house. I thought his parents would get a kick out of the classic Liberal Arts Major Gets Her Shout On scenario. We all shook our heads and giggled about it, and then I remembered that the counselor told me they'd ridden horses today, and there should be a photo in each kid's backpack. So Chris and Peter rummaged through the backpack, and found the picture of Prosper sitting proudly on a very patient horse (it was the same horse in all the pictures).

They also found this:

It's the target.

I had been picturing a cartoon Injun like out of a Yosemite Sam cartoon - angular, mean-looking, brandishing a bow and arrow. I assumed that my kids had identified the target picture as female because the figure had long hair.

But this.
  1. Clearly unarmed
  2. Possibly female
  3. Quite a bit childlike, in fact
The three of us sat quietly for a moment, trying to comprehend the train of thought that would, at the end of its journey, pull into Let's Have Kids Shoot at This Picture Station. Peter recovered first. "Well," he said. "At least he shot the bitch in the face."

If you look closely, Prosper in fact shot her three times in the face. Well done, son!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fug the juvenile series biography, or The Floating Head of Kanye West is Coming for YOU!

Shave that. And get some sun.

Get your hair out of your eyes.

O HAI: Your strobe didn't fire.


These are the things that go through my mind when I stroll from our library's adult reference desk to the children's section, and pass the display in front of Biography. You just have to assume that the underpaid young liberal arts majors who populate the publishing industry (and I have been there, I know) just hate celebrities, because it's hard to believe that you couldn't find a less shifty-looking royalty-free photo of Tobey Maguire. Look at him - he looks like he's hanging out in Tompkins Square Park pretending to pass out clean syringes but really scoping out the street kids, looking for one to take home and dissect. In fact, I sort of believe that if you called his people and said you were doing a book for kids, they'd FedEx you over a nice one and cut you a deal.

After all, Ella Fitzgerald looks great on the cover of her bios. So does George Bush. Even people who aren't widely considered to be even moderately photogenic:

...don't look near so bad as Lindsay Lohan does here:

Her eyeballs of hate seem to say, "I see you, Mitchell Lane Publishers, and I am coming for you." Nobody puts Baby in a pink ribbon frame.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm Buddy Rich when I fly off the handle

Me by Sam, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

Among the shit I ain't had time for lately (i.e. and to wit: blogging, grammar)... reading.

You should see the books stacked up on my read / review shelf. Now that I have one. Which - oh my god - so great! (Wow, I was just my friend Jaime there for a second. Hi James! See you in two weeks!) But setting up the office was not time doing work that might be done in the office. Also, planning the music for today's Circus Arts Club performance at school was not time doing work that might be done in the office. Although, I did do that in the office, because I did it in iTunes, and you know what? You'd think that after having listened to the Beastie Boys since like 1987, which is pretty much the year Adam Horowitz was BORN, I'd have a copy of "Sabotage" in my iTunes. But not.

Or, in fact, you'd think that I could walk my flat ass up the street and borrow it from a neighbor: I may not be absolutely sure that I have a neighbor who has a working hand mixer that I can borrow, but I AM absolutely sure that the combined music collection of Kyle and Gretchen, Matt and Chelsea, Stacy and Lui, Peter and Chris, and David and Chuck contains at least one copy of Ill Communication. (I LOVE MY STREET.) But I plunked down my $1.29 and now I have an iTunes copy of "Sabotage". I'll get the rest of the CD from Kyle.

But right, I am scraping ten minutes here between ordering bus tickets to NYC for Book Expo (HELLOOO, KidLit Drink Night!) and getting ready for this performance this afternoon, and I was going to talk about books.

Here's a book that showed up just yesterday:

Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea by Alice Waters

If you were a world-famous restauranteur and intiator of a food revolution, and wanted to take a middle school in hand, what could you do? Where would you start? Alice Waters convinced a MS principal to let her start a garden on school property, and several years later, the food garden was incorporated into the science, math, and even English curricula. You should see some of the stuff the kids wrote in their journals while sitting under the arbors in their school garden in Berkeley, CA.

GOD I would love to see this happen in Baltimore. I've been watching the Edible Schoolyard idea for 10 years - the Berkeley model has been repeated at a school in New Orleans - and it seems to me it addresses about a million ills. Innovative curriculum that thinks on its feet and adjusts to match the materials available; lessons about nutrition; better science instruction; getting kids outdoors; getting kids into a kitchen.

I didn't manage to do more than skim the book and look at the gorgeous photos (Prince Charles visited, not that he's gorgeous, but you know, when the Prince comes, so does a really good photographer). I did see enough to know: this is one orgasm of an education book. Would make a great end of year gift for the educator in your life. Just be sure when you give it, you specify that you're not saying, "HEY dammit - do this!" Not everybody has the resources of Alice Waters.

Let Me Eat Cake: a celebration of flour, sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder, and a pinch of salt by Leslie Miller

Ok now THIS one I am seriously a delinquent for not reading. Leslie lives right around the corner, and got me an advance copy for FREE, and what did I do? I read the part she said she was worried about, and then I put it on the shelf and unpacked another dozen boxes of filthy OLD books.

But in the bits I read (I also read the last chapter, and the first part), I found that I thought I knew Leslie, because Leslie has a blog, and is my friend on Facebook, and posts her beautiful photos to Flickr, not to mention I see her at parties and shit, but I did not quite know how good Leslie writes. Leslie writes GOOD.

That alone should convince you to pick up Let Me Eat Cake, but I will also say that Leslie is FUNNY. Funny + Good = Read it. Not that anyone needs me to tell them, apparently: the 19 copies in my library system have been more or less entirely checked out ever since their arrival.

And look at that pretty cake on the cover - MMM!

I was sent this Huffington Post article on the Love as the Practice of Freedom conference at Princeton by my old friend (library cataloger supreme and romance novelist) Ann Herendeen. Ann self-published her first book, Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander, a gay Regency romance novel (yeah I told her I was never gonna read it, I barely read adult fiction as it is, and romance? and Regency? although gay? interesting!) and it was so popular that Harper picked it up. Harper! Nice!

The article is the most thought-provoking thing I've read in a while. It presents romance as a "fundamentally progressive activity", breaking down boundaries, transgressing mores, challenging the status quo. And I buy that. What is more, the romance novel is "an important transmitter of values," says the article's author, Hillary Rettig. I like thinking of that: the ladies who read romance novels are - I don't want to generalize here - in some cases not young, not NPR listeners, not people who live and think on the edge. Other romance novel readers ARE. (Ok, Left Brainiac the Baking Librarian, I know I'm a snob (and you know I'm a snob), and I'm trying to get over it!) I love the idea of these nice romance-reading ladies maybe rooting for a protagonist (and a protagonista) who are non-white, or not completely heterosexual, or whatever.

To that end, I thought I'd give romance one more try. Left Brainiac recommended Jayne Castle (one of Jayne Krentz's brands), who writes strong women and strong men in a sci-fi setting. I checked out Ghost Hunter, and I read the first chapter in the parking lot waiting to pick up the kids. Hm. Awfully heavy on dialogue. Long scenes. Lots of simmering. Not for me. I may try Ann's book after all.

Then there are the impulse books I've been snatching up while shelving new books at the library. Jedediah Berry's The Manual of Detection attracted me first with its steampunky green and gold and black cover, then with the inside cover blurb which made it sound meta without being tedious, like Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. I may have to force my friend Melissa to read this book and tell me about it.

I also grabbed up The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet because of its cover: an engraving of a bird skeleton nestled in a flat box with a pair of dividers and an old-style museum specimen label. Boy am I a sucker for that style. But leafing through: neato! Tricks and illustrations and marginalia - I love that stuff in kids' books, and it's about time somebody (other than Mark Z. Danielewski, man I can't handle those books) served some of that fun up for grownups. Plus, blurbs by Gary Shteyngart and Stephen King, kind of an interesting combo).

I also picked up Black Dogs: The Possibly True Story of Classic Rock's Greatest Robbery by Jason Buhrmester, because a) it looked funny b) it looked cool and c) it was about crime. Also, the word "Baltimore" appears in the back-cover summary.

Bruce Sterling has a new book which I am sure to like. When I can read it.

And the latest YA book that everyone seems to be recommending for adults too is The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. There are zombies. I want to read this book. I may have to just rely on Eerily Similar Paula's assessment - she was probably the one who recommended it in the first place.

All this is not to mention the VERY nice books the journal I review for has been sending me lately - thanks for easing up on the nonfiction about China! sorry all my reviews have been late this entire calendar year! Does "sheepish" come across on the Internet? I am sheepish.

AND not to mention the stacks and stacks of picture books that I have actually READ in the past few months, and just not been able to review. Orangutan Tongs: Poems to Tangle Your Tongue? YES! When the Moon Forgot? A little weird, but extremely lovely. Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea? You don't need ME to tell you anything Steve Jenkins is involved with is awesome.

THERE. It's FRIDAY. I spent some time doing something that was not work, not school, and not house (although I have killed several ants while working here at the kitchen counter, so I guess that counts as a little house stuff. There goes another one - SMISH, you little sugar-addicted motherfucker!). You know what? I should just break out the leftover rum-soaked pineapple and give up on the day! Wouldn't that fucking rock? It's ten a.m. Who's with me?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

There's always something happening and it's usually quite loud

What they're reading, left to right: Vincent Van Gogh, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Shaun White, Nancy Pelosi, Robert de LaSalle, Eleanor Roosevelt, and America Ferrera. (Not really.)

And what else, you ask? Does Your Neighborhood Librarian do anything other than cranky-talk about her gritty, cold, under-construction house anymore? Well, in conversation... no. Truly, I talk about nothing other than tile and flooring and the fact that we can't find the folder with all the permits in it.

But do I do anything else?

Why, yes! I read! I am writing a compare-and-contrast article on several series of biographies written for young readers, and so I am reading 94 books. NINETY-FOUR. Give or take.

Forty-four of the books in question are about the Presidents of the United States. I read about the bad ones first, of course: Nixon, Harding, Grant, and Bush. And then I read about the ones even my husband can't keep straight: Tyler, Taylor, Jackson, Johnson, Polk. I like having something to lord over him. I read about the first and the current, and then I read about my favorite: Woodrow Wilson.

Why do I like Wilson? Well, first of all, there's his Fourteen Points, the most idealistic set of foreign policy goals I've ever read. Look at Point Number Four: "Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety." Open to interpretation, sure, and an ever-shifting target, but a fine, easy-to-remember formula to adopt. Then there's the fact that he was an educator, and won the Nobel Peace Prize, and got married while in office. Plus, he just looks like a nice man.

I have read no fewer than three books about Ulysses S. Grant (drinker, poor judge of character, loved horses). I have read about Miley Cyrus and Marie Curie. Those two don't have much in common besides their initials and an abiding interest in radioactive isotopes (yeah that's a lie).

It's a lot of history to get at once. I have been led to wonder why the Confederate generals in the Civil War were just so much... classier than the Union generals. Seriously, Grant and Sherman? MISERABLE FAILURES before leading the Union army and inventing "total war". Thanks for that by the way, guys. Sure, I'm pretty happy about slavery being abolished and federalism maintained, but "total war" has been a pretty severe bummer for anyone experiencing it ever since.

I have been surprised by Susan B. Anthony's sense of humor, and appalled at Che Guevara comparing his baby girl favorably to Chairman Mao. Maybe Bob and I joked about naming our first child "Chairman Mao," but only because we assumed that he or she would take on all decision-making duties in our house upon arrival (and possibly cause our starvation) - not because we wanted him or her to LOOK like Mao Zedong.

I have learned that the dickiness of Steve Jobs is so profound that it has in more than one instance altered the trajectory of his life, and therefore cannot be edited out of even a biography for kids (note the brevity of that bio on Apple's website). I also found out that I have been taken to lunch and had my brain picked by his birth sister. I have learned that John Huston made Ray Bradbury cry. I have learned that Ellen Degeneres has striven for normalcy in her life, and that consequently, her life is quite boring. And that even Kanye West believes Kanye West to possess very little musical talent.

I have a new fun game: spot the smoker. This started when I saw a picture of Rachel Carson at her desk, writing. The first two fingers on her left hand were crooked-out in an odd but somehow familiar position, as if giving a surreptitious papal benediction. I whipped off my glasses and used my personal superpower (magnified vision 3" from my face) to ascertain that Yes! Somebody Photoshopped a cigarette out of that picture!

I used to read nothing but nonfiction. Plagues, crime, animals, Africa, cookbooks... the Dewey Decimal system was my oyster (oyster!). Truth is wild. Lately I read nothing but children's books. Eh, it's fine with me. The dialogue is funny and the plots move right along. But you know, nothing combines the real-life drama of nonfiction and the sprightly timing of children's fiction like a good kids' biography. And... I know 100% more about the Civil War (and Maya Angelou, Elie Wiesel, Frank Gehry, Rachael Ray and Hernando DeSoto) now than I did a month ago!

Monday, October 20, 2008

I've got blisters on my fingers

Just a few things.

1. We're gonna WIN.
I think.

2. I took 500 photos yesterday.

Our friend Stacy asked me to take pictures of the merch for her business, Great Soul Wellness Studio, and the new coffee joint in the neighborhood, Grind On. We had, let's see... about 11 kids and babies changing in and out of t-shirts, grownups doing the same, and, memorably, my Bob modelling proper use of the Great Soul water bottle. We were lucky to have beautiful weather, and craft service from Grind On, and cooperative, funny kids.

3. I'm going to be 43 three weeks from today and that is ok by me.
See above picture. Can't get my glasses straight but that's ok too.

4. I found the perfect meme. Actually, Wendy did.

5. I have 50 books to read and review for the Cybils Awards.
I'm a panelist in the graphic novels category, and it has been a real treat so far. Some standouts: Rapunzel's Revenge; Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School; Holly Black's The Good Neighbors
; and Life Sucks. But it's a lot, so if you don't see me for a while, that's why.

6. I'm freezing my butt off.