Sunday, August 31, 2008

43. The Amazing Life of Birds - Gary Paulsen

The Twenty-Day Puberty Journal of Duane Homer Leech
For: Middle School
Pub: 2006
96 pgs.
Rating: 3.5/5
Finished Aug. 31, 2008

I laughed, snickered, and guffawed my way through this book.

Ah, so humiliating to be twelve. Zits (appearing, disappearing, moving from one place to another on your face) - cowlikcks (when you try to cut it off, the resulting bald spot starts a rumor that you have ringworm and the whole school is tested before a ringworm epidemic can break out) - falling over - tripping over shoelaces...many times, and usually in the lunch line (and involving getting covered with various horrible lunch items) - knocking over library shelves (!!) which results in urine testing for drug use - jamming fingers in yoru locker - getting knocked into, knocked flat, and knocked senseless playing volleyball in gym class - need I go on? Even his name, Duane Homer Leech, christened DooDoo by friends early in life, is a thorn in his side.

Throughout it all, through his bedroom window, Duane watches a newborn bird being fed and nurtured, starting out helpless and ugly, slowly getting feathers and fuzz, then learning to fly, more or less coinciding with his own journey through the beginning of puberty. Thus the title of the book. Wish they'd chosen another title, however. I don't think this one least not for me. (I also noticed that the paperback version is subtitled his 19-day puberty journal instead of 20-days. Wonder what gives?)

Dedication: "To my son James, in gratitude. Having missed my own puberty, because I lived through it, watching you go through yours provided a wealth of research material. Thank you."

I loved it. But would kids? I'm going to have to nab a copy for the classroom and try it out on some of the middle school boys.

Greetings from the 50 States - Sheila Keenan

Illustrator: Selina Alko
For: Middle Grades
Pub: 2008
Rating 4/5
Read: Aug. 31, 2008

I enjoyed this book during a leisurely Sunday morning at Border's, over a Caramel Frappacino. Yum.

Each of the fifty states and Washington DC have a double-page spread, with an illustration of the state, important places in the state, and items related to the state (cows for Vermont, potatoes for Idaho, umbrellas and alligators for Florida, etc.) On the right is an explanation of where the state name came from, another explanation about the nickname, and when the state was admitted to the union.

Illustrations are great fun to look at, and the borders around the text have to do with each state...peaches are part of Georgia's border, musical notes for Tennessee, jazz instruments for Louisiana, bison for North Dakota, corn cobs for Iowa, and Hershey kisses for Pennsylvania. Ice cream cones for Missouri? Gonna have to research that one!

My one tiny disappointment: Tall saugaros, sprawling, colorful Grand Canyon,, Sedona, Pima Tribal Land, the Colorado River, and Phoenix. Granted, the capital city is important, TUCSON? Shame!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

THA Teacher's Book Club

There are usually five or six of us that meet every other Tuesday morning between 6 and 6:15 at the Einstein's on Swan and Sunrise. We have breakfast, greet friends, gossip, and spend awhile talking about a book we've all read. This year's schedule (subject to change, of course) is:

9/1 Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie - Sonnenblick (Terri)
9/15 Willow Run - Giff (Pat)
9/29 Daniel Half Human - Chotjewitz (Marlene)
10/13 One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies - Sones (Chris for Laraine)
10/27 Strawberry Hill - Hoberman (Chris)
11/10 Chains - Anderson (Laraine)
11/24 Nory Ryan's Song - Giff (Marlene)
12/8 The Alchemist: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel - Scott (Janece)
1/5 New Found Land - Wolf (Laraine)
1/19 Dodger & Me - Sonnenblick (Chris)
2/2 Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School - Fleming (Pat)
2/16 Schooled - Korman
3/2 Beware Princess Elizabeth - Meyer
3/16 Artemis Fowl #1 - Coifer (Janece)
4/13 The Book Thief - Zusak (Marlene)

And here's last year's schedule, 2008-2009

9/9 The Rules of Survival - Werlin (Terri) READ
9/23 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Alexie (me) READ
10/7 Pendragon: The Merchant of Death - MacHale (Marlene)
10/28 Shades of Gray - Reeder (Pat) READ
11/11 Curse of the Night Wolf - Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell (Laraine)
11/25 The Angel Factory - Terence Blacker (Terri)
1/6 Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy - Schmidt (me)
1/20 Sold - McCormick (Marlene)
2/3 The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 - Curtis (Pat) READ
2/17 What My Mother Doesn't Know - Sones (Terri) READ
3/3 The Curse of Addy McMahon - Katie Davis (Laraine)
3/17 The London Eye Mystery - Siobhan Dowd (me)
3/31 Dairy Queen - Catherine Gilbert Murdock (Marlene)
4/21 An Abundance of Katherines - John Green (Pat) (DNF)
5/5 The Cabinet of Wonders - Marie Rutkoski (Laraine)
5/19 Twisted - Anderson (Terri)
6/2 The Kingdom Keepers - Pearson (me)
..... Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie - Sonnenblick (Marlene)

Teachers as Readers Book Club 08-09

This year I'm going to try to go to the Teachers as Readers Book Club, which is sponsored by the Tucson Reading Association, meeting the second Wednesday of the month at 5 at Something Sweet on Speedway. The reading list for the year has been chosen from the IRA 2008 Young Adult Choices list.

For Sept. 10th:
The Amazing Life of Birds - Gary Paulsen READ
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl - Tanya Lee Stone READ
Being Bindy - Alyssa Brugman
The Boy Book - E Lockhart (seq. to The Boyfriend List) READ
.....OFF LIST:
My Most Excellent Year - Steve Kluger WILL READ SOON
Outside Beauty - Cynthia Kadohata

for Oct 8th:
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - John Boyne
Everlost - Neal Shusterman
15 Minutes - Steve Young DNF-Yuck
Fly on the Wall - E. Lockhart READ
.....OFF LIST:
Parrotfish - Ellen Wittlinger
Sunrise over Falllujah - Walter Dean Myers
The Black Book of Colors - Menena Cottin & Rosana Faria READ

for Nov 12:
Hell Phone - William Sleator DNF-Yuck
Hormone Jungle: Coming of Age in Middle School - Brod Bagert READ
It's A Mall World After All - Janette Rallison
.....OFF LIST:
Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins READ
Sucks to be Me

for Dec 10.
Holiday Book Exchange

for Jan 14.
Lush - Natasha Friend
Maybe - Brent Runyon READ
Mismatch - Lensey Namioka
My Lost and Found Life - Melodie Bowsher READ

for Feb 11.
New Moon - Stephanie Meyer CANCELLED
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist - Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Painting Caitlyn - Kimberly Joy Peters
Pieces of Georgia - Jen Bryant READ
Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature - Brande READ

for March 11
Pretty Little Liars - Sara Shepard
Returnable Girl - Pamela Lowell CANCELLED
School's Out - Forever - James Patterson
Small Steps - Louis Sachar
Bones of Faerie - Janni Lee Simner READ
Nation - Pratchett

for April 8
Capirotada: A Nogales Memoir (One-Book)
Hip Hip Hooray It's Monsoon Day - (Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford (One-Book)
What Happened to Cass McBride - Gail Giles READ
Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta (Printz)
Loud Silence of Francine Green - Karen Cushman READ

for May 14 (Wed. instead of Tues.)
Chandra's Secrets - Allan Stratton
Estrella' Quinceanera - Malin Alegria
Chains - Laurie Halse Anderson
Godless - Pete Hautman READ
The Compound - S. A. Bodeen
The True Meaning of Smekday - Adam Rex

for June 18 (date change)
Absolute Brightness - James Lecesne
Tender Morsels - Margo Lanagan
Brooklyn Bridge - Karen Hesse READ
Heroes of the Valley - Jonathan Stroud
Dave at Night - Gail Carson Levine READ
The Dust of 100 Dogs - A. S. King
The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trent Lee Stewart

for July 15
The Glory Field - Walter Dean Myers
Savvy - Ingrid Law READ
Fold - An Na
A Bottle in the Gaza Sea - Valerie Zenatti READ
The Rule of Won - Stefan Petrucha READ
The Hound of Rowan - Henry Neff

for Aug. 9th
The Alchemist - #1 The Secrets of Immortal Nicholas Flamel - Michael Scott
Beastly - Alex Flinn
Bunker 10 - J. A. Henderson
Chess Rumble - G. Neri

42. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl - Tanya Lee Stone

For: Young Adult
Pub: 2006
230 pgs.
Rating: 4/5
Finished: Aug. 30, 2008

After I'd read the first third of this book, I realized I'd read it before. So I looked it up and I had - when it first came out. I'd given it a 2.5 rating. It's written in verse, and I've read a lot of verse novels since then. And I've read a lot of books recently about teenage girls that can't figure out boys, so they're anxous fragility is still in my mind. But I do wonder why I apparently like this book so much better now than I did when I first read it.

Written in three sections by Josie, then Nicolette, and finally Aviva, the girls talk about a good-looking, sexy, too-good-to-be true senior that has swept them all of their feet, gotten away with as many "favors" as he can, then broken their hearts. Josie finds Judy Blume's FOREVER in the school library and writes a warning to other Beach High Girls. It comes to light that he has done the same thing to many, many of the girls in this high school in his four years there.

He is never named. I like that. There is nothing to admire in him, it seems to make him a lesser person, which he is. And this book, and the previous two that I just read (The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book), remind me of the thoughts and feelings and anxiety that teenage girls go through. Since I work with them every day, this reminder is a very good thing. I had sort-of forgotten. Hard to believe since it was only yesterday I was that anxiety-ridden teenage girl....

Addendum 9/3, A review I read that will help me remember the book:
"WOW - I devoured this book. The title is so appropriate yet misleading: the story of one guy and the girls he uses, one after another. Each girl tells her own story, leading the reader through the intense passion of a crush, the decisions to call, to kiss, to love, to leave. Written in verse, the language is packed with sensory imagery. Judy Blume's Forever plays an integral role as girls' notes to one another in the back of that old library book comfort and console. High school (and even mature middle school girls) need to read this book before they find themselves in similar situations; this would be a good companion novel to Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

41. The Boy Book - E. Lockhart

A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them
For: Young Adult
Pub: 2006
193 pgs.
Rating: 4/5
Read: Aug. 28th (in one sitting)

This is really part two of The Boyfriend List, although it was set up a bit differently and I liked it a bit more. There were still footnotes, but not as many, and not as long, and they didn't seem as obnoxious.

Ruby is still a leper, practically friendless, and still seeing Dr. Z, her shrink. It's now junior year and her life is very, very different than it has been through the beginning of tenth grade. You can see how talking with a psychiatrist (at least a GOOD psychiatrist) helps you understand yourself a little better, as well as how to make the right choices for yourself.

Roo misses Kim but becomes friends with Meghan, who carpools her to school, and becomes friends-again with Nora. She still pines for Jackson, and has become buddies with Noel. She gets a part time job at a zoo, where she really seems to enjoy the animals, and is truly becoming less passive than previously. The crises point in this book comes when all the important characters in the story go together for a sort-of-nature week at "Canoe Island".

It's not a pat, girl-gets-boy ending. It's a REAL ending, an ending that shows growth and maturity and thoughfulness. It's an ending that's truthful. It ends, "I lay there in the blue light from the TV set. Not really watching. Just lying there, between Meghan and Nora..........The water lapped at the sides of our houseboat. And I felt lucky." She's going to be all right.

MOVIE: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Rating: Still mulling it over
Viewed: Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008
Rotten Tomato Rating: 80%
People gave it 3.5 stars (out of 4)
Mine: Lower, I think...60% ?
EW: B- cag: B-
Genre: Black Comedy
PG-13 (1 hr. 36 min.)

Woody Allen's newest. Barcelona.
Romantic comedy? Hmmmmmmm.

Fantastic performances from all the leads: Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, and Penelope Cruz. Beautiful people. Beautiful setting. Hall's part was very Woody Allen-y. She was great. So was Bardem, a doll to look at, smoldering...reminds me lot of Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Penelope Cruz was .... Penelope Cruz. And I never realized Scarlett Johansson's lips were quite so. . . . full. Okay a lot of elipses here. But I've done a great deal of mulling about this movie today.

Cristina (Johannsson) and Vicky (Hall) are best friends spending their two-month summer vacation in Barcelona with an American couple (Patricia Clarkson is the female, not sure of the husband). One night, enjoying dinner in a cozy restaurant, they are approached by sizzling artist Juan Antonio (Bardem), who propositions them. They go for it, Cristina wholeheartedly, and Vicky kicking and screaming. Well, they both end up having a fling with (and falling in love with) said hunky Spaniard. His crazy (literally) ex-wife, Maria Elena (Cruz), who he still loves, enters the picture and really shakes things up.

There are no happy endings here. My favorite character, Vicky, seems destined for a dull, boring, existence from which she'll never be able to extricate herself. Cristina's never going to know what she wants. She'll continue as a dabbler, in love, in art, in everything she tries. Maria Elena is going to kill herself soon, and probably take Juan Antonio with her. What fun.

Actually, it was an okay movie. It was narrated throughout, which I didn't care for, finding it disconcerting and unneeded. Okay, these are all my humble opinion (humble?), but this is what I've been chewing on all day. I may add more once I've chewed even further!

(8/29) A comment , part of a positive review of the movie: "One of the year's most charming and sly works -- as well as perhaps the saddest film in the filmmaker's entire oeuvre." Someone agrees with me!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What To Do About Alice? - Barbara Kerley

Illustrator: Edwin Fotheringham
For: Early/Middle Grades
Pub: 2008
Rating: 3.5/5
Read: Aug. 26, 2008

Subtitle: How ALICE ROOSEVELT broke THE RULES, charmed THE WORLD, and drove her FATHER TEDDY CRAZY!

In this picture book biography of Alice Roosevelt, we learn about her upbringing, her energy, her mischieviousness, and her spirit. She sounds like a character that was hard to control, much to the dismay of her father, Teddy, the 26th president of the United States. Both the style in which it is written ( lots of capital letters, italics, and bold print) and illustrations (at least nine of them use dotted lines to show frenetic movement and energy) show something about her do-anything personality. ADHD, maybe?

This is a picture book, and although the illustrations work really well and add tremendously to the story, I'm just not crazy about Fotheringham's style. I DO like that he uses the entire page, leaving virtually no negative space, and the illustration of Alice "losing" herself in the library is quite cool.

Quotation marks are used throughout the text, so I'd say that Kerley researched well and chose many of Teddy and Alice's own words, or quoted from someone else's writing about them. This would be a good model for students.

Sometimes it's stupid little things that bother me....the front end pages contain the title page and the back end pages add interesting Author's Notes, BUT the library has (of course) firmly taped down the flaps so that I can not read everything without damaging something. I decided not to. How disappointing not to find out about "The Other Washington Monument", which I think tells about the years after Alice's husband's death.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Child's Calendar - John Updike

Illustrator: Trina Schart Hyman
For: Kids
Pub: 1965, 1999
Rating: 5/5
Reread for the umpteenth time: Aug. 23, 2008

Twelve poems, one for each month, written by Pulitzer Prize winner John Updike.
Personification and Metaphors and Similes..
A veritable feast of words.
AND awesome illustrations by one of my favorite illustrators, Trina Schart Hyman. YeeHa!


The sprinkler twirls.
The summer wanes.
The pavement wears
Popsicle stains.

The playground grass
Is worn to dust.
The weary swings
Creak, creak with rust.

The trees are bored
With being green.
Some people leave
The local scene

And go to seaside
And take off nearly
All their clothes.
John Updike

Don't ya just love it?

Ellsworth's Extraordinary Electric Ears - Valorie Fisher

For: Kids
Pub: 2003
Rating: 4/5
Read: Aug. 25, 2008

Abundant alliteration.
Clever dioramas.

I love alphabet books, and I love figurative language. I love collage and I adore cleverness. This books contains all. Each letter of the alphabet has a snazzy sentence and an accompanying diorama that not only illustrates the sentence but includes many other words beginning with that letter.

I want to share this book with my middle-schoolers and have them create sentences that they then illustrate with collage or diorama! We'll photograph them and put the page in our memory books.

A few examples:
"Fancy feathered fashions were favored by Floyd's farm friends. (You can imagine THIS diorama!)
"Kyle's kids kept kites in the kitchen.
"Quentin quickly quieted the quibbling, quarreling, and quacking of the quintuplets.
"Trust Trevor to tell you, typing on a trapeze was terribly tricky."

Loved it!

How I Learned Geography - Uri Shulevitz

For: Kids (just not TOO young)
Pub: 2008
Rating: 3/5
Read: Aug. 25, 2008
2009 Caldecott Honor

"When war devastated the land, buildings crumbled to dust. Everything we had was lost, and we fled empty-handed."

Accompanying illustrations by the author depict a very young boy with his parents. Shulevtitz states in his ending AUTHOR'S NOTE that he is four when they flee Poland, living in what is now Kazakhstan In the Soviet Union for six years. The story tells how they lived, in total poverty, in one room with another couple who were strangers. One day his father returns, not with the small amount of bread he has gone to the marketplace to obtain, but with a large rolled-up world map written in Russian. This map takes him for the next few years, via his imagination, to snowy mountains, burning deserts, wondrous temples, and cities of tall buildings. He dreams of being transported to exotic places, and this is how he survives.

The illustrations are pretty cool, beautifully drawn and colored. There's a little too much negative white space on each page for my liking, but the double-page illustrations of the bazaar and of his flying dream above the waterway make up for that, they're really great.

Okay. He was a little guy with a great imagination. did he know about all these exotic places? How did he know about stone carvings and papayas and mangoes and the shade of palm trees? It sure doesn't sound like they could afford books. It doesn't say that his father told him stories. I guess I want a little more information. The writing is simple, yes, but a little too sparse for me.

This book has gotten quite a few starred reviews, so it may end up getting awards. Yeah, I liked it, but there are others written this year that I like better.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Violet the Pilot - Steve Breen

For: Kids
Pub: 2008
Rating: 4/5
Read: Aug. 24, 2008

Girls can do anything.
Having a great imagination can take you anywhere.
Don't let the jerks get you down.

Violet Van Winkle is smart, spunky, and inspiring. She's a mechanical wiz at eight. She builds interesting flying machines shortly thereafter - made of spatulas, small engines. fans, soap boxes...anything she can find in her father's salvage yard. And she's a fearless pilot. Her trusting and encouraging parents let her go for it. However, she's friendless and teased a lot at school. So she decides to enter an air show contest, hoping that winning it will make the kids at school nicer to her. But on the way to the show she flies above some boy scouts who have overturned in a river, valiantly saving them....and missing the air show.

Da da - she becomes an unwitting hero: "...even the kids and teachers from school had all learned of the rescue that day and had come to praise her." Oh, if only it were that easy! The storyline up to that point is cute, creative, and cleverly illustrated. But the ending falls flat.

I plan to read the book aloud to my class, but not turn to the last page. I'm going to ask the kids to create their own ending. We're going to talk about theme (my middle schoolers generally find this difficult at the beginning of the year, so this is the perfect intro). We're going to talk about how to treat kids who are different than you, or "weirdos". We're going to research famous "weirdos" who have made names for themselves. We're going to create paper airplanes, and talk about careers in flying and aeronautics. And we're going to examine the fantastic illustrations in this book, paying particular attention to Violet's dog, Orville, and the plethora of minute extras on each and every page that add even more to the story.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

40. The Boyfriend List - E. Lockhart

A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them

For: Young Adult
Pub: 2005
229 pgs.
Rating: 3.5/5
Finished: Aug. 24, 2008

After quickly skimming some reviews for this book, I found three things that people liked. I agree with one of them.

Organization. Lockhart frames the story using a list of 15 boys that have somehow touched Ruby's (Roo's) life. Yes, it was a clever way of telling the story and worked well introducing characters, but it did not help the time frame, it made the story jump around, I was always confused about whether she was talking about years ago, months ago, weeks ago, or the present. Sometimes I even had to go back a few chapters to figure out the sequence or to double check which boy was which.

Footnotes. There were footnotes on every page, or so it seemed. Long ones. This was how Lockhart continued the story. She could have easily included it in the prose of the story, but I guess she was just trying to be clever or different. I had to jump back and forth, read the bottom, move my eyes over the page above to find where I'd left off, only to have to switch to the bottom again. Hated it. More confusion. At the end of the book is a section called "A Conversation With E. Lockhart". One question asks her what her ten favorit all-time movies are. This list helps me understand from whence her writing style doth cometh, since it included: Annie Hall, Cabaret, Moulin Rouge and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- very telling, eh?

First person perspective. Always love it. (Aha, you guessed it, this is the one with which I agree.)

The plot, when you finally sort out its sequence, is SO sopohmore girl angst-y. The insight that Roo finds from writing AND talking to her "shrink", Dr. Z, is spot-on perfect and not overinflated. Her sophmore year in a small private school, Tate, where she thinks she's the only scholarship student, is complete with being thrilled about having a boyfriend, loving her quartet of best friends, making a few missteps, not knowing what to do, and then screwing everything up. Painfully. And that she lives on a small house boat with her one-woman-performance-artist, macrobiotic mother and her "but how does that make you FEEL" gardening father. And that she has questions and misgivings about boys, sexuality, boys, kissing, get the idea.

Lots of things to like, a few things to get past, but now I'm ready for the next installment, The Boy Book, which I have to read for a book club, but decided to read this, its predecessor, first.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

MOVIE: Mamma Mia!

Rating: A Blast - Fun & Funny
Viewed: Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008
Rotten Tomato Rating: 54% (Rotten)
Mine: At least 15 pts. higher
EW: C+ cag: B+
Genre: Comedy
PG-13 (1 hr. 48 min.)

Okay, I admit it...I went to see this movie because Colin Furth was in it. I make it a firm practice to see him in ANYTHING. He was great, of course. And what fun! I saw the musical on stage at UofA Presents in Tucson a couple of years ago, so I knew the storyline and the music - you'd have to have been dead for the last twenty years not to know most of the ABBA songs. I especially loved the boat scene when the three men break into "Our Last Summer".

Julie Walters and Christine Baranski are a double hoot! Musical AND funny. Laugh-out-loud funny. And when Meryl Streep starts belting out "The Winner Takes It All" from the Greek hillside, you can't help but get goosebumps. I got a little tired of all the rushing around the patios of the falling-apart villa/hotel, arms flying, and poor Pierce Brosnan tried really hard to sing (you could hear tittering all over the theater when this happened, you just couldn't help it). And the full-cast singing act during the credits was worth waiting for!

Pure entertainment. Pure fun. These actors really appeared to be enjoying themselves, and I'd go see it again in a minute - and listen to the cd to boot!

Rotten Tomatoes CONSENSUS: " This jukebox musical is full of fluffy fun but rough singing voices and a campy tone might not make you feel like "You Can Dance" the whole 90 minutes." I guess I can go along with that.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

MOVIE: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

Rating: Fun
Viewed: Sunday, Aug. 10, 2008
Rotten Tomato Rating: 64%
Mine: About the same
EW: B+ cag: B
PG-13 (1 hr. 57 min.)
Director: Sanaa Hamri

I totally understand why the filmmakers had to combine books 2, 3, and 4...these girls are getting older fast. I'd say it worked out just fine. They took bits and pieces of Books Two and Three, then set the movie during Book Four; the four girls have finished their first year in college and all have vastly different plans for the summer. I'd say it pretty much stuck with the story except for messing a bit with B's story. I imagine if I hadn't read the books I'd be just fine with how they rearranged it - but for this beautiful girl to be boyfriendless is just a mite unbelievable.

I loved Blythe Danner as B's grandmother, and Amber Tamblyn is a real hoot. I'm going to have to see what else she's done. Not crazy about the guy who played Brian. He was nothing, nothing, nothing like I'd pictured. And I loved the Greek island where the end of the book is set. I've wanted to go to Greece since I was eight, and I'd thought that my trip to Turkey would appease that yearning, but after seeing this island....well, something else to look into!

I thought that Ann Brashares' books were wonderful. I've read them and listened to them. I know lots and lots of girls who have devoured the books. I wonder how this film will digest with them? I went with a friend who had not read the books, but had seen the first movie. She liked this one, but liked the first better.

The Rotten Tomatoes Meter gave this a 64%, which is a thumbs up. They said: "Consensus: The workable chemistry among the four leads combined with the enriching message make for a winning Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2." YEEha.

Where did Muddy Puddle come from?

The Muddy Puddle

I am sitting
In the middle
Of a rather Muddy
With my bottom
Full of bubbles
And my rubbers
Full of Mud,

While my jacket
And my sweater
Go on slowly
Getting wetter
As I very
Slowly settle
To the Bottom
Of the Mud.

And I find that
What a person
With a puddle
Round his middle
Thinks of mostly
In the muddle
Is the Muddi-
Ness of Mud.

Dennis Lee
(a Canadian poet whose birthday is coming up on Aug. 31st)

39. A Bottle in the Gaza Sea - Valerie Zenatti

For: Young Adults
Pub: 2005
Translated from French: 2008
149 pgs.
Rating: 5/5
Finished: Aug. 16, 2008

"My name is Tal Levine. I was born in TelAviv on the first day of July 1986, but I live here in Jerusalem. I know that everyone on the planet knows the name Jerusalem, and if there are extraterrestrials they've probably heard about it too; it's a city that creates quite a sitr."

This wasn't the "perfect" book (which one is?), but I still had to give it a 5. And what do I discuss first, the plot...with its timely tough-to-understand setting, the characters, or the writing? I guess it was the title and setting that caught my attention and prompted me tor read the book, but it was the writing that struck me most when I first started reading. Perhaps because it was written in French and translated into English? The language and word choices are lovely. Because there are places where it's not written in the way most teenagers I know would speak, it made me realize that some of them surely THINK this way. For example:

"I sat up. Immediately. Something had jabbed me viciously in the back. I can remember it now: I felt as if some huge injustice had been done to me, that I'd been cruelly attacked just as I was trying to forget myself in the sand - reducing myself to a body, its imprint on the ground, leaving the nausea and indigestion to hover overhead and be carried away on the wind."

Need I say more about the writing?

Contemporary Israel. Contemporary Palestine. Two teenagers from different worlds who live in places where we, as lucky Americans, can't even imagine. This book gives you a viewfinder, eyes to see what's really going on in this tiny strip of the world. Both protagonists have been raised by parents that yearn for peace. In Israel, the Levines have attended any and all peace rallies for many years. In Palestine, Naim's family has taught him to read Hebrew so that in the years to come, when they are hopeful for peace, he will be able to speak and read the language properly. Looking at the bombings, the terrorism, LIFE, from their point-of-view, is eye-opening.

Tal pours her heart out into a letter that she puts into a bottle destined for the the Gaza Sea. She pictures a 17-year old girl like herself finding the letter and responding. When a sarcastic, private young Palestinian man answers, a roller coaster relationship begins. Using the internet (and we even see how difficult and dangerous this is for the Palestinian) the story unfolds. And we get to see so much. Differences. Similarities. Hopes, desires, wishes. The view from each side.

My writing is as jumbled as my thoughts. Perhaps in a few days I'll come back and organize, add, make this more coherent. This was a very powerful book. I'm looking forward to sharing it with my Jewish middle schoolers and getting their take.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

38. Spanking Shakespeare - Jake Wizner

AUDIO Read by Mike Chamberlain
For: Young Adult !!
Book Pub: 2007
Audio Pub: 2008 Listening Lib.
6 hrs. 35 min.
304 pgs.
Rating: 5/5
Finished: Aug. 13, 2008

I loved this book. Publisher's Weekly's starred review says: "Bold and bawdy ... exceptionally funny and smart." First and foremost, it's laugh-out-loud funny. It's told in the first person by Shakespeare Shapiro, an angst-ridden high school senior. Voice! Unbellievable voice. Whether we're listening to Shakespeare's current woes or reading the memoir essays he's written about various embarrassing times in the past seventeen years of his life, it's all a riot. And yes, it's bawdy, to say the least. He focuses on the things that I imagine most 17-year-old boys focus and girls and parents and school, with a few observations about drugs and alcohol thrown in. This book is not for prudes, and I wouldn't recommend it to my middle-schoolers for a few more years, but I am definitely going to recommend it to friends from high school age on up.

Mike Chamberlain does a superb job with the reading. We can hear and see Shakespeare in his wonderful rendering of the story. The cover is cute but misleading. This is NOT a story about the bard. It's the story of a wonderful writer, a thoughtful, endearing, very funny young man who I would sure love to meet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

37. Robin's Country - Monica Furlong

For: Early/Middle Grades
Pub: 1995
140 pgs.
Finished: Aug. 13, 2008

This was my first foray into the tales of Robin Hood. It was easy-to-read and probably would give young people a good feel for Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood and Marian, the merry men, and some of the medieval history that surrounds these legends. The protagonist's name throughout the book is Dummy, which put me off every single time I read it. Sure, the poor kid couldn't speak, but...

Well, anyway, a mute orphan boy of an unknown age (ten? twelve?) runs away from his evil master and stumbles upon Robin Hood and his crew in Sherwood Forest, who take him under their wing/s. He finds food and kindness and even love from this gang, which makes him begin to have memories of his totally forgotten childhood. As he learns to become a topnotch archer, confidant to Robin, and expert rider, we are privvy to some of the mischievous shenanagans that Robin Hood pulls while trying to trick the Bishop of Hereford and the Sheriff of Nottingham. We realize that Robin Hood and his gang are devout Christians, loyal still to the missing King Richard, who do, indeed, steal from the rich and give to the poor. There's a very tidy ending, Dummy discovers who he really is, everyone lives happily ever after...etc.

This book would certainly give young readers a taste of Robin Hood. Just a taste, all cleaned up (though there are a couple of killings, most of the story is pretty tame). I'm going to have to read more widely about the tales of Robin Hood before I can better say how worthwhile this book really is.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

36. The Merchant of Venice - Gareth Hinds

Graphic Novel
Based on the play by William Shakespeare
For: YA/Adult
Pub: 2008
72 pgs.
Read: Aug. 12, 2008

I keep trying graphic novels. I really wanted to love this one. Immediately you take in the modern setting and easily understood conversations. Okay, this might work. But then, many of the guys in business suits look the same (except for Shylock) and you have to keep flipping back pages to compare. However, you're comfortable with a few holes in the plot and you're following the storyline just fine. But wait. Slowly the dialogue is beginning to change, and although it flows beautifully, it's getting harder and harder to understand. Hinds gets tricky and goes from easy-to-understand modern prose to unedited Shakespeare by the end of the book. Some readers might like this dip into the original. I didn't.

I got it, but I had to work too hard for it. Darn, I had hight hopes. I'm teaching this play to seventh graders this year, and a graphic novel would be such fun. Not this one, unfortunatley. I'll just have to keep looking!

Library Mouse - Daniel Kirk

For: Kids
Pub: 2007
Rating: 5/5
Read Aug. 12, 2008

Libraries are some of my most favorite places anywhere, and the library where Sam, our protagonist, lives makes a colorful, happy setting for this story.

Sam lives in a hole in the wall behind the children's reference section in what I'm guessing is a rural library. Each night after the library is closed and silent, he creeps out and reads. He samples every genre. His imagination brims over with new ideas until one night he decides to write a book of his own. He folds litle squares of paper into a book and writes aobut what he knows - being a mouse. He branches out night after night, writing, illustrating, creating, then leaving the tiny books on the library shelves for the children to find and read. The children, as well as the librarian, love his books, love them so much that they want to MEET the author! What's a mouse to do?

What Sam decides to do is clever and creative and will encourage any child who reads this books to write one of their own.

The illustrations are marvelous. Colorful. Bold. Detailed. Sam's face has more character than any mouse I can rememaber in a picture book. Every two page spread contains a full-page, edge-to-edge masterpiece. The large, bold font - a great choice - is easy to read and great to look at.

This is a perfect gift for a kid; a box containing the book, assorted 4, 8, and 12 page premade folded books, a few cool pencils and a box of crayons or colored pencils.

This is going to be a favorite!

My America - Jan Spivey Gilchrist

Illustrators: Ashley Bryan and Jan Spivey Gilchrist
For: Kids
Pub: 2007
Rating: 4/5
Reread: Aug. 12, 2008
Signed by both Bryan and Gilchrist

Okay, anything by Ashley Bryan drives me wild. I love his work and I love him. This collaboration is quite beautiful, whether you're an Ashley fan or not. Gilchrist's simple 13-line poem is illustrated alternately by the two illustrators. Gilchrist's watercolors depict a thoughtful, introspective translation of the poem and Bryan's amazing colors shout out the "big picture" of what the poem is saying.

Have you seen my counry?
Seen my magic skies?
Seen my mighty waters?
Have you seen my land?

Have you seen my counry?
Seen my wings abound?
Seen my water creatures?
Seen my beasts and fowl?

Have you seen my people?
We hail from every shore.
Have you seen my homeland?
Have you seen my country?
Have you seen my AMERICA?

Just to get my middle school students revved up for the new year, I'm going to share this poem. I'll read it to them, I'll pass out copies, I'll have them read it to each other and to the class. Then I'll share the book and get reactions. Perhaps they'll each create an illustration themselves. Perhaps they'll each add another verse. We'll see where it goes. Reading. Writing. Listening. Speaking. AND fantastic art!

(I love the saguaro cactus on the cover. When Ashley visited Tucson a few years ago, I got to drive him around a bit and share this beautiful landscape, so different from Maine's!)

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Animal Hedge - Paul Fleischman

Illustrotor: Bagram Ibatoulline
For: Kids
Pub: 1983, 2003
Rating: 3.5/5
Finished: Aug. 11, 2008

I first read this book when it was illustrated by Lydia Dabcovich. Now out of print, I can't remember the illustrations. The current version is illustrated by a Russian artist using an American Folk Art style, A bit dark, and not my favorite style, it does seem to suit the story. A 19th century farmer lovingly tends his animals and raises his three boys, always singing while they worked. The eldest sang coachmen's songs, the second sang songs of the sea, and the third's favorite song was of a traveling fiddler.

Tragedy strikes in the form of a huge drought. To feed his family, the farmer slowly sells all his animals, then his farm, purchasing a tiny house in which to live. When rain finally reappears and he goes to trim the hedge, his eyes picture animal shapes in the greenery, so he trims it to look like the animals his mind sees. As the hedge grows he continues to trim, adding offspring, creating a yardful of cows and chickens and pigs. However, he no longer sings.

One by one the sons grow up. The father helps each to realize what their aspirations are by cutting the hedges to the ground and letting each boy look for the shapes they see in the growth to guide their career decisions. Not surprisingly they follow the direction of the songs each sang as a young boy - the eldest becomes a coachman, the middle boy a sailor, the youngest a fiddler.

Years later the successful sons come home to visit the father and realize that since their dreams took shape in the hedge, their father's continuous farm menargarie being recreated there is his dream. So they go out and buy him a whole new flock of cows, chickens, and pigs. Alhough now quite elderly, he is quite happy. A sweet story. Magical without any magic. What would MY heart see in the growing hedge?

Little Red Cowboy Hat - Susan Lowell

Illustrator: Randy Cecil
For: Kids
Pub: 1997
Rating: 4/5
Finished: Aug. 11, 2008

I love fractured fairy tales, and while wandering around the the Texas State History Museum gift shop I found this book. It was actually the author's name that drew me, because I'm not crazy about the cover illustration. However, the opening two-page spread of bright yellow, orange chartreuse, lime, and gold desert appealed to me greatly.

Local author Susan Lowell has created a fractured fairy tale about Little Red Riding Hood that is set in the Sonoran desert and has the feistiest grandmother I've ever met on the pages of a picture book. "That yellow-bellied, snake-blooded, skunk-eyed, rancid son of a parallelogram!" she exclaims after they have successfully driven him out. (We actually never know whether Little Red and Granny kill him or not, but that would make a great conversation!) Great language throughout.

As far as illustrations, I liked the outdoor, desert pages far more than the pages set indoors. And the cover still doesn't work for me, but now I'm going to explore other works of Randy Cecil to see how I feel about his work as a whole.

Turn! Turn! Turn! - Pete Seeger

Illustrator: Wendy Anderson Halperin
For: Kids
Pub: 2003
Rating: 4/5
Finished : Aug. 11, 2008
includes CD with two songs

Last year, while creating curriculum for fifth graders on the literature of ancient Israel, I decided to find readings from the Old Testament and teach them using a musical approach. I remembered the Byrds' song Turn! Turn! Turn! and have found two picture books depicting it. In 1961, Pete Seeger took the words from Ecclesiastes, originally written in 250 BCE and translated into English in London in 1607, and set them to music. Wendy Anderson Halperin takes those words and creates a double page spread to illustrate each coupling of verse. All illustrations are contained within a huge circle and drawn using watercolors. BEAUTIFULLY drawn. I poured over each of them, looking at details and admiring Halperin's vision for each of the phrases. There was one drawback for me, however. To be able to view each illustration correctly, I had to keep turning the book this way and that, upside-down and sideways. It's a fairly large book with a dustcover, and it started to drive me crazy. Otherwise, it was quite lovely.

There is a full page note in the back of the book from Pete Seeger, explaining how he created this now-very-popular song. Sheet music is included, as well a CD that contains Pete Seeger's version along with the Byrd's slightly different one. It's fun to see the difference and listen to both sets of voices sing this song.

The Dump Man's Treasures - Lynn Plourde

Illustrated by Mary Beth Owens
For: Kids
Pub: 2008
Ratiing: 4/5
Finished: Aug. 11, 2008
signed by both author and illustrator

I found this on one of my summer visits to Port in a Storm bookstore in Somesville, Maine. A Maine setting with a literacy theme, written and illustrated by two well-known-at-least-by-me Mainers was my hands-down picture book choice for this trip.

Mr. Pottle lives in Shiretown, Maine (although I think shire town means county seat,....whenever I think of Shiretown I think of Houlton, Maine, which is nicknamed Shiretown). He oversees the dump. He collects and repairs perfectly good items, especially books. He can't believe that people would throw them away. He repairs them, cleans them, and even uses potpourri to de-smell them. He stores them on rickety bookshelves, giving them, lending them, sharing them with anyone who wants to read them, especially the children of the town. When his shelves are full he fills an old shopping cart and begins to give them away all over town, nursing homes, homeless people, anywhere they will be read, with the only rule being they won't be discarded. When Mr. Pottle breaks his ankle and becomes bedridden, the children bring him all sorts of books to read, and he admits that he can't read. So, of course, the kids begin to read to him. The last illustration shows a kid sharing a book entitled "C is for Cat", with alphabet cards scattered across the tabletop, signifying that Mr. Pottle is now learning to read.

Heart-tugging theme. Lovely prose. Gorgeous illustrations. I loved that you could recognize many of the books from the hazily recreated covers, because Owens didn't include the book titles. The bordered page that depticts the kids riding their bikes all over town looking for Mr. Pottle is especially cool. The dump illustrations remind me of a brighter, watercolory CATS set. The whole book describes in words and pictures small-town Maine life as I've known it. Delightful.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

35. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! - Laura Amy Schlitz

Illustrated by Robert Byrd
For: Children
Pub: 2007
2008 Newbery Award
Pages: 86
Rating 5/5
Finished (2nd time) Aug. 10, 2008

This really is a brilliantly conceived and written book, deserving of the Newbery. Laura Schlitz, a school librarian, created 21 short "plays", so that a class could perform it and all would have relatively equal parts. Each "play" is told from the point-of-view of one of the children living on a generic medieval manor in late13th century England. All but two are monologues, two are poems for two voices, some are prose, most poetry, some rhyme, all are loaded with information, great vocabulary words, and just enough footnotes to help the reader but not overwhelm. Schlitz has inserted six essays that she calls "A Little Background." These follow the child/speaker that she feels needs extra clarification (the Three-Field System, Medieval Pilgrimage, The Crusades, Falconry, Jews In Medieval Society, and Towns and Freedom). You can feel the fleas, smell the dung, shiver in the cold, and become totally absorbed in the village and life of this sobering time.

I would love to sit down and brainstorm with Laura Schlitz! I'd love to share ideas about the numerous ways this book can be used in a classroom. I plan to use it this year with my sixth graders as their central literature for the medieval period - I can imagine it becoming a touchstone text - and I can't wait!

I Know an Old Teacher - Anne Bowen

Illustrated by Stephen Gammell
For: Kids
Pub: 2008
Rating: 3/5
Finished: Aug. 10, 2008
signed by the author

I picked this up at BEA in May, but just got a chance to read it. I love rhyme and rhythm (repetition I can take or leave....well, mainly leave) and since this is a take off on The Old Lady That Swallowed a Fly, it's full of rhyme and ryhthm. The red haired teacher, Miss Bindley, takes the class pets home for the weekend. When she inadvertantly swallows a flea:

"I know an old lady who swallowed a flea.
It fell from her hair and plopped into her tea."

she begins gulping down various class pets to begin the inevitable chain reaction. I love humor, I LOVE Gammell's illustrations, but somehow the premise of this story doesn't tickle my funny bone just right. Why would such a cool-looking, smart teacher start class's beloved pets? Yuck! At the end she swallows one of her students who has been peeking into her window throughout the story. This I laughed at. Go figure.

Again, I love the illustrations, although I'm more grossed out than I would have guessed at the rat and the snake disappearing into - and protruding from - Miss Bindley's mouth. This is probably the reaction the illustrator was looking for. Stephen Gammell IS terrific.

My New Classics List

The challenge is to read SIX books before 1/31/09. Hmmmmm. Okay, here's my POSSIBILITIES list for this challenge:

7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

The Peace Book - Todd Parr

For: Kids
Genre: Poetry (It's an "IS" poem!)
Pub: 2004
Rating: 5/5
Finished: Aug. 10, 2008

I purchased this book on June 26th from the gift shop at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. That in itself makes this book special for me, since I was so moved by the museum. And I love this book. It is simple, the artwork is bold and colorful and reminds me somewhat of Keith Haring's work. For many years I've taught fifth graders how a simple "is" poem can be very meaningful and paint pictures with words. This book shows how beautifully it can be done, without triteness or sappiness. It makes you look at our world in a positive way.

"Peace is making new friends
Peace is keeping the water blue for all the fish
Peace is listening to different kinds of music
Peace is saying you're sorry when you hurt someone
Peace is helping your neighbor
Peace is reading all different kinds of books".... and so it goes

I can think of many ways of sharing this book, but I'm really looking forward to making a segment of my school's PASSPORT TO PEACE Day an activity using this book. Maybe Todd Parr could make a quick trip from Berkeley to Tucson to help us out???

New Classics Challenge

Bolded titles I've read (so few!) and Italicized titles are the ones I'm hoping to read one of these days. I have until Jan. 31, 2009 to read and review SIX of these "new classics".
ADDENDUM: Needless to say, this never happened. There's just too much out there to read, especially when I'm so drawn to YA and murder mysteries.....but maybe I'll shoot for one of these once in awhile???


1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
(Saw Movie) 20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
9. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
(read a lot but not all) 31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
(read at least half...) 60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006) (Saw the movie)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
(did see the movie....) 88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

34. Big Red Tequila - Rick Riordan

For: Adult
Genre: Mystery
Pub: 1997
Pages: 372
Rating: 4.5/5
Finished: Aug. 7, 2008

I enjoyed reading this book for several reasons. It is set in San Antonio, which I visited for the first time barely six weeks ago. I could visualize it quite well. It's written by Rick Riordan, who wrote Lightning Thief, a favorite, and who I heard speak at BEA in Los Angeles in May. It was full of humor, which I greatly enjoyed. For some reason the protaganist, Tres Navarre, reminded me of Robert Parker's Spenser, perhaps because of his quick and clever comebacks, and because he gets bruised but never really beaten. I discovered this series while visiting The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale with the Weinsteins in August. I had no idea Rick Riordan had predated his children's mythologically-based Percy Jackson series with an adult murder mystery series!
. There are a lot of characters introduced, I found I had to go back and jot down a few notes to remember who was who. Lots of "bad" guys, but it all makes sense in the end. Tres has returned from San Francisco after fleeing there ten years preiovusly after the murder of his father, a womanizing alcoholic who also happened to be sheriff (or some sort of cop). He now returns a different person, determined to find out who and why his father had been murdered.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Yee Ha!

I can't believe I've actually started a blog. I'm hoping that this will help me keep organized in my over-the-top list making as well as force me to write a review of what I'm reading once in awhile. And now maybe I'll actually join a reading challenge or two (like I have the time, but isn't that everyone's complaint?) I might even have to work on my grammar, expecially I go!