Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Young Adult Books Deserve More Respect

THE BEST BAD LUCK I EVER HAD by Kristin Levine is one of my favorite reads this summer. It pairs well with THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett and my favorite book of all time, Hapre Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The protagonist is a shoeless 13 year old boy, Dit, who lives in the south. The year is 1917. At the beginning he is axiously awaiting the arrival of the train, always a big event in his little Alabama town. They are getting a new postmaster and he's hoping the new family will have a boy to befriend. Instead, a black family steps off the train and he sees a girl wearing a fancy dress and black patent leather shoes. Dit chalks up his misfotune to bad luck. Little does he know that Emma and he will have an adventure like no other.

I loved this book, too, because of the time frame. My mom was born in 1916, so it was like experiencing a little bit of her life.

This book was recommended to me by a middle school media specialist. But I'm almost afraid to mention that it is a YA, young adult book, in fear that you will just dismiss it. Young Adult books are some of the best books written today.

You do know the age of middle school children, right? 13, 14, 15...easy ages to impress, eh? NOT! I am lucky to be a librarian who has to read these books but truth be known, I started reading them when I was a stay at home mom with two young children. I wanted to earn some money and decided I would write books for children. How hard can it be? I soon found out that ALL writing is hard,  but to capture this audience particularly difficult.

Next time you hear about a young adult book, take a chance, you will be glad you did!

Hobart Shakespeareans welcome Michael York

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


This is a great book to read after THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak. Zusak's book is an all time favorite WWII story, but you'll want some relief and Guernsey is exactly what you'll need.

My library's summary: January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she's never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb. As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island, boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

I loved getting to know the characters, but to my surprise, I devoured the history learning things I'd never known. Did you know the Germans occupied the tiny island of Guernsey thinking they would get a straight shot to London a 75 miles across the ocean? I was so enamored that we are planning a trip to Guernsey.

Let me know what you think of this book. I LOVED it! 5 Stars

USED AND RARE: TRAVELS IN THE BOOK WORLD by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone

I'm only on page 25 but enjoying this book immensely. It was recommended by my friend Yvette, a book lover/artist extraordinaire.

She and I are kindred spirits and found each other on an author's forum. Our love of books, and now each having our first grandchild, has cemented our friendship. We have never met but I call her one of my best friends and it feels as if I've known her forever. Her knowledge and love for books is evident in her wonderful blog, in so many words... check it out!

RARE AND USED is a true account of a married couple stumbling upon the used and rare book world. They each tried to outdo the other with their birthday presents and each year it got more ridiculous than the last. They ended up discovering a passion for used and rare books.

Did you know that the Limited Editions Club was started by George Macy and he employed the best artists of the time to illustrate his beautiful bound and very limited run of books? He got Matisse for Ulysses, Norman Rockwell for Mark Twain, and even Picasso for Lysistrata. Fascinating! Enjoy!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Great article about Room 56!

Wonderful article that goes along with my review of TEACH LIKE YOUR HAIR'S ON FIRE by Rafe Esquith:


I finished this amazing book today and ordered his newest one, LIGHTING THEIR FIRES. Rafe Esquith is a force that is almost hard to believe and definitely to live up to. A multiple-award winning teacher in one of the poorest parts of LA, his simple edict, "Work hard, be nice" reverberates throughout this book.

And boy, do these students work hard, as does their determined teacher.

Their day starts at 6:30am and sometimes doesn't end until 6pm. The before and after school, lunch time work, recess practice, and Saturdays are all voluntary on the kids' part.

In their day, they not only cover the three R's, they learn to read music, perfect a Shakespearean play interspersed with rock songs that are played and sung by the students. They take field trips to places like Washington D.C., they learn and master sports like baseball and volleyball,  and read books and watch their movie equivalents.

I was exhausted just reading about their busy days. This is a year-round school, Mr. Esquith does not get summers off, just a few weeks here and there.

But this is not what impressed me. It was the kindness, the goodness, the trust that has been built in Room 56. They have each other's back. The students are safe, they are cared for, and they are obviously loved.

Mr. Esquith doesn't say good-bye to his fifth graders to never see them again. He keeps in contact with them and takes them to visit colleges. And he doesn't just help them get into a college, he's given the fifth graders the tools to make sure they finish college.

Here is Room 56's website, take a look, especially the videos of the kids singing rock songs and performing Shakespeare. There is also a documentary about Room 56 called The Hobart Shakespeareans that you can get through Netflix.

Even as overwhelming as I felt reading this book, I couldn't help but be inspired. I cried, I laughed, I gasped in sheer wonder at HOW this is all accomplished. But it makes me want to try harder because that's what teaching is all about.