The best words you can hear?

I was at MU for about three weeks when I was upstairs during my break with one of the pages, “Janine.” I was really impressed when I saw the inside of her locker because it was all tricked out with pictures and decorations. This amused Janine.

Janine: “You haven’t seen the inside of my locker yet?”

Miss Print: “No. I’ve only been here three weeks.”

Janine: “It feels like longer than that.”

Yay . . . right?

Chick Lit Wednesday will be back next week

Things have been hectic at home waiting for a replacement air conditioner and my schedule has been . . . odd . . . this week. So instead of doing the usual back-dating a CLW post because it was late, I decided to just take the week off. Check back next week for a new CLW post!

Noelle of the Nutcracker: A Chistmas in July Review

Noelle of the Nutcracker by Pamela JaneNoelle of the Nutcracker by Pamela Jane (with illustrations by the inimitable Jan Brett) is one of those books that I seem to have had forever. Copyrighted in 1986, my hardcover copy has been on my bedroom bookshelf since before I can remember. Needless to say that I did not remember much of the story. Happily, though, it is a fast read and I was able to finish it in a day. I dare say there are families somewhere who read this book every Christmas season the way others read Twas the Night Before Christmas and A Christmas Carol (if not, there should be).

There are two main characters in this book. One is a doll named Noelle and the other is a little girl, Ilyana. At the beginning of the story, the characters have one thing in common: they both think Noelle is wonderful.

When Ilyana and her second grade class go to visit Bugle’s toy store, Ilyana is captivated by Noelle the beautiful ballerina doll that can stand in all five ballet positions and even has jointed knees and ankles. Ilyana knows her family could never afford such an expensive doll, which is fine. At least until spoiled Mary Jane decides vows that she’ll get Noelle for Christmas from her rich father.

Unbeknownst to either little girl, Noelle doesn’t want to be owned by anyone. While the other toys dream of being loved and held by real children, Noelle yearns to be discovered and become a dancer on stage. Noelle knows she is destined for fame when a man comes into Bugle’s and buys Noelle to be a part of a production of the Nutcracker ballet. But, as Noelle painfully learns, being discovered doesn’t always mean fame. And it almost never takes the place of being loved.

Noelle’s story is intertwined seamlessly with Ilyana’s and, to a lesser extent, Mary Jane’s. As the girls get ready for their school pageant, it becomes clear that sometimes it takes more than money to make a wish come true. Sometimes, especially at Christmas, it also takes a little magic (and in this case maybe a few coincidences).

Sometimes when I read books with a child character they feel too young–I’m sure a child would enjoy them but sometimes I have a hard time relating to them on the same level of enjoyment. This book is not like that. The story is short and easy to follow, but it remained enjoyable for me reading it at the age of twenty-two. Jan Brett’s illustrations also, of course, add a lot of dimension to the story (although being familiar with Brett’s color-illustrated picture books I was a little sad to see the drawings were not in color). After reading the story and once again turning to the cover it’s amazing to see how perfectly Brett captured Pamela Jane’s vision of Noelle.

This is one of those classic Christmas stories (like the one that I mentioned earlier) that offers a nice shot of holiday spirit along with a message that’s worth remembering all year.

And the nominees are . . .

This week has been fun because the blog has been getting a lot of hits and even, it seems, some new readers. Nicole over at My Life in Books, in addition to offering some great thoughts on book reviews and how YA lit fits into the greater book hierarchy, has also nominated me for an award.

blogsaward1

The rules are simple

  1. Put the logo on your blog.
  2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
  3. Nominate at least seven other blogs.
  4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
  5. Leave a message for your nominee on their blog.

Okay, so as the title promised, here are the nominees:

  • Library Voice is a kind of new blog but continuously leaves me floored by the thoughtful and thorough posts about children’s librarianship and books in general.
  • one girl revolution bakes, talks about the library life, books and even occasionally posts youtube vids or flickr pics. A schmorgasborg of blogging goodness.
  • Sarah Blogs! manages something very rare–it always makes me smile. Actual conversations. Enough said.
  • Doin’ The Cabbage Patch used to be Three City Gals written by three really fun ladies in Atlanta. Now it’s just Lina, but it’s still really fun. Also one of the first I found on wordpress (and one of the first that found me).
  • Eleanor’s Trousers manages to combine current events, feminist commentary, and general blogging in a informative, enjoyable blog.
  • Books & other thoughts posts great book reviews (not just because I usually agree with her) and is really conscientious in providing links to other reviews beyond her own blog to provide a whole lot of knowledge to readers (which is how I found it in the first place).
  • Abby (the) Librarian is another blogger with nice, detailed book reviews, lots of info on what it’s like to be a children’s librarian, and a pretty spiffy blog layout as well.

All the rebellious kids wind up working in libraries

Spent a bit talking with “Lisa” the YA librarian about young adult literature today. That got me thinking about this essay by Margo Rabb that was in the New York Times a few days ago about how while there is still a stigma with being a YA author, sometimes it does work out for the best.

Miss Print: “I didn’t realize there was still a stigma attached to YA literature.”

Lisa: “Well yeah because it’s awesome. Don’t you think YA literature is a lot better than when we were teens?” [Lisa is two years older than me so we were teens at the same time more or less]

Miss Print: “I don’t really remember reading YA books when I was a teen. I’d read fantasy books but those were sometimes from children’s. I spent a lot of time reading classics because my school didn’t assign them.”

Lisa: “Was that your rebellion? Mine was going to bible study.”

And there you have it.

On taking a step back

Don’t stand too close to the gutter while waiting to cross the street. An easy way to gauge if you are, in fact, too close is to wait for a passing bicyclist. If you are close enough for this bicyclist to see you, turn his head, and smile at you while turning a corner you might have a fair indication that you should be closer to the sidewalk.

Pure Dead Magic: A Chick Lit Wednesday review

Pure Dead Magic by Debi GlioriDebi Gliori‘s novel Pure Dead Magic (2002) first caught my attention as a library page for two simple reasons: the unique title and the rather enticing plaid background of the cover (which also features a neat illustration by Glin Dibley). Before embarking on Pure Dead Magic, a work of longer fiction, Gliori had written and illustrated picture books for children. I have seen this book, the first in a trilogy, shelved both with children’s and young adult books. I’m more inclined to call it a children’s book although I also have no problem imagining teens who would enjoy it. That said, let’s talk about what happens between the covers of this book.

Twelve-year-old Titus Strega-Borgia and his ten-year-old sister Pandora do not live in what most people would term a normal household. Things are strange at StregaSchloss, the family’s house near the Scottish Highlands, even before their father Luciano mysteriously disappears. Dealing with an unwieldy household while completing her degree in advanced witchcraft, Baci Strega-Borgia is overextended. Enter Mrs. Flora McLachlan who tries to bring some order to the household along with fries that are crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, and the occasional lullaby for Damp, the youngest of the Strega-Borgia children.

But order doesn’t reign for very long at StregaSchloss before things get out of hand. Thirteen baby rats go missing, followed soon after by Damp. Then the gangster in the rabbit suit shows up and everything gets even messier.

If any of the plot brought to mind the Addams family, it’s not a coincidence. I have no proof for this, but feel strongly that the Strega-Borgia’s might be distant cousins of Morticia and Gomez. Gliori pulls off a blend of humor and the macabre, with the odd man-eating monster thrown in, admirably and much in the style so common to the Addams family movie.

Needless to say this novel does require a willing suspension of disbelief, but once you get into the story it’s really fun. Gliori’s prose is straightforward and broken up into manageable chapters (usually four or so pages at a time) which make it a good pick for a reluctant reader who might not want to read a long chapter in one sitting.

The characters are also excellent. In addition to the family and staff, several mythical beasts and one hungry crocodile also add a lot of dimension to the book. Pure Dead Magic is one of those books that, if you can tolerate some fantastical elements, has something for everyone: a variety of characters, excitement, suspense, and humor. A well-rounded book for anyone looking for a story that will leave them smiling.

Whodunnit in the library

The other day at work I found a YA book with a loose (unattached) page. When I found the YA librarian “Lisa” I showed it to her and asked her what to do with it. Lisa took the book and held up the page and the book in separate hands.

LynnLisa: “Who could have done this to [pause to check title] The Last Unicorn?”

Miss Print: “I don’t know.”

Lisa: “Is it an important page?”

Answer: Not really because it was just a page with a bunch of people saying the book was awesome. So Lisa threw out the page and put the book back on the shelf.

Lisa: “They just won’t know that it’s a ‘gripping, rich story.'”

Miss Print: “Hopefully they will when they read it.”

Good deed for the day

Last week I was checking in reserves at work and found two thank you notes with two stamped envelopes. One envelope was addressed, both had return addresses, the cards were blank. I wasn’t sure what to do with the cards, but I felt like throwing them out was definitely not the right answer. So I took them home.

After some deliberation, I decided to write a note and mail the cards to the return address. Which I did today.

Hopefully my good deed was timely enough to be of value and not too creepy.

Kiki Strike: The Empress’s Tomb: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb by Kiersten MillerAs some readers might remember, I had very ambiguous feelings about Kirsten Miller’s first Kiki Strike book Inside the Shadow City. Although I loved the cover art and most of the characters, I felt like the book didn’t live up to its full potential. Despite my misgivings (and the fact that no one shared them), I remained optimistic about Kiki Strike #2, feeling confident that it would be better than the first since Miller would have had more time with the characters she was writing about and to iron out her writing voice (which I thought was inconsistent in the first book).

Well, I finally had a chance to read Kiki Strike: The Empress’s Tomb (2007) by Kirsten Miller and am very happy to say, my hopes were not unfounded as this book was definitely better than the first in the series. Although this book does follow up on plot points from the first book, this one does stand alone. There is enough summary of important information that, if you read the first one a while ago (or not at all), the storyline will still make sense.

The story once again follows the Irregulars–brilliant albeit sometimes misguided Girl Scouts who were recruited by girl spy extraordinaire Kiki Strike to help her map Manhattan’s secret Shadow City and protect it from criminal exploitation. This time, however, the Shadow City is not the major plot. Kiki and narrator Ananka Fishbein also take a back seat to fellow Irregular Oona Wong who, for lack of a better word, is the star of this story–just look at the cover if you don’t believe me.

Master forger turned entrepreneur and sometimes blackmailer, Oona has always been one of my favorite characters and I was really happy to see more of her in this book. Unfortunately, the Irregulars don’t feel the same as they grow tried of Oona’s continued snark and snobbery. To make matters even worse, that means no one has time to hear Oona’s important news.

That isn’t to say that the other girls don’t have problems. Kiki’s life is in danger (again). Ananka’s mother is threatening to send her to a boarding school in Virginia of all places if she can’t get her grades up. Meanwhile Betty, the group’s master of disguise, seems to have attracted the attentions of the giant squirrels that have started wandering the city’s parks. Add to the mix a haunted mansion, a prodigal parent, and Oona’s dramatic secret and you have a story jam-packed with excitement.

The tone of The Empress’s Tomb feels a lot more even than Miller’s first Kiki Strike book. I suspect this has to do with the book being grounded in one time period instead of starting with the characters at the age of twelve the way the first book did. In addition to being a fast-paced read, the novel also offers an interesting commentary on secrets (when to keep them and when to share them) as almost every character has something up her sleeve in the way of hidden information.

Speaking of information, Miller also once again includes some of Ananka’s useful information at the end of some chapters. Her findings include: how to be mysterious (learn to be quiet and invent a secret among other things), how to find information in people’s trash (and what to avoid placing into your own trash), as well as a quiz on events in the book that, were I a teacher, I might assign to students if I had them read this book in class–which I really could. Because Miller writes a good story with a lot of practical information that could be applied to everyday life (maybe you’ll never be digging through someone’s trash, but it’s good to be aware of what people might find if they dug through yours). That is one of the reasons I stuck with Kiki Strike, and one of the reasons The Empress’s Tomb was so much fun to read: Miller doesn’t just write a good story she writes a good, informative (and fun) story.

Possible Pairings: Ghost Huntress by Marley Gibson, Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley, New York City: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine