Teacher Feature

I did three hours of observation at my high school’s library this week (rounding out a tidy three hours of the TWENTY-THREE HOURS I need for the semester–trying to stay calm about that). It was a fun time except for being a zombie for most of the week because I stupidly schedule all of my visits for eight of nine am. I haven’t been up that early in about a year, so that was hard to swallow.

Anyway, the trips were also kind of a shock. All of the middle school students, and even the high schoolers, looked so young. On my first day a sixth grade boy asked me for help with his homework, which I was able to provide–I still know about factors and multiples despite not taking math in four years!

On the second day a seventh grade boy came over asked me if I was a teacher or just an observer. When I said I was just an observer he walked away in what I thought was a very dismissive manner. Then my tenth-grade Global teacher, who I adore and have adored since I met him two years before he was actually my teacher, walked into the library. He did a double take when he saw me until I waved. Then he came over and said he had not recognized that teacher over there. He meant me.

On the third day I went around the school visiting with any old teachers I could find. I hadn’t been back to the school for four years. All of my old teachers, therefore, looked older. It was a shock. All of the teachers I had are suddenly just adults–contemporaries even. While I am realizing that I am an adult when I feel far from it. The idea that I will one day be in some authority position with children is horrifying. And so very strange. How can I look like a teacher when I still feel like a student?

I also saw one of my favorite teachers out of the corner of my eye only to subsequently have him disappear before I could say hello and confirm that he was going bald. I am now sternly telling myself that I should not under any circumstances try and get in touch with him because then the “magic” will be completely gone. All of my teachers will be real people again. And I’ll have no idea how to interact with any of them should we meet again.

The Grand Tour: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Grand Tour or The Purloined Coronation Regalia (1988) by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (Find it on Bookshop)

The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline StevermerOriginally published in 1988, I first read Sorcery and Cecelia after its re-release in 2004. Happily, that meant I didn’t have quite as long a wait for a sequel as Kate and Cecy’s original fans. Released in 2006, The Grand Tour or The Purloined Coronation Regalia picks up shortly after the end of Sorcery and Cecelia with both cousins newly married and beginning their honeymoons with an English tradition known aptly as the grand tour during which they plan to travel through the great cities of Europe. Like its prequel, this novel also has an extended title to offer further enlightenment as to what the story will actually relate. That title is: Being a Revelation of Matters of High Confidentiality and Greatest Importance, Including Extracts from the Intimate Diary of a Noblewoman and the Sworn Testimony of a Lady of Quality.

While the plot of this novel does stand alone, I don’t recommend reading this book before the first in the series because it just isn’t as fun that way. Part of the great thing about these books is watching the girls grow and tracing the relationships between the characters–things that are harder to do without reading the books in order.

(That said, a quick recap: The happily married couples are Kate and Thomas Schofield, Cecy and James Tarleton. My favorite couple is Cecelia and James. Thomas is a wizard, and Cecy is just realizing that she also has a magical aptitude. These novels are written with a variation of the Letter Game. Patricia C. Wrede is Cecelia and Caroline Stevermer is Kate.)

Instead of being written in alternating letters, this volume alternates between excerpts from Cecelia’s deposition to the Joint Representatives of the British Ministry of Magic, the War Office, and the Foreign office; and excerpts from Kate’s . Joining the couples on part of their wedding(s) journey is Lady Sylvia, another wizard of note in England (and Thomas’ mother).

Expecting a leisurely honeymoon, and the chance to purchase proper bride clothes and secure the services of maids, both Cecelia and Kate are dismayed when their quiet grand tour turns into nothing less than a race to prevent an international conspiracy of Napoleanic proportions. As the couples tour Europe’s great antiquities–and meet their fair share of unique tourists–the young women, and their husbands, begin to piece together a plot the likes of which no one could have previously imagined.

Like Sorcery and Cecelia this novel once again serves as a lovely homage to Jane Austen. The pacing and tone of The Grand Tour is again reminiscent of Austen’s work (or George Eliot’s for that matter). Nonetheless, some of the plot did seem more difficult to follow than, say, the first book in this series though the problem was remedied with back-reading. I love these characters unconditionally, in a way I rarely love book characters. Artless, charming, and profoundly entertaining, both Cecelia and Kate are first-rate characters in a first-rate fantasy series.

Possible Pairings: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, A Room With a View by E. M. Forster, The Clockwork Scar by Colleen Gleason, My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows; The Invention of Sophie Carter by Samantha Hastings, Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Beauty by Robin McKinley, The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier, Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Iron Cast by Destiny Soria, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde

“Oh, that was his posse.”

A teen-aged boy came into the library looking for books. Around the same time three other teen boys decided to hover near the circulation line. At first the other clerk and I thought that they were waiting in line, but they weren’t. A fact that came particularly obvious when they started taking pictures with their camera phones.

Later the first teen boy left with his books and the other teens followed him out. It all made sense.

Miss Print: “Oh, they were hovering because they were his posse.”

Branch Librarian: “His posse, huh?”

Then she started laughing. I can’t imagine why though . . .

Hypothetical in the Library

Three teen-aged girls walked into the library today. While one of them checked out a book she asked me a question.

Teen Girl #1: “If I had a book that was late and lost, would I be responsible for the price of the book and the fines?”

Miss Print: “Well no probably not. You’d just be responsible for the cost of the book.”

Teen Girl #2: “What if it was an old book, like out for two years?”

Miss Print: “Is this book on your library card?”

TG1: “No, no. This is hypothetical.”

Miss Print: “Okay. Well, hypothetically speaking I’d need to see the library card that checked out this hypothetical book to check if it was still even on the card.”

TG1: “Well, how much would the book cost?”

Miss Print: “Is this hypothetical book a hardcover and a paperback?”

Teen Girl #3: “Paperback.”

Miss Print: “Not more than ten dollars.”

TG3: “Okay, thanks.”

I thought this kind of thing only happened on television, but no. (I’m kind of glad I was wrong.)

The Homeward Bounders: A (hesitant) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Have you ever heard of the Flying Dutchman? No? Nor of the Wandering Jew? Well, it doesn’t matter. I’ll tell you about them in the right place; and about Helen and Joris, Adam and Konstam, and Vanessa, the sister Adam wanted to sell as a slave. They were all Homeward Bounders like me. And I’ll tell you about Them too, who made us that way.

The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne JonesThe Homeward Bounders (1981) by Diana Wynne Jones is the rare type of book where the first paragraph shown above tells readers everything they can expect from it. For those who would like further elaboration, though, I offer my own summary.

The first twelve years of Jamie’s life were pretty great. Unfortunately it goes downhill after some badly timed exploring when Jamie finds himself in a mysterious garden that seems to have passed notice by his entire city. Inside the garden, in a building hidden from prying eyes, mysterious hooded figures lurk playing a strange game with the entire world as their game board.

Seeing Them at play, Jamie is discarded as a random factor left to wander the Bounds lest he corrupt the games’ integrity. His only hope is to find his own world at which time Jamie can “reenter play” and get back to the life and family he left behind.

Unfortunately, getting Home isn’t quite as easy as Jamie as thought. Drifting from world to world, it seems impossible to find the right one. (If this premise sounds at all like the 1990s TV show Sliders that’s because it is. Written in 1981, I have a strong suspicion that the show’s creators were familiar with this title.) Eventually, despite his literal detachment from any world he lands on, Jamie does find some allies. Along with Helen and Joris, children lost like him yet at the same time, nothing like children from Jamie’s Home, Jamie sets out to stop Them once and for all so that perhaps, he and the rest of the Homeward Bounders can finally rest.

The premise of The Homeward Bounders was interesting to read. It was impressive when I realized the the opening so neatly outlined the ensuing plot. That said, the book never grabbed my full attention the way other books so often do. While Jamie is extremely likable and clever, his first-person narration always felt like it was at a distance, which in a way is fair since the entire story is set up as a dictation. Toward the halfway point, my interest began to lag in direct proportion to the diminished action.

It’s a strange comparison, but this novel reads very similarly to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, like that Old English classics The Homeward Bounders is fundamentally an exercise in story telling. Jamie is telling readers his story, when he meets new allies he shares his story, they in turn explain their own path to becoming Homeward Bounders. While the story is dramatic, it is not action packed. The ending is also not all rosy greetings and victory parades.

On the other hand, Jones presents here a strong, literary fantasy novel with a great boy as the main character. An excellent choice for any students looking for suitable independent reading books in school.

Possible Pairings: Flight by Sherman Alexie, The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Planesrunner by Ian McDonald, Sliders (television series)

“It’s all gone, Pete Tong.”

This post’s title is also a movie title. Sometimes, I have random titles or lines/quotes going through my head for weeks at a time. (A perennial favorite is “we were very tired, we were very merry.”) For the past three days, though, this title has been going through my head because although I don’t know any Pete Tong, a lot of things are gone.

For non-regular readers, let me just start by saying it has been one hell of a week for this blogger. To see how it all started, be sure to check out my previous Chit Chat post. All I can really say is that school hasn’t been very daunting at all by comparison.

So, after being completing horrified and scared in my own place of employ, things were quite on Tuesday and Wednesday. I have a total of one hour scheduled of the 24ish that I need to do in site visits this semester, but I feel on the ball. Things were good. Then Thursday started.

It actually started in the middle of the night (aka early morning) when I heard men outside my bedroom window and thought I saw the beam of a flashlight. I was scared, and instead of waking my mother up, I tried to go back to sleep because a part of me knew that if the men really were there I could never feel quite as safe in my own apartment as I had before.

Unfortunately I found out that morning that the men were real. They were police officers and they were in the back terrace area because our neighbor’s apartment had been broken into. He had left his window gates open and gone out. When he came back any valuables that could be taken through the window were gone. This is the second burglary in our building this summer.

After that, my mom tried to go online. Nothing happened. Our cable television provider is also our ISP, and sometimes it does just die. So we weren’t too worried. I decided to check on my own computer to see if I could get online to gauge what kind of problem it was (us or them). When it had booted up, I found a folder with a name along the lines of 234234abc in my trash. Inside the folder were numbered folders–a total of 450 or so. I had been finding recovered files in my trash for months on and off but had ignored it as a minor problem.

This was something new though so I decided to check my disk permissions. The permissions were pretty out of sync, so of course I repaired them. Then, feeling a bit worried, I decided to also verify my disk. There were problems. But my computer seemed unable to repair them. I started up from my installation CD and repaired the permissions and the disks. Except there was one problem that was unrepairable. No matter what I did.

I was left with no choice but to perform a clean install. Now, let me say that last summer my mom’s laptop died. As a result I have been very dilligent in backing up my own files and date on an external hard drive (and a flash drive). I now know that no matter how dilligent you are, it is impossible to gauge the efficacy of a backup plan until you need to implement it. My plan, as it turns out, was lacking.

I have lost all of my internet bookmarks including every site I ever went to for school, various research sites, articles I had filed to read, and resources I thought might come in handy one day. Gone gone gone.

Later, upon trying to open a backed up file of my passwords, I discovered that the file was somehow tied to my old (GONE) computer system and was erased with the clean install. All of my passwords. Gone gone gone. I spent two hours last night feverishly writing down the passwords I could remember and resetting the ones I could not.

This was after backing up any software I could think of (some of which don’t open on the updated system), as well as all of my files (luckily my writing is intact). Performing a clean install of Mac OS X Panther. Upgrading to Tiger. Installing ten software updates. Downloading and upgrading Firefox.

My computer no longer works the same as before. The internet is slower. Recovered files are showing up in the trash again. Apparently six years is old for a computer because this one seems to be obsolete. I can almost hear the death knell.

Then on Friday a woman brought her dog into the library. The dog then decided to relieve itself directly in front of where I was working. I found this amusing, but it was still bizarre.

Today, Saturday,  I passed a broken water main across the street from the library as I headed to work and managed to hurt my own shoulder with my own bag (I’m switching to a smaller one now).

The evening proved better as a lot of the goodies I recently ordered have arrived and I just found out that a sequel to Generation Dead is due out in May 2009.

Now, I’m not asking for a pity party here. But isn’t that a lot to pile onto one week?

Looking for Alibrandi: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Looking for Alibrandi (1992) by Melina Marchetta (find it on Bookshop)

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina MarchettaMelina Marchetta is Australian. According to the backflap copy for this book, she lives in Sydney where she teaches English at an all-boys high school. After the 1992 debut of her first novel Marchetta found herself in an interesting position. Looking for Alibrandi won every major literary award for young adult literature in Australia so that Marchetta subsequently had to teach her own book to her students. All told, not a bad problem to have.

Ten years later Saving Francesca came out and also garnered a lot of praise and awards (as well as regularly being in my Top Five). In short, Melina Marchetta is a pretty big deal. I enjoy her books because they feel like her characters are living lives that I might have had were things different.

Apparently, and I’m embarassed to say I only found this out yesterday, Looking for Alibrandi was also adapted into a movie in Australia in 2000 with Marchetta writing the screenplay. I wish I could find the DVD.

Set in Australia, this novel deals with a sub-community that I didn’t even know Australia had: Italians. Narrator, Josie, comes from an Italian family that immigrated to Australia. At a Catholic school she doesn’t like, surrounded by people who don’t understand the Italian part of her culture, seventeen-year-old Josie feels adrift.

Josie has a lot of women in her life. She lives with her mother and (much to her frustration) spends afternoons with her grandmother until her mom can pick her up. Josie’s father isn’t a part of the picture. He never has been. And what I like about this novel, is that it isn’t a big deal–it’s just life. No complex explanation, no pang of longing for the father she never met, he’s just no around.

Or is he?

Things get more complicated for Josie and her mom when Josie’s long-absent father suddenly reappears. After living without him for so long, Josie isn’t sure he’s worth her time now. In this thread of the novel, Marchetta does an excellent job exploring how Josie can acquaint herself with one of the people she should know better than anyone else.

Amidst this family confusion, Josie finds herself caught between two very different young men. Josie has always been attracted to John Barton, and with good reason. His life seems to have been handed to him on a silver platter. From a rich family, bound for law school, and good-looking, John seems to have everything going for him. Still, as John finally notices Josie and open up to her, Josie is shocked to find that John isn’t nearly as content as she would have guessed.

Jacob Coote, on the other hand, is completely comfortable in his own skin. From a working class family, Jacob is confident about his own bright future (and his ability to get there by sheer force of will). Drawn to Jacob’s radical ideas and striking personality, it’s hard to tell if Josie and Jacob are perfect for each other or too similar to ever really last.

Looking for Alibrandi is a novel with many facets and many plots. All of the characters are dimensional, adding their own stories to the larger narrative of the novel. In addition to an excellent dissection of family relations, Looking for Alibrandi is one of the best novels about the immigrant experience I have ever read. Yes, Josie is probably third generation if not later, and true these characters are immigrants to Australia and not the USA. Still, the novel offers admirable commentary to anyone interested in immigration (and assimilation) in America and elsewhere.

Possible Pairings: The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, Last Night at the Circle Cinema by Emily Franklin, Looking for Alaska by John Green, The After Girls by Leah Konen, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban, Boy Toy by Barry Lyga, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Sound good? Find it on Amazon: Looking for Alibrandi

Scary in the Library

Today was the first time in my entire life as a library user or employee that I was genuinely scared to be in the library.

About ten minutes after I started at work a very angry man came over to the circulation desk and started cursing in the general direction of the library staff. I would never repeat some of what he said, but basically I learned later that he was annoyed because one of the clerks  woke him up when he was sleeping at one of the tables (and snoring). (The security guard had yet to arrive which is why the clerk had to wake him.) He was cursing and yelling and gesticulating angrily demanding that the clerk he was speaking of come out to face him (she did not and for a split second, even though I knew it was impossible, I was very afraid he meant me).

“Tori” was on the adult information desk at this time. She told the man that his language was inappropriate for the library and that if he was going to keep speaking like that he would have to leave. The man just started to yell at Tori instead. Tori told the branch librarian to call the police. As the phone was picked up the man spit on Tori and walked to the back of the library where he retrieved his bag, threw a chair and then stormed out of the building. Hopefully for the last time.

Tori went to a doctor and is waiting for test results, but the doctor was confident that she’d be fine. After the incident the police and the NYPL investigator came to take statements. The patrons in the library at the time were profoundly embarassed and extremely nice. When Tori left I said that I’d be happy to take over for her at storytime (which went very well, the children were great and we had a really fun time). And I have to say that Tori was really a trooper throughout the whole thing, I’m so impressed by her.

No one tells you about this kind of thing when you apply for a library job or even when you’re in library school. But unfortunately it is a reality of working with a public that isn’t always comprised of the nicest, most stable people in the world. A patron told me how brave she thought we all were, which was a shock. I hadn’t planned on having a career that required bravery, not this kind anyway.

Library Schooled

As regular readers might already know, I started library school at Pratt last week. At first I was a little worried but I’ve since had all of my classes once and have started doing my readings. Everything seems less scary now.

I had been especially worried about my technology course, but after looking at the textbook I realized that it really will be exactly like my computer courses in college. And, what’s more, I probably really am qualified to be a “web master/mistress” for my group’s project.

Anyway, just wanted to let my faithful readers know what’s been going on and why I haven’t been posting so much (I’ve been busy!).

Also, am happy to announce that I am almost the proud owner of a Library Schooled T-shirt among other library-approved attire. I say almost because although the shirt is purchased it is not yet shipped or in my possession.

Miss Smithers: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Miss Smithers by Susan JubyLong time readers might remember my previous demonstration of fondness for Alice, I Think by Susan Juby. By itself, the book was fantastically funny with some great plot points and characters. So imagine my happiness back in 2005 when I realized a sequel (set a bit after the first novel’s events) had been published and was available from my place of employ.

Like many good stories, Miss Smithers (2004) starts with an offer that Alice can’t refuse–especially if she wants to prove to everyone that she really is a special girl. Being previously home schooled and a bit of a loner, Alice is surprised when the local Rod and Gun Club asks her to be their representative at the Miss Smithers Beauty Pageant. That is until she hears about the four hundred dollar allotment for clothing. At that point, much to her mother’s horror, Alice is prepared to participate in anything.

Unlike higher profile pageants, Miss Smithers has enough events that are varied and vague enough that every participant has a chance of being good at something. Surely that must also include a moderately well-adjusted teen who used to think she was a hobbit, right?

After one botched newsletter distribution and the purchase of questionable attire for a beauty pageant, Alice begins to question her initial (over)confidence at winning Miss Smithers. Of course, it’s only then that Alice really starts to learn and grow from her brief experience as a beauty queen.

Like Alice, I Think before it, Miss Smithers has received some negative reviews from people who argue they can’t connect with Alice. For my part, I can’t understand why as I love Alice who seems to be the embodiment of the simultaneously apathetic and overeager teen found inside everyone.

Other negatives included a review that railed against the discussion of underage sex and drinking found in this book. There are two sides to that issue. As a teen I read a lot of books with characters who had sex and drank. Most of my friends and family will agree these readings had no detriment on my moral code. There are also a lot of books out there that are far more explicit about both topics.

In relation to this novel: yes Alice does get drunk, and yes she does consider sex quite a bit. But she also decides to take a chastity vow and spends a good amount of time contemplating what Jesus really would do. All in the same novel. Like most sixteen-year-old girls, Alice changes her mind a lot. As such, Juby creates a realistic albeit sarcastic protagonist with a well-rounded variety of experiences in this story.

Like the first novel in this trilogy, Miss Smithers does follow a diary format. The “standards” of that genre are adhered to a bit more loosely here with dated entries reading more like the usual prose. Not to worry though, this novel features a different kind of gimmick instead of the diary entries. Interspersed between chapters, Alice includes a handy newsletter (hand typed) detailing pageant events as well as a spreadsheet tallying each entrant’s points and progress toward the win. These newsletters are also a great way to look at Alice’s increasing maturity throughout the story as she begins to take more pride in the competition and becomes more familiar with each of the contestants.

Equal parts humor and sarcasm make this book a great read for anyone who would never usually pay attention to beauty pageants in books or otherwise.

Possible Pairings: The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander, Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen, Skinny by Donna Crooner, Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks, The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow, Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, Don’t Expect Magic by Kathy McCullough,  I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Define “Normal” by Julie Anne Peters, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee