By Elizabeth Wroten
On 25, Feb 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.
Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.
Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.
And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.
Okay, this one won an award or at least an honorable mention? Really?…Really? I got that Greg was an antihero. And I heard him when he said he learned nothing from the death of his “friend” Rachel. I even see the appeal of those angles for some readers. But really it just made the book feel like a huge waste of my time. I mean maybe I missed the point or I’m not hipster enough to understand that by not learning anything he learned something or how that’s just a realistic portrayal of someone’s life. There are no BIG LESSONS learned all the time. Sometimes it just sucks when your kinda friend dies. But I could have been reading The Diviners which I am already obsessed with and I am on page 22. And I am not a Libba Bray swimfan or anything.
In all honesty Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl would have, after page 50, been one of those ones I abandon to recommending to people I know who like movies and books about not much. Kids who don’t want to think too deeply, but want a book that makes them feel like they are learning a lesson. But thanks to the YALSA Hub challenge I read it cover to cover. God, I want my day back. I can’t even give it a whole-hearted real review. And the cover is awesome and I really wanted to read it.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 22, Feb 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step inside Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show, a menagerie of human curiosities and misfits guaranteed to astound and amaze! But perhaps the strangest act of Mosco’s display is Portia Remini, a normal among the freaks, on the run from McGreavy’s Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, that she could never leave. Free at last, Portia begins a new life on the bally, seeking answers about her father’s disappearance. Will she find him before Mister finds her? It’s a story for the ages, and like everyone who enters the Wonder Show, Portia will never be the same.
Despite the cover, this is not the book for the kid who wants to run away and join the circus. Too bad because we’ve all been there, right? I mean, there is some running away and there is a circus, but really it’s a book about finding. Finding yourself, finding your family, finding a family, finding a future, finding where you belong and who you belong to.
In actuality, this a a book for kids who like their fiction a bit dark and even a bit sad and melancholy. It is absoultely beautifully written. Even though most children have not been sent off to a home for wayward girls for being too imaginative and unmanageable, Portia is so familiar a character. She’s headstrong, angst-y, and ready to grow up, but she also longs for the more magical and comforting time of her childhood. In the end her story isn’t about being sent away or looking for her father, but about finding a place in the wider, lonely world and making a family for herself from the hodge-podge of people she finds herself amongst.
Wonder Show really reminded me of Carnivale, a television show from a few years back. It was dark, conflicted, and…adult. This book tried to be and there were hints of cruelty, sexuality, and abuse, but in the end it was a middle-grade novel. I think if nothing else, this Yalsa Hub reading challenge is teaching me a lot about what I like to read and what I can see value in for other readers. The thing is, I will read just about anything and, if not love it, at least lose myself in the story. And I guess what I’m finding is I like the more adult books and, really, as a kid I think I would have too. Leaving out the complexities of the world, especially a world as dark as a traveling freak show, always feels like pandering to me. Yet, I still connected with the book and with Portia.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 20, Feb 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.
Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.
So, this book thoroughly creeped me out, but I am not above scaring the pants off myself then regretting it for several nights afterward. But hindsight is always 20/20.
The Name of the Star isn’t the most well-crafted of books, but it sure did keep me turning the pages well past midnight so obviously literary merit didn’t really matter. The first 100-150 pages did take a leisurely pace developing the story, setting the scene and introducing the characters, which could have been irritating, but I think it actually served to make the plot twists and turns creepier. From that point on some of the strange goings-on and mysterious pieces began to come together and fall into place and it got really spooky really fast.
I have to say it irked me that Rory is from New Orleans. I know this is one of my own personal quirks, but I always feel like authors choose to set creepy stories there or have characters with special “talents” from NOLA because it’s a place associated with voodoo, cemeteries and general creepiness. I can’t say that that is truly the motivation here or elsewhere, but it always feels that way to me. Especially since there really was no reason Rory couldn’t have been from Atlanta or Sacramento or anywhere else.
Besides that minor irritation, I stayed up late reading it and got up early to finish it.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 18, Feb 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.
But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.
Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship–one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self–even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.
In a recent interview I read on NPR with John Irving he made a comment that kept coming back to me as I read The Miseducation of Cameron Post. He noted, “…how thoroughly intimidating and confusing and conflicted the world of adult sexuality seemed when you were on the doorstep of it but still standing outside.” I suppose this is a place we’ve all found ourselves, but it was especially true of Cameron who finds herself there on the eve of her parents death. Add to that the confusion of the realization that she prefers girls, something that has never been explicitly condemned in her world, but she is sure would be.
While I wasn’t sure I loved the book, despite it’s buzz, I did find it incredibly compelling and relatable. The story is all about figuring out sexuality, love and relationships and the confusion that comes with the inexperience of the teenage years. Cameron may have the added confusion of being a lesbian in a place where homosexuality is discouraged, but I think ultimately her struggles aren’t really unique to lesbians. Like any teenager she’s trying to figure out that “world of adult sexuality”.
Despite Cam’s relative inexperience, this book isn’t for the prudish. Kissing and sex abound, as does pot smoking and language. But the struggles are so relatable and so universal that none of it seems to be gratuitous or there just for the sake of scandal. The book also seemed to move lazily through the years considering how predictably the plot unfolded. But I think that was kind of the point, or at least the explanation I was going with, because it certainly reinforced Cam’s naiveté. The rest of the characters in the book always felt authentic and never came across as two dimensional. Even though this really isn’t a book for the religious set, I thought it was very fair-handed in how it dealt with evangelicals and their teachings. I also think the well-rounded characters helped keep the plot feeling less like a vehicle for a Message than a real story.
While Cam’s situation, as an orphan and lesbian in a small conservative town, may be familiar to some, it isn’t these particulars that give the story its power. Nor was it the sex scenes that will titillate some. Had I read this book as a teenager I know I would have found it incredibly provocative. Not because I was struggling with my sexuality, but becuase, like most teens, I found sexualtiy and relationships, as John Irving said, incredibly confusing and even a bit frightening. And at heart, Miseducation is all about figuring those things out for yourself and overcoming the fear.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 15, Feb 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
Just making a point of telling everyone that I am going to try and complete the YALSA Hub reading challenge. You can read more about it here, but what it boils down to is I have to read 25 books by June 22nd. That’s totally do-able, so long as I don’t get too distracted. Like all librarians, there are so many books I want to read, but I have a house to keep in order and baby to look after (although she frequently gets read aloud to from my books while she plays) and myriad other obligations and hobbies (we should have new bees in a month or so!!). Since I haven’t done much reviewing on this blog (mostly because the books I have been reading so far don’t relate so much to my library career as they do to my child-rearing career) I thought I would review the books that I read for the challenge here. Hopefully I’ll keep up a good, steady stream.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 08, Feb 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
Just a few links this week to share.
This one from Stephen’s Lighthouse is a pyramid of learning showing how much students retain of a lesson depending on how you present it. I think this is informative and bears remembering when you are doing lesson planning. I think the point is not to discourage you from ever lecturing or stopping required reading so much as encouragement to be sure you are using a broad range of teaching methods.
While I am not a writer and never will be, I found this response to Philip Roth telling an aspiring writer not to bother very inspiring and humorous. I think the underlying message is good no matter what you do: you have to try and if it’s between giving up and doing something you are passionate about then go for the passion.
I came across this article in the class I’m taking through ALSC on information literacy. I thought it was very interesting that they used anthropologists to help create and execute the study. Their findings that students aren’t nearly as research savvy as we like to think is also very interesting. I can’t say I’m surprised having seen what skills high schools students in an elite prep school come away with (or don’t). The findings also remind me that kids always seem to be a lot more tech savvy than they really are.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 04, Feb 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
So I guess that new bookless library that is going to open soon in San Antonio is causing a bit of a titter in the media – in and out of Libraryland. If you haven’t heard about it you can read a bit about it here on NPR’s website. The story has now run on NPR’s All Things Considered and also on APM’s Marketplace. I think my husband even told me he saw something about it on Gizmodo.
I thought, however, that the idea was interesting in light of two other blog posts I read on The Ubiquitous Librarian and on Censored Genius. Admittedly they aren’t exactly about the topic of ditching books, but they have ties to it. And they got me thinking about adding my two cents to the whole maelstrom.
I guess what irritates me about this whole debate is that it should be a non-argument because places like this new bookless library are really outliers on one end of a spectrum where most libraries fall somewhere in the middle. We should remember that library services are varied. We offer readers’ advisory and we offer computer classes. We offer study space and collaboration space. In the end I don’t think anyone, except for a very few outliers, are advocating that we drop everything in favor of buying the latest and greatest technology or that we abandon books altogether.
In some ways my irritation hearkens back to my thoughts on how librarians (or at least the slice of Libraryland I happen to follow) like to predict the next big thing in technology. That isn’t our job, though. And neither is going bookless when that isn’t a fit with your institution’s mission. I’m 100% for being innovative and looking ahead to provide services your patrons couldn’t even articulate a need for. But at the end of the day you need to take into account your community’s or institution’s culture. Know thyself.
In fact maybe this ties in with the blog post I read about on Hi Miss Julie about recognition and outrage at people getting lots of it for shiny new ideas that don’t really relate to the day to day literacy that goes on in libraries. I get irritated when people try to argue against the (imagined?) bookless revolution, too, by essentially saying that libraries are all about books and how can we even think about implementing technology? I understand that Miss Julie wasn’t really making that argument (in fact her point had nothing to do with the future of libraries debate at all) and that she is in a unique position as a children’s librarian. But we also need to recognize that we are living in a digital age. Even children will have some exposure to technology and need the skills to cope with a digital world. It doesn’t really matter if we personally like the idea of using screens and gadgets. They’re going to, and if that is what we need to encourage their literacy and build their information literacy skills, then that’s what we need to use. Especially if that’s what our institution’s or community’s culture demands.
I touched on this a bit in my piece about crossover from my parenting research. The thing about our patrons these days it that they are becoming as much creators of information and content as they are consumers of it. In Brian Mathews’ piece on The Ubiquitous Librarian he says:
At Virginia Tech we’re positioning ourselves to not only provide content, but to support content production. We think of this as not only about access to information, but also about enabling the creation of new knowledge. We’re evolving from a warehouse model toward a studio model.
And this is what we need to take into consideration when we add gadgets, books, and anything else to our library space and collections. This is how people interact with the world these days- through books, through the Internet, through Facebook, through crafting, through Tumblr, and through a million other content creators and aggregators.
I guess the crux of all this is that I believe libraries are more community hubs of learning, and always have been, than they are bastions of literature. Sure we offer books. But that isn’t the only way people learn and connect, now or in the past. Despite all the heated arguments for libraries being 100% books or 100% technology, no library really is. We all fall in the middle. With the exception of that one in San Antonio, of course.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 01, Feb 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
I guess this week I was really drawn to some blog posts I read. Here’s a list of a few that I found particularly relevant and interesting:
From the Censored Genius on what Apple can teach libraries. Think customer service. It’s very tongue in cheek, but under it all there’s a good point that libraries are ultimately in customer service and should act like it.
Funny video about QR Codes. Because they suck and need to go away.
Excellent advice about creating good displays. Enough with the tschotskes. Found this one through Twitter.
I agree with Andy Woodworth about why blog. I also think that one of things he says, about wanting to say bold things even if others don’t agree, fits in with my desire to call people out on their shenanigans this year. I’m tired of putting up with not calling spades spades and I appreciate that Andy does that on his blog.
Just as a little added piece here at the end I found this through Sue Polanka (I think) about EasyBib adding a new learning module of sorts. It could be interesting/useful. I would like to come back to it and look at it more in depth, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Research Ready.