Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014, what a year it was

More things happened in 2014 than any year in my personal and professional recent history.

I finished my Ph.D., the culmination of nine and a half years of effort, testing everything about myself.

We moved into our fabulous new library after a year and a half in limbo, and even longer thinking about it. I can't express the difference it has made to the school community.

I served on the 2015 Odyssey audiobook award committee, my first national award committee, for ages 0-18, and was appointed to the 2016 Batchelder award committee for books in translation.

I hosted 500 of my colleagues for the Alabama Library Association annual conference.

I coordinated two USBBY programs for ALA Midwinter and Annual (and, since I was reappointed, will have four more opportunities to put together those over the next couple of years…)

I traveled abroad (to London, Dublin, Mexico City, and Vienna) and domestically (Philadelphia, D.C. -- three times, Las Vegas, Amherst, Key West, and Minneapolis). I don't have any frequent flyer miles left, but it was worth it.

I started coaching some terrific kids for Scholar’s Bowl.

I don't know what 2015 holds, but this year was downright amazing.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

It's been 23 years...

...since the Rodney King verdict. It was my freshman year in college, and it was probably the first time in my life I felt like the world was a completely inexplicable place.

We're obviously still grappling with the same issues of social justice and privilege, but now we have to fight the filter bubble as well. 

Do we know what's going on? It seems to depend largely on who we followed, or friended, sometimes a while back.

Can you breathe or not? Do black lives matter, or not? I hate to think it comes down to algorithms, but it does. It's impossible to make a difference, even on a personal scale, if we don't know what's going on...

So I'm finding things even scarier this time around.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Best books of 2014

This year, my reading has been reactionary. That’s because, for the amazing Odyssey committee,  I’ve been listening to SO much children’s and YA lit.  While I’ve never before been so on top of the young people’s scene, it also makes me want to read some more grown-up stuff. So I’ll start with a sprinkling of young adult titles before I move on to what has made up most of my reading year…

My favorite young adult titles

Books as windows, ya'll...

Gabi, a girl in pieces by Isobel Quintano (2014) 
This debut in diary format is unflinching in telling the story of a southern Californian teen like nothing I’ve ever read before, except maybe Grace Dent’s Diary of a Chav.

Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass by Meg Medina (2013) 
This story is about everything – class, femininity, friendship, self-definition. It’s all told with a sense of humor and proportion, with super-endearing characters.

We were liars by e. lockhart (2014) 
Believe the hype...this was so good that I immediately, upon finishing, started over from the beginning. I still have some issue with the ridiculous privilege of Cadie and her kin, but echoes of King Lear cement it as a modern classic.

Some mysteries, by an Alabama author and a 1.5 American

So not Agatha...

The rented mule by Bobby Cole (2014) 
Cole manages to capture the New South in a way few have done. The landmarks and characters are familiar in the best possible way, and the writing is downright muscular.

The interpreter by Suki Kim (2003) 
I stumbled onto this one after reading Without you, there is no us (2014), Kim’s book about her experiences teaching in an English-language school for the children of the North Korean elite. It’s a fascinating exploration of the immigrant experience, family secrets and fallings-out, and Suzy is fantastically drawn.

Down memory road

It was a great year for memoirs...

How to build a girl by Caitlin Moran (2014) 
I just adore Caitlin Moran. Her Moranthology got me to read Life, the Keith Richards autobiography which gave me an entirely new appreciation of a band I've been listening to for 25 years. This is her first novel, heavily autobiographical, laugh-out-loud funny, and very resonant of the early 90s for those of a certain age.

Maggie and me by Damian Barr (2013) 
One boy’s exuberant coming of age, told through the metaphor of his love/hate relationship with Dame Thatcher, who is at once ruining his life and offering him a role model.

This boy by Alan Shepard (2013) 
Before the welfare state, life was so very different from today.  A heartfelt story about life in an almost-Dickensian austerity Britain, from the former Home Secretary.

Love, Nina by Nine Stibbe (2014) 
Another one for those of a certain age, this collection of letters from a nanny working for a bohemian literary London household conjures up perfect sense-memories of the 80s.

From the U.K., and Australia, too

Okay, my Anglophilia is showing, I think.

The little stranger by Sarah Waters (2009) 
I ripped through Waters’ work this year, but this excellent twisty ghost story for the rational is my favorite.

Thursdays in the park by Hilary Boyd (2012) 
Tripped upon this one in a Waterstone's in the West wonderful to see mature love portrayed so realistically, with palpable and explicable desire.

The house on fortune street by Margot Livesy (2008) 
The overlapping layers of lives of the individuals in Livesy’s novel are stunning.

The third wife by Lisa Jewell (2014) 
An intricate thriller with Jewell’s trademark individualistic characters, exploring crazy complex family relationships and the oblivious self-centeredness of middle aged men.

The one plus one by JoJo Moyes (2014) 
A slowly blossoming love story, told over the course of an ill-fated road trip, involving four idiosyncratic characters with foibles all their own. This may be my very favorite of the year.

The sopranos by Alan Warner (1999) 
Not David Chase, it’s schoolgirls on the loose before a choir competition in Edinburgh. These girls are shocking. There’s a follow-up, All the bright stars in the sky (2011), too. 

The last anniversary by Liane Moriarity (2006) 
Like everyone else stateside, I read The husband’s secret (2013) first, but this one is my favorite.  It also has a killer postscript. I want more Australian books. It’s terrific to read genre fiction from a different but not dissimilar culture. 

Compared with 2012 and 2013, it's been an overwhelmingly female, overwhelmingly British reading year...maybe I'll shake things up a bit in 2015. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Check out our new digs

Pretty swell, huh? The kids are already right at home...

Lots of fine-tuning to go, but what a space for inquiry! 

Monday, November 17, 2014


I have had more things to do than at the moment, but not quite the sensation of everything converging into one big due date. That would be Wednesday!

We started moving into the new library last week. We have to be out of our temporary space by Wednesday, but we're still operating full-bore *while* we move. It's sort of crazy-making.

November 1 was last day for 2015 Odyssey award submissions, so I've been listening like a madwoman, and probably will be until that award announcement at Midwinter. I also started listening to Serial over the weekend, and all I can say is that committee work has ruined me for NPR and radio reporting forever.

I didn't make the trek to the YALSA Lit Symposium in Austin this past weekend. It's the first one I've missed, but the airlines weren't being accommodating. But I 'm headed out Wednesday, to National Harbor outside D.C. for our USBBY board meeting Thursday and then to hang out until ALAN Monday and Tuesday. So, irony of ironies, I'll be moved into the new library, but not able to get things fine-tuned until after Thanksgiving...

Last weekend, I celebrated the end of the doctoral stuff with a little fire. I burned all my survey instruments. It was quite cathartic.

Meanwhile, I'm refreshing at the queue for the university reader pretty much all the time, since that's the very last thing before my degree posts and I get a raise! I'm number 109, but they've plowed through 20 or so in a couple of days, so I have hope that will happen soon.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Pebble: a year with wearble technology

Last year, I bought a Pebble watch. I liked the fact it worked with iOS as well as Android and was a Kickstarter project. At around $100, it seemed a bargain. Little did I know, I might had made a smartest decision re wearable technology.

The Pebble is open to developers. At first, I was all about the watch faces. I love the German language version in particular. There are apps which you can use to trigger your camera, compass application which tell you what direction you are headed in, a Magic 8 ball app for portents. You can use eight apps at a time.

With my Pebble, I became a total convert to the wristwatch. If I was waiting for a text or a call, I could put away my phone. My buzzing little wrist would alert me. You can get really granular with what triggers alerts on your phone, which then sends them to your wrist to make it work for you. There were some mis-steps -- the time I accidentally started playing Ella Fitzgerald when I was trying to check the time in the middle of a standardized test comes to mind. But it is amazing how liberating this tool, which has the potential to be a shackle, actually is in practice.

What everyone always wants to know: the fitness apps. A couple of years ago, everyone was about little digital bracelet pedometers. I have friends who are always checking their FitBits or Fuelbands. Frankly, I wasn't curious, and I only just downloaded the My Steps fitness app with the Apple announcements. I learned that I walk more than I thought I did, especially at home.

Several people have asked me if I'm going to buy the Apple watch. But I feel like I am charging this eink one all the time, and the battery predictions of the Apple are pretty dire at a quarter to a fifth the life per charge of my Pebble. It almost makes me want one of those Rolexes that winds itself from your wrist motions.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Old school

I took on an additional extracurricular role this fall, coaching our high school's scholar's bowl team. We have our last county tournament today, but basically my Wednesdays and Thursday have been spent with a bunch of smarty pants kids, mostly boys.

There are differences from my own scholar's bowl days 25 years ago. Looking at those, you can practically hear the coaches thinking about ways to increase collaboration -- "worksheets" of twenty questions which whole teams (six players, including the two alternates) work to complete in two minutes and "bouncebacks" where opposing teams can "steal" bonus points, so they have to listen to the other team's bonus questions.

The content itself isn't that different, and neither are the skills. There's a lot of recall, a lot of drill and memorization of dry facts like names and dates. So basically, it's the embodiment of everything they keep telling us twenty first century learning is NOT.

So I spend most of my days showing kids how to find information using external sources, but then I have these afternoons concerned with what students can do without tools. It is cognitively dissonant, but very very fun.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Like Coming Home

I have the BEST gig. Sometimes, I forget that.

I have been spending time lately in other areas -- capital L Librarianship, international children's literature, advocacy, and I have been spending more time at school on administrative tasks (whole school, not library -- technology planning, state standards, pulling together emergency curriculum). Not to mention my far-from-ideal temporary space. With all these preoccupations, sometimes I forget what an incredible lot of great work school librarians are doing all over...

That's why this was the perfect time for me to go back to School Library Journal summit. I have been to many of these, in Chicago twice, in Scottsdale, Fort Lauderdale, Crystal City. They are always stellar. And seeing all these librarians from all over, here on the weekend and most on their own dime, to improve the libraries in their schools is inevitably heartening. But this time it was like a homecoming. So many old and new friends, it felt like half the people I knew were in the room...and it has given me some courage I've, frankly, been lacking.

I know I was more audacious in my old position. I had tenure, I had a body of colleagues in the district, including the terrific Holly Whitt, who won the SLJ/Lego Build Something Bold! Award at the Summit.  I had central office people I knew I could ask for help. Things are different in a smaller district, and I've appreciated how that helps the students. Things are weird on the state level, too, with more bodies titularly working on library media but with what results? Not to mention that I have spent much of the past two years biting my tongue, when I moved into a temporary space with poor climate control, termites, and leaks, when my principal didn't give me materials funds last year, when I had 147 students assigned to the library for classes this year. I'm a team player, but I'm not a magician. 

There are a lot of question marks with the 1:1 iPad deployment slated for the spring and with the new facility. I had a teacher last week tell me she hated the idea of me putting old books on the new shelves. I am downright terrified to report that one of the PCs has a virus, because that will mean it might be taken away, never to return, and then we'll be down to two. These are issues about resources, but they are very real. So to hear from boots-on-the-ground librarians who had great out-of-the-box ideas was really inspiring, and it's given me the strength I needed to work towards more and better support for our students. It's the students who only have access to three PCs instead of the state's1:75 guideline, which would give us at least twelve. It's the kids who suffer when I don't dip into my own pocket for the latest Rick Riordan (which I did last year, when I was feeling luckier and more generous). It's the kids who need to learn better information skills even when the assignments are a Google-able. 

I need to have some hard conversations. It's not something that comes naturally to me. But I've left the intellectual cave of my doctoral dissertation and am ready to get back in the swing of things, especially considering how wonderful things CAN be. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

What I've Been Reading Lately...

Blame the Odyssey audiobook award committee work, but I've been reading adult titles almost exclusively over the last few months. It's an antidote to all the children's books I've been listening to...

Since Mexico City, I've been all about suspense. I steeped myself in some Sarah Rayne (What Lies Beneath, House of the Lost, The Roots of Evil), F. G. Cottam (The Colony).

I read the wonderfully creepy and atmospheric Long Lankin in Washington, and also pretty much all of Sarah Waters in a big gulp. I had encounters with Affinity early on, and had avoided her, but I found Fingersmith and The Night Watch much more compelling, and The Paying Guests was a particular treat.

In Vienna, it was a British women's literature binge after a stop at W.H. Smith in Heathrow. I read Shopaholics to the Stars (which ends with a cliffhanger! more Becky Bloomwood stateside), The Third Wife (which was as terrific as I'd anticipated), and The One Plus One, which was an incredible feat of storytelling but seems to have lost its titular article in the U.S. edition. I adore JoJo Moyes' work and am thrilled her books are being reissued stateside with more neutral covers.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


We spent fall break in one of the world's most civilized cities.

There was reading material everywhere...

Cultural landmarks...
A cat cafĂ©...

A Vermeer...

...but there were still selfies!

(at the mumok modern art museum, but still!)

Friday, October 3, 2014

A scary October!

I spend way too much time looking at my calendar, and this month it's scaring me silly!

I'm the new sponsor for our school's Scholar's Bowl team and we're deep in the fall season -- I spent the two last Thursday evenings and all day Saturday with those terrific kids. I think I got some cred as coach when "A Modest Proposal" popped up in competition after I drilled them on it just last week. It's taking me way back to my own high school days, and I'm realizing how much participating in something which showcased my own strengths meant to me at that age. And at school, it's Homecoming week -- the kids (and faculty) here go all out.

I went as Coraline get up for costume day Wednesday and seeing who recognized "me" was very gratifying.

I have to make a dash up to DC this weekend for the Newseum Teacher Open House... come if you're in the area for an introduction to their great teacher resources and some superior swag.

Want to come to gorgeous Point Clear for our 2015 Alabama Library Association Conference next April? Program proposals are open...

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Paying Guests, and The Lodger

I lost most of the weekend to Sarah Waters' The Paying Guests. I'd been dying to dive in since I read the first chapter online. I think it is so difficult to do historical fiction well, but Waters always pulls it off. But WHO assigned the subject heading for this one? They are really far from the mark here.

I've often worried that we as librarians are too consumed with the new-new, without realizing that, for our patrons, more *is* new. The Paying Guests reminded me a lot of something on a similar theme, but in the public domain I'd read earlier, Marie Belloc Lowndes' The Lodger, about a couple of older people trying to hold body and soul together in the midst of a crime wave.

For something a century old, The Lodger more than holds up. The suspense keeps ratcheting, until the resolution,  if it can termed that, in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussand's wax museum. Two books on one theme, written a century apart, but both are terrific.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

IBBY, Part Four (Wrap-Up)

I wrote earlier that the Mexican speakers were not inhibited about being politically correct...Saturday's plenary session started with a panel that talked about the current emphasis on inculcating values through literature. The speakers asserted that racial and gender equality, values and virtues must be made explicit to make it into print. Would Crime and Punishment be published today? Today, the speaker suggested, you must empathize with the landlord.

Mexico was described as "in the midst of a boom of promoting reading with anti-pleasure tools." Another speaker tackled the emphasis on literal interpretation trumping aesthetic appreciation, citing a test his son was given on the poem "La Paloma" by Rafael Alberti  with very Accelerated Reader-type concerns like "how many times did the dove make a mistake?" The hollow rhetoric of slogans like "if you read, you are alive" and "I read, therefore I exist" were denounced as fallacious. Access to books and materials was described as more critical, and one speaker said movingly, "Reading cannot be a prescription, it must be a seduction."

I was especially interested in the presentation of two German studies surrounding ebooks. A 2012 ethnographic study interviewed 500 parents who were using ebooks, concluding that emedia does not replace but supplements print. It could, however, help reach underprivileged families by making material available, and ereading also tends to involve more fathers in reading aloud to children. A 2011 study was concerned with ereading and older pupils, and found that electronic formats were more attractive in the abstract to the students and increased their choice of longer books in particular. The speaker believed that sustaining the student's interest in reading involved more work and intervention on the part of the teacher. She concluded that the use of ereaders facilitates contact with books, sometimes even providing another, second chance to connect pupils with reading material, and that the electronic format's relevance to children's lives was important..

A practitioner breakout session followed, and the Mexican librarians I met were amazing committed and passionate about getting people in the communities they servev reading, and also particularly kind about translating their thoughts or those of their colleagues into English for those of us who didn't speak Spanish.

Saturday's concurrent session included a presentation from Ernie Bond and Patricia Dean of Salisbury University and their work identifying a wider spectrum of literature relating to environmental stewardship. They inaugurated the Green Earth Book Awards which focus on giving readers the license to do something and not just read about nature. The winners can be international, but must be distributed in U.S. Australia and France also have environmental book awards.
Bozena Kolman Finzgar, a Slovenian librarian, presented her unit using fairy tales to spark reading motivation and creativity. Her work with fifth graders centers around alternate re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood, including variations by the Brothers Grimm, and the French and Slovenian versions, as well as Toby Forward's The Wolf Story: What Really Happened to Little Red Riding Hood and Svetlana Mararovic's The Red Apple
Finzgar's library in Radovljica circulates an impressive 20 items per person per year and offers a program for "books on holiday," distributing reading materials at swimming pools, camps, and hotels.

Sophie Hallam of the Book Trust in the U.K. spoke about her M.A. dissertation work on Pop Up Profits CIC, a nonprofit working to improve literacy rooted in schools, communities, and public spaces. Pop Up uses a two-stage model, first introducing diverse and contemporary texts into schools prior to author visit outside classrooms. Then they work with families in the Islington and Camden communities, areas where as many as sixty percent of students are English language learners, to create visual and oral responses to those stories. This culminates in a two-day public festival with storytellers, poets, and artists. Hallam spoke of the importance of literacy practice in a third space and in using non-curricular texts, without learning objectives which eclipse enjoyment. The emphasis on reading for pleasure is important as U.K. students tend to see reading as a top-down, passive activity.

Beth Cox, also from England, had spoken earlier in the conference about Inclusive Minds, her consultancy which works with publishers like Child's Play to include images of differently abled children in picture book narratives in naturalistic ways.

The congress closed with two incredible events. The first was a performance by music students in the gorgeous art deco Palacio de Belles Artes. One symphony was specially commissioned for the conference and honored Malala Yousefi, who also shared a recorded video response to the congress and the performance. The closing ceremony was held at the Franz Meyer Museum, which had three special exhibits in conjunction with the Congress -- Fifty Mexican Illustrators, Drawing the World (my favorite), and a Nami Island Concourse exhibit.

The delegates from New Zealand made an enthusiastic pitch for the next biennial congress in Auckland, and as much as I dread the flight, it IS penciled in on my calendar.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What I read in Mexico City...

I stocked up on ebooks to read at IBBY, and got to some that had be languishing on my iPad, too.

11/22/1963 (2011). It had been a long time since I'd read any Stephen King, but I loved this one. Time travel, swing dancing, the 1960s -- my favorite bit was the Rolling Stones "slip" which gives "George" away to his beloved. Top notch plotting and well-researched, too.

The Dinner (2013) and Summer House with Swimming Pool (2014), both by Herman Koch I love anything about Holland, so I had been sort-of saving The Dinner. Though I loved the scene-setting, and the narratorial voices were strong, I really didn't get the hype surrounding either, but it is nice to read something in translation.

Rustication (2014) by Charles Palliser. Nicely done suspense, set on a marshy promontory in Victorian England, with a dissolute protagonist who has been sent down from Cambridge for unrevealed offenses. It's drawn out, and chilling, with revelation after revelation, and doesn't pull punches.

What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw (1957), The Body in the Library (1942), They Came to Bagdad (1951), and The Murder at the Vicarage (1930) Agatha Christie is my security blanket, and as such re-reading her is something never appreciated more than when away from home.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

IBBY, Part Three

One word that keeps coming up here is cosmovision, which in think can be translated as worldview. The Mexican speakers, in particular, don't shy away from topics that have become accepted without question in the U.S. -- didacticism, the inculcation of politically correct messages through children's literature, the many market forces guiding children's literature. The state here has been taking affirmative action to foster inclusion, which is perceived by authors and academics as trying to create a homogenous society, rather than one valuing diversity.

Hans Christian Anderson winner David Almond from northeastern England spoke about how, thanks to the exploratory minds & flexible imaginations children possess, the transferability of experience exists. "All places *are* significant, all places *are* the center of the world." You can tell children what you are intending to mean, he said, but a well-told story will convey meaning without didacticism. Almond said that by writing about tiny things as well as universal concepts, meaning comes down to incidental details, but this is subtle in a world that doesn't value that. He feels that, in observing the messiness of his own process, school inspectors would not think he is doing anything worthwhile in his writing shed.

In the concurrent sessions, I especially enjoyed learning about how multiculturalism is conveyed in children's literature in South Korea and Japan, and am now wary of reduction of culture to 5Fs: "food, fashion, folklore, famous people, festivals."

Tilka Jamnik, president of Slovenian section of IBBY, spoke on a topic closest to my own research. She asked 58 students, about 12 years old, to read paired texts, including comics and tradition narratives, to gauge their comprehension. Jamnik found that the comics format encourage children to read more, but the non-linear format does not encourage improved comprehension. "It seems pupils are more superficial or less exact in verbalizing what they have read.  Just because they reach for these formats doesn't mean they understand."

I was also really engaged with Junko Yokota's comparative study of visual narratives in picture book design, going back to nineteenth century mechanical books attempting motion. Her discussion of digital formats and how engagement and motivation can work against comprehension was very perceptive. Yokota's colleague Ruth Quiroa discussed wordless picture books, free from specific language. Three of the 2014 Caldecott honors were wordless or nearly wordless, and these are the kind of books that travel quickly from one country to the next as they require minimal translation. I have always be interested in these types of books, and in visual literacies and books promoting higher order thinking that are not text-based. I learned IBBY now has a silent book prize, which is also exciting.

There has also been a big distinction drawn between books as literature and books as pedagogical tools. Quiroa feels we need both, but I think I am beginning to see this as a tension that lives between the classroom and the library. The reading levels are so erroneous on some of the best books, students are fed grade-appropriate pablum instead. It's a revelation for me.

Friday, September 12, 2014

IBBY, Part Two

Last fall, delighted that IBBY would be so close, I bought airfare to Mexico City, before I saw the registration fees. I got a little sticker shock. $665 for the early-bird? But this is a different sort of conference. There's aren't add-ons, no ticketed events, many meals are provided, and frankly, the amenities justify conference registration fees. There is constant availability of coffee and tea (in ceramic mugs), snacks, bottled water as well as nicely branded bags and pens.

Also included is simultaneous translation. It's like the U.N.. You leave an ID and get a headset. The interpretation switches between English and Spanish depending on the language of the speaker. The distinction between interpreters reminded me of differences between translators.

This whole experience makes me cognizant we do things on a shoestring stateside. I'm guilty of it myself, planning a conference -- what can we cut? Who can we get to speak cheaply, or for little? It's our society, isn't it? I am suddenly feeling the small and false economies we relentlessly pursue in the market economy.

I've also become really aware of other countries' national engagement in reading promotion in general. The NYTimes piece about relative educational attainment seem aptly timed. I'm dogged by a persistent sense that the U.S. is behind is developing countries in particular posses this joy in education, in being an educated person, whereas we seem to have no real pride in culture, no shared culture, no interest in culture of other countries, just a ceaseless emphasis on work and satisfying the faceless corporate overlords. I think about the great library-building industrialist, Andrew Carnegie, and how he would have despised Thomas Friedman's column extolling the role of corporate mentor over educators' in shaping young people's successes, and our disappointingly offhand and cavalier president who doesn't seem to take anything seriously. I spent an unhappy night feeling down about this, but I'm returning today to be surrounded by optimists, to those whose believe in the abstract good, and that reading and education are part of that.

I used to feel very fortunate to be born where and when I was -- I'm still happy about when, but as I get older and see more distinctions between what has become American culture and that still existing elsewhere, I'm not so happy about where.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

IBBY, Part One

The last international conference I attended, Forbidden Fruit in the U. K. in 2008, was very small, so I was surprised at the scale of the International Board on Books for Youn People biennial event. There are more than 500 elegates from 65 countries, including many Mexican nationals who are attending in conjunction with an effort to jump-start intensive reading promotion as part of extensive education reform.

We went to the National Library, a gorgeous space blending old and new, enclosing the colonial courtyard with a rather industrial ceiling, the darkening sky peeking out just between. Before dinner, we saw an exhibit about Jella Lipman and the founding of IBBY. It covered her personal history first as a pioneering editor, then her fleeing the Nazis, culminating in her work in rebuilding post-War German society. I hadn't thought about the rarity of pre-Reich twentieth century German children's literature -- much of it destroyed -- or the Reich-era literature, which Lipman was sure to include in her collection but designated for "adults only." The castle outside Munich which houses the collection she began is a place I now desperately want to go...

And I also learned about the role of German author Erich Kostner in founding IBBY, reminding me of the terrific book Lisa and Lotte (the basis for The Parent Trap), which in one of those wonderful coincidences, I possessed in an Apple paperback edition. Was it the first piece of translated literature I read? Perhaps. 

We had a lovely meal there, with cream of Camembert soup with raspberries a definite highlight. After dinner, we heard the Hans Christian Anderson award speeches -- Japanese fantasy author Nahoko Uehashi, cultural anthropologist by profession, who did Australian fieldwork on aboriginal storytelling. She spoke of "multicultural coexistence," a lovely way to embody the goals of the IBBY organization and its national affiliates. Then we heard from the amazing Brazilian illustrator Roger Mello, who was raised in utopian Brasilia, in an era when a book could get you "disappeared." Lots of food for thought already...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Books I Wish I Own But I Don’t

There’s a meme going around the biblioblogosphere...books you don’t own, but want. My contribution:

Books I Can't Afford:

Women are Beautiful (1975) by Garry Winogrand
I kept this book checked out for months from my college art library. So ‘70s, street style before it was a thing. Gorgeous, and prohibitively expensive.

The Girl From the Candle-Lit Bath (1978) by Dodie Smith
My public library had a horrifically ugly large print copy, but it disappeared, probably weeded. I haven’t seen a decent copy for an affordable price. I’m waiting on a re-issue. 

Exactitudes (2002) by Arie Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek
This is described as a typology of clothing presentation, as collected over time by a duo of Dutch photographers. Yes, I know these photos (and more) are available online, but something about having the physical book appeals. 

Zelda: An Illustrated Life: The Private World of Zelda Fitzgerald (1996) by Zelda Fitzgerald and Eleanor Anne Lanaham
I’ve never managed to get my hands on this one, with lots of her art, by Scott and Zelda’s granddaughter.

Books Where I Own a Different Edition

All Change (2013) by Elizabeth Jane Howard  
The publication of the fifth book was delayed, again and again. When it came it was enormous, a doorstop of a thing with the Mantle imprint. I held on to it, waiting until I need something especially comforting to read. Well, the Cazalets go bust and lose their home, so this wasn’t that. I’ll never find a version to match the rest of my Cazalet Chronicles (Washington Square Press), it doesn’t look like they are being re-issued.

The Provincial Lady in America (1934) by E.M. Delafield
I’d like a copy of this to match my other four Provincial Lady books. I have the Heinemann editions. There’s not a Heinemann edition of this one in WorldCat.

Waiting for the Price to Drop:

The Third Wife (2014) by Lisa Jewell
I’ve learned my lesson about paying $20 for a UK paperback, when the price will drop to pence within the year. Insult to injury, it was just 2 GBP for Kindle for weeks, but it’s not available digitally state-side.

Liberty British Colour Pattern: A Voyage of Discovery Through the Archives and Memorabilia of the Last Great Emporium for Innovative British Design (2013)
It’s a recent title, so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to find one for a little less.

Two Rizzoli titles from former Ralph Lauren stylist Mary Randolph Carter:

Never stop to think... do I have a place for this: how to make room for all the stuff that makes your home warm, happy, fun and one-of-a kind (2014)
A paen to collecting, or to clutter.

Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of A Misspent Life: How to live creatively with collections, clutter, work, kids, pets, art, etc... and stop worrying about everything being perfectly in its place. (2010)
How can you not love that title? 


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Get festive!

It's the season for book festivals...

Labor Day weekend, the National Book Festival will be held, not on the National Mall as is traditional, but at the Convention Center. I'm curious to know how that goes. My can't-miss authors include: Raina Telgemeir, Jacqueline Woodson, Bryan Collier, Gene Luen Yang, Rita Williams-Garcia, Jack Gantos and Kate DiCamillo.

That same weekend, the AJC-Decatur Book Festival will transform the very walkable downtown of suburban Decatur. They've got Pat Conroy (who I'm just realizing I've never seen speak...), Emily Giffin, and Lev Grossman.

I have to go to visit in-laws over Labor Day, and we have another tripped plan for our fall break, so I won't make the Southern Festival of Books this time, either -- going last year was my first time, and a real treat. It doesn't look like they have their author list up yet, but it's October 10-12, in downtown Nashville on the Warm Memorial Plaza.

While I won't make these three of my favorites this year, it makes me happy just to know they're going on...bookish people, talking about books, together.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tell me, what is SO exciting?

You may have seen these images which are making the rounds from Fast Company, "Is this the school library of the future?"

I, for one, am unimpressed.

I just see NO connection whatsoever between decorating and the quality of connection and student support in school library spaces.

The article offers scant little support for the assertion. So it has presentation equipment? How is that new? Ten years ago, I used to haul around a desktop on a cart and a digital project. I had a very log ethernet cable. Same result.

If "the school library didn't get a lot of use," I really don't see how that will change because of aesthetic improvements (if you can call it that -- this library will date SO quickly.) I put that on the school librarian entirely.

I believe that amazing things could very well have happened in the old space, with the right point-person.

Most of all, I have talked several times about how images of school libraries should always include students.  These don't. And I would rather see a closet filled with active and engaged students than some geometric shelving.

Don't drink the kool-aid, ya'll.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lacy Underpinnings and the Children’s Author: Guest Post on the Wild Things! Blog Tour

Last Tuesday, Wild Things! became commercially available, and children's literature aficionados
everywhere are in for a treat. And there's lots "beyond the book" -- checkout the blog for exclusive videos and other content cut from the print version. Today, Betsy Bird, of Fuse #8 fame, pops in to give us the nitty gritty behind the woman who gave us that child minder we all aspire to be, Mary Poppins. 
Lacy Underpinnings and the Children’s Author

Recently I watched the film Saving Mr. Banks with some friends and, I’ll admit it, I was scared of what I’d see.  I’ve been burned too many times, man.  Children’s authors inevitably end up portrayed on film one of two ways.  Either they’re complete and utter burnouts and wastes of flesh (see: Young Adult and The Door in the Floor) or they’re ootsy cutesy adorable types, all fluffy bunnies and fairy dust (see: Miss Potter and Finding Neverland).  They don’t usually have any depth to them, so I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.  In Saving Mr. Banks the author P.L. Travers is rendered a three-dimensional human being with humor and warmth (thanks in large part to a performance by Emma Thompson that I once heard described as “the spoonful of medicine that makes the sugar go down”). 
The film got some things about the life of Travers right and some things wrong, but that’s to be expected.  Still, it was funny watching the movie knowing what I know about the woman.  You see, we have a section on Travers in our book Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature.  You look at a film like Saving Mr. Banks and what do you see?  An uptight contrarian.  A woman who’ll put a huge Mickey Mouse doll in the corner until he “learn[s] some subtlety”.  Few would watch the film and be aware of some of the stories in her life.
You see, Ms. Travers is one of the honored children’s authors to occupy space in our Sex & Death chapter.  I kid you not.  And which of the two applies to her?  Is it sex or is it death?  It’s sex, baby.  Of course it is.
P.L. Travers lived an adventurous life.  When she wasn’t acting in theater troupes she was writing sexy stories for an Australian newspaper.  I kid you not.  The woman behind Mary Poppins wrote some very saucy stuff.  And heck, I’d write it down for you here but I’ve got to leave you some reason to read my book, don’t I?

It’s not as though Travers was the only author for children with that kind of writing at her beck and call, of course.  Consider the case of Wanda Gag.  Perhaps you are aware of the Bohemian author/illustrator’s best-known book Millions of Cats.  Well, Ms. Gag was quite the person to know.  Bobbed hair and scandalous diary entries and all.  And when it came to sex, Gag knew what she was talking about.  Best of all, her journals were published and some of those entries were impressive.  I’m thinking particularly of an encounter she had on a crowded New York subway that reads like something out of late night Cinemax.

I sincerely doubt we’ll ever see a biopic of Wanda Gag, but then again maybe I’m wrong.  Just a couple weeks ago they announced that the director McG would be directing a movie on the life of Shel Silverstein.  And believe me when I say THAT guy would make for a spicy film indeed.  In fact, everyone in our Sex & Death chapter would be worth reading up on.  But don’t take my word for it.  Best that you check the book out for yourself.
Photo of Wanda Gag from

P.L. Travers playing Tatiana in Midsummer's Night Dream from wikipedia

Who else is going hunting for Wanda Gag's journals? Thanks, Betsy, for letting us know all has NEVER been as tame as it might seem, behind the scenes of children's literature.

And, for reading to the end, you can enter to win a copy of this phenomenal book. I'll draw the winner September 1.

More stops on the Wild Things! Blog tour:
August 5: 100 Scope Notes
August 6: There's A Book
August 8: Guys Lit Wire
Week of August 11: Book Riot
August 11: GreenBeanTeenQueen
August 14: Wendy on the Web
August 18: Into the Wardrobe
August 19: Books 4 Your Kids
August 20: The Book Nest
August 21: Random Chalk Talk
August 22: Children's Corner