Friday, February 27, 2015

Members Only

Today, I'm tickled to be part of the Zest Rockin' Blog Tour, highlighting one of their very fun and just a little irreverent titles, Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects, and Cults -- Exposed! by Julie Tibbott.

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members,” opined Groucho Marx famously. But exclusivity is at the heart of this book that seeks to de-mystify some of the more shadowy organizations that crop up from time-to-time through cultural references, the very sort which appeal so much to teens.

This fun volume from Zest Books takes a scattershot approach to its topic, jumping from spiritualism at Lily Dale to invitation-only senior clubs at Ivy League colleges. It doesn’t talk about Scientology, but I guess that’s practically it’s own volume.
The book is organized alphabetically, assessing each group's threat level, not just in terms of potential harm to others but also in terms of threats to self, which says a lot about the human urge for belonging.  There’s lots of associated content, too, for groups which don’t have their own chapter, and some interesting black-and-white images.
Strangely, I had few personal connections to the chapters. Two of my alma maters are mentioned. There is a passage about the scandalous behavior of Dartmouth SAEs, which was outed a few years ago in the infamous Rolling Stone article, and a chapter about “the Machine,” the Panhellenic alliance that influences so much of life at the University of Alabama. It was only reading this chapter that I realized that an attempt to coordinate elections at college, spearheaded by a Birmingham native, was heavily influenced by the Tuscaloosa political model.
I learned LOTS reading this book -- notably, that the Branch Davidians were an offshoot of the Seventh Day adventists, that there was a super-swanky club in Disneyland, and that a confrontation with California Representative Leo Ryan and his camera crew preceded the infamous Jonestown group suicide.
Members Only was like catnip to my students, who kept asking about the book well before I had it cataloged. This is a great addition to the “speculative knowledge” area of any collection. And best of all, I finally have a print source for students researching Masons or the Illuminati.
Would you like a copy of Members Only for your collection? Zest will be giving one way to one of my dear readers. Enter here, and check out the blog tour for other opportunities to win some great nonfiction for teens.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cluny Brown

Sometimes it's the backlist that of my favorite book bloggers, Simon David Thomas wrote about Margery Sharp Day and Cluny Brown in particular, Set on the eve of the second world war, Cluny Brown follows the high-spirited title character as she is pressed into service, for her own good, by well-meaning relatives. I was really blown away by the spirited characterizations, the delightful plot, but most of all the punctuation! Witness Sharp's command for yourself:

"Lady Carmel sighed. She has taken great pains to keep up her London relations, so that Andrew should have nice houses open to him; but Andrew seemed to scorn nice houses as he scorned deb dances and garden parties. He was too clever for them. Which was very odd,  though Lady Caramel, since for the exactly opposite reason his father hadn't liked parties, either. He said all the girls were too clever for him. Sir Henry has been to precisely two dances in his life: at the first he met his future wife, at the second he proposed to her, and after that he cried off. But at least he realized what dances were for...."
"It must be very sad to be away; but let us hope, only temporarily." (By this oblique reference, Lad Carmel covered the entire European situation and felt that she has said quite enough.)

It was a delight to spend the weekend with Cluny, taking lots of break while dipping in and out of this little volume. The 1940s copies I posses is the perfect size to hold in your hand, barely larger than a category romance. Today, I have no doubt it would be the size of one of Cathy Kelley's doorstops. I guess I've been thinking a lot about the ridiculous size of so many modern books, at their obsolescence though mere girth.

And Cluny Brown was the platonic idea of a used book -- a 71 year old copy, printed and bound just up the road in Kingsport, Tennessee, that was unmarked by foxing, property stamps, names inscribed in Palmer pen, or those awful sticky charity address labels --- and delivered to my home for $5.00.

I can so easily see this transformed into a Peresephone edition. Cluny reminds me of nothing so much as the romantic variant of Monica Dickens' One Pair of Hands. And, in my research, I've learned that their is a film version, Ernst Lubitsch's last with Jennifer Jones and Charles Boyer. It's not on DVD, but I will be scanning TCM listing indefinitely until I catch it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Midwinter, the best ever

What else is there to say about the conference? It seems like an eon since I’ve been back...I was lucky enough to get to write up my favorite things for School Library Journal, so read more about Teen Services Underground and YA Smackdown there -- it's all grassroots, which is especially thrilling.
At the Friday night USBBY event with Sabaa Tahir, the seating did not anticipate the capacity crowd drawn by this debut author. It was especially thrilling to get to introduce USBBY to some of the really exciting, globally-minded youth services librarians out there.

What an author! What a debut!
Our Odyssey deliberations were stimulating and somewhat inevitable. It such a great group of really detail-oriented listeners, our consensus was swift and without contention. For the Youth Media Awards madness, our humble award committee scored front row seats, even in front of the Newbery and Caldecott crews. I’m still not sure how that happened.
Reserved seating...
Stickered up!
Last Monday was a lovely morning of surprises. I was glad the Morris supported my absolute adoration for Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, and the Schneider recognized Gail Giles’ moving Girls Like Us.  I was really thrilled with so many turns this year. Poetry for the Newbery? A picture book for the Stonewall? Six Caldecott honors, including a graphic novel and nonfiction? The times, they are a-changin.

As I think back to Midwinter, my mind lingers on non-library things, like watching kids make snow angels in the middle of a deserted Michigan Avenue late Sunday night, the bellman who was so sure the YMAs would have been cancelled, given that it was the fifth-largest blizzard in recorded Chicago history, and an early-morning conversation with Daniel Nayeri from Workman, about their in-house inventor, 3D printing prototypes and some really innovative board books. It is going to seem an eon until San Francisco, but I can't wait to celebrate with ALL our Odyssey medalists and the other YMA awardees.