Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Trials of Being a Media Snob

A few Saturdays ago the local movie theater near me had a special viewing of the newest straight-to-DVD Disney flick, Cinderella III: A Twist in Time.

That's right, number three. What, you missed the second one?

The show was free, was rated G, and I needed something to do on a Saturday morning while my husband, a medical student, was busy at the hospital. So I packed up the troops (21-month-old girl, 4-year-old boy) and headed down to Lowes'.

What to think? The whole shebang was sponsored by Radio Disney, kids were wearing costumes, everyone got free balloons at the end. Pretty wholesome, tame stuff. And yet I felt the Heavy Hand of Guilt hovering over my head the entire time.

To wit:

1. I felt guilt because I was taking my kids to what amounted to a giant advertisement for a DVD, Mr. Walter Disney's Version of the World, and cheesy radio DJs. Shudder.

2. I felt guilt because I was exposing my daugther to Prissy Princesses. And my inner feminist said that this was a Very Bad Thing.

3. I felt guilt because I was the only one who noticed that the animated Prince had been given very big eyelashes in the close-up shots, giving him an eerie resemblance to Speed Racer. You know, this guy:

Look at those lashes! They're the size of meadowlarks!

I was a bad, bad mom who couldn't stop snickering the whole while.

Should I have felt this way? Or should I just sit back and relax? As my advisor told me back in library school, anybody who wants to work with kids and does nothing but listen to NPR and watch PBS is going to have a hard time of it.

Someday I'll be able to teach my kids all about Irony and Pop Culture Omnipresence, they'll be snickering in the back row with me. Until then, I suppose . . .

If Jenna Bush Wrote a Young Adult Novel . . .

This is what it might be like. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Children's Literature In Your Pants

A few days ago, bookshelves of doom pointed me to John Green's video blog, which he shares with his brother and to which I have since become heavily addicted. A few days ago John featured a long bit about the "In Your Pants" literature game. Basically, you find book titles that go very well with the phrase "in your pants" tacked on to the end. John went around his house and found a bunch of books that play this game well, and presented them to the camera. (The best part is watching him desperately try to keep a straight face while doing this.)

Watching this, of course, made me immediately run to my own bookshelves to find titles that could play. (My husband's response as I eagerly held them over my head was to sigh heavily and mutter something about "immaturity." Okay, fine.)

Of course, 99% of my books are for kids, and the problem was that too many of them worked. Take these, for example:

The Tale of Two Bad Mice In Your Pants
(very, very bad mice)

What Katy Did In Your Pants
(the thrilling tell-all confessional!)

Millions of Cats In Your Pants

Nobody Asked Me If I Wanted A Baby Sister In My Pants
(it's only common courtesy to ask)

And Finally . . .

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day In Your Pants

So, boys and girls . . . can you think of any other good ones?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Go, Greased Lightning!

That's right -- your eyes aren't fooling you -- it's a library book cart with a spoiler, fuzzy dice, and . . . . um, afterburners. Just in case things get revvin' in the stacks.

It's all part of the Overshelved comic strip's first-ever Pimp My Book Cart contest. I first heard about this thing back in November, and I've been waiting excitedly ever since to see the results. Was this red-hot beauty the winner? Only by clicking here will you ever know for sure.

Mmmm . . . tasty.

Monday, January 22, 2007

In Which Brooke Returns from the Dead to Prattle On About the ALA Youth Media Awards

Okey-dokey, so I kinda dropped out of the kidlitosphere for a while there, but I have a good reason for doing so: The Evil Demons of Morning Sickness. Yea, verily -- I am expecting a baby in July (this would be #3 for me). This week is one of the first that I've been able to withstand the aroma of garlic, ginger, eggplant, and salsa. Posting on a blog was one of those little luxuries that fell by the wayside in the name of settling dramatically on a couch, putting a lily-white wrist to my fevered brow, and moaning for hours on end.

But I'm back now, with a passle of Forgotten Books with which to regale you all. In the meanwhile, let's get down to business about the ALA Youth Media Awards:

I've Got a Lot To Say About The Newbery Medal

This is the biggest, baddest, oldest kidlit award of 'em all, and this year the winner and honor medals were all bestowed on white female authors who wrote novels with white female protagonists.


And the committee that picked these was comprised mostly of . . . ? (cough)

Aww, but I'm being persnickety. I'm very happy with the winners -- this is the first time in my career as a children's librarian that I've read all of the Newbery winners ahead of time -- and they're all quite excellent (two of them, Rules and Hattie Big Sky, made my personal list of favorites for 2006). You won't go wrong putting them in the hands of any young reader . . . unless that reader happens to be a boy.

The winner:
The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
I read this over Christmas, having felt a bit of sixth-sense buzz about it. It came as no surprise to me that it won the Newbery -- it's a book worthy of the award, and I'm happy to see the committee choose a book that's a solid middle-grade read.

However -- my Inner Critic thought it a tad oversentimental, and that the character of Brigitte wasn't fleshed out enough. In the grand tradition of The Tale of Despereaux, this is an occasion when I feel that the Newbery was given to a slightly overrated book. But, only slightly. Because I'm a schnicklefritz.

Really -- give this thing a well-deserved read. The residents of Hard Pan, California are worth a visit from any of you, and they will all make you want to move to the desert, write essays about tarantula hawk wasps, and eat chili out of a Fritos bag while searching for your own Higher Power.

The runners-up:
Penny From Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm
Yup, no surprises here. I actually received a postcard from Random House before this book was published -- I'm assuming they got my address from the ALSC mailing list -- to pitch it to me as a future Newbery winner. The book merits the honor, but still. Bleh to hype-generating postcards. This is Holm's second Newbery Honor, making her an official Newbery Bridesmaid (and hopefully, someday a Bride). My only suggestion to Holm: Please, PLEASE do not ever again pose for your backflap author photo wearing a vintage-era strapless prom dress in soft focus! PLEASE!!!

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Yay! I'm always getting lots of requests from kids who want books about Fiesty Young Women on the Unforgiving Frontier, and this is one I'm happy to recommend to all of them. The level of research that went into this baby is astounding. Read it and rejoice in the fact that you haven't ever frozen your hands to a waterpump.

Rules by Cynthia Lord
Ahh . . . this is the book I wanted to see win the Medal. But being a runner-up is pretty good, too. It's a tale of a smart kid realizing what she's capable of, and in that sense it kinda reminded me of E.L. Konigsburg's The View from Saturday. And for bonus points, it has a duckie on the cover, and one of the best references to Frog and Toad are Friends ever.

And, Of Course, the Books That I Wish Had Gotten Some Newbery Action:

A True and Faithful Narrative by Katherine Sturtevant
Yeah, Hattie Big Sky has a wealth of historical detail, but it's got nothing on the life and times of Meg Moore.

Why it Didn't Win: That scene where Meg's in bed, thinking about a man's hands going up her shift. Yup, the kiss of death. Plus, most kids have no idea when the Restoration was.

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Hands down, Turner's Eugenedies is the most fascinating, complex protagonist to hit town this year. (Ooooh, and he's so dreamy.)

Why it Didn't Win: It doesn't stand on its own when read apart from its series, blah blah blah blah blah. I can cite precidence on this count in the annals of Newbery Winners: Lloyd Alexander's The High King. Scary, gory, and absolutely incomprehensible if you haven't read the previous four volumes in the series. And yet it won the Medal. Huh.

Sigh . . . I guess Megan Turner will have to find comfort for herself in her legions and legions of ravenous, worshipful fans . . .

The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes
What? You didn't read it? Go find it now! This book excells in its beautiful, clean-cut portrait of a girl longing for home. More poignant than The Higher Power of Lucky and Hattie Big Sky put together.

Why it Didn't Win: There are no funny parts in this book. Not. A. Single. Joke. But it's a runner-up for the Coretta Scott King Award, which makes me rather pleased. I takes what I gets.

Year of the Dog by Grace Lin
Oh, yeah -- remember this book? This lil' cutie was a breath of fresh air for me back at the beginning of 2006. It changed the way I look at Thanskgiving turkey, Vitamin-C pills, and red eggs. I looooove recommending it to kids new to chapter books who love stories about best friends.

Why it Didn't Win: It's written for kids new to chapter books who love stories about best friends. Also, it used a pretty funky font. Newbery committees always look down on funky fonts. (Or, at least they do in Brookeworld.)

And Now for a Few Brief Comments on Everything Else:

The Caldecott Medal went to David Wiesner's Flotsam. I'm cool with it; I didn't see any other picture books that dazzled me as much as that one. But still -- another Wiesner book?!? That makes three wins and two honors for him. Eh, but I love his books so much, I really don't mind. Dude, it's like even the air around him gets more talented as he walks through a room . . .

I was very happy to see the Printz Award go to Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese, and that Mark and Siena Cherson Siegel's To Dance was a Siebert runner-up. Hooray for graphic novels! Hooray for validation! Bring us more of both!

The only Batchelder winner I'm familiar with is Silvana De Mari's The Last Dragon, but I'm happy it got a bit of spotlight, because more people need to read it. Post-apocalyptic novels with elves and dragons should be on everyone's to-read list.

Also, it's about time that the Zelda and Ivy books got some recognition. I hereby give Mad Props to the Geisel Award committee for a job well done.

And, finally, can I say how relieved I was that absolutely no favors were given to The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane? That book gave me the jibblies. I can breathe easier knowing that fewer children will be required to write book reports about Edward Tulane as a school assignment. Or that there will be teachers required to grade said reports.

(Ahh, there it goes . . . in . . . out . . . in . . . out . . .)