Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sunrise today was at 5:59, sunset will be at 8:16

Windy, windy last night, rainy, too; sunny now, though. For a while. Great big shadows across the house next door- must be crows coming between us and the sun.

I'm reading Dark Life, by Kat Falls, right now and am completely caught up in it. I'm only halfway but it's pretty darned good!

It takes place in the future, I'm not sure how far, only that the events that make the book possible haven't yet happened. At some point, there have been massive slides that have sent cities tumbling into the abysses (abysi?) of the ocean floor, severely limiting the amount of earth there is to live and build on. Buildings are crammed with thousands of people living 75 floors into the air, acres of rooms, packed with children housed in them as "boarding rooms". Children who still have parents are allowed to sit in larger rooms to play games, eat meals, on weekends when they come to visit.

There is no room for agriculture, there are few natural resources, people are slathered in various oxides, and no body parts are exposed to the sun. The only people with any access to space of any kind are the ones who have taken to the ocean floor, the Dark Life.

Ty, his family, and other pioneers farm the sea floor using the heat from fumaroles to fence in their land, growing kelp and other foods to keep the Topsiders alive. Like pioneers in our olden days, if they can work the property, fence it and make it work for 5 years, it becomes theirs. Ty is one year away from claiming his own hundred acres when he and the rest of his community are being forced by the people above the sea to find and capture an outlaw who has been hijacking goods the Topsiders need.

I have just gotten to the part where Shade (the head outlaw) has attacked one of the pioneer's homes, knocking out the generators and causing the house to deflate (if you are a science fan, you will really enjoy the descriptions of the way people live down there. Fascinating!) and the farmed fishes to escape and to die.

Ty and his Topsider friend, Gemma, are in it together. She wants and needs a new life and has to find her brother, and Ty has to try and save the only life he knows. Of course they decide they are the only ones who can take care of the Seablite gang and set off to do so.

It's got great science and seems to be a realistic look at what it could be like to live on the bottom of the ocean. How will we adjust to life under that much pressure? Will we adapt in ways never thought of? What happens to sociology when a single culture splits and becomes so different but still dependent on each other?

There are shades of Blindsight (an adult science fiction book by Peter Watt) and the movie Total Recall (which was based on a Philip K. Dick book called We Can Remember it for You Wholesale) but it is still good speculative fiction for kids and teens.

The author is a good storyteller- her explanations and visuals are clear; I can totally imagine what it would be like to live where you can't see without light, where light can even be dangerous, in an environment that no one has mapped yet, and to be able to travel by landmarks that the majority of humans on earth will never know or guess at.

It's a good book for both sexes, lots of adventure, and it's just arrived at the store. Ages 9 and up, this would be a really good book for middle school, too. A great book to add to the science shelf. (Scholastic, $16.99.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 21. 2010

Sunrise was at 6:09 (only the birds knew-it is dark and wet today) and sunset will be at 8:08.

The wind whipped up the lilac bushes last night and in the dark they looked like sheets on a line and smelled like summer. It's been a wet spring (as far as I'm concerned) and although the lilacs came to a full bloom only last week, they are already browning. Bummer. They are so heavy in the rain that the bushes are tipping over and it's too wet to cut any to bring in.

I'm in a dither again about what to read. I started The Historian and it's really good, and long, but I wanted to read something else instead. I spent a couple of days trying to convince myself to read a grown up book and finally gave in and read the YA book I really wanted to read: A Field Guide for Heartbreakers, by Kristen Tracy. I really liked this book. It's got a main character who reminds me of me (I would like to think things have changed with age...) when I was in high school and it has a really engaging first page (and, yes, the rest of the book lives up to the first page).

It's about two girls enrolled in a summer writing program in Prague. Our heroine, Dessy, has just been dumped and her best friend, Veronica, has just dumped her boyfriend, days before the trip abroad. Veronica has all kinds of ideas about what two newly single (high school) girls should be doing in Prague when not working on their stories, most of which have to do with looking for hot men to represent on the man-wall she will be constructing in their room.

Dessy and Veronica have two very different ways of looking at life and how it's used, one often results in chaos and, perhaps, homicide, and one ends up in friendship and, occasionally, romance.

Heartbreak was a lot of fun and filled with craziness. It will definitely appeal to teens who like the Clique series or other books where sarcasm and humor (and some meanness disguised as advice)are in abundance. It may never be a "classic" book but I think there is a place on our shelves for books that are light, funny, and still deal with certain issues.

Veronica leaves wreckage behind her, and Dessy trie to fix it, V. loves fun and is impulsive, D. follows rules. There is much confusion and miscommunication but in this trip to Prague they both find clarity about themselves and that who they are is who they are, and it's fine.

The descriptions of the city are great and it would be a good book to read if you or someone you know may be going to Prague.

I think the author of this book may be coming to the store in June. I'll let you know when I find out for sure. Ages 13 and up. (Hyperion Books, due May 2010.)
Happy Poetry Month to you all! Back when I was taking children’s lit classes at U of O, taught by Barbara Kiefer, we would have a little party at the end of the term. Sometimes we would go to someone’s house for snacks and drinks; sometimes it would be chocolate and poetry in class. One of the poems Barbara recited for us in class has become something I have ingested (along with the associated chocolate) and made part of my cellular structure. And here it is:

homage to my hips, by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips
they need space to move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips
are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

It’s amazing that 26 letters arranged in certain patterns has the ability to change the way one sees the world, isn’t it? I love that there isn’t a period at the end of the poem – it infers that these hips have a lot more to do in this world, so get on with it.

This month is made for poetry, so pull one out, carry it with you, share it with a friend. April 29 is Pocket Poetry Day, and School Library Journal has a number of poems printed in the shape of pockets all ready to be cut out and handed around.


Well, not all the books in this newsletter are going to be poetry related, but this one, Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors, by Caldecott Honor book winners Joyce Sidman and Beckie Prange really needs to be recognized, not just because it’s a cool poetry book, but because it’s a cool SCIENCE poetry book!

The definition of "ubiquitous" is something that is, or seems to be, everywhere at the same time. This is a book of some of the creatures that became the 1 percent to survive extinction, everything from bacteria to human, beetles to coyote, all discussed via poetry with a more prosaic description on the page. Very cool, very lesson plannable, it is one of those books you will keep referring to. And it’s got great endpages with a very different kind of timeline. You will enjoy holding it while you read, too, because the cover has great texture. Please, if you are adding to your science library, make sure you take a look at Ubiquitous. Ages 5 and all the way up! (Houghton Mifflin. $17.00. Available now.)

Kid vs. Squid, by Greg van Eekhout, is one of those books that most preteen boys will love. It is the story of Thatcher Hill, a boy whose summer job is working in a museum of oddities, dusting and cleaning the shrunken heads and mermaid tails: BORING! Until a girl steals one of the artifacts, plunging him deep in an adventure filled with the denizens of the lost Atlantis. Funny, fast paced, adventurous; it’s got mythology, pathos, and mystery- I laughed out loud and can’t wait to pass it along to readers who are finally ready to move on from Wimpy Kid. Ages 8 (proficient readers) and up. (Bloomsbury. $16.99. May 2010.)

I LOVED Jennifer Holm’s new book, Turtle in Paradise. I think Jennifer does the best job of putting the reader right in the story, surrounding you with the history of the time she’s writing about and with details about the characters that really let you bond with them, without making those the point of the story. They unroll and fill in the blanks as you get to know the people in the book.

The time: 1935, the place: Key West, Florida. Her mother has just sent 11 year-old Turtle to live with relatives she has never met in far away Key West, just about as far as a girl can go without leaving the shores of the United States. A bunch of boy cousins, a close knit community, a few encounters with a writer no one’s ever read, and her world changes in amazing ways. It is funny and sad, full of adventure and treasure, and I want everyone to read it. Like Our Only May Amelia (a book based right here in the Pacific Northwest), Turtle’s story is based on one of Jenny’s ancestors, her great-grandmother’s immigration story. Ages 10 and up. (Random House. $16.99. Available May 25, 2010).

Sorta Like a Rock Star, by Matthew Quick, is a wonderful book about hope and joy. Amber’s mom and she have been living in the school bus Mom drives ever since the boyfriend kicked them out of his house. Amber knows it’s only for a while, that her mom is trying to save enough money to rent them a place, but it’s hard. So Amber does what she does best, she spreads hope and optimism to everyone she knows, making the world a little better just by being in it.

When something horrible happens to her little family and she begins to lose her sense of joy in the world, she becomes unsure that there are any real reasons to be happy. An encounter with a Viet Nam Vet at the dog park, a man who never interacts with anyone except his dog, allows her to confide in him and this helps both of them. He teaches her how to write haiku, to think about what’s happening in her life in small pieces and to write about it in 17 syllables, and she gives him a reason to get up every day. Along the way, we see how important one person can be to all the other lives they are a part of.

Quite a touching book, there’s a lot of humor and a lot of sadness, not to mention all that haiku! This will be a really good book to add to the lesson plan lists for National Poetry Month. Ages 12 and up. (Little Brown. $16.99. May 2010.)

I think everyone may have already read this but I’ve only just gotten to it: Evermore, by Alyson Noel. What a book! Book one in The Immortals series, it is all about a girl named Ever who, after a horrible accident that killed her entire family, can hear everyone’s thoughts. She has gone way out of her way to keep from touching or talking to her classmates, filling her ears and head with loud music. The only time the voices in her head stop is when new hunky mystery boy Damen Auguste comes to her school. When he comes near, all the voices go away and a deep calm settles over her.

But wait! Who is Damen Auguste? Why does she feel compelled to spend her life with him? How can he get such good grades and never go to school? Evermore was a great summer book, fun, romantic, one of those supernatural romance books that we all want when the weather warms up a bit. I think there are 4 books in the series so far (the fourth one is either newly out or coming soon), this is the only one I’ve read, and I am sending it off to my nieces- I think they will really like it, too. Ages 12 and up. (St. Martin’s Griffin. $9.95. Available now.)

Melissa Marr has written this great series which includes Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange, and Fragile Eternity. I know I wrote about Wicked Lovely a few years ago but have just finished the third book, Fragile Eternity, and the fourth one, Radiant Shadows, is on its way!

If you are fans of books about fairies, and not the fairies of your childhood, you really need to read this tidy stack of books. They are romantic and funny, taut with suspense, very well thought out, well-written and just darned good!

There is something about the fairies in Aislinn’s world…they are close to the world we know, able to cross back and forth across the barrier between Faerie and earth, and they know something big is on its way. Aislinn, a girl who grew up human, and who has a really hunky boyfriend named Seth, has recently become the Summer Queen. Trying to balance a life of boyfriend, school, and faerie politics is beginning to take its toll. Her King, who has been searching for his queen for years, is pressuring her to be his partner in all things and War is on the horizon. What is an almost-girl to do?

Radiant Shadows is the fourth of five books in the series. Settle in, read slowly, if you can, and enjoy the ride. Ages 12 and up. (HarperCollins. $16.99. Due May 1, 2010.)

I have also just finished Elizabeth George’s new book, This Body of Death, and it was GREAT! I am a big fan of her Detective Lynley books and was so excited to read this newest one. Filled with her trademark psychological suspense, Lynley and Havers are back, dealing with a new boss, learning how to work together again, and dealing with the past.

I don’t know if you have read any of her books before, but you should start with the first one so you have that whole big series to enjoy. Her books give you whole characters to revel in, people with faults and flaws, but people you can really root for. Barbara Havers is one of my favorite characters: she is unkempt, detail driven, and has troubles in her life that many of us can identify with.

Give Elizabeth George a try, most of her Lynley books are in paperback, and if you come to the store, we may be able to find you a used one to get you started. If you like police procedurals, great plots and characters, interesting psychological backgrounds, smart writing, you will really enjoy her work. AND she is coming to Third Place Books on Thursday, April 22, at 7 pm. Come early for a piece of cake and a cup of coffee, hear her speak, meet her and get your book(s) signed, go home and read. A perfect evening.

Her books are intense (sometimes there is gruesomeness and horrible things happen) and we usually recommend them for adults. Some older teens and young adults have read and loved them. This Body of Death is available now. (HarperCollins. $28.99.)

Well, it’s time to stop writing and get this sent off to you. I have to brush my hair and teeth and go to work.

Head on out to your locally owned, independent bookshop and let me know what you’re reading! If you live a ways from what would be your local bookstore, call them! They would be happy to mail you your books in a timely fashion and you get the added joy of knowing that your purchase helps support your school, your streets, and maybe even the unemployed guy down the street.

Thanks, everyone!


Friday, April 16, 2010

Sunrise was at 6:18, sunset will be at 8:01. Yay! It's light into night now! This is the time of year that Robert Louis Stevenson's poem, Bed in Summer, always pops into my head:

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people's feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

I grew up in a really little town where kids played outside until they couldn't see what they were catching or throwing and their voices echoed in the fields.

When I moved back to Eugene for college, I lived in a little apartment that was surrounded by alleys and slow trafficked streets on many sides, and the yells and screams, the boinging of too-full balls, in the yellow heat and dust of waning day were a siren's call; I had to go out and be a part of the magical part of day that seemed pared out of the normal, a piece that existed out of time. Until it started to get dark and then time sped up and it was night.

It still feels like that to me as an adult. There's work, there's night, and then, as summer expands, there's that time between both that feels like a gift. It seems like you should do something special with that time, read outside, walk under the shadows of trees, watch the sun go down (and note how long it takes!), do inside things outside like knitting, eating, napping.

I hope you all had a chance to see the sky last night and spent a few minutes looking at the red-tinged crescent moon. Exquisite.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy National Poetry Month! Sunrise today was at 6:20, sunrise will be at 7:59. Venus is in the west, close to Mars, so bright above the sunset. I understand there will be a crescent moon tonight, as well. That is cosmic poetry.

I have to admit that I really don't have a favorite poem, I have poems that fit my life at certain times and they become a part of my walking around world. I have always appreciated the more concrete sentiments that pull a thought or a feeling into a clear, succinct way of seeing a piece of that world.

Ooh, Nancy Pearl's on NPR right now, talking about poetry and poetry books! Serendipitous!

One of my favorite books right now is called Sorta Like a Rock Star, by Matthew Quick. It's the story of a little girl, Amber, who lives in a bus with her mom and her dog. They have been living in the bus since her mom's boyfriend kicked them out of his house.

Amber is a perpetual optimist. She knows there will be a silver lining, that people will always offer the best they have if you expect the best of them, and she tries to help the people around her have better lives.

When something horrible happens to her, yes, even worse than living in a school bus, she begins to lose her feelings of hope and optimism. She starts to wonder if that silver lining might actually be tin.

I just loved this book. Amber is a great character, happy, hopeful, helpful, giving what she can to make the world better, but she doesn't actually see how the world is better for her being in it. Even though she is having a crisis of life, she begins to make friends with a Viet Nam veteran, a hermit who spends time only with his dog.

Amber sees that he needs more than just his dog in his life and as she begins to become a friend to him, he lets her into his house and his life. Here's where the connection to Poetry Month comes in: Whenever he gets sad, worried, angry, he writes a haiku and posts it in his house; his walls are covered in little pieces of paper and letters.

In letting Amber into his life, he gives her the gift of poetry and a way to channel her own grief and sadness into something she has had to think very hard about in able to convey it in only 17 syllables. Together, they work out their troubles, sometimes with great grinding of teeth and tearing of hair, sometimes with bellows of laughter.

Yeah, the book has some sad stuff happening, but it is a monument to a life filled with happiness. It isn't goopy or sappy, it is just really good.

Teachers: This will make a great book to base poetry lessons on. The haikus included will give your students some pretty good ideas for their own.

The book will be available in May (why did they not put this out for Poetry Month?) and is good for fifth grade and up. It is published by Little Brown and will cost $16.99. Well worth every penny!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sunrise was at 6:24 today, sunset will be at 7:56! I feel like summer begins when it is light at 8 pm.

The view of the Olympics as I come over the 85th street off-ramp to I-5 is amazing. Like black construction paper torn and pasted against a sky colored easel. When the days are shorter, the mountains are a deep gray against the steel blue of the autumn sky, pale shadows where the snow lays deep.

This is my favorite view and it is so brief, just the time it takes to come out of the little tunnel that leads to the off-ramp, up the slight rise and turn to the south, and there is nothing of the city to interrupt the sight of the mountains, the sky and the slice of Green Lake that is a surprise slick of water as it gleams in the light of the day.

It's a little longer drive to get home but worth every minute.

D. and I went to Port Townsend for our weekend, a little vacation, and stayed in a really old hotel with 12 foot ceilings and a bathroom that had a toilet you had to step up to use. All the doors were shaved at slants to be able to close. We ate and walked and watched the sound and wondered what was going on with the Navy ship across the way.

We had dinner in a restaurant called Sirens and sat in the window, too cold and windy to be out on the deck, and drank Port Townsend IPA and ate handmade food, and read while the sun went down.

Dennis is reading Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes, and he really likes it. Simply, it is a novel about the Viet Nam war. I am sure there is a lot more to it, but I haven't read it yet. People I know and respect who have read it say it may well be one of the best books written about the war yet. The author is coming to our store in May, so I hope I can finish it by then. (Buy a copy of Matterhorn at Third Place Books and we will donate $5 to our local disabled veteran's center.)

I was reading Cory Doctorow's new book, For the Win, and sat leaning closer and closer to the window as the light waned trying to keep reading. I love reading in restaurants and bars, a beer and a book, surrounded by people, being a part of everything while being slightly apart from it all.

For the Win is a really good book! His website says it best, a short and sweet definition: For the Win is a young adult novel about macroeconomics, video games and the labor movement.

It is also a fast-paced adventure story filled with great characters and glimpses into the way people around the world really live.

I am not a gamer, I haven't played a computer game since the first incarnation of Myst and then I don't think I really played, mostly clicked and rolled over things. I think I may have to pull a little time out of the day (I had a picture in my head of a hernia when I typed that, a bulge of something that shouldn't be where it is) to give a game a try after reading this book.

I absolutely, even without knowing anything about games or the world of it, even not knowing the language, could not put this book down. In For the Win, mostly very poor children from all over the world play video games to make their bosses very rich. When it comes time to pay, feed, or care for the workers, the bosses often fire them or close the games down, leaving them without anything. When Big Sister Nor comes to these millions of people who are only known by log in names and whispers to them about forming an organization where they can help themselves to have a better life, the virtual world begins to crash headlong into the flesh one.

Ooh, it was SO good! I have three people lined up to borrow my copy of the book and I am really looking forward to giving it to all the people in my family.

Judy (from work) and I and some of the ReaderGirlz and Nancy Pearl and two librarians had dinner with Cory Doctorow last week (I know, we were so lucky to be a part of this very small group) and got our advanced reading copies signed while we inhaled our meals. I started it that night and really wanted to stay up all night to finish - not something I can do much any more! I can't wait for it to come out (May 11!) so you all can read it, too.