Thursday, May 31, 2012

ALA Annual 2012: What I'll Miss (But YOU Shouldn't!)

anaheim convention center ala 2008
ALA in Anaheim, 2008. Photo by Timothy Vollmer
I am really excited about the ALA Annual Conference coming up next month in Anaheim, from June 21 - 26. I've only been to ALA Annual once-- last time it was in Anaheim, in 2008. I was pregnant with my first child at the time, so it was a rather cumbersome endeavor! 

Will I be seeing you at this year's conference? If you haven't registered yet, check the Registration Rates page: ALA Division members can register for the full conference for $230 by June 14.
Plus, there are some reasonable options for those who aren't necessarily interested in the entire conference, but would like to take part in the excitement. For $75, you can attend the Opening General Session, the Auditorium Speaker Series, and have access to the exhibit floor (yes, that means the publishers' booths!). If you purchase the $35 Exhibits Plus pass, you'll get to visit the exhibits as well as the Opening General Session, and the $25 Exhibits Only pass is exactly what it sounds like: access to the exhibit floor. Any of the pricing options are well worth it, depending on your interests.

There's going to be so much to do at this conference-- attend informative sessions, meet amazing authors, chat with the people behind my favorite publishers, network with fellow librarians, do committee work... I'm going to have a full schedule! As much as I would love to attend everything, there are a few programs and events I just won't be able to catch.

If you're going to ALA in Anaheim this June and can attend these sessions, please tell me about them so I can live vicariously. Here are a few programs I'll miss... but YOU shouldn't!

Friday, June 22, 3 - 4 pm 
Emerging Leaders Poster Sessions and Reception
The ALA Emerging Leaders program is "a leadership development program which enables newer library workers from across the country to participate in problem-solving work groups, network with peers, gain an inside look into ALA structure, and have an opportunity to serve the profession in a leadership capacity." During this event, this motivated and dynamic group of people will share the projects they've been working on for the past six months. I think attendees will come away inspired.

Saturday, June 23, 8 - 9 am
Auditorium Speaker: John Irving
I was lucky enough to see John Irving speak once when I was in college, and he was brilliant and so charismatic. I definitely recommend attending his talk if it fits into your schedule.

Saturday, June 23, 3:30 - 4:30 pm
Auditorium Speaker: Chris Colfer
Take note, Glee fans! The actor who plays Kurt has written a fantasy book for middle grade readers, The Land of Stories, which will be released on July 17 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Chris Colfer is my favorite actor on Glee, and I wouldn't miss his talk unless I absolutely had to.

Saturday, June 23, 8 - 10 pm
Proquest Scholarship Bash, featuring the Rock Bottom Remainders
"By day, they’re authors. Really famous authors. But once a year they shed their pen- and-pencil clutching personas and become rock stars, complete with roadies, groupies and a wicked cool tour bus.” A musical performance from Stephen King, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Dave Barry, Matt Groening, and Ridley Pearson, among others? Talk about EPIC. (Ticketed event, $25)

Sunday, June 24, 1:30 - 3:30 pm
Balancing Babies and Books
As the mother of a 3.5 and 1.5 year old, this event interests me a great deal. I'd love to chat with other librarians who are currently parenting young children and exchange perspectives on balancing career and family. Parents need to connect with other parents!

Monday, June 25, 5:30 - 7 pm
Ever since the concept of Battledecks was explained to me (thanks, P.C. Sweeney!), I've wanted to see it in action. Librarians competing in improvised Powerpoint presentations based on slides they've never seen before? Awesome.

There you have it-- just a few of the sessions I wish I could attend. Be sure to comb through the ALA Conference Scheduler for the full run-down of events so you can see what else is going on. I'll be back soon with another post about some of the sessions and events I will be attending... hope to see you there!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli

This book is my first pick for the Newbery Medal Challenge! Hooray!

As mentioned previously, I'm modifying this reading challenge to make it a little less intense, and will be reading one Newbery Medal winner from each decade (instead of every single winner). And yes, I was going to start with the 1920s, but I have to admit that I keep getting hung up every time I look at the choices for that decade-- they're just not appealing. And it seems I'm not alone, according to this article on the Digital Shift. So it's not just me. Whew! But... any advice, Newbery fans? I've got to read a 1920s Newbery winner at some point, after all...

Anyway, after waffling for a few months, I decided to forget about going in order and just jump in with whatever title catches my eye. So! My choice for the 1950s is The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli.

de Angeli, Marguerite. The Door in the Wall. 2008. Listening Library. Audiobook $24.00. ISBN 9780739371879

Winner of the 1950 Newbery Medal, this title piqued my interest because of its medieval England setting. Robin, the son of a nobleman, has always anticipated growing up to become a knight, but finds he must learn to cope with a different sort of life when he loses the uses of his legs after an illness. 

This book is what I'd call a cozy read. I enjoyed the details of medieval life and was inspired by Robin's struggle to come to terms with his physical challenges. His transformation from a spoiled brat to a young man with a sense of purpose is heartwarming, as is the large cast of endearing characters who support and encourage him. 

But I have to say: this is not the most suspenseful story ever. An adult with an interest in history (me!) is likely to enjoy it, but the lack of tension in the plot might make it pretty dull for a young reader.

For example: the characters are traveling through a wood, and realize they have to stop for the night. One character mentions he had been this way before, and found a woodcutter's cottage to be a hospitable place to stay. With this kind of setup, you're thinking-- okay, SOMETHING BAD has definitely happened to that woodcutter, and our main characters are about to be attacked by wolves or bandits or zombies. Right? Nope. The band of travelers finds the cottage easily and the woodcutter and his wife are indeed friendly and accommodating. The lack of complications is sort of sweet, really. But will it appeal to today's readers, who expect twists and turns and cliffhangers?

That said, the audio production of this book is truly stellar. Roger Rees, a well-known actor who got his start in the Royal Shakespeare Company, expertly breathes life into the archaic language of the book, making it  accessible for contemporary readers. Too, his steady pacing and wide variety of character voices keep the narrative interesting despite its relatively low-key plot. The audiobook is further enhanced by the addition of medieval music and other sound effects at appropriate times (e.g. when the narrative mentions a song being played on a harp, or church bells ringing), making for a memorable listening experience.

If you're going to read The Door in the Wall, the audiobook is definitely the way to do it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Board Book Favorites: Mother Tested, Kid Approved

As the mom of a one-year-old and a three-year-old, I feel I've become something of an expert in the area of board books. We've spent many happy hours all cuddled up and reading. Of course, that means I end up reading the same books over and over and over-- and I've discovered that some books are just more fun to read than others.

My kids and I seem to agree that the best board books require some kind of audience participation, whether it's physical (giving a hug) or verbal (squealing or shouting or making funny noises). These little ones definitely like to be actively involved when sharing a book. Here are a few of our favorites: three published in the last decade, and three classics.

Three recent board books

You Are My Cupcake, by Joyce Wan
Scholastic, 2011
Simple text accompanies the most adorable illustrations. Bold lines, raised textures, pastel colors, and Hello Kitty-esque levels of cuteness are nearly irresistible to toddlers. Text such as "You are my cupcake. My sticky little gumdrop" gives the reader an excuse to squeeze and cuddle their child at every turn of the page, culminating in a barrage of nibbly kisses at the end as the last page proclaims, "I could just eat you up!" Nom nom nom... mwah!

Yum Yum Dim Sum, by Amy Wilson Sanger
Tricycle Press, 2003
Dim sum is a staple of my family's restaurant-going patterns, and I'm so happy that there's a kids' book about the food we so love to eat! My three-year-old can recite the text along with me, and we all have fun pretending to pluck food from the pages and chomp.

This book is part of Sanger's "World Snacks" series, featuring food from various cultures cleverly fashioned from fabrics and papers. (First Book of Sushi is another of our favorites!) Now, if only Sanger would do a book about pho or banh mi...

In My Flower, by Sara Gillingham and Lorena Siminovich
Chronicle Books, 2009
Chronicle publishes the prettiest books, don't they? The main appeal of this one, of course, is the felt butterfly finger puppet. The reader can wiggle it to and fro while turning pages, making for a delightfully tactile storytime experience with a curious child. My daughter loves to grab at the butterfly, and has recently discovered how to manipulate it on her own. She has so much fun making it "fly" around! This volume is part of the "In My..." series, which includes books about all sorts of other creatures, such as In My Nest (bird) and In My Den (bear).

Three classic board books

The Monster at the End of This Book, by Jon Stone and Michael J. Smollin
Random House, 2000 (first published 1971)
You know how librarians are always saying every reluctant reader just has to find the right book? Well, for my daughter, this was it! This is the book that made my one-year-old daughter a reader. When she was tiny, she was more into grabbing than reading, so this book played in nicely to her preferences. We discovered that she LOVED turning the pages to elicit a loud gasp or melodramatic "oh nooo!" from mama.

She's since branched out, and loves all books now... but is always happy to come back to lovable, furry old Grover. I can hardly get through the story properly, to be honest-- it's just a series of frenzied page turns and shouts. And that's what makes this book so much fun! 

Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
HarperFestival, 1991 (first published 1947)
This one is a no-brainer, but I have to mention how much I love the board book format. We also have it in hardcover and paperback, but this sturdy little board book gets the most use. The thick pages are a must when reading to a eager, grabby child night after night-- and it travels well, which is essential when taking the bedtime routine on the road for some family travel. 

Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham
HarperFestival, 2006 (first published 1956)
This book is perfect for an older toddler or young preschooler who's ready to experience a longer, more complicated narrative, but still benefits from those thick cardboard pages. My three-year-old loves the story, and really sits still with me to hear what's going to happen to that naughty runaway dog. My one-year-old loves the book too-- if only to point out all the illustrations of dogs.

Friday, May 18, 2012

YA Books for an Adult Book Group

I was starting to feel like the last librarian on earth who wasn't in a book group when my friend invited me to join hers. Hooray! Besides spending time with friends and meeting new people, one of the reasons I'm excited to participate is that this group reads adult books. Er, that is, books for grown-ups. 

...I mean, the term "adult" is so awkward, isn't it? It means one thing to writers and librarians, but to the rest of the world, it's another thing entirely. *ahem* I've found that if you put the emphasis on the first syllable instead of the second ("AAH-dult" instead of "a-DULT"), it sounds less... um... you know. *ahem ahem*


As a teen services librarian. I work at the AAH-dult reference desk, but since I read primarily in YA in children's, I have trouble with AAH-dult readers' advisory.

Because, to be honest... adult books, I'm just not that into you. But I should be! Professionally, I need to be! Thus, I've joined this book group.

I've only been to two meetings so far, and I'm really impressed with their quality of discussion. These ladies take their reading seriously, and I love it. I'm excited to read their selections and challenge myself to take the occasional step outside of my preferred comfort zone of children's and YA literature.

But eventually, it will be my turn to choose the book. And even though this book group primarily reads adult books, it seems like they're open to reading YA. Many of them enjoyed The Hunger Games, so this is an opportunity to introduce them to more great YA titles.

What kind of YA book would appeal to an adult book group? I'm thinking books with strong characters, complex motivations, intricate plotting, and top-notch writing. Books with situations and emotions they can relate to when looking back on their teen years.

Happily, I can think of a few YA books that would make great picks for adult book groups.

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
Two young women in World War II. With its detailed historical setting, incredible plot, and depiction of a strong female friendship, this is my top YA pick for an adult book group right now. (See my Code Name Verity review for more gushing about this tremendously excellent book.)

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
Two teens with cancer fall in love-- and it's not as emotionally manipulative as the premise suggests. It's serious, it's funny, it's insightful, it's inspiring... what's not to love? There's so much to discuss here-- the plot, the writing style, whether or not teens really talk like Hazel and Augustus (and whether or not that actually matters)... (I reviewed The Fault in Our Stars a few months ago.)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
The author presents a semi-autobiographical story about a Native American boy who chooses to leave the reservation to pursue a better education. Alexie is a noted author for adults, and his YA book has great crossover appeal for both age groups. It's hilarious and heartbreaking and full of hope, and the fact that so much of the book is drawn from Alexie's life gives any book group a great deal to discuss.

Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray
A plane full of beauty pageant contestants crashes on a desert island, and satire of everything ensues. This is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of book-- and I love it. I would have to get to know my book group better before attempting to guess how they'd react to it, but for some groups, this could be a huge hit and prompt a lively discussion. I adore the way Libba Bray wraps up weighty issues in a hilarious package, and the feminist themes in this book make me want to stand up and cheer. 

If I Stay, by Gayle Forman
A girl loses her family in a terrible car accident. Hovering between life and death in a coma, she must decide whether to go or stay. The emotionally affecting story as Mia looks back on her life thus far, the vivid portayal of her family and her boyfriend, and the intricate plot that unfolds through flashbacks make this book a very appealing book group pick. It eems to be universally enjoyed by both teens and adults, and I have a feeling an adult audience will connect more with the family aspect of the novel than the teens will-- it would be interesting to compare what each age group focuses on when discussing this novel.

What do you think? What YA titles would you suggest for an adult book group?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Review: Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. 327 p. 2012. Hyperion. Hardcover $16.99. ISBN 9781423152194.

I was lucky enough to read an e-galley of this book a couple months ago, and I've been pondering how to review it ever since then. Honestly, I started drafting this review in March, but all it said was: "OMG where to begin??" ...which is more or less how I still feel.

This book is one of my favorite reads of 2012 so far. Possibly my very favorite. Basically, I want Code Name Verity to win ALL THE AWARDS.

It's about two young women who are part of the Allied war effort during World War II. One of them, a pilot, has crashed her plane. And her friend, also in the plane, has been captured by Nazis and is writing out her confession in the hopes of staying alive for just a little while longer. 

This New York Times book review explains why it's impossible to say any more without revealing spoilers. Here's what I can say, though:

One of the most appealing aspects of this book this book- something that's actually a bit of a rare find- is the beautiful portrayal of a strong female friendship. The main characters are wonderful and memorable on their own, and they're even better together. There's an overall theme of female empowerment, with these two young women acting in untraditional roles during the war. Female characters in supporting roles are layered and complex, too.

There's a very epic, cinematic feel to Wein's writing. I'd love to see this book adapted for the big screen-- but then again, it's more effective in print, because most of it is supposed to be a written narrative. The intricate plotting and astounding twists will keep readers on the edge of their seats wondering what on earth is going to happen to these characters.

Despite the fact that there are parts that will make the reader cry, I didn't actually cry a lot... except for one point when I actually cried out in shock and sadness, like someone yelling "Nooooo!" at a movie screen. Yes, I was that invested.

And when I finished reading, I wanted to start again from the beginning.

Code Name Verity comes out today, and you won't want to miss it. ARC for review received from Disney Hyperion via NetGalley.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Review: Dreamless, by Josephine Angelini

Angelini, Josephine. Dreamless. 487 p. 2012. HarperTeen. Hardcover $17.99. ISBN 9780062012012.

I had a blast reading Josephine Angelini's Greek mythology inspired debut novel, Starcrossed, last year. Talk about addictive-- I couldn't put it down! And I can safely say that fans of the first volume will absolutely eat up this action-packed sequel.

Dreamless builds on the foundation set in Starcrossed and continues its complex storyline-- essentially a modern retelling of The Iliad with some twists. The book maintains an epic feel as Angelini, one of the most organized and focused writers I've encountered, juggles several plot threads in a seemingly effortless manner. The plot is propelled forward at a consistent pace, with no lulls in the action.

It's fun to revisit the same characters we fell in love with in its predecessor (I heart Helen's feisty best friend Claire!), and meet some dynamic new characters in this book. Romantic tension is heightened as Helen and Lucas are still forbidden to get too close, and a possible new love interest is introduced in the form of Orion, another Scion who joins Helen in her nightly visits to the Underworld.

Speaking of the Underworld, Angelini's vivid descriptions of this realm will set your hair on end. Not a place you'd want to get stuck in! On the other end of the spectrum, there's an exquisite scene with Morpheus, the god of dreams, that's so beautifully written, you might want to read it again and again.

Look for Dreamless in bookstores everywhere on May 29th, and visit the Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast for an interview with Josie! ARC for review generously provided by HarperTeen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bookish Shopping

I confess: I absolutely love shopping-- especially when it coincides with another one of my lifelong loves: books! Here are a few of my favorite book related picks:

Disenchantments Posters

Nina LaCour's recent release, The Disenchantments, features an all-girl band on tour. It's a fantastic book-- and Nina's very talented artist friend, Eli Harris, whipped up some extremely cool band posters inspired by the book. I got one at the YA or Bust! Tour stop, and you can purchase them at Eli Harris' Etsy shop. Signed by both the artist and Nina LaCour! My favorite is "The Basement" design.

Bridget Liu's St. Benedict Medal

I love readers' advisory. I also love accessories. Think the two things can't be combined? Think again! When I don this intricate, handmade St. Benedict medal as worn by the demon-banishing main character in Gretchen McNeil's spine-tingling YA horror novel, Possess, it's a great conversation starter for sharing the awesomeness of Possess with teen readers. (Plus, you know, it might come in handy in case of exorcism.) Check it out at The Copper Camel's Etsy shop


What what better way to give old books new life than these charming pendants fashioned from pages of  fairy tale volumes? Lovingly handmade and completely unique, each piece is like a little story in itself. And some of them are even shaped like books! I own a couple of rectangular Glamourkin pendants and have received so many compliments from library patrons when I wear them at the reference desk. Browse Glamourkins and more at The Fable Tribe's Etsy shop.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mid-week round-up

A few things...

First, thank you to everyone who entered the Wentworth Hall giveaway I hosted!

The winners are... Carrie K. and Maggie H. 

Congratulations, ladies! I've emailed you. Big thanks again to Simon & Schuster for providing the prizes for this giveaway!

Second, I'm very pleased to say that I'm going to be blogging for The Hub, the teen literature blog published by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Please check out my first posts-- I blogged about celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: here's Part 1 (an interview with author Cindy Pon) and Part 2 (a list of some really good reads that include elements of Asian or Asian-American culture). Stop by and tell me about your favorite books featuring Asian or Asian-American culture!

And finally, you know I co-host a YA lit podcast called Authors are ROCKSTARS!, right? Well, my co-host, Michelle, and I had the privilege of moderating the YA or Bust! panel at the Huntington Beach Barnes & Noble last week, featuring Stephanie Perkins, Gayle Forman, and Nina LaCour.

The event was so much fun! We had so much fun chatting with these fabulous authors. And, as always, part of the fun of attending a book signing is meeting other readers. This time, we met a book vlogger! And he put us on his video coverage of the event. I don't know about Michelle, but I am not used to being on camera, so I was super nervous! But it was really fun. Watch The Booktubenator's coverage of the YA or Bust event right here:

(Authors are ROCKSTARS! appears towards the end of the video).

And be sure to check out The Booktubenator'sYouTube channel-- it's awesome.

That's all for today!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review: The Last Princess, by Galaxy Craze

Craze, Galaxy. The Last Princess. 295 p. 2012. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Hardcover $17.99. ISBN 9780316185486.

This books combines two things that are WHITE HOT right now:

a post-apocalyptic future

In the end all shall be still and silent
Photo by Rising Damp


the British royal family

Photo by anonlinegreenworld

Seriously. Seriously. How awesome is that?! Talk about high concept.

So when I picked up The Last Princess, thinking I'd just browse a few pages, I found that I absolutely could not put it down. Luckily for me, it's a quick read! The first two-thirds of the book are seriously edge-of-your-seat exciting-- a crazy roller-coaster ride in a futuristic Great Britain that has been ravaged and isolated from the rest of the world by an environmental disaster. As the nation falters in the aftermath, a sinister plot against the royal family comes to fruition and young Princess Eliza finds herself on the run, infiltrating enemy territory with her sights set on one goal: revenge.

It's really suspenseful.

The action slows down a little bit in the last third of the book, but is still definitely engaging and enjoyable, with an appealing romance amidst suspense, and a satisfying conclusion that wraps up the story nicely, yet leaves the door open for a sequel.

The author includes some details that will please Anglophiles-- the royal family's children all have family names, such as Elizabeth, Mary, and James, for example. On the other hand, there are a few inconsistencies. One thing that snapped me out of the story is that the main character does a lot of "interstate" travel... in Great Britain. Granted, in my frenzied reading of the first few chapters, I might have missed some kind of futuristic explanation about why there are interstate highways in a place with no states. But... I'm not too sure about that.

Another thing that gave me pause was a mention of "Princess Kate." It was an aww-worthy moment, but assuming this is the distant future, wouldn't the Duchess of Cambridge have eventually become Queen, or Queen Consort? Admittedly, my knowledge of the way titles work in the British monarchy is a bit fuzzy, so I'd love to hear any experts weigh in.

Still, these minor nitpicks didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. I didn't go into it with significant expectations-- I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was hoping for a diverting, compelling read. And this one definitely delivered! I had a great time reading it, and will look forward to the sequel.

The Last Princess hits bookstore shelves today, and I recommend checking it out.
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