"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Friday, November 28, 2008

Getting the message

All right, I am terribly slow on this one. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak received the Printz honor in 2006. I have to shamefully admit that I never really looked into it because of...its cover (ducks). It didn't appeal to me. Happily, I was recently reading plots for audio books and it grabbed me. Also, I had read and loved The Book Thief. Newly motivated, I listened to the whole shebang unabridged and read with a charming Australian accent by Mark Adan Gray. Crazily, I couldn't stop imagining protagonist Ed as a younger and Australian version of Callum Blue, who played Mason on Dead Like Me.

So: Ed is working as an underage taxi driver when he happens to be at the right place to foil an inept bank robber. Tauted as a hero, Ed's life takes a turn for the mysterious when he receives a playing card with addresses of strangers that he is supposed to help. But how? And who sent these tasks his way?

I loved Ed, his shiftless friends, smelly dog and the way he changes people's lives, especially his own. Zusak has created a book that will make you think and make you laugh. Ed is compassionate without being cloying and one's actions can make a difference even in an imperfect world.

This book cemented my high opinion of Zusak's writing. He may be my new favorite author for teens. I know that he has at least two other books that I haven't read. Yeah!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

MLA Library Conference!

On Thursday, I attended the MLA conference, held this year at the Sheraton in Bloomington, MN. Like last year, I had a fine time, in spite of the fact that I needed to get up at 5:30 to make the breakfast. I was motivated though, because the speaker was Will Weaver, author of the Minnesota Book Award winner Defect. He gave a fantastic speech, and graciously signed my copy of the book.

The workshops that I chose were:

One Conference, One Book Discussion: Defect
When Love Hurts: Taking the Pain Out of Romance Readers' Advisory
50 in 75 Book Talks (50books in 75 minutes)
Public Library Services for Special Needs Youth

I enjoyed them very much. Mr. Weaver was present for the discussion of his book, which added a very interesting dimension. It was also fun to hear about his other work. It made me want to run back to the library and check out Memory Boy. Here is the Publisher's Weekly review from the Amazon site:
The year is 2008, two years after a massive volcano has wreaked havoc in the United States. The air is polluted with ash, crops keep failing, fuel is scarce and looting is rampant. Sixteen-year-old Miles knows that the only way for his family to survive is to head to their cabin in the Minnesota wilderness. Relying on knowledge passed down to him from an elderly friend, Mr. Kurz, Miles constructs a man-powered vehicle out of bicycles and sailboat parts to transport himself, his parents and younger sister. Suspense builds steadily as the traveling foursome contends with hostile strangers, including road bandits and a sheriff who has allowed his relatives to occupy their cabin. Though it looks like the Newells have reached a dead end, Miles forms another plan. In an imaginative and plausible rendering of a futuristic society, Weaver plants enough familiar details so that readers can relate--including Dairy Queens and McDonald's restaurants (though meals cost 10 times as much), plus Miles's memories of school, suburbia and Mr. Kurz's nursing home. Although danger lurks around every corner, audience members will rest assured that Miles, armed with good instincts and highly developed mechanical skills, will be prepared to combat whatever roadblocks his loved ones meet. Ages 12-up.
Weaver's new book, Saturday Night Dirt, is about stock car racing and should grab guys who might not otherwise read much. He also formed a stock car racing team with a teen driver. Read more here: http://www.motornovels.com/
The romance readers' advisory session was run by Jennifer Brannen of Saint Paul Public Library. I have to confess that romance is not my genre, but Jennifer's enthusiasm was contagious. She also had authors Connie Brockway, http://www.conniebrockway.com/ and Tate Hallaway, http://tatehallaway.blogspot.com/ speak, and they were fun and well-spoken. I came away with a broader view of what makes a romance, and a desire to look into a couple of the titles for myself. The Landlord's Black-Eyed Daughter by Mary Ellen Dennis snagged my attention because it is based on Alfred Noyes' poem "The Highwayman." Shannon Hale's Austenland is about a woman who gets to spend two weeks in Regency England, via a vacation to an English estate filled with Austenesque character actors.
Lunch was followed by the delightful 50 book talks in 75 minutes. In this session a panel of librarians introduced us to books in the mystery, romance, young adult, World War II and literary fiction categories. The Young adult titles were:
(Which have I read? Those in red.)
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Thieves Like Us by Stephen Cole
The True Meaning of Cleavage by Mariah Fredericks
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Black Box by Julie Schumacher
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Rucker Park Setup by Paul Volponi
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Three of the literary titles were also YA. These were: Looking For Alaska by John Green, Black Juice by Margo Lanagan and How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. The talks lit a fire under me to get reading True Meaning..., Black Box and How I Live Now.
Finally, was Public Library Services for Special Needs Youth. This workshop fills a need for us, I can say. We see a number of special needs teens at my library. Although the panel ran out of time before teens were discussed, it was a very informative talk. They cited the stat that currently 1 in 150 kids is autistic. That is surprising to me.
The capper of the day was that I won the BWI prize drawing and got about ten teen books and movies.
DVDS: The Grudge II and Big Daddy
Ever By Gail Carson Levine
It was awesome. Thanks, BWI!
I'll fill in some of these sketchy details later. Check back!