Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Apparently, I'm not the only one interested in YouTube this week. Along with Entertainment Weekly, NPR picked up some buzz about it too.

This morning on Morning Edition there was a story about YouTube and NPR's blog, Mixed Signals, features some comments on it as well.

I always enjoy finding out even more about the things the interest me (I guess that's why I'm a librarian).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Entertainment Websites and Blogs

The June 23 issue of Entertainment Weekly had a terrific list of 100 entertainment sites to "bookmark now". They approached their 25 favorite sites to recommend their 4 favorite sites and the results were pretty interesting. I would suggest checking the issue out for yourself.

I highlighted websites that sounded interesting to me and here's my list of cool entertainment websites and blogs, with annotations by EW.

I'll start with my very favorite find:
Just pictures of celebrities eating.
A reliable music database of albums and songs by artists ranging from Gnarls Barkley to Shakira.

Internet Movie Database
The unofficial bible of the entertainment world, and also the best way to cheat at the Kevin Bacon game.

National Public Radio
"The radio station that's always erudite but with a sense of whimsy." - Col Needham
The ultimate source for viral videos, from dancing babies to Brokeback spoofs and beyond.
Think of it as a one-stop resource for summaries of film, DVD, television, book, game, and music reviews from various outlets.
Pop culture with a scientific and tech bent.
Nobody does snarky Hollywood gossip like these bloggers, who recently influenced the artwork for Snakes on a Plane. (Snakes on a Plane is its own internet phenomenon, to hear a story about it, check out one that aired on NPR back in April.)
Cultural commentary.

Saucy attacks on celeb fashion foibles with annotations of red-carpet pics of Lindsay Lohan, etc.
Studios' release schedules for the next two years.

Blog of a Bookslut
Guide to lit-world scandals.
The best source of national concert listings, broken down by venue.
A collection of cartoon shorts, emails, and inane games starring the animated antics of Strong Bad and Homestar - I love Strong Bad!
Schrab makes coller F/X with cardboard than Industrial Light & Magic, and posts it for free.
Witty pop-culture coverage from critiques of Beyonce's iTunes picks to "why Tom Cruise should disappear for a year."

Arts & Letters Daily
The site "catalogs every piece of high-brow cultural criticism." - Slate

Arts Journal: The Daily Digest of Arts, Culture and Ideas
I stumbled across this one while following links and it's a really cool journal of all kinds of things of interest to those of us in liberal arts.

Enjoy this mixed bag of sites to entertain and educate.

Your Friendly Librarian

Monday, June 26, 2006

Autism and Al Capone

In one of those amazing coincidences, I read Al Capone Does My Shirts , by Gennifer Choldenko, today in one sitting and then listened to an incredible feature on autism and Asperger's Syndrome on NPR's All Things Considered.

In the 2005 Newbery honored book, Choldenko tells the story of Moose, an otherwise normal kid who happens to live at Alcatraz. Set in Depression-era San Francisco, the story weaves together cool facts about the real families of guards and staff who lived in quarters on the famous island, regular juvenile high jinks, and the special relationship between a boy and his autistic sister.

The story has the typical conflicts of making new friends at a new school, impressing girls, and family disagreements, but the unique setting puts a whole new spin on things. I loved the titular episode where Piper, the warden's scheming daughter, sells Al Capone's laundry services to the kids at school. Al Capone ran the wringer in the laundry room at Alcatraz, where all of the employees' laundry was done, as well as the prisoners'.

Autism was not a broadly recognized disorder until 1943, a fact that makes the story of Moose's sister Natalie all the more poignant. Natalie is 16, but the kids' mother refuses to admit that she has aged beyond 10 years old. The mother's denial is based partly on the fact that treatment centers viewed children past the age of 12 as beyond help and partly because of a harsh comment a relative made when Natalie was 10. A side story in the book deals with the family's attempts to get Natalie accepted to a special school that might help her get past the various obsessions and behavioral disorders that rule her life. A reader now would recognize Natalie's obsession with numbers, her ability to place birthdates, her rocking, and her inability to connect with people as traits of autism, but at the time many people just saw her as crazy and suggested that she be put away. The family's difficult daily decisions and the gentleness between the 13-year-old Moose and Natalie are a wonderful introduction to younger readers of a problem that affects more and more people all the time.

According to the Autism Society of America, autism now affects 4.5 out of every 10,000 live births. To read more about these statistics click here.


My bookshelf right now is overflowing with teen reads like these:

Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko

A Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass

The Queen of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner

Zel, by Donna Jo Napoli

24 Girls in 7 Days, by Alex Bradley

Second Sight, by Gary Blackwood

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Darcy and Elizabeth

For those of you who know me or have seen which direction my tastes lean over the reading of my blog, you will know that I am a big fan of Jane Austen sequels, no matter how dubious they might seem. Well, imagine my joy to find a sequel to my favorite and the most dubious sequel of all, Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll. The new sequel is Darcy and Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley and just came out in May. I can't wait to get my hands on it! Racy stuff!

Running around online, I found the Austen fan site, The Republic of Pemberley, where most sequels to all the different novels are listed. Pretty cool.

A Death in Belmont

I have to credit Sebastian Junger for writing a masterful and terrifying memoir of how the Boston Strangler touched his life. A Death in Belmont makes a great non-fiction thriller for summer reading!

I first read an excerpt from the book in April's Vanity Fair, complete with eerie photographs. When I picked up the book, I was looking forward to reading it, but found after about two chapters that despite knowing what was to come, the book was actually a little too scary for me to read alone in my house at night! Knowing as much as I do from the excerpt, I will highly recommend it, but I could not get any further. Try it for yourself.

Read an interview with Sebastian Junger from his visit to Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon.

Your Friendly Librarian

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Here are the books sitting on my to-be-read bookshelf right now:

A Death in Belmont, by Sebastian Junger

The Exploits and Adventures of Miss Althea Darcy, by Elizabeth Aston

Fever Pitch, by Nick Hornby

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies, by June Casagrande

The Geographer's Library, by Jon Fasman

Friday, June 09, 2006

More from BEA 2006

I have a little time now, so I can continue telling you about the exciting new books coming out in the fall that I saw at Book Expo America, and the authors I met.

I am really excited about a novel called Alabama Moon (FSG, 09/06), by first time author Watt Key. This is for middle grade to teen readers and is about a boy who grew up in the wilderness with an anti-establishmentarian father. When his father dies, Moon must make his own way in the world, trying his best to follow his father's philosophy of not taking anything from anyone. Full of adventure, hunting, and survival skills, this will be a favorite of reluctant reading boys and fans of books like Gary Paulsen's Hatchet. I attended a lunch with Watt Key and he was a fun and engaging speaker. Most of the skills and scrapes that Moon experiences are things that he experienced himself, growing up in the swampland of the Deep South and during a survival project in college. The writing is tender and tart and smacks of true experience. Look out for this one, it should be a winner.

New author Obert Skye visited a group of school children I was involved with in Alexandria, Virginia, when he wrote Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo, (Shadow Mountain, 4/05). This fantasy novel completely grabbed the imaginations of these kids, as did the author's own sincere belief in every aspect of the world he created. Months later, these kids were still talking about the book and saying it was their all-time favorite. Well, the second book, Leven Thumps and the Whispered Secret, will be released this fall and the series has been picked up by Simon & Schuster with a big advertising campaign behind it. I hope more readers will pick up the series and get sucked in to the world of Foo.

A new mystery series for young readers, Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars, by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin, will open this fall with The Fall of the Amazing Walendas (Scholastic, 9/06). Written by the editor of Chasing Vermeer, the book uses many of the same techniques to draw kids in, with ciphers, mysterious artwork, and a fairly mature tone. It has been a number of years since a kids book took up the story of Holmes's child spies and this one should be welcome. The book's design is really beautiful, with old-fashioned art and tooling. I am eager to read more of this chapter in the series and hope to see more to come.

Other new books to watch for:
Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull (Shadow Mountain, 8/06)

Kiki Strike, by Kirsten Miller (Bloomsbury, 5/06)

I've Got an Elephant, by Anne Ginkel (Peachtree, 9/06)

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, by Barry Lyga (Houghton Mifflin, 10/06)

Snow Spider, by Jenny Nimmo (Orchard, 9/06) UK edition available now.

One of the highlights of my trip to BEA was the private pop-up book making workshop I attended, taught by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart. There were about 20 people in attendance and we all were offered personal help as we learned to make creative cuts in paper and create our own pop-ups. These guys are so much fun! The team's most recent pop-up is Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks and Other Sea Monsters (Candlewick, 4/06). They also have Castle (Orchard Books) coming out in August. Matthew Reinhart's new book this fall will be a pop-up version of The Jungle Book (Simon & Schuster, 10/06). I can't believe how many new books they have coming out with so much detail! They are so passionate about what they do.

Your Friendly Librarian

Powell's Books Passes the Mantle

I want to thank my grandma and my loyal reader, Libby from Bellingham, Washington, for sending me an article from the Seattle Times profiling the Powell family and the store's changing hands from father to daughter. Powell's is my favorite bookstore in the country and I use their website and online ordering for this blog. If you're ever in Portland, Oregon, it's definitely worth checking out.

Emily Powell is just 27 years old, but she has been planning on running the store since she was 8. I look forward to seeing how she guides the store and hope it continues to be the successful book mecca it is today.

You can check out the article from May 21 on the newspaper's website. You will need to set up a free account to access the archives.

Your Friendly Librarian

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards

A colleague of mine in Boston let me know that the 2006 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards have been announced. This award for excellence in children's literature is considered prestigious among librarians, authors, and children's literature professionals, but is little known outside of those circles. The Horn Book is the premier journal reviewing children's literature and a starred review is highly coveted.

I highly recommend the journal, which is published out of Boston bi-monthly. Many of my colleagues in Boston, where I attended library school at Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, are involved with the Horn Book one way or another. The Boston Athenaeum, where I was an intern, annually hosts the award ceremony. This year, as in years past, people I know sit on the jury for the awards. This year my favorite professor, Margaret Bush, was on the jury. Obviously, I really like this resource and hold it close to my heart.

Anyway, I was excited to see that Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (see my review in March's archive) won the prize in the category of fiction and poetry. Other winners include the gorgeous Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert, in picture books and If You Decide to Go to the Moon, by Faith McNulty, for non-fiction.

To see a list of the winners and honor books, follow the link to the award page of the Horn Book's website.

Your Friendly Librarian