Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thoughts: Post-ALA

Back from another ALA, one that had a nostalgic feeling for me.  There's a lot of reasons for that: there was the celebrating for the 2011 Printz, which came with moments I had been waiting for since May of 2009, when I was elected to the 2011 Printz committee.  There's also knowing that this ALA marks a transition for me.  I'm not on any committees right now, and my plans for the next year are to serve on a process committee, which are primarily virtual right now.  But after getting to serve on the Printz, I think it's time to give back to YALSA by being on a less-"glamorous" process committee.

But what was this conference like, you're wondering?

--I got a chance to attend some great programs, giving me some ideas for improving teen services at my library.  In addition, many of these ideas can be expanded to other areas, which is great.  For example, Renee McGrath at Nassau Library showed off a mobile website that looks like an app--something I've already shown to people here at my library.  And I definitely want to start using QR codes on my program publicity and to promote the library's online resources. 

--I am a bit concerned with YALSA's insistence on being all things Apple.  I can understand that Apple's products have a very high cool factor--teens want iDevices.  However, they're not the only option.  And in cases where there are legitimate alternatives, I think that we should have balance by hearing about all the options.  Given that Android is gobbling up a larger and larger market share with each month, it just seems short-sighted to focus only on today's hot product and not tomorrow's, too.

--Another matter for concern was Penguin's ARC distribution methods.  Instead of having ARCs available throughout the conference, they only gave out ARCs during very short windows--in most cases, one hour.  These were usually timed with when an author was signing.  But there's two problems with this: in many cases, I don't really want a signed ARC; I just want the ARC.  Beyond that, though, is the fact that anyone who had committments they couldn't break--committee meetings, meals, etc.--then you were out of luck.  Given that many people come to ALA to do work, not just to get ARCs, this seems like a real disservice to me.  Add in the fact that I can count on three fingers the number of times a publisher has sent me an ARC after the conference when they ran out, and I really hope that this idea is seen as the bad PR that it is.  I know it's not a right to get ARCs, but I don't understand why Penguin would make it harder for themselves in this way.  I don't think it's a coincidence that three boxes of Crossed ARCs went missing during the conference.

--In happier topics, the Printz reception was amazing.  All the speeches were just funny and touching and thoughtful, in different ways.  Lucy Christopher talked about how Stolen came from her experiences as an immigrant to Australia.  A.S. (Amy) King gave a moving speech about how her mother's illness when Amy was fifteen, inspired Please Ignore Vera Dietz.  Marcus Sedgwick made a funny, extemparaneous talk about how his research factored into Revolver.  Janne Teller gave three speeches in one to discuss how Nothing came to be published, and how writing for young adults taught her more than she ever thought.  And Paolo Bacigalupi made a call-to-arms, saying that the world he created in Ship Breaker is what we are creating now, and that it was up to us and to teenagers to prevent that from happening. 

--I couldn't help but be incredibly proud of the Printz committee for the hard work that went into these selections.  Two of our members couldn't be with us in New Orleans, which saddened us all.  Yet we had a glorious celebration of just how good young adult literature is, and I feel very honored to have been a part of this.  Being on the Printz committee is a highlight of not just my career, but of my personal life as well.

Those of you who went to ALA, I hope you had a good time as well!  And here's hoping we'll see each other again at another conference.  If you're interested to know what ARCs I managed to pick up, check in next week to see my ARC haul post.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ALA Time!

On Friday, I'll be on my way to the ALA Annual Conference, held this year in New Orleans.  It's bound to be a fun time--I'm particularly looking forward to this conference for a couple of reasons.  It's the first time in several years that I'm not serving on a committee during Annual, which means I'll get to attend programs.  What's on my schedule?  I'm glad you asked!  I'm planning to attend the following:

--Download This! (PLA)
--Teens Reading Digitally (YALSA)
--Teen Services Mashup (YALSA)
--Moving Up the Career Ladder (YALSA)
--Using Mobile Devices to Serve Teens (YALSA)
--Membership Meeting/President's Program (YALSA)
--Printz Reception (YALSA)

Thanks to my service on the 2011 Printz Committee, I've been invited out for several meals, which is always a treat.  I'm looking forward to good food, good programs, and good times with my friends and colleagues.

This will probably be the last ALA I go to for a while.  Sadly, I have rarely received any support to attend ALA from MPOW, and unfortunately, something's gotta give, as the song says.  So I'm taking a break from conferences at least for the 2012 calendar year.  After that, who knows what the future holds?

If you're attending Annual, I hope to see you there!  The blog will be on hiatus until next week.  I'll be back then with talk about the programs I attended and the ARCs I managed to snag.  Until then, happy reading!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Fun: Poll Time!

As part of my efforts to make librarian by day better, I hope you'll fill out a three-question poll.  If you have any clarifications or recommendations, feel free to leave a comment here.  Thanks so much!

Update, 7/2/2011: The poll is now closed.  Thank you for your feedback!  Feel free to leave a comment on this post if you have any suggestions.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: Divergent

Veronica Roth
2011; Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins); ISBN 978-0-06-202402-2 (hardcover)

Summary: In a future version of Chicago, most people are divided into five factions, each focused on a particular virtue or trait.  Beatrice Prior is nearly sixteen and a member of the Abnegation faction.  She isn't sure what faction she'll pick when it comes time to choose her home as an adult.  To her surprise, her aptitude test doesn't narrow her choice to one faction.  This marks her as a Divergent, something unusual and potentially dangerous.  Giving in to an instinct, Beatrice chooses Dauntless as her faction.  Reborn as Tris, she learns how to fight, how to conquer her fears, and how to be a friend.  She even finds romance with another Divergent member in Dauntless.  Yet when the Erudite faction attempts to overthrow Abnegation, using Dauntless as mindless muscle, Tris is able to resist.  Resistance, though, is just the first step.

A dystopian thriller that questions human nature, Divergent proves itself worthy of its initial buzz.  The comparison to The Hunger Games are inevitable, yet this novel is quite different.  Less action-focused than that trilogy, this novel focuses more on the internal drama and introspective thoughts of Tris, as well as providing a stronger romantic subplot.  Tris is a strong young woman who at first doesn't realize what strength she has.  Her struggles to realize her abilities showcases the strength of the characterization in this novel.  Thanks to simple, straightforward prose and efficient plotting, Divergent is an engaging novel from debut author Veronica Roth.

Other Reviews
The Lovely Reader:
Ketch Tavern:
Narratively Speaking:
Entertainment Weekly:,,20484977,00.html

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: The Year We Were Famous

The Year We Were Famous
Carole Estby Dagg
2011; Clarion Books; ISBN 978-0-618-99983-5 (hardcover)

Summary:  Clara Estby probably never heard the Chinese proverb that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Such wisdom could be useful to Clara, though.  Her mother, Helga, has made a bet with a New York publisher that could save the family farm.  If Helga and Clara walk the 4600 miles between Spokane and New York City in seven months, they will win ten thousand dollars.  For such a vast sum--thirty-five times the annual wages of a woman worker in 1896--Clara will overcome her shyness and her doubts to join her mother on the journey.  Through flash floods, injuries and the reveal of a family secret, Clara and Helga will persevere.

Based on a true story from Carole Estby Dagg's family, The Year We Were Famous captures turn-of-the-century America and its possibilities for women.  Clara struggles to understand the impulsive, moody nature of her mother, slowly realizing that Helga's fight for suffrage is more for Clara than for Helga.  Suffrage represents the opportunities available to Clara, a smart young woman who will not have to marry in order to survive.  The contrast between these two different women is well-described, as well as the perils of their journey.  Pair The Year We Were Famous with Hattie Big Sky: novels based on ancestors, ancestors who were strong women facing great challenges.

The story of Helga and Clara's journey also inspired a book for adults, called Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America.

Other Reviews
Damsels in Regress:
Mother-Daughter Book Club:
Fourth Musketeer:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Fun: Summer Reading Lists

I admit, I don't get very organized when it comes to my reading.  I'm a big believer in serendipity, of picking up a book and diving in.  Sometimes, this means I go through lulls, where I can't find "anything good," or I'll have seven books that I'm juggling at once.

I've become a fan of Goodreads, in order to keep track of what I want to read, and I just might this year put together a summer reading list.  Thinking on this topic sent me to Google, where I found this article:  Crowdsourcing Your Summer Reading List(s).  How often have we all seen the power of mentioning a book on a social media site?  Perhaps I should just leave the creation of my summer reading list up to everyone who reads my blog or follows my Twitter!

A few summer reading lists that I found while hunting around might also be useful to you--so take a look!

Book Group Buzz:  Stephen King's Summer Reading List
L.A. Times: The Reading Season is Heating Up
ForbesWoman:  The ForbesWoman Summer Reading List 2011

If it's children's or YA lit you're after, consider these suggestions:

Horn Book:  Summer Reading
National Endowment for the Humanities: Summertime Favorites

What are you planning to read this summer?  Anything that you think everyone should read?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Review: Sean Griswold's Head

Sean Griswold's Head
Lindsey Leavitt
2011; Bloomsbury; ISBN 978-1-59990-498-6 (hardcover)

Summary:  Payton has never had trouble focusing before.  In fact, she was too good at it.  But when her parents reveal that they've kept secret her father's diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Payton goes off the rails.  Forced into counseling, Payton is instructed to pick a Focus Object, as a way to process her feelings.  So Payton picks Sean Griswold's head, which she's spent years staring at in her classes.  Once Payton starts focusing on Sean, though, she realizes just how much there is to him.  Now, she isn't just scared about her father's health--she's worried about Sean.  Will she let her fears ruin her life?

Mixing family and friendship drama with first love, Sean Griswold's Head has a little of everything.  Between Payton's type-A personality to Sean's laid-back attitude, Leavitt captures the sparks that fly when opposites attract.  Although Payton's falling out with best friend Jac distracts from the family and love storylines, it does show Payton's problem with pulling away when times are bad.  By the end of the novel, she's learned that it's better to have people in her life, even if she'll lose them someday.  Anyone looking for a great summer read will find one in Sean Griswold's Head.  Pass this one along to fans of E. Lockhart and Jenny Han.

Other Reviews
Reclusive Bibliophile:
Bri Meets Books:
Rhapsody in Books:
Booking Mama:

Friday, June 03, 2011

Friday Fun: Books About Winter

The last two weeks, the Mid-Atlantic has been sweltering--nothing like going right from winter to summer!  This makes me think longingly of cold temperatures, of curling up under a blanket while the snow falls outside.  So, if you're like me and want to cool off, check out some of these books that deal with Mother Nature's colder (and crueler) side.

Blizzard's Wake by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Trapped by Michael Northrup (read my review)

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

How do you beat the heat?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Review: Entwined

Heather Dixon
2011; Greenwillow Books; ISBN 978-0-06-200103-0 (hardcover)

Summary:  For the twelve princesses of D'Earthe, the death of their mother is a tragedy.  Their firm, distant father, lost in his grief, immediately sets off for war.  This leaves Azalea, the oldest princess, in charge of her sisters.  She thinks that dancing, the activity that their mother loved so much, is the best way to honor her memory.  The princesses are strictly forbidden to dance, however.  So when they discover a secret passage to a magical dancing pavilion overseen by the mysterious Keeper, the girls leap at the opportunity.  Yet the Keeper is not what he appears to be, and Azalea soon realizes that she will have to save her sisters and herself.  In a world of magic and Swearing on Silver, Azalea will discover the deepest magic of all.

This meaty retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses is a moving look at grief and love.  The princesses slowly learn to live with their mother's loss, finding new strength within themselves and unexpected support from their father, who works to redeem his past mistakes.  With twelve princesses, it would be easy to lose track of who is who, but Dixon cleverly characterizes the girls, allowing for the older the princess, the more fully realizes her character.  Lush prose never becomes overwrought, although a few anachronistic, out-of-place expressions slip out from time to time.  Fairy tale retellings have always been popular, and Entwined will be warmly welcomed by those who enjoyed the contributions of Jessica Day George and Alex Flinn.

Other Reviews
Alicia Reads YA Books (video review):
The Book Spot:
Good Books and Good Wine:
Girls in the Stacks: