Thursday, December 18, 2008

By the way

I spend a lot of time on Twitter these days. Come join me there!(Why the phone boxes? Because I'm already having fun with my old pics tonight, and they don't get nearly enough attention.)

High School Me!

Visit Tayari Jones' blog to learn why you should post your embarrassing high school photos too!
Please note that I'm not even shying away from the bad pics. This is me turning 17.

Having makeup applied before homecoming sophomore year. (It's one of those skills I never picked up.)

Yes, it was a costume party. I loved that dress, though.Studying while on vacation. Yes, I'm a nerd. Yes, I always was. Better to get these things in the open.Junior prom. And let me tell you, I was so much more comfortable in that than the sweaty girls in their strappy dresses.Graduation day!

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I managed to cross off a few more titles on the Cybils list, but it still feels like a long way to go. (In a good way, though! Lots of books I might not have gotten to otherwise.)

There are tons of reviews I'd like to post, but I haven't quite figured out when that's going to happen. For now, here's my endorsement of Jo Walton's Farthing: It resulted in an unplanned trip to Harlem.

(I was reading it on the subway. Between being engrossed in the book and ignoring the announcements because the PA system was pretty poor, I didn't realize the train turned into an express after 59th Street.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cybils progress report

If you want to know details about the Cybils NFMG/YA nominees, click here. If you want to watch me track my progress through the list, scroll down.

Reviews? Yeah, one of these days. For now, I just want the sense of achievement that comes with crossing stuff off.

11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System
Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan
Ain't Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry
Amazing Kitchen Chemistry Projects You Can Build Yourself
Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers
Chill: Stress-Reducing Techniques for a More Balanced, Peaceful You
Generation Green: The Ultimate Teen Guide to Living an Eco-Friendly Life
George Washington Carver
Girls Inc. Presents: You're Amazing!: A No-Pressure Guide to Being Your Best Self
Gotcha Covered: Everything You Need To Know About Your Period
Great Peacemakers: True Stories from Around the World
Hidden Letters
Horse Song: The Naadam of Mongolia
I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee
In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry
Independent Dames: What You Never Knew about the Women and Girls of the American Revolution
King George: What Was His Problem?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the American Revolution
Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss
Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka
Lincoln Shot: A President's Life Remembered
Lincoln Through the Lens
Little Lions, Bull Baiters & Hunting Hounds: A History of Dog Breeds
Mysterious Universe: Supernovae, Dark Energy, and Black Holes
No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row
Off to War: Voices of Soldiers' Children
One Hundred Young Americans
OUR FARM: Four Seasons with Five Kids on One Family Farm
Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out
Painting the Wild Frontier: The Art and Adventures of George Catlin
Physics: Why Matter Matters
ridiculous/hilarious/terrible/cool: a year in an american high school
Science on the Loose: Amazing Activities and Science Facts You'll Never Believe
Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World
Sedimentary Rock
Seize the Story
She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer
Snow Falling in Spring
Steel Drumming at the Apollo: The Road to Super Top Dog
Super Crocs and Monster Wings
Swords: An Artist's Devotion
Taking Care of Your Girls: A Breast Health Guide for Girls, Teens, and In-Betweens
The Bite of the Mango
The Great Race:The Amazing Round-the-World Auto Race of 1908
The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary
The Pocket Guide to Mischief
The Raucous Royals: Test Your Royal Wits: Crack Codes, Solve Mysteries, and Deduce which Royal Rumors are True
The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West
The Way We Work
The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir
The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of Eastern North America
We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
What the World Eats
Who's Haunting the White House?: The President's Mansion and the Ghosts Who Live There
Women of Granite: 25 New Hampshire Women You Should Know
Yes We Can: A Biography of Barack Obama
YUM: Your Ultimate Manual for Good Nutrition

Updated 12/26. (43/56)

The Comment Challenge

I didn't come close to the goal of five comments a day set by MotherReader and Lee, but I made a lot more comments than usual - which was, of course, the point.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

You might want to vary your reading list if...

I've been working on Cybils books over the past few weeks, including some of the very fun science books.

Which is why, when I cleaned the bathroom yesterday, and splashed ammonia all over the floor, I thought about the fact that it was slippery because ammonia is a base.


And then I went back to scrubbing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Possibilities of Sainthood

Go. Read it.

Muchas gracias to Sara Zarr for her excellent interview with Donna Freitas, which was the kick in the pants I needed to finally sit down with my copy. Like Lottery, this is one of those books I should have read the day I brought it home.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Blog the Vote

I actually teared up when I saw this banner in Ridgefield's 300th anniversary parade this year. The LWV held onto a ca.-1915 banner carried by suffragists in town and brought it out for the occasion.

The women who made the banner (obviously) didn't have the right to vote. Neither did these, to name just a few: Sojourner Truth, Carrie Chapman Catt, Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Lucretia Mott, Rose Schneiderman, and Mary Church Terrell.

Not enough? Start reading the letters, articles, and oral histories from Freedom Riders collected at Breach of Peace and remember that for many people, seeing an amendment added to the Constitution wasn't enough.

People with political power have, for hundreds of years, tried to avoid sharing that power. Now that we have it - something other people have fought to bring about - let's make it count for something.

Pay a visit to your polling place on Tuesday, and think about what it took to get you there.

Chasing Ray has a roundup of Blog the Vote posts - thanks for organizing, Colleen and Lee!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Secret Keeper

I may need to create a new tag in LibraryThing: "made me long for an excuse to wear one of my salwar kameezes."

Secret Keeper definitely qualifies.

Asha would be happy to step into my jeans. She's sixteen in 1974, and would like to be playing cricket or studying for university - she has every intention of becoming the first female Bengali psychologist. But faced with a shortage of engineering jobs in India, Asha's father leaves his family behind while he looks for opportunities in the United States.

Asha, her mother, and her sister move into paternal grandmother's house in Calcutta. There's no money for school fees, and the Gupta adults aren't about to allow Asha to play sports outside the garden, so she finds refuge in her diary - her Secret Keeper - on the roof.

There are no villains in this book. There's no shortage of conflict, but, for example, Grandmother isn't a tradition-bound dragon lady. Asha frequently finds her strict, but she takes her granddaughters' side when it's appropriate.

Secret Keeper is filled with funny lines that jump out of the text (really, would the Grimms care if someone Indianized their tales?) and very nearly tear-inducing at the end - which did not turn out the way I expected.

And I'll admit it, I came away just a little bit in love with Asha's cousin Raj. If he gets to come back in a future book, Mitali, I certainly won't complain.

Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins. Random House, January 2009.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hip Hop Speaks to Children

A lot of excellent bloggers have been more timely than me in reviewing this book. See what TheHappyNappyBookseller, HipWriterMama, Fuse #8, Kelly Fineman, Shelf Elf, and Franki have to say about it.

But I still have to have my say. Because it's just that good.

(Actually, this book had me from the introduction, where Nikki Giovanni suggested that "if we could get to Mars we'd probably find a group of young Martians, hats flipped back, pants on the baggy side, shirts down to the knees, busting some rhymes, challenging each other in free style.")

Nikki Giovanni's selections go beyond what we usually think of as hip hop: Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Lucille Clifton, and Langston Hughes make appearances. So does Martin Luther King, Jr.'s prose.

But it works. All the selections in the book have a beat, and they just beg to be read out loud.

The illustrations, done by five different artists, tie in nicely with the poems they represent. While the samples available on Sourcebooks' site are nice, they left out my favorites. When you get your hands on a copy, be sure to check out the illustrations for
  • Dream Boogie (Langston Hughes)
  • Oh, Words (Eloise Greenfield)
  • Principal's Office (Young MC)
  • Harlem Night Song (Langston Hughes)
  • Ego Tripping (Nikki Giovanni)
And there's a CD, too - some of the poets read their own works, some are performed by others. Definitely worth a look!

A good excuse for having elevenses today

Happy Birthday, Paddington!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Impressionable minds...

This is why Fine Lines has such a following.

(Thanks, Josh!)

One of those times when Jane Austen demonstrates the opposite of advice

[The surrogate father] wished [the wannabe lover] to be a model of constancy; and fancied the best means of effecting it would be by not trying him too long.
- Mansfield Park, Chapter 35

Yup. When you're concerned about the callow youth's tendency to be fickle in love, the best way to avoid a problem is to not give him time to change his mind.

Leila picked up the book around the same time I did, so check in at Bookshelves of Doom for her updates.

Khaled Hosseini

If you haven't already fallen in love with Mr. Hosseini through his words at BEA 2008 ("And if that writer were a woman, it would be so much sweeter for me... I'll accept this award as her proxy"), maybe this will do it.
As a secular Muslim, I too was offended. Obama's middle name differs from my last name by only two vowels. Does the McCain-Palin campaign view me as a pariah too? Do McCain and Palin think there's something wrong with my name?
I'd like to think that you don't have to be an Obama supporter to object to seeing his name turned into an epithet.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I am so there!

A Rockapella Holiday
December 18, 2008
Ridgefield Playhouse

Yes, I grew up on Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, I admit it.

If anyone else thinks this might be worth a trip to Ridgefield, let me know!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

One missing word

I don't like saying bad things about books. Especially not about books that are mostly wonderful and beautifully illustrated - seriously, take a look at A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams just for the amazing word pictures Melissa Sweet creates from his poems.

As for the text, I have only one complaint: there is not a single mention of Williams' Puerto Rican identity.

Williams isn't traditionally thought of as a Puerto Rican poet, although his mother was from the island. In her 1995 essay for the Washington Post's Writing Life series, Julia Alvarez points out that one reason for this is how his sense of identity evolved:
Growing up, William Carlos never had a close relationship with Puerto Rico: In fact, he did not see the islands until he was almost 60 and had a deep longing to try to understand what his own roots really were. His was an American boyhood indeed, but with the powerful and sometimes baffling presence of his mother, who spoke Spanish in the home and embarrassed her sons by going into trances and speaking to her Caribbean dead...
It's been a long time since I dealt with literary theory in detail, so I'm going to fall back on another writer's words here. From Ed Morales' Living in Spanglish:
Despite a clear Caribbean heritage, both men [Williams and Arturo Schomburg] had their Spanish characters elided by North American historical narrative: Williams became the link between Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsburg...

...As Sánchez González observes [in Boricua Literature], Williams wrote "in a panegyric tone that clearly inscribes the authenticity of mestizo consciousness as the American consciousness" in his collection of essays, The American Grain. The bilingual doctor/poet from Paterson, New Jersey, inspired by Rodo's essay wrote in Ariel's voice, critiquing America's Caliban-esque tendency.
Yeah, that didn't help very much, did it? Try this book, or this one, for more detail.

Why do I think it's important? Because I doubt that Alvarez was the only one who needed a bilingual, bicultural poet to look up to:
One summer at Bread Loaf, a poet stated categorically that one could write poetry only in the language in which one had first said Mother. Thank God, I had the example of William Carlos Williams to ward off some of the radical self-doubt this comment engendered.
I want to see this book in kids' hands. It's a great introduction to Williams and his poetry - and as I said before, it's beautiful. But I also want to make sure that if kids need what Williams, in all his confusion and complication and Americanness, offers to them, they can find what they're looking for.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What I learned from Elizabeth Peters

The scene: My office, coworker's cubicle. Coworker's desktop image is a pretty cool manuscript.

Me: What is that? It looks kind of like hieratic. [Note: I have never actually seen hieratic. I've just read about it in the Amelia Peabody books.]

Coworker: Aramaic, maybe. I downloaded it from Wikipedia a while ago.

Coworker copies the file name and searches Wikipedia.

Coworker: [Reading from the Wikipedia entry] The Edwin Smith Papyrus is the only surviving copy of part of an Ancient Egyptian textbook on trauma surgery. It is among the world's earliest surviving examples of medical literature, the Kahun Gynecological Papyrus being older, and is the world's oldest surgical document. Written in the hieratic script of the ancient Egyptian language...

Why can't I figure out a way to make money from this?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Why we put lots of money into professional telescopes

Image of M33 taken by two astronomy minors using Wellesley's 24-inch telescope:
Image of M83 taken by real astronomers using a 2.2-meter telescope:
It was a lot of fun, though, and gave me a real reason to appreciate the good ones.

Additional procrastination, because I didn't want Kelly and her bad baby names to get all the credit tonight. She's right about allowing enough time - once you start it's very hard to look away.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I doubt Caroline Ingalls would approve

Neither would Aislinn: "Spent two hours embroidering a cloth for the church and three hours picking out my stitches after my mother saw it."

In my case, half an hour reattaching a zipper to a pair of pants, but chores always go faster when I can put them in context.

I still haven't figured out the right kidlit reference for washing dishes or cleaning the bathroom, though - any suggestions?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

No, muse, I haven't written this afternoon like I planned

But I have a reason, see?

What's that? You think the video is weak? Come on. I could have spent all afternoon playing around with Movie Maker, but then I'd have no time at all to write.

Well, fine then. I'm leaving you to enjoy the spider by yourself, muse. Some of us have real work to do today.

Monday, September 1, 2008


In honor of the fact that I can now sit at a desk and type (really, what took me so long?)

From BoingBoing
Female friendships - Anne and Diana, and real ones, too

You know what's missing from modern warfare? Lawsuits.


More for writers, from Cheryl Klein.

More map lust: London (via)

Political journalism then and now.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, coming (sort of) soon to pixels near you.

I might have missed this one if not for Lisa Chellman's excellent post title.

Not only true of editors, but also of critique partners: "When we write, we might know what we mean to say, and we become blind to the looseness in our language and the gaps in our facts."

I knew it!

Annie Barrows, in an interview at

That children's book, Daddy-Long-Legs, and its sequel, Dear Enemy; we love those books.

What I wrote back in March:

I was struck by how often the voice in Guernsey reminded me of Sallie MacBride in Dear Enemy.

I love being right.

Friday, August 29, 2008

One of yesterday's other speeches

John Lewis speaking at the 2008 Democratic Convention

Read the full text of the speech, and listen to Lewis on Morning Edition.

Monday, August 25, 2008


After watching Jackie Twitter about Graceling today, I had to say something about it.

The problem? I can't improve on Leila's excellent review.

Except to say this: The current issue of Publishers Weekly quotes the book's publicist, who describes it as "fantasy for people who don't like fantasy," and that's so true. No dragons, fairies, or vampires to be found.

Oh, and Kristin Cashore's blog is also worth a look.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Halfway there...

"When will we read something with a plot?" asked one agitated boy.

What's missing: any positive discussion of books written more recently than Catcher in the Rye.

But don't let that stop you from reading this excellent essay on how high school students are forced to analyze literature.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What everyone else is up to

Upcoming: A post on They Also Ran, part of Colleen's month of politics. For now, a collection of links, both kidlit and non.

The ever-fab Elizabeth Peters answers all sorts of questions for Powell's. (via bookshelves of doom) (Naturally, the month I don't read the Powell's newsletter all the way through...)

Kirsten Miller adds to her list of underground cities. (Before climbing down, take a look at the experts.)

Feministing asks why we don't have more Gwen Ifills - they ask the question in the context of presidential debate moderators, but as she's one of the journalists I admire, it's a question that should get more attention.

Errol Morris discusses how easy it is to change our perception of an image by altering the caption - from Hurricane Katrina victims to alleged WMDs. (via both Boing Boing and Gwenda Bond)

Kelly pointed me to some LOLs that don't involve any cats. Instead, they involve a certain world leader and major sporting event.

A post for everyone who's read The Green Glass Sea (even those of us who still haven't gotten an ARC of White Sands, Red Menace...)

It's no secret that I really like Boston. Maud just adds to it.

Also Boston-related - I want time to sit and read through Boston 1775. J.L. Bell has written some fascinating stuff lately, but all I've been able to do is skim. (And thank Ann Rinaldi for stoking my interest in the Jefferson/Hemings relationship.)

The great thing about being a reporter is getting to say things like this: "Quoting [Steve Jobs] calling me a 'slime bucket' is not even remotely problematic. He didn't go off the record for another 10 minutes."

tried out the fish pedicure - I think it actually looks pretty cool. (Says the girl who's never had a normal pedicure.)

Another Very Cool Thing, courtesy of Sara Lewis Holmes - NASA offers a workshop for writers that includes some observing time. Ah, the days of flats and darks and RGBSun...

Joseph Bruchac makes an appearance at Cynsations.

New additions to the TBR list:
High Dive by Tamar Stein
Don't Talk to Me About the War by David A. Adler

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The light side and the dark side

How the Washington Post headlined today's economic news: US Economy Grows at Solid Pace in 2nd Quarter

How the New York Times covered it: GDP Grows at Tepid 1.9% Despite Stimulus

On my Google page, the headlines are right on top of each other. Gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Smart and strong? Bring it.

I can't fault Ramin Setoodeh too much - it seems like half the pages in the latest issue of Newsweek have his work on them. But perhaps he wasn't the best person to try to put the longevity of Anne of Green Gables into context:
It's rare to find a best seller with a strong heroine anymore... "The literary smart girl is still showing up in literature, but she's often the sidekick," says Trinna Frever, an "Anne of Green Gables" scholar.
I don't have any BookScan sales numbers in front of me, but here are a few mainstream YA titles featuring "strong heroines" and "smart girls" the author and his expert have overlooked:

Best Foot Forward
Boy Proof
A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life
Carpe Diem
Climbing the Stairs
I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You and Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy
Dairy Queen and The Off Season
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature
Fact of Life #31
Gamma Glamma
Hattie Big Sky
Jason & Kyra
The Kayla Chronicles
Monsoon Summer
Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies)
Princess Academy
Princess Ben
She's So Money
Vegan Virgin Valentine
Who's Your Daddy?
Zoe's Tale

And not one of those covers features a "cell-phone-carrying, bikini-clad princess," I assure you.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What I've read lately

Top 8, by Katie Finn: Decent story, but I'm not so sure about the geography. I picked this one up because it's set in Putnam, Connecticut, which I've gone through many times visiting relatives near there. But Finn's Putnam is close enough to Long Island Sound that the characters can make a quick trip to the waterfront - not quite.

Silent in the Grave and Silent in the Sanctuary, by Deanna Raybourn: Love 'em both. Great voice, fabulous characters, want to know what's next in the series. (In the meantime, I'll make my way through Tasha Alexander.)

What I Saw and How I Lied
, by Judy Blundell: I was looking forward to this one (okay, entirely because of the cover) but I couldn't convince myself to like any of the characters - disappointment. Liked the 1940s fashion, details, though.

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, by R.L. LaFevers: For those who are still too young for Peabody and Emerson. Fun read.

Lottery, by Patricia Wood: Why did I take so long to get to this one? It was amazing!

Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson: A different take on the "kid on the fringes of the Revolutionary War" narrative, and one that's hard to put down.

Climbing the Stairs, by Padma Venkatraman: Loved the story; try combining this one with What the Body Remembers (but brace yourself - I read it years ago and some of the scenes are still vivid).

Gamma Glamma, by Kim Flores: Fabulous voice. Would have gotten to this one a lot sooner if the ARC had come with any sort of synopsis (sorry, pet peeve).

Zoe's Tale, by John Scalzi: Definitely going to read his other books now. Love the voice, love the story, love the twist.

The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop, by Nate Evans: Lots of cute puns. I'll be recommending it to all the kids who need something to tide them over until the next Wimpy Kid book comes out. (January - be patient!)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ridgefield Again

Grrr. I got caught up in setting up my new phone yesterday, and forgot to post more pictures. Again, I'm making up for it by posting a bunch today.

Ridgefield is a quintessential New England town, complete with Main Street
and Town Hall

and eighteenth-century buildings.Lots of churches, too. Naturally, there's a Congregational churchbut it looks like it was plucked from an English village, while the Methodist church
has the classic spire and location (which was the original Congregational church location, but at some point they moved down the street).

Oh, and fall is absolutely gorgeous here.Next up: blizzards, the highlight of any kid's winter. (Snow days!)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

This is Ridgefield

I'm late to the party, but I like Cynthia Lord's photo challenge. To make up for my late start, you get lots of Ridgefield pics today.

Winter, naturally. Just in case we ever need to prove that there are wetlands in back.

The second one is old, I'll admit - this space is now occupied by an Asian-fusion restaurant called Koo. At the time of the picture, it was a sports bar-ish place called Bully's, but that part of the sign was frequently missing. (It doesn't really show up in the thumbnail, but click the picture to see a full-size image.)

For the last one we go back to winter - specifically, the part of winter that overlapped with my cat-sitting duties. This is a neighbor's very cool drainpipe on a rather cold day.