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IN which I am honest

5 Jan

So, yeah, a few months ago I fell in love and totally abandoned this blog. And you. Yes, you. And you’ve been nothing but nice to me. Even when I got really wasted or told you your new haircut was ugly (well it WAS.) I am not retiring this site. I still have  books to trash.  But let’s be honest: I will not be posting regularly.

Rather, I am focusing on a more SERIOUS endevor: theoutreachlibrarian. I’ve been getting requests for information in my professional, for true life and so have decided to put it together and blog.  Because that’s what we do, people. We blog. Whether letting people know about our gassy stomachs or fights with our sig others, we blog it for the world to see. I hope to add something positive and meaningful to the Internets.

Thanks for the support and I am not abandoning you again. Mommy just needs some nice quiet time. Alone. In the dark.

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The Real Teen Librarians: no Ed Hardy here

2 Sep

So disappointed in that smoking baby; apparently at two, he’s already a quitter. Kids these days have noooo work ethic. But his skin is already looking so much better (hear that, Shannen Doherty?)

Anyway, please take the time to watch this 14 minute video I made with four other amazing ladies as part of the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders Program. Apparently wearing gold high heels qualified me for this honour. We created this, along with some other tool kits (email me if you wanna see them) to help librarians lure impressionable youngsters over to the Dark Side. The tool kit includes things like form letters, activities for shadowees to do, virtual job shadowing and ways to partner with schools.

The best part is that most of the footage was created by teens themselves. So, you know it’s good.

Busting Myths: The Real Teen Librarians: http://vimeo.com/12795527

In which we do a for-true book review

21 Jul

Growing up in a working-class neighborhood populated with union men who drank Busch beer and used curse words like Shakespeare uses “thou,” I knew more military vets than most middle class Jewish girls past the age when fathers served as a matter of fact. And yet, they made little impression on me, most likely because they never spoke of their service and because the rest of my upbringing was decidedly anti-military and anti-war. (Unless it was for Israel, but that’s another story.) My teens and twenties were full of protests and anti-military rants that met with appreciation in Chicago, Brooklyn and Eugene, OR.  Because I could never fit into military life with my recalcitrant and peaceful leanings, I could not understand why others could.

Which is where Levi, the protagonist of Dana Reinhardt’s new novel The Things A Brother Knows (September 2010) finds himself when his Golden Boy older brother, Boaz forgoes a bright college career to become a Marine. Sons of an Israeli immigrant who served in that military, Boaz and Levi have grown up in upper middle class American culture which sees military service as a choice for those with no other choices. Certainly not for sports heroes with the grades to attend Columbia. And especially not Jews from greater Boston, though their father might have grown up on a kibbutz. Levi, his family members, and Boaz’s gorgeous girlfriend all still grapple to understand Boaz’s choice. Now Boaz is returning home, with a hero’s welcome. Boaz returns understandably changed and mysterious to his family who are so thrilled to have him home they ignore that he walks everywhere and refuses to leave his room. Except Levi who is determined to unravel the mystery of his brother’s self-imposed confinement and then eventual leaving again.

Stories like this need to be told. Veterans are struggling to receive basic services such as mental health help, living wages to support their families and other resources promised to them when they signed their lives away, usually at ages at which reasoning and logic skills are still developing. Post-traumatic stress plagues current and past war vets and yet Congress fights over whether or not to fund treatment for it because of potential fraud. Boaz represents a real and pressing problem in our society, a society which rushed to fund war at a cost of billions but refuses to provide treatment for the effects of said war at the cost of lives.

And yet Reinhardt’s novel fails on many levels. The characters tend to fall flat despite attempts to make them real. They feel more like whimsical creations (ooh, let’s make the adopted Chinese girl Jewish and quirky and she goes to Catholic school , how novel!) than real people. In fact, Reinhardt seems to borrow heavily from John Green’s oeuvre in creating nerdy, sensitive boys, the cool girls they love, and their eccentric best friends in this book. The characters are hard to connect with, though you want to care about their troubles and struggles. We are too distracted by what makes them different to connect with what makes them like us.

The first half of the book is slow and weighed down by weak character development. While the pacing does match up with Levi’s struggle to find his way out of the dark, created by Boaz’s return home, it makes for sluggish reading. That said, once Levi leaves the confines of the quirky life the author created for him and follows his brother on a journey to who-knows-where, the pacing and story pick up. We start to get to know Boaz and his experiences more, which is really the draw in this book and the reason to keep reading. A John Green-esque love interest is thrown in, but she’s delightfully harmless enough if totally unrealistic (she’s a Manic Pixie Dream Girl) and therefore a bit of an enjoyable diversion.

The novel ends at a rally Washington, DC that may or may not be pro-peace or pro-war, depending on your viewpoint. Levi begins to understand why his brother could not return home the same boy he left. And readers might feel compelled to research more about returning veterans, their needs and the current inadequate means of meeting them. But I hope a better book, more fleshed out and less focused on details that come off as distracting rather than charming, will focus the spotlight on those returning home.

Special ALA: How to tell Librarians from Vendors

27 Jun

Here reporting live from ALA Annual in DC where Jacqueline Kelly, Rebecca Stead and Fran Manushkin are signing books and are soooooooo nice that if you have not read their books, please go read one.

Anyway, a favorite game to play whenever ALA is in town is Spot the Librarian. It’s usually a safe bet to start playing on your plane ride, at the airport and throughout the city. (Next year I need to get my ass in order sooner and get librarian bingo going and offer prizes…remind me.) Anyway, as you are traversing the wilds of ALA, including roller backpacks and people covered in buttons, if you are new to the scene you might find yourself confusing equally badged Vendors with Librarians. Here is our handy guide to spotting the differences between the two species.

Fashion:

Vendor: black suit/black pencil skirt/black dress/black silk shirt/black Italian suit (Euro imprints or poetry journals)/severe shoes

Librarian: roomy jumper with pictures of cats reading on it OR thrift shop finds cobbled into Hipster Superhero look.

Starbucks order:

Vendor: nonfat Venti triple latte OR iced coffe (black, no sugar, please)…and a receipt, please.

Librarian: Grande Hazelnut/Almond/Cherry mocha with extra whip OR chamomile tea…and a receipt, please

Accessories:

Vendor: black laptop case and swag people knock each other down for, soothing smile and candy dish

Librarian: five logo bags full of posters, ARC, storytime kit, fifty buttons, notes from one session they attended in between author signings, lanyards

ALA injury:

Vendor: carpal tunnel syndrome from swiping cards OR broken ankle from getting knocked down by librarians trying to be first to get one of 50 limited edition tote bags

Librarian: blisters and aching feet from waiting 1.5 hours to get Cornelia Funke’s autograph OR heart attack brought on by Kadir Nelson’s melting brown eyes.

Catchphrase and/or pick-up line:

Vendor: “Can I swipe your card?”

Librarian: “Your books mean so much to me.”

Social skills:

Vendor: well-honed in halls of East Coast corporation that include politely navigating awkward conversations on continual basis. Social geniuses of the conference.

Librarian: “Your books mean so much to me.”

That’s it for now, lovelies!

Calling teen librarians and YA authors!

14 May

I’m presenting at ALA Annual this year as part of the Emerging Leaders program (which sorta sounds like we are all dirty, tattered and crawling out of sewers to stand on two feet finally after a serious makeover overseen by a fey man with a poppy soundtrack). My group (Project Group U, for UNICORN!) is creating job shadow initiatives for public and school librarians working with teens to expose them to the glamourous and rewarding world of teen librarianship.

I’m working on a virtual program which includes a kick-butt video that I need your help making. The premise is myth busting about librarianship, exactly what librarians working with teens do and how we have a rockin’ good time. Teens would watch the video then connect with a REAL-LIFE librarian via Skype or videoconferencing.

How can you help and potentially increase your star power?

  • Authors: send video clips extolling the amazing powers of librarians working with teens to change lives, get books in front of kids, have fun and wear great shoes.
  • Librarians working with teens: give us a behind-the-scenes look at your job in which you bust the myth that librarians are prudish, uptight, inaccessibly geeky, favoring the “good kids,” and boring. Also, most of the world, not just kids, don’t realize we have to get a specialized education, but that’s all good.

Wanna participate? Email me for the details (ezitron@hotmail.com). Deadline to receive footage is June 4.

For true post: Books to get excited for!

17 Jan

The snark can wait a minute. Just got back from ALA Midwinter and am happy to report the summer reading is lookin’ good. Like so good Matthew McConaghey or however you spell his dang name will stand in front of a pool hall and drawl about how they are “good, real good.” Here’s a sneak peak at what I can’t wait to come out in July…and not just because I went to Jewish day school for 13 years.

1. SO PUNK ROCK by Micol Ostow and David Ostow (Flux, July 2010). The story of The Tribe, a Jewish day school band on the verge of breaking out and selling out at the same time. Sister Micol writes the story while brother David provides graphic novel panels interspersed throughout making for an enjoyable visual reading experience. The story of how one technically Jewish Man (he is above 13) named Ari decides that forming a band is the road to popularity and Sari Horowitz’s heart is told in prose and pictures that are subtle in their hilarity while hitting the truth exactly on the head. One great throwaway joke shows The Tribe about to perform at their first gig, the bar mitzvah of their bassist’s cousin. The panel shows the banner for “Ross’ Bar Mitzvah, Tha Thug Life” hung under a sign reading “Abe and Gladys Goldfarb Room.” The Tribe goes through trials and tribulations worthy of the Torah as they navigate fame, morning prayers, romance and how it feels to have the cutest guy in school as your best friend when you are most definitely not. The Ostows use a light hand in telling their story even while throwing out band names worthy of an “I’ll out-obscure band you” contest. Even if you don’t quite get while it’s freaking hilarious that going to Jewish day school means your basketball star will go to college on a math scholarship, you’ll get the truths about love, life and friendship the Ostows cover deftly and with lots of ruach (Hebrew for “spirit” but has a connotation that cannot be explained like most Jewish words. Just trust me.).

2. BROWN RABBIT IN THE CITY by Natalie Russell (Viking Juvenile, July 2010). My friend Susann and I were attracted to the warm, modern color palette and Ezra Jack Keats’ style art of this book. When we opened and started reading we were groaning within minutes. “I know where this is headed and it’s not good,” I said as quiet-loving Brown Rabbit visited the city to see his friend Little Rabbit, a fetching girl rabbit with a carrot purse and free spirit. “I’ve been in this relationship before!” bemoaned Susann as Little Rabbit took Brown Rabbit all over the city: to her fave cafe, out dancing, schlepping his country soul all over the big bad city. (Oy, when Brown Rabbit starts reminiscing about playing his guitar while Little Rabbit danced when they first met, we almost LOST it.) A book that truly appeals to both adults and children, it tells multiple stories on many levels that can be interpreted many ways. The illustrations are stunning and we both wanted to plaster our walls at home with them. This sequel to LITTLE RABBIT shows what kidlit can do best: tell a simple story that has deep, complex, emotional meaning if you want it to or just be a nice story that keeps you turning the pages.

3. BAMBOO PEOPLE by Mitali Perkins (Charlesbridge, July 2010). From the fantastic Mitali Perkin’s (RICKSHAW GIRL) comes the untold stories of the Karenin and Burmese people, currently living under military rule. Told from the perspectives of Chiko and Tu Reh, fifteen-year-old boys on either side of the conflict who are just trying to survive being thrust into violence and war against their wills and beliefs. Chiko’s father has been thrown in jail for protesting the military rule and in particular the violence against the Karenni people. Chiko is conscripted into the army where he learns that his book smarts aren’t the only kind of intelligence and how to start being a man. Tu Reh and his family have been forced into a refugee camp where they fight the Burmese from the jungle and try to stay alive. Circumstances force the two together and to forge an understanding. Perkin’s gives a engaging, real voices to her characters who pull you along with them on their often-terrifying ride through a tense situation. Perkin’s teaches readers about a world that exists today and about which we know very little as Westerners. But her message doesn’t feel clunky nor does it hit readers over the head. Instead, it shows us a slice of life that we should consider more closely and about which we should care. Check it out. Excellent for reluctant and guy readers.

A funny book about animals, I think

16 Nov

Who doesn’t love a light-hearted romp about humans raising wild animals? I mean, for so many reasons. Like when the tiger finally rips someone’s arm off, or the monkey is secretly sold to gas station in North Dakota because its owners can no longer control it and it gets to live its life out in a cage with tennis-shoe wearing tourists throwing bananas at it. Because ALL monkeys love bananas. So, don’t wear yellow around them if you are between the ages of 2-6, because it just might mistake you for a banana and try to eat you. Such intellectual reasoning skills mirror those of the author of our next book. “Leemo” is about a puma, being raised by some dude who may or may not be a researcher or have a degree in Zoology. I couldn’t be bothered to learn too much about him as an individual and you’ll see why.

Lemo

It's all fun and games until someone starts actually reading this book.

Wait for it…

Leemo 1

This is non-fiction according to its Dewey number. What's the call number for "racist drivel?"

I mean, really, we colonize them, bring small pox and alcohol, force them into slavery and they repay us like this? These people EXPECT minimum wage from us! The horror! I am sure they will all rape us and kill us in our sleep someday and then whose to blame? Well, them, of course. Yes, so this is a book about people raising wild animals. Apparently they misunderstood how the rest of us define “animal.” I do not remember “Wild Kingdom” (brought to you by Mutual of Omaha) including such information.

 

Leemo 2

This looks so fake.

Okay, so getting back to the puma this story is about. Sadly the author does not get thrown into the middle of this scene by his servants. Probably because they are too drunk and lazy. But how did they get rum? He would have to pay them a living wage and that is clearly unlikely? Oh, they probably stole it.

 

Leemo 3
Are we at Neverland Ranch?

Okay, the monkey is named “Little Jacko.” Start there. Then know these photos only get more beautiful when you read the next page…

Leemo 4
How long until the monkey starts getting drunk off of rum?

For reals, y’all, why can’t a monkey behave like a human? Or really, why can’t those Indian children behave more like monkeys and be “humanized”? Yes, this researcher just stated that he expected a monkey to be able to act just as good as a normal Indian kid. Great expectations for all around. Sometimes I read this and am not sure if he’s talking about the animal or one of the servants. Sometimes I read this and throw my oatmeal up on the floor. Where’s my freakin Indian servant to clean it up? I’m paying her 10 cents an hour? Lazy, drunken whore! Oh wait, I forgot to hire her. That must be her fault, too.

leemo 5
For a book about pumas, there is a lot of monkey in here. Like a bad casserole in an Indiana Jones movie.

Yeah, do not learn the hard way like me. Having a monkey in the house is a great way to have feces thrown all over the place because they are totally ADDICTED to have loose bowels! I’m sure this is totally NOT due to the diet of rice and sugar and milk we feed it. They just have an addiction, like Indians are addicted to getting drunk and not working. Worse, your Indian slaves will not clean it up without getting paid in advance. Especially if the monkey is still throwing it around. (Anyone else surprised the crap-throwing was not compared to how Indian children act?)

So, I wish the puma (who is kinda non-existent in here considering the book is about her) and the monkey would get smart and stop messing with each other. They seriously need to kill this guy in his sleep, after being addicted to loose bowels all over his bed. They can escape and spend the rest of their days living a far more normal and healthy life at Neverland Ranch. The end.