Sunday, January 31, 2010

Echoes of World War II

Background information:
This semester, I am taking a library school class on youth materials. One of the semester-long assignments for the course is to read a substantial number of both picture books and young adult novels. Later in the semester, we're to give a book talk on several books covering a theme of our choice. Wanting to start exploring my options early, I've spent the past week and a half reading a variety of books that in some way connect to World War II.

The book list, in the order in which I read the books:

Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Greene
I first read this young adult novel when I was the same age as Patty Bergen, the main character, who is 12 for the majority of the book. Set in a small, racially-tense town in Arkansas, the story follows Patty as she struggles to find acceptance in her own home, as she befriends and hides an escaped German POW, and as she learns what a person can be worth.
While I still cried at a major plot point in the book, I did so this time for entirely different reasons than when I was twelve years old. I think that's the sign of a good book, when the reader can continue to relate to it even after significant lapses of time.

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
Although this book is a Newbery Award-winner, and I definitely went through a Newbery-reading phase when I had just hit the double digits, this past week marks the first time I'd read this book. In strikingly simple yet incredibly full language, Lowry lets the reader into the life of 10-year-old Annemarie Johansen in Copenhagen as her family helps their Jewish neighbors escape from imminent Nazi persecution.
The language here is what really captivated me; it so convincingly conveys Annemarie's lack of understanding about the events going on around her, but it illustrates that a person doesn't need to fully understand things to make a right choice. As Annemarie's parents and uncle explain what is going on around her, a young reader can also be gently yet definitely made aware of the Holocaust.

What I Saw and How I Lied, by Judy Blundell
This newer book follows Evie Spooner, 15, from Queens, NY, through the events immediately following her step-father's return from the European theatre of the war. At her step-father's suggestion, the family removes for an indefinitely long vacation in Florida, where it becomes increasingly apparent to Evie that the family is really running away from something. Amidst a plot line of first love, tacit racism, and a possible crime, Evie grows up in more ways that she had wanted to.
While I enjoyed this book overall, I did find some bits of it unconvincing and a tad thrown together. What it suggests about what it really takes to know a person, however, makes it entirely worthwhile.

Crow Call, by Lois Lowry and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
This picture book takes us along on Liz's hunting trip with her father who has just returned from WWII. Liz was young when her father went off to war, so we see her discomfort and awkwardness as she gets to know him again. Through quiet narration and pensive illustrations, we also see Liz try to understand what it was her father went through while he was away from their family.
I loved the muted colors of the illustrations in this book, and I though Lowry's narration, again, got perfectly inside the mind and limited understanding of a young girl. I would not have thought that a picture book could so calmly and so completely show the most basic effects of war on a military family.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
This book, the longest of the young adult novels by far, is narrated by Death and follows five years in the life of Liesel Meminger as the war escalates around her in her German town. We see raw poverty, desperation, and hatred in this book, but we also see hope, selfless love, and the power of words to tell our stories.
Perhaps the sign of a really good book is that it sneaks up on you all of a sudden so that you cannot recognize that you've become entirely engrossed. That's how this book was for me. At first I found the narration style halting and rough, but as I followed Liesel's story the reading became easier and more insistent. By the end, I had completely burst into tears; and tears were something I was definitely not expecting based on my early relationship with the book.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Librarians Love Lists

Librarians love lists. But doesn't everyone love them, too? It seems to me that everyone should. After all, the organize information so well, and they can be about absolutely anything! Lists, lists, lists!

Here are three library-related lists for today:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Well tickle me pink!

As someone who loved her jumbo box of Crayola wonderment as a child, I found this article from NPR really interesting. Check out the diagram showing the evolution of Crayola's crayon colors over time, and then get giddily excited about a new type of crayon art, in 9 images, at the bottom of the page.

Personally, I'll agree that too many options can make the mind spin. But lots of color options? How can that be a problem!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Two Austen tidbits for today

Would you ever have thought that Pride and Prejudice could be told through the medium of emoticons? Well it has been.

Also, with the recent plethora of Austen-themed, -inspired, and -based books (some of them far more shocking than others; read on in the link!), it was only a matter of time before someone really commented on the phenomenon on Here it is.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cheese, thank you.

Here I am, reporting back on the cheese-y-ness of my book-club-hosting snacks. I ended up choosing only two cheeses: brie (a soft) and colby (a semi-firm with a good, people-pleasing flavor).

That's not to say, though, that two choices of cheeses made up the whole spread. I actually opted for two cheeses because cheese was to be only a part of the offering. The final table had the cheeses, two types of crackers, summer sausage, grapes, and Fannie May chocolates (creams only). I even got to use my new cheese board and soft cheese knife.

I thought it looked rather pretty; and it tasted good, too.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cheese, please!

Attention blogosphere! I need your help!

I'm hosting my book club next week, and I'm super excited to put my new cheese board and utensils to use in serving a snack. There's just one problem, of course: I don't know which cheeses to choose!

I love cheese; very much, in fact. However, I've never assembled a variety of cheeses before, and I'm not sure which I want to choose from the following categories:

1-mild (e.g. a soft, runny cheese, such as brie)
2-semi-firm (e.g. a moderately firm, pressed cheese, such as cheddar)
3-aged (e.g. a hard, nutty cheese, such as asiago)
4-blue (e.g. a cheese with veins of blue in it, duh)

So help me out! What cheese/s would you pick? What cheeses are your favorites? Any and all suggestions are welcome, as well as any additional info like what you'd serve said cheese with (dried sausage?) or on (cracker?).

Sound off in the comments, and then next week I'll fill everyone in on the final cheese board -- I might even flash back to my food-blogging days and post a food pic or two!

Friday, January 8, 2010

New York City Adventure

I had the great fortune to get to go to New York City with my mom for a few days this past week. My aunt (her sister) recently began her new job as Dean of the Silver School of Social Work at NYU, so we got to stay with her in her amazing apartment; and when I say "amazing," I mean "amazing" as in "This is as big as a house!" and "Eleanor Roosevelt used to live in this building!" and "I can see the arch in Washington Square Park from the living room!" Pretty cool.

For only being in the city about 3 full days, we definitely did and saw a lot. I recommend any of the following:
Really, we crammed so much in (=lots of walking), but we saw a lot, learned a lot, and visited a lot. What else does one need for a satisfying mini-break?