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Today, a young girl came to the library, seeking two specific books. One was a Grimm’s fairy tales book which she knew was checked out and which she wished to place on hold. The other was a fairy tale book which she wanted to find on the shelf. As we were seeking the second book, I took the opportunity to explain to her the magic of the 398.2 shelves and all the treasures contained therein. She beamed at this bit of library lore, and so we got into a bit of a longer conversation. Wanting to encourage her to join our Summer Reading program, I asked her name and what grade she was in. “I’m in fifth grade,” she said, “and my name’s Arieanne**, that’s Ari with an ‘e,’ and Anne with an ‘e’)”

At this, I stared at this clear-eyed ten year old, and remarked, wow, that reminds me so much of a character in a book called Anne of Green Gables! “Oh yes, I know,” she said, “Lucy M. Montgomery is my second cousin twice removed.”

Stunned and thrilled, I told her how many times (embarrassing to admit here) I’d read and reread Anne of Green Gables in middle school. Turns out her mother is reading the eighth “Anne book” to her now.

I feel like I’ve met royalty. Pinch me, someone, please and bring me down to earth.

Here are a couple of Anne of Green Gables quotes, for those who are just as delighted as I am with this very Anne-ish encounter:

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“But if you call me Anne, please call me Anne with an ‘e’.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

**The name and some other details have been changed, for privacy reasons, but the spirit of the exchange has been saved.

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Calling all bookish folks:

Do you have favorite, go-to books that you immediately turn to when recommending books for third and fourth graders? I’m compiling a recommended books list for my library, and thought it would be fun to learn the favorites of other library people (and bookish folk) to better inform my selections.

  • Frindle by Andrew Clements
  • the Fudge series by Judy Blume
  • The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami
  • The Year of the Book by  Andrea Cheng
  • Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • Half Magic by Edward Eager
  • Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel by Ruth McNally Barshaw
  • Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
  • The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
  • The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling

A few that I often rely on are listed above, (in no particular order), but I look forward to refreshing my repertoire with your tried-and-true suggestions!

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As a librarian working with children and teens, I often am asked about what are some of my favorite books for various age groups. The problem is, I have a zillion “favorites!”

But I thought it would be fun to list just a few today, a taste, as it were, of beloved books that come to mind. There are more, but those will have to come another day!

For the first five years set, Goodnight, Gorilla and Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman make great read-alouds. I also love Bark, George by Jules Feiffer and Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora. This last one is a riff on the “Old MacDonald” song, and it was a hit at our Día de los Niños celebration!

For upper-elementary kids, one perennial classic that I simply adore is Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I love the fact that even though this book is 50 years old, its themes of friendship, secrets, and betrayal continues to appeal to children today. For this age group, one of my favorite newer fantasy series to recommend is the Wildwood series by Colin Meloy. Set in Portland and its adjacent (fictional) “Impassable Wilderness,” this book captured my heart with its refusal to follow any set stereotypes about heroic characters.

For young teens, I love Counting by Sevens by Holly Goldberg Sloan, in which the voice of the main character immediately engages the reader into wanting to know what will be the fate of this unique teen.  A creepy (but in an awesome way) book that I loved was The Riverman by Aaron Starmer, which is a haunting exploration of coming of age among children just on the cusp of their teen years, with a strong fantasy theme that interplays very well with what it means to come of age.

And last but not least, in this age of Hunger Games and Divergent, one series that I always recommend to all teens – old and young – craving more post-apocalyptic dystopian excitement is the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, which, with its intrepid female lead characters really gives those other books a run for their money!

So, for today, these are a few of my favorite go-to Children’s and Teen books. What are some of yours?

 

Book: Shadows by Robin McKinley
Genre(s): Fantasy, Alternative Reality
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication date: 2013
Hardcover: 368 pages
Other: Chosen as one of Brooklyn Public Library’s Summer Reading 2014 books for Teens
 

 

Shadows by Robin McKinley

Booktalk: Maggie’s story starts off, as she says, “like something out of a fairy tale.” She is a regular 16 year old teen who loves dogs, origami, and her friends and family. Well, except for her weird stepfather. She lives in present day Newworld, a world much like ours, but with these differences:

Magic is real. Magic is dangerous. It is so dangerous, in fact, that it was outlawed a couple of generations ago – in fact, the “magic genes” were removed from any and all families that were known carriers, including Maggie’s own grandmother and her descendants.

In Newworld, where Maggie lives, magic is thought to cause cobeys, slang for “cohesion breaks,” which are huge rips in the universe which threaten the existence of the whole planet, from Newworld to Farworld and everything in between.

Maggie’s stepfather bugs her. Something is way off about him, not just because he is from Oldworld, where magic is actually not only allowed – it is used as a tool to fight cobeys. And it’s not just his odd looks, or accent, nor is it his distinctly weird clothing. It’s the SHADOWS that accompany him everywhere, shadows which it seems only Maggie can see.  From the very first time she meets him, she sees “…something freaky about the shadow of his arm against the wall—a sudden sharp ragged line along the line of his forearm…” Soon these shadows seem to be trying to follow and communicate with her, and she is totally freaked out.

Maggie tries to find solace in the company of her dog Mongo and her part time job at the local animal shelter, and also in her friends Jill and Taks. And there is her origami – a long time ago, Taks taught Maggie how to make kami—origami creatures which are kind of a good luck charm to ward off evil. Although Maggie resolutely doesn’t believe in magic, making kami to ward off Val’s dark creepy shadows can’t hurt, can it?

Lately, though, it seems that things are getting worse and worse. Maggie has a bad feeling that is only heightened when the first cobey in years opens up in a nearby town.  Somehow, she thinks Val may have something to do with all this bad mojo. Maybe he’s brought illegal magic with him. And now there are all these anti-Cobey army units, which also bring bad vibes.

Mixed in with all this bad stuff there’s the welcome distraction of the super-handsome college student Casimir… but he too comes from old world, and seems to think that only magic can help with cobeys. What is right? Who is right? What are those strange sentient shadows that wriggle and wave to Maggie from over Val’s shoulder? What are they trying to tell her? What will happen to her world if cobeys rip it apart? Could it be possible that the anti-cobey patrol units end up causing more harm than good?

Read Robin McKinley’s Shadows to learn all this and more.

To whom will this appeal?~
The ideal reader of this book would love:
  • Animals, especially dogs
  • Magic
  • Origami
  • Fantasy set in a modern setting, replete with pizza, cars, and high school
  • Adventure wherein a female character and her friends come into their own just in time to help save their world

I would give this book to people who like to read about the juxtaposition of Magic and Science in a modern day setting, books like Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time, the Rithmatist or even White Cat by Holly Black…  The reason that I chose Harry Potter and A Wrinkle in Time as two of the readalikes for this book is that, like these books, Shadows reads a little on the younger YA side…

Except for the romantic bits closer to the end, of course. Ahem.

 

Book: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Genre(s): Very difficult to categorize, but here goes: Mystery, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction (in some ways)
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publication date: 2009
Hardcover: 208 pages
Other:
Newbery Award Winner, 2010

When You Reach Me coverSummary: Sixth-grader Miranda is having, well, a sort of weird time lately. Her best friend Sal has suddenly stopped talking to her, and won’t say why. There’s a bum who’s recently taken up residence on the corner near her apartment building (located in 1970s Upper West Side Manhattan), and who creeps her out with his sudden laughing episodes. And then there are the cryptic notes that start appearing in odd places where no one could have access.

What does it all mean? Figuring out what is going on is half the fun of this literary sci fi realistic mystery. (Yes, this book does indeed defy categorization!)

To whom will this appeal?: When You Reach Me is a literary novel written for the “middle grades” (and as such has extremely well-observed and realistic middle grade characters) but will appeal to a number of different “constituencies.” Fans of Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (which, incidentally, won the Newbery Award in 1963) will appreciate the literary (and timeless) quality of Stead’s writing. Stead herself is a fan of A Wrinkle in Time, as evidenced by the ubiquitous AWIT references in WYRM. In fact, one could go so far as to say that reading (or re-reading) A Wrinkle in Time is a necessary prerequisite to properly enjoying When You Reach Me.

It is a pity that many libraries will only carry this in their children’s section, as this book has an appeal for all ages, especially the teen or adult who enjoys the challenge of solving a tantalizing esoteric mystery that is zillions of miles away from (and more sophisticated than) the average juvenile mystery. Any child/teen/adult who has enjoyed the books of E. L. Konigsburg (especially From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The View from Saturday) will be very likely enjoy WYRM.

Another audience to whom the book will appeal is adults who may have grown up in, or relish the description of, 1970s New York. The description of late 70s era NYC — the freedom the kids had, the vague feeling of danger and yet innocence, the falling-apart-ness of buildings, the ethos of the time — is extremely well-done. While tweens or teens may also appreciate this description, I suspect that the draw of this type of historical detail is especially strong for those who have lived through the era and in the place. (Having myself lived in 1979 NYC, this observation may well be colored by my personal experience!)

Just strolled around the new book section and picked up these to scan/flip through as I sit at the reference desk:

~The Book of Other People edited by Zadie Smith
~The Importance of Being Kennedy by Laurie Graham
~Laughing Without an Accent by Firoozeh Dumas
~Mistress by Leda Swann
~Making a Difference by Being Yourself by Gregory E. Huszczo

Figure it will help with my Reader’s Advisory skills. :-)

What are you scanning these days?

Recently I asked many friends, both online and off, to recommend one book they had read in the past year. In fact here is exactly what I asked:

hello friends!
I have a request for you… If you could recommend (to me or to anyone else) one book that you read in the past year (loosely defined, doesn’t have to be exactly within the ’08 time span) then what would it be? Who is it by? And why would you recommend it? (The why can be as short or as long as you like. It could even be one word, if you don’t want to write much.)

Linked here for your perusal and enjoyment is the result of everyone’s combined efforts.

Friends, thank you so much for playing the book game along with me!  If you would like to add a book to the list linked above, do fill out this simple form!

P.S. Rajeev Alexander gets the prize (so far) for longest, most thorough review. Thank you, R! :-)

Long ago and far away (as in from the upper reaches of Manhattan) Sandhya from Literary Safari tagged me for a 7 Things About Me meme. Here are the rules (from the source):

1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Since #1 is done above, I will proceed with sharing seven facts about myself.

1. I have freckles, which for some reason a lot of Indian aunties think is a personal affront to them and to the bleaching industry. But I like ’em. (edit: I meant the freckles. The jury is still out on the aunties; well, at least the ones who come armed with bleaching cream.)

2. I adore sour things. Lemons. Grapefruit. Sour belts. Lemon cake. Green mangoes. Thai papaya salad with lime. The tangier, the better. My mouth is watering now.

3. I read (sometimes) while walking in the park, or even across the street (after looking both ways first).

4. I recently discovered Tehelka and I adore that site. It is my new favorite. When I first wrote this, I was thinking in a lighthearted vein, but even from a more serious perspective, Tehelka’s writers have important, insightful points to make regarding South Asian politics. After the November attacks in Mumbai, as I was seeking solace online by trying to find answers, I found Tehelka’s Tarun Tejpal to be one of the most thoughtful, informative and human voices in the strident cacaphony that erupted online and off.

5. I am a bit (ahem) of a germaphobe. But I don’t walk around encased in plastic, so don’t worry too much about my sanity. But I do believe in coughing in my sleeve, not my hand! It drives me crazy when people cough ineffectually into hands that only half-heartedly cover the general area around their mouths. In case you think I’m totally nuts, take a look at this awesomely funny and smart video that may just convince you that the sleeve idea ain’t all that weird.

6. I have been scuba diving. In Curacao. Once. It was hands down the scariest and most sublime thing I have ever willingly done. And, by doing so, I broke the law. (I had no idea it was illegal to go without a special permit, and the friend who persuaded me to go, wisely did not tell me so.) For this I am grateful, as scuba diving is the closest I will ever get to flying. And what slow motion, dreamlike flying! My dream is to one day go again. (After proper training this time, but of course.)

7. Sometimes I am very, very, very slow in responding to email. And yet, when someone is slow in responding to me, I get sad. Go figure. I am trying to get better at this. (Both the getting faster at responding part as well as the not getting sad part.) Um…. see, this post is kind of a case in point. I do believe Sandhya tagged me like, more than nine months ago??? I mean, I’ve had friends get pregnant and have their babies already in that time. (umm, hello Henry! Love ya! So nice to have “met” you last week. You are a doll. At least the size of one. For now. Now don’t forget the Gujarati I taught you, kay? Mwah!)

Sheesh. (Note to self: Got to get better at getting back, Bookish!)

Okay. Whew. With New Year’s and all, I am so glad to have this entry finally finished and published! And now for my turn to tag others. (Rubbing hands gleefully!)

1. Joy from The Spiral of Seasons, my friend and mentor in all things healthy and librarian-y!

2. Sally from Any Given Sundry, another wonderful online friend. Her photographs are perspicacious.

3. Pranav from Scarlet Guju, my friend since babyhood, who tells it how he sees it on his hard hitting blog.

4. Ariah from Trying to Follow, possibly the most soul-searchingly honest seeker I have had the privilege to meet.

5. Linda from Touched by Cancer, a friend of great empathy and eclectic interests who reaches out to others with helpful advice through her blog.

6. Mahmud from Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World, a friend from the west coast days, who is currently writing and writing and writing his heart out in Bangladesh. And who is having a book published very soon–called Killing the Water; definitely check it out!

7. And lastly, I’m tagging someone I know only through the blogging world; Pessimisissimo from Exotic and irrational entertainment… (and Pessimisissimo, I don’t think your obsessions are indefensible!)

Okay folks, it was nice to share with you my first post from 2009, which was more than nine months in gestation. I hope that our next mulakaat (meeting) will not be so far away. May 2009 shower blessings upon blessings upon us all!

The South Asian Women’s Creative Collective is having their fifth annual LitFest–with the intriguing name of Electric Ladyland–on November 2nd and 3rd… As a bookish desi I of course had to blog this!

Here is the description of the festival as listed on their website:

The South Asian Women’e Creative Collective (SAWCC) and The New School University invite you to Electric Ladyland, SAWCC’s fifth annual literary event. Thistwo-day series of readings, panels and workshops features South Asians writing literature that personal, political, and popular.

As pop culture and politics intersect, literature provides an avenue for women to find their groove. This festival explores the electricity of South Asians writing in a different time, in different ways—through the lenses of music, food, the Internet, politics, criticism, poetry and fiction. Electric Ladyland will provide an opportunity for these works to converge and spark new dialogue.

I don’t know what I am most excited about… Is the mash-up reading on Nov 2nd? (I’ll be reading too!) Is it the two writing workshops (one on fiction, the other on memoir) on Nov 3rd? Is it the politics and writing panel on the 3rd? Or is it just the idea of tons of interesting, electrically-bookish desi folks converging for a weekend of delicious literary talk in NYC?

Perhaps I’ll see some of you at Electric Ladyland? (ps Males are quite welcome to attend as well! :) )