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Guest Blogging today

15 Nov

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Last summer, I wrote a piece after watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor, I submitted it to  The Hub and today they are running it. You can check it out here:

http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2018/11/15/what-would-fred-read/

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The flu to end all flus

8 Nov

Just as we mark the 100th anniversary of The Great War this year, we also mark the 100th anniversary of the flu pandemic of 1918. In Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918,  Albert Marrin deftly shows how the two world issues are connected.

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Publisher’s Summary: In spring of 1918, World War I was underway, and troops at Fort Riley, Kansas, found themselves felled by influenza. By the summer of 1918, the second wave struck as a highly contagious and lethal epidemic and within weeks exploded into a pandemic, an illness that travels rapidly from one continent to another. It would impact the course of the war, and kill many millions more soldiers than warfare itself.

Of all diseases, the 1918 flu was by far the worst that has ever afflicted humankind; not even the Black Death of the Middle Ages comes close in terms of the number of lives it took. No war, no natural disaster, no famine has claimed so many. In the space of eighteen months in 1918-1919, about 500 million people–one-third of the global population at the time–came down with influenza. The exact total of lives lost will never be known, but the best estimate is between 50 and 100 million.

Marin also does an excellent job explaining the science behind the flu and research into it. I now finally understand what they mean when they call it an H1N1 flu! He talks about recent flu pandemics readers might actually have seen, though they might not have experienced directly.

All in all this is an interesting read that looks at the medical and social implications of the flu.

Guest Blogging today

31 Oct

I’m the guest blogger on The Hub today. Come on over and see what’s up.

http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2018/10/31/mary-shelley-read/

Here’s a hint:

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Beowulfish

25 Oct

Yesterday, I taught my students the word euthanasia. I’d given them a new list of Latin and Greek stems and eu – meaning good – was on the list.

The eponymous Boneless Mercies of April Genevieve Tucholke’s new books are tired of their lot in life – giving a good death to people. In this loose retelling of Beowulf,   we get to learn the story behind each of the Mercies as they make their way towards the monster.

The book had a bit of a slow start for me, but it picked up about halfway through. Although there is a lot of death, it isn’t gory – that would have been a dealbreaker for me. The actual Beowulf  homage only takes up the last eighth of the book. The setting of the story is Norse -ish. The people are called the Vorse. Grenfell is Logafell. You get the picture, but it gives Tucholke to alter the plot to suit the story she wants to tell.

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Publisher’s Summary: Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies—girls hired to kill quickly, quietly, and mercifully. But Frey is weary of the death trade and, having been raised on the heroic sagas of her people, dreams of a bigger life.

When she hears of an unstoppable monster ravaging a nearby town, Frey decides this is the Mercies’ one chance out. The fame and fortune of bringing down such a beast would ensure a new future for all the Mercies. In fact, her actions may change the story arc of women everywhere.

A Different Kind of Monster

15 Oct

I so loved Kiersten White’s three book retelling of the Dracula story (Conqueror’s Saga) that as soon as I heard she was writing a Frankenstein book from the point of view of Elizabeth Lavenza Frankenstein, I put it on hold at the library at the earliest possible moment.

It begins in the present and has frequent flashbacks to fill in the back story. It starts off a bit slowly, but it is worth persevering because the ending is perfect. Much better than the original ending.

In her author’s note, White states that she wanted to write from the point of view of the minor (i.e. female characters) and what a brilliant decision. Whether you;ve read the original or not, you know enough to understand what Victor is up to. He is the one who comes off as the real monster.

 

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Publisher’s Summary: Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend.

Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.

But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.

Middle school readers might enjoy this as much as YA readers. There’s nothing age-inappropriate and it is not scary at all.

 

3 Oct

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I first saw the cover on Twitter and, even then, not knowing much about Check Please, I knew I wanted to read it. I waited a few months for it to appear in my local public library’s catalogue. As soon as it did, I placed a hold.

It finally came and I brought it to school because I was hoping to talk about it with my kids. I did, but not for the reasons I thought.

You remember that old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover. Well, despite the cute cover – and cute illustrations throughout – this book is really not for 6th graders. The main character is a college freshman. There is some drinking and cussing and some mature themes. I held the book up for them to see and they all agreed it looked really appealing. I told them why I wouldn’t add it to our classroom library. And I told them that I bet some parent or grandparent somewhere will pick this book up for a middle or upper elementary school-age reader and someone will end up shocked. There isn’t anything really graphic, most of the mature stuff is implied. I told them I hoped they’d read it when they were a little older.

It was a very enjoyable graphic novel. It has an online presence and you can read some of it at this link: CHECK PLEASE!

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Eric Bittle may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It is nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking (anything that hinders the player with posession of the puck, ranging from a stick check all the way to a physical sweep). And then, there is Jackhis very attractive but moody captain.

A collection of the first half, freshmen and sophmore year, of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life. This book includes updated art and a hilarious, curated selection of Bitty’s beloved tweets.

A sequel, Check Please! Sticks and Scones is expected next year. I look forward to reading it…at home.

Taking Action

1 Oct

This weekend, I read a book that simultaneously saddened me and provided a roadmap to healing. It was a sort of bibliotherapy after a tough news week.

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Publisher’s Summary: When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run?

So that’s what Annabelle does—she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She’s not ready to think about the why yet, just the how—muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun the tragedy from the past year, or the person—The Taker—that haunts her.

Followed by Grandpa Ed in his RV and backed by her brother and two friends (her self-appointed publicity team), Annabelle becomes a reluctant activist as people connect her journey to the trauma from her past. Her cross-country run gains media attention and she is cheered on as she crosses state borders, and is even thrown a block party and given gifts. The support would be nice, if Annabelle could escape the guilt and the shame from what happened back home. They say it isn’t her fault, but she can’t feel the truth of that.

Through welcome and unwelcome distractions, she just keeps running, to the destination that awaits her. There, she’ll finally face what lies behind her—the miles and love and loss…and what is to come.

There all sorts of ways to overcome trauma. This week we saw Dr. Christine Blasey Ford confront hers, again, publicly. Annabelle doesn’t want to be seen, and she can help readers begin to understand the guilt and shame that survivors feel. As she attempts to come to terms with the trauma she survived, Annabelle becomes a focal point and a rallying cry and she finds her voice.

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