Santa brought my smart four-year-old grandniece a Rapunzel’s Tower for Christmas. She served me coffee in the tiny cups, breakfast on the tiny plates, and had me assist her as she painted the wallpaper with a magic brush and water, which revealed birds and other images amidst the tree branches. (We had a lot of fun.)
This gift is the latest in a series of toys and dolls she’s received that celebrate the world of princess fairy tales. For lack of a better term, she’s kinda princess-crazy. I found out that her cousins had even dressed her up as a princess on Christmas Eve. Goodness!
This morning, the princess craze came up during a meeting I had with fellow librarians and the fine folks at Sonic, America’s Drive-In. Adrienne and I from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Emily from the Metropolitan Library System, and Nancy and Becky with Sonic were discussing plans for the 2012 Statewide Summer Reading Program. (Sonic has been a corporate partner for the program since way back in 1998. They’re the best!) When Nancy mentioned that Sonic provides toys with an educational component in their Wacky Pack children’s meals, as opposed to the Ariels and Sleeping Beauties found in other restaurant kid meals, I said that was great, and I admitted that I was having a problem with the whole princess thing. Just what kind of message are we sending to our young girls, anyway?
Becky noted the recent marketing strategy of making more toys and products in pink—including fishing tackle boxes and camouflage clothing!—to attract girls and women. She also mentioned a YouTube video of a young girl commenting on gender marketing. (See below.)
Once our meeting was over, I headed down to my car, started the engine, and turned on the radio, which was tuned to KGOU, an NPR station. Right then, on the Dianne Rehm Show, a woman was talking about pink toys! (Really, you can’t make this kind of stuff up.) Turns out the guest was Peggy Orenstein, who has much to say about gender marketing and its possible impact on girls in her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. From the book description:
Pink and pretty or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source—the source—of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages.”
You know when there are reality shows featuring toddlers in tiaras that there’s a problem. Still, like Orenstein, I tend to believe that girls will be girls, and boys will be boys. Why fight nature? But that doesn’t mean we need to harden the gender differences within our culture. More than anything, I think I share a belief with the author that children should be children. The author investigates her concerns like a master sleuth. More from the book description:
She visited Disneyland and the international toy fair, trolled American Girl Place and Pottery Barn Kids, and met beauty pageant parents with preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. She dissected the science, created an online avatar, and parsed the original fairy tales. The stakes turn out to be higher than she—or we—ever imagined: nothing less than the health, development, and futures of our girls.”
This is definitely a book I want to check out.
In another part of the forest, my smart eight-year-old grandnephew received a BB gun for Christmas. But that’s another story…
I adore my little niece and nephew. They are sweet, kind, intelligent children and they have loving parents who offer them unconditional love and who do a good job of teaching them right from wrong. It’s just that their “Great and Powerful Uncle Bill” (that’s how I sign my name in their gift books and greeting cards) tends to worry.
And before I leave you, here’s that YouTube video of young Riley ranting about pink toys.
GalleyCat is one of my favorite websites. They have all the best news from the Book Publishing Industry. Literary Kittie was so pleased to find their Annual Pet Parade. Send in your photos of your literary pets and next week they’ll start posting them.
Sticking with the GalleyCat theme. I just love a good reading list. The best of this, the best of that. But the notion of Favorite Overlooked Books of 2011 is a must have. Young Bill, please note Habibi is on their list. I would put Cheyenne Madonna by Eddie Chuculate on mine. New Hampshire Public Radio’s Word of Mouth got this conversation started. The link should start with QuickTime, give it a minute. Remember libraries also buy all those unsung gems and support authors.
I also think we forget to recommend and talk about books that are not current but we uncover in book piles, sale bins and library shelves throughout the year. Oldies but goodies.
This is your chance to tell what book you think was overlooked by all those reviewers, publishers, booksellers, and award givers.
The great astrophysicist Stephen Hawking warns us that contact with alien life may not be in our best interest. After all, human history shows all too well how indigenous peoples suffer at the hands of a more technologically-advanced society.
The laws of space and time suggest that such visitations are probably not in our future. Still, if we were to awake one morning to find mother ships overhead, I suspect that a nervous Earth might hear our visitors say something like the following. (Note: just replace “Indians” with “Earthlings”):
“The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed.”
—[Secton 14, Article 3, Northwest Ordinance of U.S. Congress, July 13, 1787
This quote introduces Chapter 5—“What’s mine is mine. What’s yours is mine!”—of Conscience: Breaching Social Amnesia by vehoae. In the author’s first book, she illustrates, through exhaustive research, how the perspectives and motivations of the European invaders and their progeny influenced the rhetoric, politics, and decision-making of the day regarding the continent’s Indian Nations.
Beyond the dishonest diplomacy practiced with the tribes, we are treated to the views and arguments of political and religious leaders as they sought a solution to the Indian problem. Such quotes and primary document details trace the discussions of extermination, assimilation and segregation of the tribes from early European settlement to the days of the Indian Boarding Schools.
It’s an uncomfortable history, of course. Reading about the worse angels of our nature (if I may twist the resurrected Lincoln quote) should make us feel uncomfortable. Seeing an unflattering side of American statesmen like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson strikes at our patriotic heart.
We know this truth about our past, but some Americans would just like us to forget about it. But vehoae says, “No, look. This is what we did. Here is the proof.” Her appendix, exhibits, bibliography and end note citations take up a third of the book. (I wasn’t kidding about exhaustive research.)
While at the University of Oklahoma in the late 70s, I was lucky enough to have a class with Dr. Jerry Steffen, who warned us about condemning past generations. The future will laugh at us, and condemn us, too, he said. He reminded us to always consider past history in light of the times. This did not mean we should not pass judgements on cruelties of the past. It meant that by understanding the period of history, we could understand why such cruelties happened.
There is no advantage to ignoring our history, but there is much to gain by confronting painful truths. For what better way will we truly find the better angels of our nature?
Visit vehoae’s website to find out more about the author, her interests and her work.
Read an interview with the author, where she discusses her book and the writers that inspired her. Plus, she provides a host of research tips for non-fiction writers!
- 50% of all library users go on to buy books by an author they were first introduced to at the library;
- 20% of library users are “power patrons.” They visit the library at least once a week, borrow all types of media, and are active buyers of books and other media, including e-books;
- Power patrons are more likely to vote at a higher rate than other patrons; and,
- Power patrons are “influencers” who spread the word about books, visit both online and brick and mortar bookstores, and are more likely to purchase specific books they’ve borrowed from the library.
Why is this news important?
Here’s why: There’s a common myth out there, especially among some publishers, that every book sold to a library translates into “lost” sales to private citizens. I addressed this myth—showing how it was just wrong— way back in May of 2010 when a particular Hi & Lois cartoon made an odd connection between library use and shuttered book stores:
It would have been more accurate to show Lois ordering a book online and then passing a shuttered book store. Libraries and book stores co-exist just fine. It’s the Internet Age that is fundamentally changing the publishing and bookseller communities, and the economy, of course, is not helping.
And speaking of the economy, it’s true that public library usage goes up during tough times; but lack of a library certainly doesn’t mean that people with tight budgets can suddenly start buying books, newspapers and magazine subscriptions; or reconnect their home Internet service. And what about those folks struggling even during good times?
Benjamin Franklin knew how important access to books and ideas was to the young nation. Along with others, he founded the nation’s first subscription library, The Library Company of Philadelphia. His lending library lays claim to being the predecessor to today’s public library. The motto of The Library Company is the Latin “Communiter Bona profundere Deum est,” which translates as “To pour forth benefits for the common good is divine.” (Today, apparently, the “common good” means “socialism” in some circles, as this satirical blog post on the same Hi & Lois cartoon confronts.)
While some publishers may believe libraries cut into sales, most authors know how important libraries are to promoting their books, connecting them with readers, and ultimately driving their book sales.
Whatever form books take in the future, I’m betting that publishers and booksellers find a way to survive and thrive. And I’m betting that the library will be there to share that new wealth of literature, entertainment, and political and social commentary. For as the Patron Profiles study shows, it will not only be good for democracy, it will be good for the economy.
Choctaw Middle School and Lawton Public Library are tops!
Two Oklahoma City teens win the grand prizes!
Oklahoma teens who participated in 2011 Teen Read Month read 663,778 pages during the month of October, setting a record for the three year old program.
Before we do a run down of this year’s winners, here’s some background…
The promotion is an outgrowth of the national Teen Read Week, sponsored by the American Library Association’s YALSA group. (That stands for Young Adult Library Services Association, if you’re interested.) The problem with the national promotion was that it always conflicted with fall break for many of our state’s schools. Solution? The Oklahoma Department of Libraries decided to stretch out Teen Read over a month-long period, partner with The Oklahoman’s Newspapers in Education Program, and bring in sponsors like the Institute of Museum and Library Services. This year, Sonic, America’s Drive-In, and The Toy and Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley also joined in on the reading fun as sponsors!
This year’s theme was comics and graphic novels, but teens ages 12 to 18 could read whatever they wanted during the month and track it on a reading log. The purpose of the program is to keep teens reading for pleasure during the school year, when much of their reading time is devoted to school work. “Reading just for the joy of it is the best way to develop a lifelong love of reading,” according to Adrienne Butler, Youth Services Librarian at the Department of Libraries.
Now on to the big announcements! Drum roll please…
Top Public Library Reader: Cody Speegle, 17, representing Southern Oaks Public Library, OKC: 39,325 pages read!
Top School Reader: Kelsi Gonzales, senior, representing Putnam City High School, OKC: 22,503 pages read!
Top Public Library: Lawton Public Library, where 47 teens read a combined total of 148,268 pages! The public library will receive $250 worth of books courtesy of some dedicated teen readers. The library will also host a program by Kevin Stark, currator of the Toy and Action Figure Museum.
Top School: Choctaw Middle School, where 131 students read a total of 163,524 pages! A set of books worth $250, and a special program by Kevin Stark, are heading to the school thanks to these students.
Winners of the drawing were Kahen Kamaherett from Lawton High School and Hanna Powell from Curtis Inge Middle School in Noble. Both teens will receive some free books.
Top Ten Readers:
|Cody Speegle, 17, Southern Oaks Public Library||39,325|
|Duncan Fairrington, 13, Kellyville Public Library||33,840|
|Michael Reif, Grade 8. Lawton Public Library||25,594|
|Kelsi Gonzales, Grade 12, Putnam City High||22,503|
|Mitchell Sadler,Grade 7, Lawton Public Library||20,653|
|Cole Fullmer, Grade 8, Choctaw Middle School||14,956|
|Taylor Allen, Grade 12, Geronimo High School||12,302|
|Marci Walker, Grade 11, Lawton Public Library||11,356|
|Breana Pascoe, Grade 7, Lawton Public Library||10,855|
|Lexey Osborn, Grade 8, Lawton Public Library||10,724|
- More than 60 schools and public libraries registered to participate
- 447 teens from 17 schools and libraries went the distance, turning in reading logs to compete in the contest
- The 447 teens read 663,778 pages during the month
- Lawton Public Library’s top reader, Michael Reif, received a Nook e-reader courtesy of the Lawton PL
- Putnam City High School has had the top reader in the school category all three years of the contest
- This year’s total beat 2009′s previous record, which was 504,376 pages read.
- Total pages read for the three years of the program: almost 1.4 million pages
Expect Teen Read Month to grow in the coming years! We’re just getting started with this new statewide reading initiative.
Coming Up: We’ll follow this news with some additional posts next week. We’ll give you some insight into what kind of books our winners, Cody and Kelsi, enjoy. Plus, we’ll challenge you on your knowledge of Comics and Graphics Novels. Stay tuned!
While Bill has been busy reading a horrific horror novel, I’ve had the enjoyable pleasure of a good solid mystery by author, Jerrilyn Farmer. Even though this book was written in 2003, it has all the fun of reality food shows. Who doesn’t love “Next Iron Chef”, “Chopped”, or “Next Food Network Star”, and of course there’s all those people driving around in their food trucks.
Madeline Bean owns her own catering service, Mad Bean, and times are tough. She caters to the Hollywood crowd and is in the middle of planning the Food Freak’s wrap party. Food Freak is a television show that combines recipe cook-offs and food quizzes. Supposedly closing out their last show, Madeline finds they’ve been offered one more show and it’s going to be a doosey. Apparently the show’s head writer has taken a hike and Maddie’s offered a writing job to fill in until he can be found.
The fun and mystery begin, Maddie meets up with some crazy characters; including Chef Howie, and cougar wife Fate; Artie, TV production manager and sometime tyrant; sheep with very interesting names; Wednesday night murders (on schedule with the show) and also plenty of clues to uncover in a library of cookbooks. Farmer, who has written for game shows such as Jeopardy and Supermarket Sweep, does a great job with game show detail, and live audience productions.
I thought it was a delightful read, with plenty of substance to keep me from being annoyed at fellow airplane travellers (maybe Alec Baldwin could use a better book on his next flight). Look forward to reading more by Jerrilyn Farmer about Maddie Bean and her catering company.
OK, so these dudes traveled around the country doing Library Road Trip video blogs, stopping at public libraries around the nation. It’s nice to celebrate public libraries, but looking at the Oklahoma City video below, I wonder how much people really learn from watching their vlogs.
Did they even talk to anyone at OKC (or at any of their stops)? For example, if they had, they would have known that Oklahoma City really doesn’t have a “main” library. The collection at the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma County is technically “decentralized.” That building downtown is just the “downtown” branch. They also leave the impression that the new downtown library had to be built because of the bombing. Wrong.
And they make a stop at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, and they don’t even go inside. I mean, I know this is a project centering on public libraries, but wouldn’t it have been nice if they had visited the archives inside?
OK, I’ll stop complaining. They *do* have some nice things to say about OKC. But it all just makes me wonder how much I can trust the other library vlogs they did on their road trip.
I’m not a great fan of Halloween, generally. I live in an early 20th century eight-plex that makes it pretty darn hard to pass out candy and “oooo” and “ahhh” at the little tykes in costume. I’m not a party person, either. Plus, I’m not easily spooked. I prefer those holidays where family and friends gather. Halloween is just sort of… meh.
I do try to get in the mood though by renting a scary movie or reading a horror novel. So when I came across a discounted copy of Peter Straub’s A Dark Matter at a book store in September, I thought: “Oh! This will be a good book to read around Halloween!”
So I start it mid-October, and it takes me until the week of Thanksgiving to finish it! Honestly, the horror in this book was just getting through it.
I had never read a Straub novel, but this one appeared to have everything going for it, including praise from the likes of Stephen King, Michael Chabon and Booklist. And the author is a bestseller and an award-winner to boot!
In the novel, a 60-something writer in the present is moved to finally find out what really happened in a Madison, WI field in the 1960s. His wife and three of his friends were present at the event, where one person was slaughtered and another simply disappeared. The young high schoolers were seduced by a guru passing through town at the time—a guru who needed their help in lifting the veil from our perceived reality to discover what really lies underneath. A ceremony in the field was an attempt to discover the greater spiritual truth about our world.
That’s pretty much it. Except that at the beginning of the book, we already know the dead guy is dead, the vanished guy is gone, and the other people in the field are still alive. There. Is. Absolutely. No. Suspense. In. This. Book.
So why did I keep reading it? Well, to find out what happens, of course! I mean, there is a mystery. It’s not particularly interesting, but the thing about mysteries is you want to find out. And the thing about horror—unless just the thought of a monster face gives you the willies—is that it is successful or not based on the amount of suspense an author can make the reader feel.
Oh, there’s a sort-of-interesting side story about a serial killer, and a sort-of-interesting final revelation where a demon teaches us why we need evil in the world, but sort-of-interesting is the last thing you need a horror story to be. You want it to be a page turner. You want it to spark a chill or a shiver. You want it to make you feel alive. This book fails at all three.
Any Peter Straub fans out there? Tell me what you think about this author. He certainly has a way with words, but I sure hope he has some better stories than this one on the shelf.
And while we’re at it, anybody have suggestions of really good horror novels?
Literary Kitty is happy that we’re getting back on track with our Okie Reads posts, but he has a problem with us. Why, oh why, he wonders, didn’t we include this wonderful list in our last post? Well… gosh. Literary Kitty says “good job!” and then starts his criticism all over again.
He’s right, of course. (He always is.) Time Magazine’s 100 Best English Language Novels from 1923 to 2005 is a great list. (Why 1923, you ask? That’s the year Time magazine was born.) More than anything, the list is a great conversation starter. Is the list what you would come up with? What’s missing? Why did Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo come up with these titles? Well, you can find out on Time’s site, but you’ll have to navigate through the 100 one title at a time to read their commentary.
I don’t know whether to be happy or embarrassed by the fact that I’ve only read 12 titles on the list. Of those 12, I can give a thumbs up to:
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
- The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
- A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (Okie Reads post on Lolita)
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (Okie Reads post on Watchmen)
As far as the other four titles, I can probably tell you I was too old to fully appreciate J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and that I was too young to fully appreciate Lord of the Flies, Portnoy’s Complaint and Rabbit Run. Or maybe I just wouldn’t have liked any of them, no matter what my age.
I suppose I should be a little ashamed that I haven’t read many of the classics on the list, such as Catch-22. (My friend Layla is re-reading that book right now.) But I’m really more perplexed why I’ve never cracked Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. I mean, what kind of a sci-fi fan am I, anyway!?
OK, it’s your turn! What do you think about the list? What’s missing? What shouldn’t be there?
From the Divine Pen fell the first drop of ink.
And from a drop, a river.”
Craig Thompson’s new graphic novel Habibi is like a gift from literary heaven. The two protagonists in this sprawling epic spend much of their time in hell, which makes the finale all the more precious.
It is a story that tells us cruelty knows no time. It is about a striving for the spiritual, even while we live in a crushing, corporeal world. It is about the sacrifices we make for our beloved (our habibi), or simply to survive. It is about the power and beauty of words. And it is about the ultimate triumph of love.
In an unnamed Arab country, Dodola is sold into marriage at the age of nine. Her husband is a scribe who teaches the young girl how to read and write.
When her husband is murdered by thieves, 12-year-old Dodola is abducted and sold into slavery. It is through this ordeal that she meets a three-year-old boy who she takes under her wing and renames Zam. The two escape and set-up home in an abandoned ship in the middle of the desert.
As Habibi unfolds, we see Dodola and Zam’s relationship evolve as they grow-up together, are torn apart, suffer alone, and are reunited. At different points in the narrative they serve different roles for each other: parent, child, companion, object of desire, inspiration, caregiver, savior, partner, lover. Whatever the fates deal these characters, they each have a constant in their heart—for Dodola it is Zam, for Zam it is Dodola.
Habibi is also stories within stories. Dodola tells Zam stories from the Quran, and it was fascinating for this westerner to see how the stories differ from their biblical counterparts. I don’t know if other readers come to the same conclusion, but I can see the story of these two innocents fitting easily into a book of holy scripture. Their story would teach about the power of love and loyalty, and the nature of evil and its place on the human plane.
Thompson’s artwork is masterful, his writing almost mythological. Together, word and picture make for a thrilling and important work of literature.
Thompson has received great acclaim for his latest, but not everyone agrees. There are complaints about the stereotypical depictions of Arabs, and criticism of gratuitous nudity. The many drawings of a nude Dodola may titillate at times, but they are also a commentary on the objectification of women:
When the world is on its last breath… the masses will need something to distract them from the destruction—and my body will still be a commodity. This is the world of men.”
Any perusal of the many reviews of this book—whether the critics adore the work or have issues with it— will only illustrate the depth that lies within Habibi.
It is the best book I’ve read this year.