Friday, December 14, 2007

All I ask for is a small show and a smaller screen to watch it on

Like a lot of other people in this profession, I watched Gossip Girl when it started airing on The CW because I've been reading the books for years. (Some of the books are better than others.) I have to say I'm not fully enamored of the show. I find the pacing slow and Blair's clothes better suited to a ten-year-old, and a great lack of the wit and humor that comes through the books. Although I've stopped paying attention to the show, I am still paying attention to the media that surrounds it, because it's fascinating.

Averaging 2.5 million viewers an episode (info culled from BuzzSugar), Gossip Girl is far from being the top-rated show on television. It's not even the top rated show on The CW (that's America's Next Top Model, which gets about 5 million viewers an episode). Comparitively, CSI gets 18-20 million viewers an episode, Chuck about 7 million. I realize that's comparing apples and pineapples because the target audience of CSI is not the same as the target audience of Gossip Girl, but it gives some perspective. Think about how many more shows get higher ratings than Gossip Girl and now comes the information bomb: Gossip Girl is the #1 show downloaded from iTunes. How does a show with a fraction of the number of viewers of Grey's Anatomy (which is popular with the same crowd that watches Gossip Girl) beat it out for downloads? I don't have definite answers, but I do have theories...some probably more educated than others.

1. There is a hunger among television viewers for portable viewing. Maybe there are groups of high schoolers crowded around someone's laptop in the hallway before classes begin. Maybe viewers bring eps to school for their friends whose parents don't let them watch. Maybe they'd rather watch it on their iPods without parents around.

2. The gadget marketing in the series really works. There is some serious Verizon marketing going on there. Verizon beat out a couple of other companies for exclusive right to product placement...which surprises me because I swear those were T-Mobile Sidekicks I saw in the first episode. Warring phone companies aside, if Blair and Serena can watch videos on their phones, why shouldn't the rest of us be able to?

3. It's one of those shows that's slow to catch on. This is a phenomenon I see with young adult novels; adults don't want to pick it up because it's marketed for teens and therefore must not have an ounce of intelligence but once they pick it up they can't put it down. Adults who tune into the show around episode 4 or 5 want to catch up but it's not available via OnDemand so they download it from iTunes. The problem with this idea is that episodes are available for free on the CW's website, but you can't visit the CW's site from your iPod unless you've got an iPod Touch.

4. SOMEONE out there is listening to consumers when we say we want more than just one way to watch TV.

With its interactive features, from Second Life (I don't even have time for a first life!) to a music feature on the CW's site, Gossip Girl is going where no show has gone before. It took American Idol a few seasons to really become a brand and not just a TV show, but Gossip Girl is waving the brand flag right out of the gate. It's something none of the other CW shows, even the ones with higher ratings (Smallville, Supernatural, etc.), have done yet. Of all the fall 2007 releases, Gossip Girl was the first one to be picked up for a full season, even before ABC's much-touted Pushing Daisies. This makes me think that the CW execs can see a bigger picture of the show than I can...which would make sense, considering they get paid to see the bigger picture regarding their shows. More than what happens with Blair and Serena, I'm interested in seeing where the brand and the viral marketing go.

crossposted at Pop Goes the Library

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Review of The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Copy picked up at Book Expo America.

The Plot: On Wednesday afternoons at 1:45, everyone in Holling Hoodhood's seventh-grade class at Camillo Junior High either goes to Hebrew school or Catechism. Everyone, that is, except Holling, who is Presbyterian. On Wednesday afternoons Holling receives Shakespeare lessons from the toughest teacher in school, Mrs. Baker, who is out to get Holling (or so he says). Despite his better efforts Holling finds himself falling in love with Shakespeare's language. As Holling's seventh-grade year progresses a series of events including yellow-toothed rats, yellow tights with feathers on the butt, running like Jesse Owens, and cream puffs combine with Shakespeare to change the way Holling views his family, his friends, and himself.

The Good: This is a highly literary work that's also a joy to read. And if you've ever participated in the endless debates about what the Newbery and Printz award mean in the grander scheme of children's literature, you'll know that's saying something. First, the historical setting also has meaning to Holling and his family; the book is set in 1967 because that zeitgeist is an integral part of Holling's thoughts and actions, not just because it can be set in 1967. Second, for all the seriousness that is the Vietnam war and Shakespeare there is quite a lot of humor, often slapstick, that will definitely appeal to the middle-school crowd. Holling is witty and intelligent but also your very typical seventh-grader. Girls confound him. School lunches are terrible. His older sister is moody. The first thing he learns from Shakespeare is not the beauty of love and freedom, but how to curse. As the work progresses, Holling sees that his teacher can be human (even realizing that teachers aren't born behind desks with red pens in their hand) and the Perfect House his father maintains is...slightly less than perfect.

Dare I say this is one of the greatest children's literary accomplishments of 2007? Even if it isn't, all's well that ends well.

crossposted at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cool stuff I get to do: An Evening with Scholastic

No pictures of the event because I've got no idea what happened to my camera, but, a write-up.

When NCTE had its annual meeting at the Javits Center in mid-November, Scholastic held a wonderful event for teachers and librarians. They invited several of their authors (alas, not J.K. Rowling) to come and speak to a group of us and read from their books. Afterwards, we were all invited to see the Scholastic Living Room and celebrate Brian Selznick's National Book Award finalist, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Other authors in attendance were Pam Munoz Ryan, James Cross Giblin, Christopher Paul Curtis, Sharon Robinson, and Jaclyn Moriarty. They were all wonderful readers and Christopher Paul Curtis especially is always a joy to hear in person.

The Scholastic Living Room is a beautiful room about the size of your average NYC studio apartment which overlooks Broadway. There's comfortable furniture, nice plush carpeting, and the walls are covered in art from some of Scholastic's most enduring works, including Harry Potter, Madeline, and Where the Wild Things Are. We were able to walk around the room, drink champagne, and meet the authors. Everyone in attendance received copies of the authors' books for signing. Brian Selznick was very nice when I told him I was ashamed of not having yet read Hugo Cabret. So many books, so little time, as we all know too well in this profession.

Thank you so very much, Scholastic, for your generous invitation. I had a fantastic time and have developed an intense desire to curl up in the living room and read and eat cupcakes from the Dean and DeLuca across the street. Um, not that I don't have a desire to curl up with a good book and a Dean and Deluca cupcake on a regular basis, but that living room just makes the idea that much more enticing.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Shortlists for the BCCLS Mock Awards 2008

These are the shortlists for the BCCLS Mock Awards, which will take place on January 3 and 4, 2008, at the New Milford Library. Happy reading!

For the Mock Caldecott (author, illustrator -- title):

Andreasen, Dan -- The Giant of Seville
Bateman, Donna -- Deep in the Swamp
Broach, Elise illus. by David Small -- When Dinosaurs Came with Everything
Bruel, Nick -- Poor Puppy
Cate, Annette Leblanc -- Magic Rabbit
Coffelt, Nancy, illus. by Tricia Tusa -- Fred Stays with Me
DiCamillo, Kate -- Great Joy
Florian, Douglas -- Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars
Goldberg, Myla, illus. by Chris Sheban -- Catching the Moon
Gutman, Dan -- Casey Back at Bat
Harrington, Janice, illus. by Shelley Jackson -- The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County
Keller, Holly -- Help! : A Story of Friendship
Lobel, Anita -- Nini Here and There
Newgarden, Mark and Megan Montague Cash -- Bow-Wow Bugs-a-Bug
Palatini, Margie, illus. by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher -- The Cheese
Pixley, Marcella -- Freak
Prelutsky, Jack -- The Wizard
Rex, Adam -- Pssst!
Seeger, Laura Vaccaro Dog and Bear: two friends, three stories
Sherry, Kevin -- I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean
Stein, David Ezra -- Leaves
Thompson, Lauren, illus. by Jonathan Bean -- The Apple Pie That Papa Baked
Van Leeuween, Jean, illus. by Rebecca Bond -- Papa and the Pioneer Quilt
Willems, Mo -- Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Mock Newbery (author -- title):

Compestine, Ying Chang -- Revolution is not a Dinner Party
Curtis, Christopher Paul -- Elijah of Buxton
Korman, Gordon -- Schooled
Miller, Sarah -- Miss Spitfire
Olson, Gretchen -- Call me Hope
Pennypacker, Sara -- The Talented Clementine
Pixley, Marcella -- Freak
Schmidt, Gary -- The Wednesday Wars
Selznick, Brian -- The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Tarshis, Lauren -- Emma-Jean Lazarus fell out of a Tree
Taylor, Laini -- Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer
Woodson, Jacqueline -- Feathers
Zimmer, Tracy Vaughan -- Reaching for Sun

Mock Printz (author -- title):

Alexie, Sherman -- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Brooks, Martha -- Mistik Lake
Dowd, Siobhan -- A Swift Pure Cry
Downham, Jenny -- Before I Die
Hemphill, Stephanie -- Your Own, Sylvia
Lyga, Barry -- Boy Toy
McCaughrean, Geraldine -- The White Darkness
Park, Linda Sue, et. al. -- Click
Rowling, J.K. -- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Schmidt, Gary -- The Wednesday Wars
Tan, Shaun -- The Arrival
Thompson, Kate -- The New Policeman

Keeping busy!

I just got back from slightly-more-than-a-week's vacation on Tuesday. I was in South Carolina visiting my in-laws and doing not much else but shopping, eating, getting new glasses (and hopefully new contacts soon, w00t!), and watching TV. Well, and working out. I took a very fun kickboxing class at the local Y.

Now that I'm back, it's crunch time for the Mock Awards, which are January 3 (Caldecott and Newbery) and 4 (Printz) at the New Milford library. The shortlists are done, and now I have to start publicizing them. I've read eight of the twelve books shortlisted for the Mock Printz, which is not too bad considering all the other reading I do. The president of BCCLS was at the office yesterday and she told me how much she liked one of my personal favorite books of the year, Boy Toy by Barry Lyga. The post of my favorite books of 2007 will come in December.

I'm also speed-reading for Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults. I'm reading for two lists this year, "Sex is a Touchy Subject" and "Get Your Game On," a sports list. I love that we're able to put together a list about teens' choices about sex. It's not just a touchy subject, but it's an important one, and one of the things we're working to ensure is that a wide variety of views about sex are represented. We want to keep the list positive and diverse, so there won't be lots of teen pregnancy stories but there will be romances (male/male, male/female, and female/female) and explorations of what sex is and how it affects us physically, emotionally, and socially.

On my lunch breaks, I'm reading Slash by Slash with Anthony Bozza. People are usually surprised when I tell them that my taste in music runs very similar to Dean Winchester's. I love classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Rush, AC/DC, Yes, Motorhead, and Blue Oyster Cult. I also like more modern bands with an edgy sound: Seether, Audioslave, Crossfade, etc., and for years I've liked Guns N' Roses and now, Velvet Revolver. I'm a percussionist by training, not a guitarist, but I believe that Slash is sort of a Jimi Hendrix for today, someone who's made the average person think long and hard about what the guitar can accomplish. So I picked up his autobiography and I'm sure it will be self-indulgent, overly detailed about the bad bad life of a rock star, and an enjoyable, quick read.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What my life looks like right now, in numbers

Number of... reviews I have to write tonight: 3 reviews I have in my queue total: 6
...hours of sleep a night I'm averaging: 6 (which is fine for some people, but I'm one of those people that requires 9)
...days in a row my Sidekick has failed to charge properly: 2
...days until I leave for vacation: 2
...books I have to add to the final section of the book I'm writing: 10
...books on my desk: 5
...times I've kicked myself for not buying Hannah Montana tickets when I had the chance: A lot
...miles I'm going to try to run tonight, straight: 2.25 (if it stops raining)

On the bright side, my favorites (Jenah and Heather) are still on America's Next Top Model and it looks like this will be a good season for Project Runway.

Supernatural on tonight, w00t! I don't know who the producers are trying to fool, because we know Sam and Dean aren't going to die, but the return of Gordon the Villain will be cool to watch.

I'm off for a week, but if you get the chance you should try to watch Numb3rs next Friday night. Most of the ep will take place at a comic con and apparently the set designers build a scale model of the San Diego Comic-Con to film on. Plus, Wil Wheaton will guest star as a comic book artist. I was hoping Neil Gaiman would be cast as himself because a number of comic artists are appearing as themselves, but Neil plus David Krumholtz in one frame would just be way too much curly hair for one show to handle.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Review of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why (also written as Th1rteen R3asons Why) by Jay Asher, copy from publisher, Penguin/Razorbill.

The Plot: Clay Jenkins spends the longest night of his life listening to a set of tapes he received in the mail. The tapes were made by his classmate and crush Hannah Baker, who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Clay doesn't know where on the tapes Hannah will talk about his role in her life. All he can do is listen to Hannah's voice, follow the map of the town she left in his locker, and learn how his classmates, some of whom he barely knows, factor into life-altering (and life-taking) events. Hannah's tapes shatter reputations and reveal secrets that could ruin people's lives. Those who are mentioned on the tapes are instructed to listen and pass the tapes on to the next person on the list, thirteen people in all. In the course of the night, Clay learns the profound effect that rumors and reputations can have on a person...and that not all good (or bad) reputations are deserved.

The Good: Convergence.

I'd really like to leave it at just that, because I can think of no better word to describe what goes on in this book. I think the only book I've ever read that illustrated the concept of convergence as well as Thirteen Reasons Why does is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I also loved the idea that the protagonist of this book is not the narrator. To me, there's no such thing as a reliable first-person narrator and Asher uses Hannah's unreliability brilliantly. Clay cannot argue with Hannah, cannot present an alternate viewpoint of Hannah's stories. All he can do is hear her side and try to reconcile her thoughts and actions with what he knows about himself and his classmates. Hannah is not the most likable of protagonists; I often found her grating, obnoxious, and proud of her victim status. At the same time, though, I found her, as Clay does, hypnotic. As Hannah ties seemingly unrelated people together, the larger picture of what led her to commit suicide grows more horrific. She knew many dark secrets but chose to keep them to herself, only revealing them on the tapes. The idea that one person could be in so many places at just the wrong...or maybe the right...times and gain the knowledge to destroy a lot of other people makes for a fascinating and bleak read. You're never sure who to root for, but that's half the joy of reading this book.


Thirteen Reasons Why
Jay Asher's MySpace
Author profile @ Random House

(crossposted at A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy)

Monday, November 12, 2007

TV link to bookmark

Crossposted at Pop Goes the Library:

Following up on Liz's interview with Jeff Gottesfeld and information about the WGA strike, you may want to bookmark this link from TV Guide: UPDATED Strike Chart: How long before your shows go dark? Some favorites your patrons may ask about:

Grey's Anatomy: Eleven episodes will be produced. Seven episodes have aired, so there are four left.

Heroes: Eleven episodes will be produced. Seven episodes have aired, so there are four left.

Law & Order: SVU: Fourteen episodes will be produced. Six episodes have aired, so there are eight left.

The Office: Twelve half-hour episodes will be produced. Eleven half-hour episodes have aired, so there is one half-hour episode left.

Renew your YALSA membership...and vote for me!

It's the most wonderful time of the year... No, not that time, time to renew your ALA and ALA division memberships. And if I do say so myself, this is an especially important year for you to renew, especially if you're a YALSA member, because I'm running for the 2010 Printz.

When the first Printz award was given in 2000, I had a freshly minted Bachelor of Music and was waiting to hear back from the library schools I'd applied to. Two weeks later I was accepted at the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Science (and Pitt, why do you not offer SIS t-shirts?) and the rest, as they say, is 900-999. I knew at the time that I wanted to be a youth services librarian and I wanted to specialize in serving young adults. At the time I could only think that maybe someday I could be good enough at my job to maybe serve on the Newbery or Printz committees and now, hey, it's amazing what a little hard work will get you.

I'm on the YALSA blog entry which lists all candidates for the next round of YALSA offices as Carlisle Weber. Yes, Carlisle is my real first name (I was named after my father's favorite aunt, also Carlisle) and although I am blonde I am not a male vampire from the UK. I do usually spell my last name with 2 B's but hey, it's me and that's what counts.

Three reasons why you should vote for me:

1. I have the ability to say, "I love this book, but not for this award." That is one of the hardest sentences I ever learned to say, and it took me a long time to learn it. The first year I read for Popular Paperbacks, I wasn't that great at it. I had to learn to think in new ways, of quality over popularity and personal love of the book. After all, if I loved a book, shouldn't it be deserving of an award? With YALSA booklists and book awards, it doesn't quite work that way. Not only do you sometimes have to give up on books you love, but you sometimes have to support books you didn't love because you know intellectually that they're deserving of a spot on whatever booklist you're working on.

2. I have experience picking books for awards based on YALSA's criteria. The BCCLS Mock Awards uses ALA's awards criteria to choose our Mock Awards. Last year's Mock Printz went to The Book Thief and in 2006, just before I came to BCCLS, the Mock Printz participants chose Looking for Alaska, which did win the award.

3. I review for Kirkus, VOYA, and, which gives me a really wide view of what's out there in the world of YA literature today. Plus I read books that just look interesting that I don't have to review. The Printz award is given to a great literary contribution, but you really can't know what a great literary contribution is unless you're able to put it in the larger scheme of YA literature. Of course, there are the books that make these decisions difficult (The Rules of Survival, Freak Show), but if it were easy then, well, it wouldn't be an award that required a committee.

If elected, I promise world peace and better school lunches. Okay, maybe not better school lunches, but I do promise to serve to the best of my ability.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What I do in addition to BCCLS: Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

Here is a picture of what my desk looked like two weeks ago. October is the last month for people to nominate books to YALSA's Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, a committee I've been proud to serve on since 2005. In October, publishers are often in a rush to get nominated titles and possible titles for nomination to committee members so we can read them and nominate the for the list. Currently there are two very large boxes full of HarperCollins titles in the corner of my office, and a box of assorted titles by my door, and two book carts getting near the overflowing point in opposite corners of the room. (In the photo, you also see a hardcover copy of Does my Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah. That's for another project I'll address in another entry.)

If I do say so myself, being on Popular Paperbacks is the most fun you will probably ever have on any YALSA committee. Why? First off, we all love to eat. There's an unwritten rule in the committee that whoever is local to the city where various ALA conventions are being held is responsible for the procurement of food for the all-day Sunday meetings. I grew up in Chicago, so in the summer of 2005 we had Lou Malnati's pizza and Amy Joy donuts. We had Tex-Mex in San Antonio and some great Thai in Seattle. Besides the food, the committee encourages open discussion. Anyone attending ALA is welcome to come to our discussion sessions. We laugh a lot and get to discuss some really good books.

Every year, Popular Paperbacks puts together four themed lists, so when you need a list of interesting nonfiction books, or humor, or fantasy, think of us first! Usually two themes a year are repeats of popular genre lists: GLBTQ, sports, mysteries, etc. The other two are lists the committee feels are of current interest, or that might just be fun to put together. In 2006 we put together "Books That Don't Make You Blush" and for 2008 we have "Sex is a Touchy Subject" and "Magic in the Real World."

If you want to be a part of Popular Paperbacks, all you have to do is fill out a YALSA Committee and Task Force Volunteer Form. You don't need special powers or a genius IQ, just an interest in teen books and an idea of what makes for a popular title.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Last week, I made a post at Pop Goes the Library suggesting that Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles of Supernatural be solicited to appear on an ALA Celebrity Read poster. Two hot celebrities whose TV characters couldn't solve half their mysteries without the library? Seem like perfect candidates to me!

And now, ALA will make an official move to ask that Jared and Jensen appear on a library poster. I don't know if they'll say yes, but that doesn't stop me from being really excited!

Librarian/reviewer preview: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Many thanks to Victoria Stapleton and the wonderful folks at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the invitation to their Spring 2008 preview on October 31. Little, Brown previews are always plentiful with food, Diet Coke, fun conversation with editors, and books that look interesting. A quick rundown of what I can't wait to read:

  • The part of me that wanted to be a goth when I was a kid can't wait to read ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley. From the flap copy: Charlotte Usher feels practically invisible at school, and then one day she really is. Even worse: she's dead. I've been a fan of Roman Dirge's Lenore: The Cute Little Dead Girl for years and am so excited to see another book for those of us who are, for want of better description, pink goths. See the site: And the most exciting thing about this book: THE FINAL COPIES WILL HAVE FOIL ON THE COVER. Yes! I love foil!

  • In the Small by Michael Hague. From the flap copy: A blue light flashes. With in seconds, every human being is fewer than six inches tall. Mother Nature begins to exact her revenge on mankind. Dystopian YA novels have been really hot this past year, and this graphic novel looks like it will be an amazing addition to that genre. Although the art in the galley is black and white, the few sample pages in color at the front are absolutely phenomenal, haunting and horrifying.

  • Sweethearts by Sara Zarr, author of the National Book Award-nominated Story of a Girl. From the flap copy: As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also each other's only friend. So when Cameron disappeared without warning, Jennifer thought she'd lost the one true friend she'd ever had. Guaranteed to be heartbreaking, insightful, and true, if Story of a Girl is anything to go by.

  • Little, Brown's newest project is a manga imprint, Yen Press, headed by Rich Johnson, formerly of DC Comics. I'm personally not much of a manga reader but I'll be checking these out just because the premises of the series sound like wacky fun. Some of the books I picked up are: Black God by Dall-Young Lin, Zombie-Loan by Peach-Pit, and Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning by Kyo Shirodaira and Eita Mizuno.