Friday, January 30, 2009

More Things on a Stick: Thing 24-Getting There

You know, I liked my blog before. It was nice, neat, and semi-orderly. So, when I read that Thing 24 involved sprucing up my blog, I was not enthusiastic. Throughout the process of deleting my old template and trying to find one I liked, yet didn't involve a bunch of tweaking, I looked at my blog with fresh eyes, and weeded out the things that were only taking up real estate (especially on the sidebar). While I was trying to decide if I wanted to do a complete overhaul (changing the entire HTML structure) or just an easy fix (putting in a background, and leaving the HTML alone), there were many moments where I wondered if I had lost my ever-loving mind.

But then, I found this site: It has lots of different backgrounds to use for FREE, and if a person was so inclined, there are even different seasonal ones that are so easy to swap in and out. I love it! Changing the look of my blog won't be hard at all. It's just a matter of editing the HTML and changing the direct link to the new picture, and then resetting the font/link, etc. colors.

So, for now, this is what my blog looks like. It may or may not stay like this for long, depending on what other backgrounds I want to try.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

LIS 722: Week 4

This week's theme: Integrity
This week's books: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier & Speak by Laurie Anderson

Although I've never read either of these books, and probably wouldn't have picked either of them off the shelf and said, "Wow! These look really great! I can't wait to get home and start reading them!!!", they weren't bad. Well, compared to some I've read, anyway.

The Chocolate War is about a kid, Jerry, who goes to a private school. At said school, there's a bunch of guys, The Vigils, who are like a gang (dunno what else to call them...well, anything that isn't a swear word, anyway) and whose members take great delight in making other students' lives a living Purgatory. Charming, I know. Anyway, the Vigils give out assignments to various students. Why? Because they can. There's a big fundraiser going on (selling chocolates), and Jerry is instructed to refuse to sell for a set period of time. And so he does. Thing is, he keeps on refusing, even after his assignment is up; this only serves to get him into trouble with the teachers and the Vigils. Not a good thing, as Jerry gets the ever-loving crap beat out of him at the end of the book because of it. Ah, yes. Did I fail to mention that this is not a 'happy ending' kind of book? And that, no, the good guys don't always win?

Except that for me, it was a good (not necessarily happy) ending, even if the good guy doesn't overtly win in the end. See, I think the good guy does win, just not in a universally recognized manner. Although Jerry could've sold the chocolate after he was allowed to do so, he refused. He didn't let his chain get yanked (too much), and was willing to stand up and be brave, even faced with all the awfulness the Vigils had to offer (and it was plenty).

Sometimes it ain't about the damn chocolate. Sometimes it's doing what needs to be done, even knowing that at some point, there will be a reckoning, which may or may not be detrimental to one's health. Sometimes it's knowing that even when one gets knocked down, the right thing to do is to get up and try it again. Keep daring to disturb the universe. Keep daring to be that light in the darkness.

The other book of the week was Speak. It's about a 9th grade girl who goes to a end of summer party, where she gets raped by an upperclassman. Melinda calls the police, who come and shut down the party. So, she's pretty much ostracized by all her friends, even though she hasn't told anyone what happened to her. The book covers the school year, and her attempts to just hold it together.

In her art class, she's assigned to explore/create/understand/whatever a tree. For the entire year. As she struggles to capture the essence of 'tree', she is also struggling to just keep living. At some point, she becomes almost mute, and is afraid she's lost her voice. Her parents are upset by the sudden change in grades and attitude, but not to the point where they try to figure out what exactly is wrong. It's not until the end of the year, when the same upperclassman tries to attack her again, that Melinda rediscovers her voice and can say what happened so many months before.

I'm sure that there are many lessons to be learned from Speak. Some of what I took away from it is that everyone is fighting his or her own battles, and that for some, it's all s/he can do to make it through the day, and come out the other end still alive. Sometimes all I can do is listen, but sometimes that may be all the other person needs.

So,Speak is a definite hit, The Chocolate War, not so much. Interestingly, the YA/teens that come into the library pretty much felt the same way.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Just Making Some Changes

Yep, I know the blog looks different right now. I'm working on my first 'thing' for the "More Things on a Stick", which is to "refresh [my] blog." I'm not finding any blog templates that I really love, so I'm putting my mad HTML skillz to work and throwing one together. So, this is what it looks like for today. Who knows what it'll look like when I'm done, or even in the parts inbetween!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

LIS 722: Reading Autobiography

I'm not sure why it's so hard for me to write anything that gives even a little bit of insight into why I am who I am, but it is. So, just remember that while you're reading this:

My Name is Lisa, and I’m a Reader

LIS 722: Week 3

This week's books: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous & The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. The theme of the week is: "Independence/On Their Own/The Journey".

This week I'm part of a group that's going to do a presentation on Go Ask Alice. It's a classic, sure, and was the first of its kind as far as 'problem novels' go, but I'm thinking my group is going to just light it up. One of us has a major issue with the fact that although it's supposed to be written from a 15 year-old's point of view, it wasn't (it was written/"edited" by a grown woman). Another of us thinks there were better books to choose from now that perhaps would've been more relevant. Another of us doesn't care much one way or the other, but just wants to inflict the made-for-TV movie on the rest of the class (Hey, now, I'm only *1* of the three; all of these opinions are not my own).

Anyway, Go Ask Alice is about a young teen who mistakenly ends up hooked on drugs after she goes to a party and gets a Coke laced with LSD. She doesn't get hooked right away; it's more a slow but steady slide. She alternates between moments of complete lucidity and complete addiction. The book's diary entries detail her descent into the 'drug world' and her struggles to get and stay clean. Ultimately, the demons of drug addiction are too much, and in the epilogue, we are told she is dead; from drugs, suicide, or what, we are not told.

Going from that to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was a 180 degree change. The Sisterhood is made up of 4 girls who have known each other almost all of their lives. Faced with the prospect of spending the summer apart from each other, they find a way to stay connected via a pair of 'magical' pants (simplified version, I know). What's interesting is how the girls learn to cope with the different challenges that arise in their lives. Some lash out, some get introspective, all grow as people.

I'm not sure Go Ask Alice is a book that teens would freely choose to read; some of the teens I talked to this week about the book thought it sounded "lame", "corny", and "too much like what an English teacher would assign for class" (Yup, yup, and bingo). The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants gets more readers, but it's usually the pre-teens, or the ones just making the jump from the easier chapter books (intermediate books) to the "big kids" chapter books.

Monday, January 12, 2009

LIS 722: Week 2

For this week, I endured A Catcher in the Rye and read King Dork.

I had read A Catcher in the Rye when I was 16 because I knew it was one of those Books I Would Be Expected To Know About. Even then I felt like smacking Holden Caufield upside the head. It wasn't that I didn't understand the book, because I did. I understood most of the themes and all that; I 'got' what it was to be sort of lost when faced with adulthood. No, the problem that I had (have) with A Catcher in the Rye in general and Holden Caufield in particular is that Holden is able to do what he does in part because he's a white male, and in part because his father is so successful.

No, I'm not one to yell, 'Unfair!!!!' about it all. I'm just thinking that if Holden hadn't been from an upper-class white family, the story wouldn't have gone quite the way it did. He knew that even though he'd just gotten kicked out of yet another school, the only thing that would happen was that his parents would find another one for him, and life would go on. Somehow, he reminds me of Paris Hilton, et al, and not in a good way.

King Dork was almost as inane, but at least the main character (Tom Henderson) didn't walk around calling everything "crumby" (a word I hope NEVER to hear again). The action in the book is seen through his eyes, and is sort of plausible, except where it's so not. I'd actually started listening to this book this last summer, but soon came to the realization that, well, I just didn't care. Not about Tom Henderson, or Sam Hellerman, or any of their band names. I didn't care what happened with Fiona, the vice principal, or Little Big Tom. The storyline, although fairly well-written was rather confusing, and I just can't buy the absurd plot twists (especially the ones where dang near every girl ends up giving Tom blow-jobs & the whole thing with the VP/pornography deal). And, although I know life isn't always neatly wrapped up, I really don't like it when books can't/won't/don't do so by the end of the story.

Monday, January 5, 2009

LIS 722: Week 1

So, I read The Outsiders, even though I didn't wish to do so. (Amazing what I'll do for school, sometimes). I read it for the first time when I was 11-12ish, and thought it was OK then. Difference was, then, in the late 1970's, there wasn't much in the way of YA books to choose from, so as books went, it was pretty good, then anyway. Now, at 39, I was able to see it through the lens of 28 years more life experience, and have to wonder if it really resonates with today's YA anymore than it did for me back when.

Thematically, the story holds up even all these years later, possibly because it's a story as old as time. It's about looking beyond the labels and actually seeing the real person. It's about understanding that we're all more alike than we are different. It's about realizing that every single one of us is fighting our own battles every single day. It's about knowing that there are unknown depths of strength in everyone. It's about accepting that things are not magically better on the other side of the fence.

I don't know if too many teens would read it for fun, though. In one of the local schools, it's read in an English class; this alone almost automatically takes it out of the running for a for-fun good book.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

LIS 722: Reading List

LIS 722 (Literature for Young Adults) Reading List Winter Term 2009

Week 1: Who are young adults & what do they read?
Book: The Outsiders by SE Hinton

Week 2: History of YA & YA Literature
Books: The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger & King Dork by Frank Portman

Week 3: Independence/On Their Own/The Journey
Books: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous & The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Week 4: Integrity
Books: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier & Speak by Laurie Anderson

Week 5: Intelligence: Reaching Understanding
Books: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card & An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio by Judith Ortiz Cofer

Week 6: Nonfiction
Book: Dear Miss Breed by Joanne Oppenheim

Week 7: Identity: A Sense of Self
Books: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie & What Are You? by Pearl Fuyo Gaskins

Week 8: Intimacy: Relationships & Romance
Books: Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden & Romiette and Julio by Sharon M Draper

Week 9: Horror
Book: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Week 10: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Books: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman & Feed by MT Anderson

Week 11: Growing Up
Books: The First Part Last by Angela Johnson & Born Confused by Tanjua Desai Hidier

Week 12: War/Survival/Adventure
Books: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff; Maus I: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman & Barefoot Gen: Volume I by Keiji Nakazawa

Week 13: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Books: A Step from Heaven by An Na & Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

Week 14: How-to Guides
Books: The Social Climber's Guide to High School by Robyn Schneider & Generation Green: The Ultimate Teen Guide to Living an Eco-Friendly Life by Linda Sivertsen & Tosh Sivertsen