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Cat-alogers, Unite!

A Reader's Advisory – of Sorts

A Beautiful CATastrophe…

With my first year at a new district coming to a close, it’s time to bring on the summer reading!  My first recommendation is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.  I couldn’t put this book DOWN!  The writing was brilliant, the characters complex – it was just incredible.

Long story (very) short, this book begins with a disastrous and mysterious event.  Then unravels the story of an upper-class family from Shaker Heights, Ohio intertwined with that of a woman and her daughter who move to the pristinely-bleached and rule-following neighborhood.  It’s a story about motherhood, race, and lots of secrets.  I wish I could go back and un-read this one so that I could read it again.  It had me stuck on the porch for 3 days until I finished it.  There are also mentions of places in Pittsburgh (one of the author’s hometowns) which make it extra cool!

This should be a top pick for your book club or your first book of the summer.  You will NOT be disappointed.  Oh, and Reese already picked this one up to make into a series for Hulu – Kerry Washington will also be a part of it!  YAY!

Gary gives it all four paws and a happy roll!

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Check Meow-t!

Hello!  This post is coming to you smack dab in the middle of my new, crazy school year!  Lots of things to catch you up on…

First, my library is undergoing TONS of new changes – yay!  This job is awesome despite its challenges.  The theme of this year for me is “waiting.”  I’m trying to be patient, but it’s been the biggest hurdle I’ve faced this year in various aspects of my life.  It’s forced me to try to be tougher and do a lot of praying!  The changes that are occurring in the library are pretty major ones – we designed a new floor plan, have added a fresh coat of paint to the walls, have reorganized our shelving, and have ordered a bunch of new furniture that the students are LOVING!  It brings me so much joy and makes me okay with all the waiting just to see their faces when they walk in.  I’ll include a few pictures for you below.

Second, my reading game is still slacking with all of the changes and developments this year, but I’m plugging away little by little.  I started to read a book called, Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women that is excellent so far!  It’s the story of the women who worked painting clock faces with the newly discovered and “magical” element called “Radium” during WWI.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.  I’m also starting to read A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier as part of one of the English classes at my school.  One of the teachers here invited me to be a part of his class and write a reflective piece after reading the book just as his students do.  Later we will share the pieces in a large group.  It will be a cool experience and I’m excited about it.  If you’ve ever watched the documentary Beasts of No Nation, this book is incredibly similar and heartbreaking, to say the least.

Lastly, I have lots of plans in my head for next year that are pretty large long-term goals, but good ones.  You’ll have to stay tuned for more on those :]

Pictures (L-R): Library Nonfiction Before and After; Whiteboard tables w/ rocking seats!

CATching a Lot of Luck!

Okay, so this post is going to be all over the place – lots of emotions going on in my life, which is ironically similar to the book being reviewed.  First, I just landed my dream job – librarian at a high school in Pittsburgh!!!  I can’t express how excited I am to start my new position with the North Allegheny School District!  There are so many opportunities for change and growth – and I’m so lucky to get to be a part of it.  More on that to come…  but for now I’m just getting settled in and meeting amazing people!

Second, my reading game has been a bit off lately.  We lost a very important person this summer – my wonderful Aunt, Joy.  When she was in the hospital I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to her – a very special book to my heart – and I haven’t been able to pick up a book since then.  I’ll get there, but it’s tough to move on sometimes.  Forgive me for my lack of posts.

So here’s a quick recap on a book I read last summer – Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes.  I didn’t love it the way that a lot of others did.  You have to love a variety of emotions (and strong one) in stories to really get this one – anger, sadness, bliss, etc…  It was difficult for me to accept everything that happened, so the story itself wasn’t my favorite.  The characters are fantastic though.  Very real.  Very developed.  The book hit the big screen and became an instant money maker with its A-list star Emilia Clarke playing the lead.  (Note: E Clarke is amazing in everything – and this role really fit her, so good job Hollywood).  It’s a great love story that’s got a twist, but I can’t really tell you much more than that without ruining it.  Read it if you must, but don’t go out of your way to do so.

Gary give it 2 paws.

Pro-cat-stination Post

Okay so it’s been forever since I’ve posted, but I have been reading a LOT, so I decided to do a quick review-by-phone.  Of the most recent books that I’ve finished, I’ll tell you about the most memorable: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  

First, you must know that this book was not an easy one for me.  I started, stopped, and then restarted it several times.  So I finally forced myself to stop procrastinating and took it along on a trip as the ONLY book instead of packing the usual three.  After finishing, I was proud of myself and was sorry I hadn’t read it sooner.  

Reader beware: this is not a light-hearted beach read.  It is, however, an enchanting, haunting, and incredibly moving book.  Doerr tells the stories of two young people during WWII in such beautiful language that this book eventually (maybe 1/3 of the way in) became difficult for me to put down.  I’m not usually one for historical fiction, but this book is incredible.    

If you want an interesting read for a book club, this would be my suggestion.  There’s so much to talk about.  It’s an important reminder of how blessed we are to have our families, health, and so many other gifts.  Let me know if you’ve read it and what you think!  

Gary gives it 4 paws.  

For Grownups and Kitties Alike

We all love books when we’re children.  I can name about fifty books that I remember from my childhood – probably more.  Mum and Dad did all the voices as we curled up in their laps.  I can see the illustrations of each story in my head as I type this now.  I read those books hundreds of times as a child, and still love them just as much now as I did then.

I tend to favor fiction.  Probably because the fiction stories – especially the children’s ones – always used to have better pictures than the nonfiction.  However, I’m finding more often than not, I teach with nonfiction stories.  My own love for nonfiction is starting to grow as a result.  A new trend in nonfiction is emerging:  Narrative, true stories, complete with beautiful illustrations that are blended with real photographs.  These mixed media books are ones my students beg to get a closer look at and ones that I discover new parts to each time I read them to another class.  They’re impossible to put down.  Addicting.

The latest one I’ve discovered is a book called Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick.  If you loved the classic Pooh stories as a child, or have or know a child interested in animals, this the the book for you.  I glanced through the pages before class, but found myself in tears when reading it in its entirety.  It’s a book that parents will appreciate for its wonder and one children will ask you thousands of questions about.

My students are still talking about it – and it’s three weeks later.

Don’t miss this one.  It’s wonderful.

Gary is all in.

MEWsic To My Ears and Eyes

Another year has gone by and I’m finally back home in Pennsylvania.  My job as an elementary school librarian is certainly one with its challenges, one that requires creativity and quick thinking – stuff at which I’m pretty good.  I have not kept up with this blog as I should, so this is my attempt to get back to reading wholeheartedly, the way I used to.  Tonight the lesson plans can take a backseat.

The latest book is a classic – one that people might overlook.  My boyfriend’s mother gave it to me as a Christmas gift.  I’ve always made fun of people who say they have a book that they read every year. I don’t think there’s enough time in the world to read everything that’s incredible …  but this book could easily become a yearly read.

Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn touched my soul.  Her perfectly-worded sentences  are stuck in my gut and will forever be.  They are simple words, but profound.  The book is a coming-of-age story of a little girl named Francie.  I can’t say much more than that because my words could never do it justice.

Bottom line:  It usually takes me about three or four evenings to read a book I really like.  This one took me just over 33 nights.  I didn’t want it to end.  If you are struggling with anything in your life right now, you will find some peace in this story.  If you aren’t struggling with anything in particular, you will be inspired.

Go read it.  You won’t be sorry.

I’ll be trying my best to take Mrs. Smith’s advice:

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

4 paws up.  And a few licks.

No Catnaps Here

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted anything – but there’s good reason, I promise.  I finished graduate school (yay!). In August, I began a library job in a Virginia high school and it’s kept me stressed, excited, and challenged all at once. The people are fantastic. The rent really is not. My boss is wonderful. The distance from family and the guy is not. The apartment is adorable; the management is very much not. It’s 50-50. You get the picture.

The school is huge – around 2500 kids. A lot of the students have nothing at home. But wow, do they love reading! This summer the library underwent some major changes. Thirty or so computers were moved to create a new lab for another department. This presented the library with both an issue and a solution because a lot more class traffic was present to use the computers in past years. However, the past librarians ended up as computer babysitters. The good part: students (and teachers) are actually using the space for reading, studying, relaxing, and socializing. It’s been a slow progression, but I’m hopeful that making small, positive changes will result in a busy, living and breathing space for everyone – as a library should be.

Within the last four months, a few changes to the library have been made. These changes include (but are not limited to) a library blog for teachers and students, coffee mornings for faculty and staff, a book club for the students, and several grant proposals. Due to the low library budget, fundraising and grant writing have been a huge part of my mission. The students and teachers should have access to new books – just like every other school. Not having a huge response from both outlets (so far) has forced me to get a little bit creative, so this Christmas we sponsored a book tree project. For more information, visit: Book Tree Project.  If you’re interested in donating to our cause and helping our school, click here for our Amazon Wish List.

I will continue to keep you posted on our project and my school year. Thank you to those of you who have supported me in this move to Virginia. It’s been really tough – but having your heart so deeply rooted in two places sucks, so I’m just trying to make the best of it.

As for books, I just finished The Cat at the Wall by Deborah Ellis. It’s about a selfish little girl who dies and comes back as a cat. She lives in Palestine and needs to help a little boy. In theory, the 140-page story has real potential. In actuality, it is really disappointing. I wouldn’t bother.  I’m hopeful I didn’t miss the point. Maybe if I did, someone much smarter than me can explain it.

Gary gives it one paw for a good idea.   Oh, and he’s doing well. He likes his tiny apartment.

I’ll be in touch.

The Card Cat-alyst

“I also fear that nothing really ends at the end. Things just keep going as long as memory can wield its ax, always finding a soft part in your mind to cut through and enter.” – MZ

 

My great aunt taught me everything I know about playing cards. When I was a kid, we’d sit for hours at her kitchen table and play every version of rummy known to man. I’d sit in my nightshirt, feet swinging, eyes calculating, and hands sticking to her vinyl tablecloth, hoping that somehow I’d miraculously beat her at one hand. My aunt’s mission wasn’t just about teaching me to add up the suits I was left with at the end of the hand – but to learn how to handle the tricky cards before I got into trouble. She said I was too honest for bluffing, so I’d better learn how to protect myself. Especially from “all those jokers out there.” The lady knew a lot – it was never just about the cards.

Markus Zusak’s I Am the Messenger is also a story about messages hidden inside playing cards. Ed Kennedy is an unmotivated and underage cab driver who’s hopelessly in love with his best friend. He has no future, nor do his friends – that is, until he starts receiving mysterious messages from someone that require him to take action. What unfolds is a twisted, beautiful, adventurous, and unforgettable story that you won’t want to put down. Ladies, this is much more than a summer pool read, and guys – this is one that you’ll love for its humor and wit even if you’re not a reader. If nothing else, you’ll certainly feel the heart and maybe even learn a thing or two about how to play your own hand in life. It’s good to be reminded every so often that life really is precious and that those who surround us really are… beautiful. These ‘MZ’ people – they get it.

Gary gives it all four paws, a high five, and a lick.

 

“Sometimes people are beautiful.

Not in looks.

Not in what they say.

Just in what they are.” – MZ

 

 

Honors and Awards:

New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards: Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature (2003)

CBCA – Children’s Book of the Year Award: Older Readers (2003)

Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year for Children (2005

Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book (2006)

Honour Book, Michael L. Printz Award (2006)

Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (2007)

 

Nothing to Hiss At

It’s easy to feel lost in this world – like no one understands you or is at the same place in their life as you. It’s hard to communicate feelings and sometimes when we give in and allow ourselves to try, we are rejected. We long for understanding.

Eliot Schrefer’s novel, Threatened, tells the story of a young boy who is lost too. That is, until he meets someone who rescues him and who helps open new doors to the unknown. Readers are invited to travel with Luc (the boy) and Prof (his rescuer) to “The Inside” where friends are hard to come by and danger lurks around the corner. It’s a lot like our own world – but with a lot more mosquitoes. Schrefer has a gift for drawing readers in – and this is a great read if you’re just feeling alone, or need reminded of your own gifts. 

 

Gary gives this one three paws – he gets a little jealous of other animals.

Visit this guy’s awesome site at: http://www.eliotschrefer.com. He’s pretty sweet.

 

Hey Media Specialists: would be a good one to read aloud to middle-schoolers or for a collaborative unit. Just sayin’.

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