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When I was in library school, if someone had asked me what my dream job would be, I’d have answered “being a children’s librarian in the Portland area.” If pressed to be more specific, I would’ve said “being a children’s librarian at the library where I grew up, ordering fiction and doing storytime and recommending books to kids.” The miracle, the insane-that-it-would-ever-come-true miracle, is that this is exactly the job I have now. While I was still in school, I basically despaired of ever getting a job in the metro area, let alone one that was my preferred field, let alone one at my favorite library. So that all came true and I’ve been merrily working along for the past two and a half years doing exactly that.

Two weeks ago, if someone had asked “is there some task you’re not doing now that you would enthusiastically take on?” I’m pretty sure my answer would’ve been “order young adult books.” And then, out of the blue, I was asked if I wanted to take over ordering YA. I pretended to think about it for about half a second before saying yes.

Ever since then, I’ve had this feeling that I’m taking over the world…

The coworker who passed off the task didn’t quite share my enthusiasm, so there’s a lot of ways to make my enthusiasm productive. I’ve already made several read-alike and genre lists and making lists of what I need to buy to fill gaps in the collection. The budget it okay but doesn’t feel as generous as my children’s fiction budget. I placed my first order on Tuesday and am impatiently tapping my toes till it comes in. I found myself wanting to place another order on Thursday, but resisted. I typically order once a month in each category (children’s fiction and audiobooks) but I might take a page from my coworker who orders adult fiction and non-fiction and switch to weekly orders – as long as I manage not to blow the budget in one week. I like the idea of meeting demand more quickly, and having a constant steady trickle of books into the collection.

The best part (apart from world domination!) is that I feel like I finally have a tangible way to use all stored up knowledge about YA. Sure, I’d occasionally field a request for recommendations, but now I feel a great sense of ownership over that part of the library. And pleasantly industrious. I want to weed! Make read-alike lists! Create displays! Add more YA-related content to the library website! Spend some quality time just rearranging things and seeing what’s on the shelves.

Yes, it’s 6 am and I’m posting, because I actually managed to wake myself up by 4:45 to watch the Youth Media Awards webcast AND get an order in before the library catalog went down!  I feel so accomplished…and tired.  It looks like all the results are up on the individual award pages already – nice and quick.

It seems like ALA finally managed to get a large enough webcast – or whatever you call it when you can let enough people watch it at once.  I got kicked out during the Batchelder announcements and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get back in, but no problems.  Two years ago, the last time I tried to watch it live, there was no room at the inn.  My only moment of panic was when I went to the bookmarked page and was told that I needed Windows Media Player to watch it – which I didn’t have installed.  A little advance warning would be nice for that sort of thing, especially since the placeholder website had been up for quite a while.  Fortunately I only missed a couple minutes waiting for the download, and got on just in time for the Schneider.

Nothing shocking this year for the Newbery or Caldecott – the only thing I had to order for my library was a second copy of When You Reach Me. We even already had a second copy of The Lion and the Mouse – it was an accidental duplicate, since one librarian ordered it for picture books and another for the folk tale collection, and I remember saying, “hey, maybe it’ll win the Caldecott and we’ll already have our second copy!”  But I’m happy for more than budgetary reasons – it’s a stunner.  And I certainly can’t argue with WYRM, although The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate getting an honor seemed more iffy and was therefore more exciting.

And non-fiction seemed nicely represented across the board.  Claudette Colvin kind of cleaned up, with a Sibert honor and Newbery honor on top of that National Book Award.  The Coretta Scott King author award went to Bad News for Outlaws, the Edwards went to Jim Murphy (I had a little fan girl moment there), Charles and Emma got a Printz honor, We Are the Ship got an Odyssey honor, there were a few bios on the Belpre list…

And YA!  I’ve always said that the Printz is unpredictable – or at least it always surprises me.  Last year – well, 2009 was a golden year for the Printz.  I knew and loved every title on that list.  This year, the only two I’ve read are Charles and Emma and Tales of the Madman Underground, and I’m pleased to see both of them on the list.  I suppose now I’ll have to grit my teeth and read The Monstrumologist (it sounds good, but not my thing – look at that cover!)  And Punkzilla hadn’t been on my radar at all (side note – two YA books mentioning Portland and meth in the awards this year – Flash Burnout is the other.  We’re going to get a great image this way).  Going Bovine – interesting choice!  I’ve heard lots of love for it, but also some meh.

I was pleasantly surprised that my library owns all but 9 of the juvenile titles that got awards or honors (there was a lot of the YA that we didn’t own, but that’s not my department, and I didn’t order the audio books because we do that separately).  I can’t take credit for many of them, since I came in halfway through the year, but I was quite pleased when I recognized all of the Batchelder titles.  Big Wolf and Little Wolf was one of my favorite quirky picture books of the year, and I can take credit for ordering the three fiction titles on the list – Eidi, Moribito II, and A Faraway Island (the winner).  Now I just need to actually read them.

Now, breakfast and coffee or a nap?

Oh wait, I AM.  As of yesterday, I will officially be the newest librarian at my library – the library I grew up at, the library where I volunteered for nearly ten years, the library where I’ve worked for the past five years.  I’ll be mostly a children’s librarian, but I’ll also work at the reference desk upstairs, covering breaks and days off and letting the regular reference librarians get some time away from the public.  I’ll have a storytime in the fall, when we expand our hours.  This is all thanks to the lovely people in the county who voted to increase taxes and provide stable funding for all the libraries.

I’m so flipping excited.  Sometimes I’m driving around and I make this sort of going-down-a-roller-coaster screaming noise, except quiet.  It hasn’t quite sunk in – and it probably won’t until I’m rolling out of bed and showing up for work at 8:30 or 9 am every day.  It will be lovely to have my evenings free, but I’ve been spoiled by having my mornings and most day times free.  I’ll only work 1 evening each week, and I’ll still have my one working weekend each month.  And I’ll only have one full-time job.  This will feel so weird.  In a good way.

I’m excited about in a professional sense – that I’ll finally be putting my degrees to use, and doing a job that I believe in, and having more of a career and less of a random collection of part-time jobs – but I’m also curious to see all the little ways that this will change my day-to-day life, like coming home at 6:30 and making dinner.  Or being able to have dinner plans with friends.  Or being able to go to all those evening church services that are so conveniently scheduled for people who work during the day, but are impossible to attend if you work evenings.  I can finally use that ballroom dance lesson gift certificate that my mom gave me for Christmas.  I can develop new habits – a good challenge.

And oh boy, now I have a really good reason to keep up with children’s books.

Show and Tell: The Fine Art of Picture Book Illustration Show and Tell: The Fine Art of Picture Book Illustration by Dilys Evans

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Reading this was pleasantly reminiscent of art history classes – I particularly enjoyed Evans’ comments about the uses of form, composition, color, technique, perspective, etc. in the work of the picture book illustrators she highlights. It made me want to sit down with a giant stack of picture books and look at them for how the illustrations tell the story, how each page turn is important, and all of that. Some of the illustrators she highlights were already favorites of mine, like Trina Schart Hyman, Brian Selznick, and David Wiesner; others were illustrators whose work I’ve enjoyed, but never been particularly struck by, and others I’d tried to like but hadn’t quite. With each illustrator, Evans gives us a good overview of their work and style, a brief biography, and discusses the influences on the artist and why they are a good example of the art of picture book illustration. A few illustrations per person are discussed in depth, which only whets the appetite for MORE.

It’s a very accessible book, and I’d recommend it to anyone who loves picture books or is interested in the process of book and illustration creation. The only thing I would’ve liked to see were works in progress, although including them might have made the book an unmanageable size.

View all my reviews.

So here I am, all moved, and starting to get a grip on the important things about my new place – like when the mail comes.  Annoyingly, the mailboxes are in a centralized location, so I don’t hear the pitter-patter of postal worker feet on my stairs to let me know of its glorious arrival.  Fortunately, I just realized that I have a view of where the mail truck parks, so now I know to expect it during the early afternoon.  I’ve yet to find anything of interest in there, so you know your duty.  Go forth and mail.

We’ve got pictures on the walls and food in the cupboards and internet access at last – in other words, it’s starting to feel like home.  This afternoon I plan on walking to the neighborhood library (one library is never enough for me) and checking out the co-op up the street.  I’m not too far from the house I lived in during college (and not too far from my alma mater, for that matter), so it feels a bit odd to be back in the old neighborhood.  It brings back all kinds of random memories.  I keep dropping by my parents’ house, though, to pick up odd things I’ve forgotten and just to hang out.

Speaking of college, I’m all official with my MLIS now.  I’ve been trying to decide whether it’s worth the trouble to go to graduation – the school does have a separate ceremony than the whole university (there is no way I’d put myself through that).  Besides, the degree-colored hood is lemon, of all colors.  (Although I guess it could be worse – the poor MFAs have brown, which would be pretty drab with the black gowns.)  And the whole outfit is pricey.  Plus the trip up, and I don’t even know who else is graduating this year.  Still, there’s something pleasantly Gaudy Night-ish about the gown and hood thing.

I’ve been watching The Forsyte Saga again – I tried the old BBC version, but it was too much over-acting and heavy makeup and poor lighting for me, so I switched back to the newer version which I know and love.  I’m reading the book at the same time, and it’s funny to hear lines echoed verbatim in the miniseries.  The book has a nice tone to it – a little melodrama, a little humor, and a little snark.  And one of these days I’ll catch up on my Goodreads reviews – I’ve been reading plenty but fell behind on reviewing while I didn’t have internet access.

Maybe this is why I don’t feel done yet.

So, I think I’m done with grad school. I submitted my final assignments, I sent a check for my last fee, my portfolio was approved…wow, that was anticlimactic. But isn’t it always? Even if I go to graduation for all the pomp and ceremony, that’s not until June. And I’m not starting a new, official librarian job yet. I am going to be moving soon, but that’s not quite the same thing.  That part isn’t unexpected, but it feels unexpected – my future roommate’s parents sold their house out from under her, so we’re moving in together sooner than planned.  I always hate moving, even if I’m looking forward to my new situation.  I was thinking that I still had time to get sick of living with my family, but I didn’t quite manage it.  Maybe they’ll be really mean leading up to the move and make the whole thing easier.

I also happen to have this week off of work (one job, at least) and I feel at loose ends.  The weather is dreary and I was too busy with school to make plans – but I feel the need to get out and do something fun.  For now, I’m enjoying eating dinner at dinner time instead of 10:30 pm.  Maybe I’ll finally work my way through my giant stack of library books.  Although I did start reading The Forsyte Saga, for some bizarre reason, so the going might be slow.  Just reading the first two chapters I’m already dying to watch the miniseries again.  I watched the newer version a few years ago, but maybe this time I’ll try the older one.  Or both, back to back.  Because I’m on vacation.

Back to the moving topic – it will be so odd to take all my things out of storage and use them again – but in a good way.  I’m also having to repress all these urges to take a little trip to Ikea.  I don’t even have an apartment yet, and already I want to pick out some curtains, and definitely a new bookshelf is in order, and wouldn’t some new picture frames come in handy?  Housewares: the best reason to have your own place.  Window-shopping will have to do for now.

Yes, I’m alive and still reading, although you wouldn’t know it from this blog.  I’m weeks – WEEKS – away from being a real librarian, if the Lord is willing and the creeks don’t rise (or whatever that saying is).  Actually, there is a creek nearby that flooded recently, and floods closed off parts of I-5 a few weeks ago and made it tricky for many of my fellow future-librarians to get to residencies in Seattle.  Fortunately I did not have to go up this quarter (100% online classes), and the nearby creek was is no danger of flooding my house.

Hmm, was I going somewhere with that?  I went to all these fabulous mock awards workshops recently (you know how I love mock awards) – a Printz and a Caldecott.  And the real announcements are only a few days away!  And then we can start making predictions for next year!  Just kidding.  If I weren’t exhausted and lazy, I’d get up off the couch and find the lists of what we voted for.  Instead I’ll just try to remember.

Mock Caldecott:

Winner: Silent Music

Honors: A River of Words, What to do About Alice, and Wabi Sabi

Silent Music and A River of Words were very close in points, which would of course not fly in the real committee.  Silent Music didn’t really grab me, but I liked all the others (and swooned a little over various illustrations in Wabi Sabi and A River of Words).

Mock Printz:

Winner: Little Brother

Honors: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and My Most Excellent Year

Frankie was my personal favorite from the bunch we read – although not my favorite for the award – so I was pleased to see she did well.  I certainly liked the others, but I don’t know how well their literary merit would stand up for the committee.  They’re definitely all good books, though, and highly recommendable.

My reading has been pretty sluggish lately – I feel like I’m plodding through things even though I like them – like Eva Ibbotson’s latest, The Dragonfly Pool, and now Evil Genius.  Usually when I’m supposed to be doing classwork, I fly through books and can’t put them down. Very curious.

I’ve reached the overwhelming of the semester, when I’m swamped in books and I can’t remember which book I read for which class, or which class has which assignment (there’s a lot of overlap – each class is having me do 3 booktalks, for instance) or which assigment is due when.  My reaction, of course, is to sort of ignore school.  Um, maybe this is why it feels overwhelming…

Yesterday I was on this roll of gushing over things.  I was also in a very good mood generally, for no particular reason, and apart from the fact that I got no schoolwork done, yesterday was all happy and shiny.

  • I’ve been listening to Catherine Gilbert Murdoch’s Dairy Queen in the car – rereading it – and everytime I get out of the car, I’m sad to leave it behind.  It cracks me up, and all the little emotional moments totally suck me in.  What impresses me most about the book, though, is that it’s the only thing I’ve ever read that makes football seem remotely interesting.  Not like you’ll find me watching it anytime soon, but I can appreciate why someone might like to play.  Nothing short of a miracle, I tell you.
  • I made rice and beans for lunch, and it was like the best thing ever.  Weird, huh?  It’s That Time of Year again (actually, this happens many times a year), when meat and dairy are cut out of my diet.  Of course, in the True Spirit of the Fast, I then made a delicious loaf of pumpkin bread, going substitution crazy with coconut oil and egg replacer.  Somehow, in my mind, the fact that I used whole wheat flour makes it more “fast friendly.”  Um, yeah.
  • I discovered Adam Rex’s line of t-shirts (he of The True Meaning of Smekday, Pssst! and Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich/Takes the Cake fame) and I am mighty fond of the Koobish shirt, although I can’t help wishing the Koobish were more prominent or that someone was biting off an ear (read Smekday).  But when I look at the J. Lo shirt, though, I can’t stop laughing (hey, Christmas is coming!)  Abraham SuperLincoln is nothing to sneeze at, either.
  • Finding Wonderland has had a really fab run of author interviews this week.  The interview with D.M. Cornish completely convinced me to pick up Foundling – how can I resist when he gives this answer to “what feeds that kind of mind”:

“The “Making of…” DVDs for the Lord of the Rings films and Star Wars are powerfully inspiring; Patrick O’Brian (whom I only began to read after a reviewer in the Washington Post mistakenly cited him as one of my influences), whose world building within the narrative is just awe-inspiring; real animals; odd moments; scenes glimpsed from a moving car; some odd bit of fact on the TV; any well-made movie (especially Stranger Than Fiction, Master & Commander, Anne of Green Gables, Pride & Prejudice BBC Version); history books; esoteric fact books; my favourite authors; music that sounds much like that of the Half-Continent; I am also rediscovering poetry at the moment through my friend and poet Aidan Coleman…”

  • Also good reads are the interviews with Elizabeth E. Wein and M.T. Anderson, whose books I don’t need to be convinced to read.
  • Somehow I ended up reading another interview with Wein, and I thought this comment of hers about the series in general really summed up why I find them so gripping: “I like to keep the tension cranked up even when there’s nothing going on.  None of my characters are ever safe.  Part of what I consider The Mark of Solomon to be about is how to live with fear.”
  • I started reading Melina Marchetta’s new Jellicoe Road, and either it has a very different feel from her earlier books, or I’m not remembering them well.  At any rate, I’ve been thoroughly confused about what’s going on for about the first half of the book, but simultaneously so intrigued – and emotionally involved – that I’m pushing through the confusion.  Or maybe it’s all me, and my brain turned to mush when I read Outlander. It’s a possibility.  (Side note: few things frighten me more than rabid fans who refuse to acknowledge flaws in a book, especially one that is fluff disguised as something more serious, but still strangely compelling, so that I can appreciate the fandom but its rabid nature.)  How did I get from Jellicoe Road to rabid fans in one paragraph?
  • That’s enough rambling for today.

So, I just noticed the Goodreads “blog this review” feature, and thought I’d try it out.  Well, that’s not quite true – I noticed the feature a long time ago, but never stopped to try it.  I’ve continued my whirlwind of mystery reading – if I finish listening to Maisie Dobbs today, I’ll have read eight mysteries this month.  Which is a lot more than my usual none to one.

I started fall quarter over the weekend – I had to travel north for the class that met in person, and then the rest is online, and the other class is entirely online.  There’s some overlap between the two, it looks like, since one covers children’s materials and the other covers children’s services.  In other words, I’ve got a great excuse to read a TON of children’s books.

I took the train instead of driving up, and I really enjoyed it – especially the ride home on a gorgeous fall day, on a fairly empty train.  I got lots of reading in, and enjoyed the scenery, and thought about all the reasons I love this time of year.  It’s the part of fall when it’s not drippy and miserable yet, you’re still getting some sunshine, but you can cozy up with a cup of tea and not feel like you’re boiling alive. Riding the train also allowed ample opportunity for nostalgia – both for all those old movies where they ride trains, and for my own train riding past, all across the UK and Italy.  Nothing like a train ride to give you a travel bug.  Right before my trip I watched The Lady Vanishes – an old Hitchcock I hadn’t seen before – which had a classic combo of great laughs and paranoia.  Definitely recommended to train-movie fans and old movie fans in general.

I got to thinking about genres – and how a mystery like Sister Pelagia and the Vicky Bliss books are technically in the same genre, but really couldn’t be further apart.  While each could be read purely for the ‘solving a mystery’ aspect of the story, the tone and treatment of characters are so different.  Anyway, here are my thoughts on the crime-fighting monastic.

Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog (Mortalis)

Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog by Boris Akunin

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
A mystery for people who like classic Russian lit, or who just like the novelty of having an Orthodox nun and bishop solve crimes. Sister Pelagia is a great character – people don’t give her a second glance in her habit, but she’s got sharp wits and a good sense of self-preservation, wielding off would-be attackers with her knitting needles. But she’s no Miss Marple in a habit – she’s also young and impulsive. The plot starts slowly, with plenty of time spent setting the scene of the country province, the local government and society, issues of corruption and church politics. I got distracted by trying to keep all the characters straight – the Russian naming system makes it twice as hard, to me. The plot thickens about halfway through, and the end features more action and a dramatic courtroom accusation. Things are just wrapping up when a monk makes a dramatic entrance – not to further thicken the plot of this story, but to provide a hook for the next volume in the series. Which I just might have to read.

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January 2023

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