Thursday, July 30, 2009

Must. Read. The classics.

I have a horrible confession to make: I've never read Forever.

I've also never read The Outsiders. It's because I was too busy reading The Girls of Canby Hall series and Caprice brand teen romances when I was thirteen.

Still, I'm tired of living a lie, pretending I'm allowed to type stuff about teen fiction on the internet under the circumstances. I won't be back until I've caught up on my reading.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


The system works!
Now all I've got to do is write it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Green Tomatoes

I really mean to stop posting about my garden. I really do, but the thing is, it's all new to me and it's taking up more of my mental energy than reading YA is and so this is just how it is for a minute.

The thing is, I really effed up my tomatoes. How was I to know that just because all instructions say to plant them 2 feet apart and in cages or sturdily staked that I should plant them two feet apart and sturdily stake them?? Rules are for suckers with space to burn, I thought, and all I've got is this tiny Brooklyn patch and the plants were quite small when I started... So now they're really crammed in there—7 plants in the space 2 should have been, and they're way bigger than I thought they'd get and the bamboo that was supposed to be holding them up isn't as sturdy as I thought and the whole mess was collapsing under its own weight. Branches were snapping off and all light to the rest of the garden was blocked by this dense jungle. Heavy rains the last coupla days were the final straw.

So, I tried to fix things tonight, laboriously untangling all these intertwined branches, trimming fruitless branches and restaking everything slightly more neatly. It's still a mess, but it's better. What happened though is that in the process a bunch of fruit fell off and some stems got broken and also several branches had already snapped off and I didn't even know because they were being held upright in the tangle.

So now I've got myself an unexpected pile of green tomatoes, which is disappointing, but it's still a harvest! I've been googling for good recipes. So far I've decided to make a gratin and some green-tomato-lemon marmalade.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

RITA Award Winners

Oh, and according to my dwindling list of upcoming events over there on the right, the RITA award winners were announced last week. In the young adult category it's Hell Week by Rosemary Clement-Moore.

And one of these days I'm going to get around to updating my little list with some events that are actually in the future. One of these days...

Amelia Bloomer Project

How'd I go this long without knowing about the Amelia Bloomer Project?? I only just found out about it this morning during my bimonthly or so read-all-the-feminist-magazines-for-the-price-of-a-cup-of-coffee at the Barnes and Noble. [Remember when Venus used to be the coolest publication around? sigh...]

So in a sidebar to Ms. magazine's boring article about Twilight in which they recommended more feministy alternatives, they pointed me to the Amelia Bloomer Project website which, as part of the Feminist Task Force of the American Library Association's Social Responsibilities Round Table, has put out lists honoring feminist children's writing since 2002.

Here's the YA fiction list for 2009. Check out the site for descriptions of each book, the non-fiction list, and for past years' lists.

A Curse Dark as Gold
Elizabeth C. Bunce
Kristin Cashore
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
Claire Dean
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom
Margarita Engle
Girl Overboard
Justina Chen Headley
White Sands, Red Menace
Ellen Klages
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
, E.
The Shadow Speaker
Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
Living Dead Girl
Elizabeth Scott
Big Fat Manifesto
Susan Vaught
Climbing the Stairs
Padma Venkatraman
The Kayla Chronicles,
Sherri Winston

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cover Art

So Justine Larbalestier's upcoming Liar is getting loads of attention of late. I haven't read it yet since, despite my pleas, I haven't gotten my hands on a galley, but apparently the narrator is a short-haired African-American girl who's a compulsive liar. The US cover features a photograph of a long-haired white girl, causing readers to wonder a) if the narrator is lying about everything, including the basics of her identity (apparently not) and/or b) if the publisher just wanted to have a white face on the cover, no matter the content, because people don't buy books with black people on the covers (duh).

There's an article in Publisher's Weekly here, and Larbalestier blogged about it yesterday. Plus there are tons of comments and everyone's got an opinion about race in publishing and authors' lack of control over how their books are represented and bad covers in general. It's all very interesting.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Warning! Reading "Baby Be-Bop" May Damage Your Mental Well-Being

Man, this book-banning article is cracking me up for some reason (why are there so many of these lately??):

Ginny Maziarka, 49, said the books in the section of the library aimed at children aged 12 to 18 included homosexual and heterosexual content she thought was inappropriate for youths.

She and her husband also asked the library to obtain books about homosexuality that affirmed heterosexuality, such as titles written by "ex-gays," Maziarka said.

"All the books in the young-adult zone that deal with homosexuality are gay-affirming. That's not balance," she said.

Sounds reasonable! So, does anyone know an anti-gay YA book written by an ex-gay? Just asking... Also, since balance is the goal, can we please legally obligate librarians to also stock up on pro-date rape books? I want to make sure the kids in my life know all sides of the issue.


Outside West Bend, the fight caught the attention of Robert Braun, who, with three other Milwaukee-area men, filed a claim against West Bend calling for one of the library's books to be publicly burned, along with financial damages.

The four plaintiffs -- who describe themselves as "elderly" in their complaint --- claim their "mental and emotional well-being was damaged by [the] book at the library."

The claim, unconnected to the Maziarkas, says the book "Baby Be-bop" -- a fictional piece about a homosexual teenager -- is "explicitly vulgar, racial and anti-Christian."

Baby Be-Bop, of all things! Who knew such a sweet, poetic 80-page book had the power to force fragile adults to read it against their will.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Melvin Burgess and Tomato Blight

Last week I read two Melvin Burgess books I'd not seen before. First, I read his first novel, The Cry of the Wolf, which is not the easiest book to find in the US. If I didn’t know, I would never have guessed it was a Burgess book, or that it was written in 1990 and not, say, 1965. It feels very old-fashioned both in its writing and in the sort of story it is. Even the cover is terribly old-timey (though later editions have incongruously updated designs.)

It’s about the last wild wolves in England, a small population that had survived undiscovered in a remote area until a strangely evil hunter learns of them and sets about killing them, pack by pack, just for the satisfaction of wiping out the species. All is grimly going according to plan, except for one plucky cub who just won't die.

And then I read The Ghost Behind the Wall, where a small-for-his-age boy finds that he can crawl through his building's air ducts and peer into other tenants' apartments through the grates, and/or climb into the apartments and do various petty meannesses. And then he finds out that he's not alone up there...

It's sort of well known among those who know me that one of my biggest fears is of being watched. It's not a very attractive trait, I know, and of course the rational part of my head knows full well that no one actually cares enough about whatever boring thing I'm doing to go out of their way to watch. But obviously the thought of ghosts—which really are just invisible beings hovering about and spying, and possibly also dead relatives judging you—are a special terror for me. Also I live in an apartment. With air ducts. So it was horrifying read, even though it quickly enough turns into a story that's not much about ghosts or mean boys at all.

So, perhaps not his two best efforts ever, but they can't all be Bloodtide. This week I'm looking to read any other of Burgess' books I've not yet read. Nicholas Dane is on it's its [ack!] way to me as we speak!

Additionally, I've got the tomato blight! Check out this pitiful specimen that was looking nowhere near this bad just a week ago. Shoulda kept a closer eye on it.. I had to "rogue" it today (which is what I have to say instead of "pulled it out by the roots" now that I'm pretending to be a horticulturalist.) Fingers crossed that the rest of my little guys didn't catch it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Recent Reading

It's 7am. I'm sitting here with the breakfast I made: buttermilk multigrain pancakes (from scratch), facon and fresh strawberries. It's just the sort of before-work morning I always mean to have but then can't get out of bed in time to actually make happen. After this, I'm going to take a bath instead of a rushed shower. It'll be great. But before that I have to post what I read last week:

Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
This one's been on the to-do list forever. Most probably already know the premise of this series: Promising children are taken into space and trained to become the next generation of military commanders to lead the war against bug-like aliens that want to destroy and/or colonize earth. Ender's even more promising than the rest.

Lena, Jacqueline Woodson
Two girls hitchhike across the South to escape from their father's sexual abuse.

The Treasure Map of Boys, E. Lockhart
Which I already wrote something about just below this post.

The tally:
This week: 3
YTD: 50

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Treasure Map of Boys

So everyone knows how much I love The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, right? I still haven't gotten over the fact that it didn't win the National Book Award this year, and I haven't gotten over my disappointment that it didn't exist when I was 15. Before I read it I'd sort of avoided E. Lockhart's books because of... well, because of covers that look like this. Yes, I'm shallow, and yes I'm often wrong because of it, and I'm not going to type the phrase "chick lit" out loud, and I wouldn't use it in a derogatory way even if I did. But you know what I mean.

Once I read Disreputable History I quickly read everything else Lockhart's written, and it turns out I was so wrong to snub this stuff. The whole Ruby Oliver series is great; it's smart and funny and true, and Ruby's kind of an endearingly irritating idiot when it comes to boys, but only in the way we're all idiots about that.

I think this third book might be the best one so far. The plot's simple and complicated enough in that high-schooly way: Roo gets fired from her zoo job for defending a pygmy goat, then gets a new job selling Birkenstocks to Dr. Z's fungus-footed boyfriend; she's in charge of a school bake sale and gets sports boys involved baking delicious things instead of the cutesy marshmallow sculptures sold but not eaten at past sales (hence the cover image); she flirts with Noel in chemistry but Nora likes him too, and Jackson's maybe flirting with her again and maybe Finn is too and Gideon's cute and ack what to do! and blah blah blah. It's all the same, but this time she's kind of getting more self-aware as she figures things out, and man does it hit close to home. It's a fun, silly book on the surface that is also pretty smart and right on.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Many of you know that I am a tad obsessed with ranking award-winning YA fiction by assigning values to each award each books wins and adding them up, right? (I have time on my hands...) So obviously I enjoy spending time over at, a wiki that compiles loads of data about literary and other creative awards. (Unfortunately my own database of YA award winners was well underway before I even knew this place existed—and it's a good thing I didn't know or I might not have even bothered starting mine.) But check this out! It's their "honor roll" of the top ten highest ranking "recent fiction," meaning books published in the last three years. And half of them are YA!

I realize that all this means is that there are lots of YA/children's awards going to some great YA books these days. It's not like the youth titles are sweeping the grown-up awards. And it also highlights the problem of awardannal's democratic one-win/one-score ranking process. Who cares! It's still cool, and it means that readers innocently clicking the link looking for a good book to read will see a whole list of terrific stuff they might have otherwise missed.