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It’s a [insert object here] book! July 21, 2011

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So Ana has a habit of calling certain books ‘cake’ books. While I’m pretty sure she means more than they are just sweet, I’ve never quite been able to understand this metaphor, other than the fact that she is trying to be complimentary.

At dinner tonight, her friend Libby referred to a book as a ‘jerkin’ book, and I wondered aloud how we had moved from using food as metaphors (fairly standard) to using Elizabethan clothing as metaphors (not so standard?).

To my slight disappointment, Libby was using the term to denote a type of fantasy novel where characters wear such garments and speak some version of ‘old-fashioned’ English. I decided this was too prosaic for me, and immediately began asking what other clothing metaphors we could use for books.

We came up with two: the corset book (restrained, polite language, strong feelings, but nicely expressed) and the codpiece book (attempts to protect a particular, ahem, area or theme while only succeeding in calling attention to it). Clearly, Twilight is a codpiece book.

Can anyone think of any other ridiculous clothing (or other object) metaphors for books?


First Lines July 17, 2011

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We all know that the first line of a book can be extremely important. Yes, there are books where it takes thirty pages to get into the story, but more often, if the sentence you read first is compelling, chances are it will be a good book. There are exceptions, obviously, but here are some of our favorite First Lines.

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” –Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” –Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice. 

“My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die.” –Melina Marchetta, On the Jellicoe Road. 

There was a hand in the dark, and it held a knife.” –Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book. 

“The match snapped, then sizzled, and I woke up fast.” –Judy Blundell, What I Saw and How I Lied. 

And our favorite of all time…

“When I was nine years old, I hid under a table and heard my sister kill a king.” –Frances Hendry, Quest for a Maid. 

We just noticed that half of these are about death. Hmmm…..can anyone think of a bad first line about death? What other great first lines would you add?

Review: The Wikkeling July 14, 2011

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Henrietta lives in a world where houses are made of plastic, roads are always gridlocked and children are monitored by cell phone and camera every second of every day. She struggles to keep from daydreaming in a school where everyone is focused on the next exam, but her life begins to change when she finds a wounded cat in her attic. With the help of two other children from her school, she learns about a whole world that used to exist, and strange animals that once roamed the earth. But a mysterious creature called the Wikkeling is going around hurting children, including her friends. How will Henrietta escape and defeat the Wikkeling?

This book is a great combination of science fiction, adventure and mystery. The pages from the ancient Bestiary that Henrietta and her friends read are reproduced as part of the book, and children will enjoy looking at the strange pictures and deciphering the wobbly handwriting. Unlike other children’s books set in the future, there is no oppressive government making decisions for everyone, in the style of The Giver. However, pressure to keep up with technology and follow societal norms is clearly depicted. I found a few parts of the world-building to be heavy handed, such as the constant advertisements and ‘RedAlert’ messages. In contrast, the scene when computers start to break down during an important standardized test was very accurate and I felt a lot of sympathy for the teacher!

In the end, it seemed that there were still some loose ends to the story. Why have the two scientists Henrift and Andi been remembered only as one man? Why are people forbidden to visit the Library where Rose lives and how did her parents find it? I had more questions about the world these characters live in, and how it came to be. This book will inevitably be compared to Coraline, another tale of a girl who finds a secret in an old house and is aided by a cat. The Wikkeling isn’t as creepy or succint as Coraline, but students who like mysteries and scary books will find it a fun read.

The Wikkeling, by Steven Arntson. Published 2011. Ages 8ish and up.

Dedications July 13, 2011

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I was flipping through some books this weekend and came across the first of these dedications, which made me think of other dedications in children’s books that I especially like. For those of you who also like these small details, here they are.

For Wayfarers still journeying, for wanderers at rest” –Lloyd Alexander, Taran Wanderer

Lovely poetic dedication from the author of The Chronicles of Prydain. 

“You know how it is. You pick up a book, flip to the dedication and find that, once again, the author has dedicated a book to someone else and not to you. Not this time. Because we haven’t yet met/have only a glancing acquaintance/are just crazy about each other/haven’t seen each other in much too long/are in some way related/will never meet, but will, I trust, despite that, always think fondly of each other…this one’s for you. With you know what and you probably know why” –Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

Ok, ok, this isn’t a children’s book…but it’s so nice to see the reader getting some love with a dedication!

“To Beatrice–darling, dearest, dead” –Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning

The first of the wonderful Beatrice dedications in the Series of Unfortunate Events books. Beatrice later got her own book, The Beatrice Letters, and it was explained that she was the mother of the unfortunate Baudelaire children.

“To my actor” –Susan Cooper, King of Shadows

I like this dedication because Cooper was married to actor Hume Cronyn until his death in 2003 and the book is about Shakespeare and the art of acting.

“The dedication of this book is split seven ways: To Neil, to Jessica, to David, to Kenzie, to Di, to Anne and to you, if you have stuck with Harry until the very end” –J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Way to go, J.K. Rowling, for referencing a plot point (Horcruxes) in the dedication. And again, nice to acknowledge the fans.

Harry Potter Movie: Nostalgic or Not? July 9, 2011

Posted by ccbooks in Debate.
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Ana: Nostalgic. To me, something feels like it’s ending this summer with the last movie. Oh, Harry Potter is obviously not just going to go away. There will still be YouTube videos and blog posts, Leaky Con and wizard rock concerts, geeky discussions and movie marathons. “What Hogwarts House are you?” will still be the first question I ask when I meet new people and God knows there will still be Potter Puppet Pals. But in a sense, it’s all fanfiction. It’s all things we have made ourselves. And while that’s wonderful and precious, what we are losing this year is The Source. Capital T, Capital S. We will never read another book about Harry, or watch Daniel Radcliffe have blue eyes instead of green. And without new books or movies to look forward to, a lot of the excitement will leave Harry Potter. So while some things will stay the same, a lot will go away, and that makes me nostalgic.

Cecilia: Daniel Radcliffe had blue eyes? Weird. I am not nostalgic. For me, the movie is very much secondary to the book and the books have been finished and done for four years now. At this point, I’m much more interested in seeing what new books (if any) J.K. Rowling will write. One of my favorite things about books, as opposed to other forms of art, is that they are so incredibly long lasting. Kids will continue to read and discover Harry and Co. and I’m sure I will still have students waving stick wands around on the playground years into the future. The magic will always be new for someone.

Ana: That’s true and I agree with you that the books are far more enjoyable than the movies. But given that there aren’t going to be any more Harry Potter books, I’ll take the movies over nothing at all. There is always so much excitement and mystery that builds up around a new book or movie, and that provides topics of discussion with complete strangers and the opportunity to make new friends. Midnight releases are incredibly fun and interesting, and we will never again be excited for Harry Potter in quite the same way. We can be excited for other people as they discover the series, but it’s done for us. And while it’s been wonderful and it’s time to say goodbye, it’s still sad.

Cecilia: There will be other books and other series to read. Why waste time being sad? At a certain point, while the shared experience is fun and exciting, it becomes a bit repetitve to have Harry Potter be the first thing anyone wants to talk about when they hear you like to read. I’m more interested in paying attention to new work being written. Not because I’m looking for some mystical ‘The Next Chosen One’  but because, to quote Tony Kushner “we live past hope.” I’m still hoping that someone out there (maybe you!) will write another series that I love as much as Harry Potter.

Ana: I’m a bit more of a pessimist. I don’t think anyone will write another series as big or with as large a community as Harry Potter. When I go into the bookstore and see the YA section being taken over by trashy chick lit, I have serious doubts for the future of literature. Also, one of the differences between us is that I have far more friends who are deeply involved in the Potter books. I’ve met people through Harry Potter, and am fairly involved with the online Harry Potter community. It’s a big part of my life and while I hope it stays that way, it’s definitely going to take a hit with the last movie coming out.


In which I explain the Blog name July 8, 2011

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A number of years ago, during a college production of The Music Man I received the cast award for ‘Most Likely to Become a Real Librarian.’ Two years ago, I decided to start making that happen by signing up for a certification program through the University of Virginia that would certify me to be a school librarian, grades K-12, in addition to being a teacher.

During one of my first courses, YA Literature, I realized that I have a LOT of extraneous knowledge about YA and Children’s Literature, history and authors. There are many reasons for this (thank you parents, siblings, teachers and friends!) but the main reason is that I worked for 6 years at an independent children’s bookstore, where I spent a lot of time organizing books, reading books and recommending books to customers. Consequently, in my library classes, I was the annoying student who had already read most of the books being discussed and I constantly interrupted my teacher with recommendations of other books to read (sorry, Lisa). So, because of my book-crazy tendencies, and because my initials are C.C. my nickname became Card Catalog. And now it is the name of this blog.

In which I explain the Blog July 8, 2011

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Because I believe in the power of the number three, this blog has three main goals. 1. To allow me to ramble on about children’s literature and young adult literature and talk about what I am reading. 2. To allow my sister Ana and me to discuss (ok, and argue about) what we are reading. 3. To post some memories of the bookstore where I used to work, which was a beautiful book paradise. These are the main goals; like the best of all children’s lit heroes (Milo, Harry, Alanna, Lyra) I will figure out the rest as I go along.  Feel free to join me for the ride!