Monday, April 27, 2009

Afternoon Detention

I have D-Hall duty.
As if it's my punishment.
There are 7 kids in here.
2 reading books.
One boy has his lit book out.
2 girls seem to be writing notes.
One is doing her homework.

Then there's this kid in the back who looks like Stephen King.
Clearly his first D-Hall.
He's just staring, looking around.
Blank TV.
The girl next to him (homework girl) who probably thinks he's a creeper.

His name was just called over the PA.
His ride is waiting out back.
So he got up and left.
Clearly doesn't understand how detention works.

The other kids know.
Spaced evenly throughout the room.
No one talks,
No one sleeps.
They are surprised when I say,
"You can go."

This is not punishment.
This is quiet time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Professional development.

After three months of bloglessness, I reappeared here last night. It heralded what was, in my mind, the beginning of a series called Bound and Determined, in which I try to read one of my purchased-but-as-of-yet-unread books weekly and then blog about it. So I introduced the concept, prattled on about Birdwing (which I read during the ice storm), and then went to bed. After sleeping on it, I made a decision.

Actually, my first decision upon waking (which, interestingly, turns out to be after getting out of the shower and eating breakfast) was not to go to work. My stomach did (and does) not feel right at all, and well, it didn't take much arm-twisting to get me to log onto the help-I-need-a-substitute! website and unplug the curling iron.

Then, after making a nest in the living room, I made this other decision. Instead of just a series, I turned Bound and Determined into its own blog. I've done this before. And by this, I mean both starting up a new project blog on a whim and starting up a reading blog. I do not have a good track record here, but you never know when I just might stick with something.

Plus, and this is where I'm really honest, I am way too impressed with myself for coming up with the multi-faceted title. I mean, bound? Like books. And determined? Because I am and the whole point of writing the blog is to keep myself motivated. Okay, I'll stop patting myself on the back, but you gotta admit… But of course, I did some research, and I'm not totally original here. Bound and Determined is also the name of a few other blogs and a work of erotica. It's a cliché, unique only in its redundancy. Whatever.

I have to admit that I'm jumping the gun a little. I've already acknowledged my paper-thin willpower. Ha, I haven't even written about a second book yet. And I have over thirty – thirty! – other books on my list. The sheer magnitude of the list alone is enough to defeat me. Some accountability can't hurt.

I'm not going to pretend that I'm not doing this because I want to be a librarian. Obviously, I am. Books and reading are what I love, but I have a lot of work to do if I honestly want to consider myself "knowledgeable about current children's and young adult literature". It's professional development.

Follow me as I develop professionally at And join in the discussion. Ask questions. Make reading recommendations. Let me know if you have read / want to read / don't want to read the book I'm reading.

I've recently decided that books are only important because they connect us with other people. If I can't share the experience or knowledge or insight that I gain from a book, what's the point in reading it?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bound and determined.

I have a problem. I cannot stop buying books.

Once after acknowledging our similarly overflowing bookshelves, Niaz and I half formed a pact in which we vowed to allow ourselves to buy only one new book after reading three already-purchased ones. That sounded nice, didn't it? A good way not only to get through my ever-lengthening reading list, but also to give my bank account a break. I don't know about him, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he too surrendered like I did to the siren song of bookstores. I think I read one whole book before going to Barnes & Noble and buying enough books to make my 10%-off Member Card worth the membership fee.

I have never been good with resolutions – New Year's or otherwise – and it's becoming increasingly apparent that I might have an addictive personality. This probably explains the almost-one-hundred dollars I dropped at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest in Bowling Green on Saturday. While unpacking from the weekend last night, I somewhat proudly and somewhat ashamedly added seven or eight freshly-bound books to my collection, dividing them up among the large bookcase, the small unofficial YA shelf, and the stool-turned-nightstand beside my bed. I stepped back, surveyed the situation, and one thing was abundantly clear: It's time to rededicate myself to the not-a-resolution I considered back in February.

I refused to make it public then because I'm fairly convinced that telling other people about my goals has approximately the same effect on my progress as high school sweethearts professing their love to one another via a yearbook ad has on their relationship's longevity. The endeavor is doomed before the intentions are even published.

So I knowingly enter into this with great trepidation, but here it is: My goal is to read one book a week. To an average reading adult, this seems doable, but in the two months since I half-heartedly began, I've finished three books. (Time to buy more?! Okay, so I've already taken care of that. Plus, I've decided not to impose a book-buying embargo on myself because I learned long ago that I'm too smart – er, weak – to fall for my own fictitious rules and deadlines.) I can blame in on the lifestyle of being a new teacher, but let's face reality. The height of the book-stacks has reached mountainous, and intervention is critical.

I'm bound and determined to scale this constantly growing mountain. And I'm taking you with me.

Birdwing by Rafe Martin

I have a feeling that even if the plot of this fairy tale had been disappointing, I would have still loved it despite itself. Luckily, the coming-of-age adventure of Prince Ardwin did not disappoint. I had not expected that a winged boy would become the one character in all of literature with whom I most identify.

This is one of the many books that I've purchased because of its attractive cover, even though I later learned that the artist's rendering of the protagonist, the one-armed-one-winged Ardwin, is inaccurate. (No, the wing is on his other left, I'd say.) I picked it up at the Scholastic Book Fair that the book club sponsored in the library at school. I mean, I had to buy books to support the student organization, right?

Not surprisingly, though, the book landed on my bookshelf unread until a month or so later when Victoria asked me for reading recommendations and I, despite having read the book, suggested it. She and I once had a tryst with the Brothers Grimm, and this story reimagines and expands the Grimm's tale "The Six Swans". Seemed like a match. She took it, read it, loved it, and foisted it back at me so that I could read and love it, too. Done and done.

Rafe Martin's writing style drew me in immediately, and I suspect it would carry me through an even poorly spun yarn. The tale is written in prose, but it is nothing short of lyrical. Martin is fond of alliterative and original adjective pairs, prepositional possession, intriguing names, and weighty nouns and verbs. His characterization is vivid and his setting is timeless in the way that the realms of the best legends are. The cast line-up is full of archetypes (orphans, evil step-mothers, and wizened wizards), but Martin develops them into a unique humanity despite their otherworldliness. The themes of love, loss, betrayal, and belonging are worked out with heartbreaking and redemptive reality.

Birdwing's narrator is omniscient, which explains my frustration with the thought processes and choices of Ardwin, the young hero. The reader is far more enlightened about reality and its consequences than he, so the attempt at dramatic irony sometimes fails because the plot twists are apparent to the reader long before the twists occur. This makes Ardwin seem very naïve, but this may just be part of the tale's theme. This youthful naivety juxtaposes nicely with the young man at the end of the novel.

I would have loved this book no matter what because I am a sucker for a nicely turned phrase, but Birdwing is more than a pretty book. It is a journey that takes us – Ardwin and the reader – fearfully into our insecurities and brings us victoriously out of ourselves.

Coming Soon! Bound and Determined: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Check it out here.