Monday, August 18, 2008

Patricia Wrede's World Builder

For the fantasy reader, check out Patricia Wrede's guide to writing fantasy at

She outlines all of the different things (clothing, education, housing, reproduction, transportation, etc.) that must be thought through when creating a new world. The list is meant for fantasy writing but could be very useful to any writer. I'll think you'll find it very interesting.

Diana Wynne Jones

I've just started Diana Wynne Jones' House of Many Ways (a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle and Castle in the Air). It is off to a grand start, lots of unexpected twists and turns, lots of humor. The story so far: Charmain, clueless about life (and magic) since she always has her nose in a book (does that sound like anybody writing this blog?), is asked to watch over her Great-uncle William's house while the elves are treating him for an illness. He has very inconsiderately left piles of dirty dishes, bags of dirty laundry and a terribly nervous dog for her to care for. To complicate manners, an attractive young wizard-apprentice has arrived for his training. I'm curious to see how Howl fits into the picture.

I was introduced to Diana Wynne Jones back in the mid-1980s. On a vacation to New York, my traveling friend JN and I happened upon a small annex to Books of Wonder just around the corner from Christopher Street. The woman running the store was named Becca and was a fabulous recommender of books. I wasn't yet in the library biz so I wasn't terribly familiar with different authors. Becca recommended, in spite of its ghastly cover art, Howl's Moving Castle. JN and I read it and were immediate fans of Ms. Jones. We visited Becca every time we were in New York (back then, it was a yearly occurence) and she introduced us to Tamora Pierce and many other authors. It was a very sad day when JN and I arrived in New York to find the annex closed and Becca living in northern New York. Sigh...we both owe her for many hours of reading pleasure.

I highly recommend Dark Lord of Derkholm (once a year the magical world opens its doors to Pilgrim Parties from our world. Derk and his family are in charge of this year's tour and anything that could go wrong does go wrong, wreaking havoc on the magical world) and its companion book Year of the Griffin (Derk's adopted griffin daughter Elda goes off to Wizard's University with disastrous results). They are complicated, unexpected and very funny books that will grab your attention and not let go.

I must say that not every book by Diana Wynne Jones is a keeper (Aunt Maria comes to mind) but when she is on, there is no other author like her. Give her a try...please.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

has this ever happened to you?

Maybe this is a librarian thing, but have you ever been to the doctor or dentist and, just when you are in the most unfortunate position, the doctor/nurse/dentist/technician asks, "Can you recommend a good book?" It happened to me today and, to be honest, in the position I was in, I could barely remember that I know how to read!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

happy memories of books past

Lying awake in the middle of the night is my best thinking time. I got to thinking about the books that I remember from my childhood.

First were the Little Golden Books: Saggy Baggy Elephant (thank you LBC&M for sending me the flair), Little Black Sambo (how different the world was) and Toot the Tugboat. My mother and I sat next to the radiator in our living room, me in a little red chair with a straw seat, and read and read and read. I owe my love of reading to my mom. (Not too long before she died, and out of the clear blue sky, she said, "I always hated reading Dr. Seuss but you loved him." Wonder how long that had been on her mind....)

My favorite book was Little Women. I had a cheap hardcover book which I read until it fell apart (literally). My sister and her husband gave me a Tasha Tudor illustrated copy when I was confirmed...I still have it.

I read The Secret Garden which lead to a lifelong fascination with India. (I went to India in 1999 and loved it...thinking that I've actually seen the Taj Mahal still sends a shiver down my spine). It was one of my mom's favorite books when she was growing up, too.

Then there were the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. How could I not love all of Betsy's friends, her clothes, her boy worries? Plus she was from Minnesota. And Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery which I wanted desperately for my own library but they were Canadian, for heaven sakes and unavailable at the B. Dalton Booksellers at Brookdale. I just about did back flips when I discovered them for sale at the Windsor (Ontario) Public Library in their Friends' store! (This was the 70s and the publishing world wasn't as international as it is Amazon then either.)

In sixth grade I read Gone with the Wind and I remember rushing up to my friends, breathlessly exclaiming, "Scarlett married Rhett!" and being so surprised that none of them cared. Hmph.

I remember discovering the Whiteoaks of Jalna books by Mazo DeLaRoche and reading obsessively until I'd finished every one of them.

In Junior High, I waited endlessly for my chance to read this wonderful little book about Peggy Shippen's Quaker seamstress. I've been trying to remember the name of it for lo, these many years. Anybody else read it back in the late 60s? I'd be eternally grateful if someone could refresh my memory.

I only wish I'd had all the fabulous choices young readers have now. I would have had even more fights with my mother about getting fresh air and moving around a bit. My answer to her demands was to lie in the hammock in the backyard, reading my eyes out and breathing deeply!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

an embarrassment of riches

I can request books over a period of months and all of those requests invariably show up at my library on one day. I am in the midst of one of these situations right now. The book I'm carrying in my purse is The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart. My bedside book is Pirate Wars by Kai Meyer (the last of his Wave Walker trilogy). Waiting to be read are Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire by Derek Landy; House of Many Ways by the fabulous Diana Wynne Jones (it is another sequel to Howl's Moving Castle); Darkside by Tom Becker (a recommendation from Librarian D.O.A.); The Seer of Shadows by Avi; The Redheaded Princess by Ann Rinaldi. I'm looking ahead to many happy hours stretched out on the sofa (my bed, the floor...) with a book in my hand. Sigh.

As a librarian, I think one of the perks of the job should be a reading week. Since book recommendations are often asked for, we should have a regular block of time when we can just read, read, read. My library manager liked the idea but how to get the powers that be to agree to it. Suggestions, anyone?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Welcome to my world!

I love to read and I love to share what I read. If you are looking for a good book, I hope I can help you.

I am a children's librarian. I read a lot of children's nonfiction (I write a nonfiction reading list for my library system) but I also truly enjoy fantasy, historical fiction and bright, colorful, silly picture books.

As far as grown-up reading goes, my favorite author is Elizabeth Berg (I really like the warmth of her characters and the wonderful way she describes the little things in life). I read a lot of historical fiction, especially about Henry VIII/Elizabeth I and the turmoil surrounding them. I'm not a big mystery reader but I do enjoy C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake mysteries and Carris Bebris' Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mysteries. I prefer memoirs to biographies. Cookbooks and quilting books make up a huge portion of my personal library.

Let me know what you're reading, too. It only seems fair....