Out of the Box

This has to be one of my favorite times of year. The icy grip of winter’s hand is only a memory, days are delightfully long, we are privileged to see the Creator’s work in the awesome beauty of a thunderstorm and the multi-colored blossoms that are springing up everywhere, and the pleasures that summer brings are upon us.

Yet, I have another reason for delighting in this season. It’s at this time that boxes of books I’ve carefully chosen arrive. Even though there are many duties awaiting me: class sessions, notifying students, teachers, and support staff that it’s time to return library materials before the end of the school year, and so on, I cannot resist the pull of new books. It’s fortunate that I have a good excuse: when compiling my annual Recommended Reading List, it’s important to peruse the recent arrivals for titles that should be included.

This year’s acquisitions definitely do not disappoint. Every book I’ve completed thus far is a worthy addition to our collection. Here’s a sample.

When many think of author Joseph Bruchac, his Native American heritage comes to mind. The versatile storyteller’s long list of books reflect this: from picture books such as Raccoon’s Race with Beaver, to thrillers like Whisper in the Dark and The Dark Pond, to March Toward the Thunder and other historical fiction, his pride in his background shows through. Now Joe Bruchac turns to the other side of his heritage with Dragon Castle, a fantasy that is so much more. This tribute to the Slovakian side of the author’s family tree earns a place with Bruchac’s best. The author’s trademark sensitivity, humor, and ability to tell a good story are all present here. From the moment we meet Rashko, a young man who feels the weight of preserving all he loves on his shoulders, we know we are in for a literary treat.

Sharon Creech outdoes herself with every book she writes, and this novel is no exception. When a farmer and his wife discover a young boy sleeping on their porch, they are baffled. The child bears no clue to his identity except a note stating that his name is Jacob and the writer will return for him. When the youngster awakens, he can offer no clues, as he does not speak. Stymied, the good-hearted John and Marta welcome Jacob into their home and their lives, all the while looking for reports about a missing boy. A warm, humorous, satisfying tale.

Stay tuned for more gems.

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Withdrawal

I’m suffering from withdrawal. It’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last. No, I haven’t decided to eliminate caffeine or sugar from my diet and my body is staging a protest. This withdrawal is of a different sort, one that any avid reader can understand. For this morning (for the second time in as many weeks), I finished a trilogy that I can only describe as blockbuster.

When I reluctantly turned the last page of The Shadow Throne, the finale of Jennifer A. Nielsen’s beyond wonderful Ascendance Trilogy, there was some consolation. The third novel of the 13 Treasures Trilogy by Michelle Harrison awaited me. And even though a reader may wonder about the probability of completing two unforgettable series one after the other, 13 Secrets did not disappoint. So, after observing Sage’s metamorphosis from streetwise orphan to dedicated monarch, and cheering for the young royal and those dear to him every step of the way, I was privileged to continue the saga of another set of beloved characters. Rowan, a heroine in every sense of the word, takes her place among the most memorable young people in contemporary fiction. Her journey of discovery and acceptance, undertaken with courage and devotion (with a little help from her friends), wins her a favored place on many a bookshelf.

There is now a pleasant task awaiting me: penning reviews of all these unforgettable stories. Those that are not already on my site, http://bookandagarden.com, will be there soon.

Goodbye to the Bookmobile

It is with mixed feelings that I write this post. ReadersĀ  may remember my enthusiasm for this new venture. I was excited to be part of such a valuable service to the community in which I live and raised our family. Even the physical difficulties of working on the bookmobile did not lessen my determination to make this a success. The lack of order and consistence in the books’ arrangement (with many titles misclassified) and the resultant difficulty in quickly fulfilling requests, insufficient time to reshelve and perform other necessary tasks, the pressure to put new arrivals into the system at a rapid pace, and having to fly from office to bookmobile were challenges that I was ready and willing to face. And, even though exhaustion set in as the run ended, I was exhilarated by the experience.

However, there was not the opportunity to improve the accessibility of books, reclassify titles, and make other changes to improve the (mostly) young patrons’ experience on the “bus.” While the mobile library team was supportive of my ideas, the administration was less enthusiastic. After several weeks, I received a call from a supervisor. It wasn’t working out; I was not meeting expectations; too few books were being readied for circulation. Even though I defended my position, and the supervisor said they would reopen the discussion, I determined (with the help of my wonderful husband) that it was not meant to be. So, with a twinge of sadness, I informed the boss that my expectations as well were not met, and there was no reason to pursue the matter.

Since then, I have been hoping I would not see the bookmobile as it makes its rounds. In time, the negative feelings will surely fade. I harbor no ill will towards the entire project and wish it continued success. Now I must look to the future. A new door has been opened a crack. It may soon be time to see what’s on the other side.

Barbados’ North Point: Beyond Description

About a month ago, my husband and I took a trip to his birthplace. The visit was not for the purpose of a vacation, despite the incredible beauty and charm of this magical place. This is the second time in a row that we traveled to Barbados for something other than pleasure. Each time, I felt that we were the only ones on the plane who were flying there for neither vacation nor a return home. Last year’s visit, for my mother-in-law’s funeral, was marked by only sadness. This one had a sense of the bittersweet. Words cannot describe the emotions that flooded through me when we visited the historic cemetery.

However, even though I knew from the day we booked our flight that this was not going to be a vacation (although we were happy for a respite from the coldest and snowiest winter in recent memory), Barbados’ loveliness cannot be ignored. So, in the midst of doing what we came to do, my husband and I made the trek to one part of the island I had not yet seen: the wild and wonderful North Point.

Driving up the west coast, we had a close-up view of the gentle waves of the Caribbean. After a while, the most direct route to our destination took us away from the shoreline. When we reached the North Point, a very different sight greeted us. For at both the northern and southern tips of the island, the calm Caribbean meets the thunderous Atlantic. Parts of the eastern shore are a surfer’s delight, but not so the North Point. Waves pouring over the rocky formations and into caves that dot the cliff are a wonder to behold from a safe distance.Barbados5For hardier types, there is a chance to get up close and personal. The Animal Flower Cave, home to sea anemones, is an incredible spot. Even though we had considered descending into the Cave, one look at the steep steps made us content to walk along the path and take in the magnificence of the ocean–and stop for a memorable picnic lunch.

Barbados2When we finally left this magnificent place, both of us knew we had experienced something that is the stuff of beautiful memories. I’m not sure how many visitors make their way to the North Point, but it should be a part of every itinerary. I know that it’s going to be on mine on a future trip to this small island of tremendous wonders.

Aside

My First Bookmobile Experience

I got off the bookmobile not three hours ago. For the three and a half hours before being deposited near our house, I was in an amazing world. It was heartwarming to see kids from babies to teens (and their parents) braving the rain that started coming down hard as we began our route. Between shelving as many newly returned books as possible to make them available for the next contingent of eager readers, directing visitors to “their” sections, fielding questions and requests, and learning the routine, the time flew by–and suddenly there were no more stops. All that remained was to reshelve returnees so the bookmobile will once again be ready to roll. I can’t wait to get back on board.

Bookmobile Librarian?

If someone were to ask me what the next step in my career would be, I might humorously (or wishfully) respond with one word: retirement! That was before I learned of an opening for a bookmobile librarian. The brainchild of a co-director of an organization that operates a number of daycare centers and other community services, the library on wheels makes the rounds of the neighborhood where I live.

While I juggled my current schedule to accommodate that of the bookmobile in anticipation of being welcomed on board (pun intended), I began to think of this rather unexpected turn of events. Naturally, one thing that came to mind was Judy Sierra’s delightfully zany masterpiece, Wild About Books. What happens when a librarian drives her bookmobile into the zoo is guaranteed to tickle anyone’s funny bone.

Seriously, it is my husband’s and my wish that, in the very near future, I find myself on the book bus. Our income, which was significantly reduced when my full-time job was downsized to one day a week (but my readers have heard this story already!), will benefit. Perhaps we will be able to move closer to our eventual retirement goal.

As for the chance of the bookmobile winding up at the zoo? It’s good I won’t be the person driving.

Bookmobile

Wisdom from Eva

If I were asked who my favorite author is, I would wonder if it is possible to name only one. Should the questioner persist, my response would have to be a writer who, from the first time she penned a story to the novels published after her passing, left a tremendous mark on the children’s and young adult literary world. Fantasy, historical fiction, modern-day tales all bear her trademark perfect blend of humor, drama, sentiment, and marvelously satisfying conclusions. Yes, Eva Ibbotson was an author par excellence.

Perhaps the best way to demonstrate her gift of language is to share some quotations from her books. So, without further ado, here are a few gems from the pen of Eva Ibbotson.

“Just because we’ve never done it doesn’t mean we can’t do it.”

“What are you afraid of then? Not being able to see, I think not seeing because you’re obsessed by something that blocks out the world.”

“It’s true that adventures are good for people even when they are very young. Adventures can get in a person’s blood even when he doesn’t remember having them.”

“Shadows are cool and peaceful places for those whose minds are overstocked with treasure.”

“You cannot stop the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can stop them nesting in your hair.”

“She was so intelligent that she could think herself into beauty. Intelligence…they don’t talk much, the poets, but when a woman is intelligent and passionate and good…”

“One can always bear what is right.”

There’s another way to enter Eva Ibbotson’s world. Open one of her books: The Secret of Platform 13, Journey to the River Sea, A Countess Below Stairs, One Dog and His Boy, The Reluctant Heiress, The Abominables…The choice is yours. You and anyone you share them with will be richer for the experience.

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