Sunday, August 24, 2008

Gateway List

Here's the list of potential nominees for the MASL Gateway award for 2009-10. Books I've read so far are in red.

Twisted by Anderson, Laurie Halse
Thirteen Reasons Why by Asher, Jay
Tasting the Sky: a Palestinian Childhood by Barakat, Ibtisam
Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Beah, Ishmael
Beauty Shop for Rent -- : Fully Equipped, Inquire Within by Bowers, Laura
Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature by Brande, Robin
Dragon's Keep by Carey, Janet Lee
Billie Standish Was Here by Crocker, Nancy
Deadline by Crutcher, Chris
Tallgrass by Dallas, Sandra
Gym Candy by Deuker, Carl
November Blues by Draper, Sharon
In Search of Mockingbird by Ellsworth, Loretta
Beastly by Flinn, Alex
Right Behind You by Giles, Gail
Something Rotten: a Horatio Wilkes Mystery by Gratz, Alan
Blood Brothers by Harazin, S.A.
Wicked Lovely by Marr, Melissa
The Off Season by Murdock, Catherine
Unwind by Shusterman, Neal
Peak by Smith, Roland
First Shot by Sorrells, Walter
Boot Camp by Strasser, Todd
Defect by Weaver, Will
Such a Pretty Girl by Wiess, Laura
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Zevin, Gabrielle

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


My wife says I am brooding.

I had no idea that the mere removal of trees would ever affect me this much.

So in an effort to distract myself, and inspired by this blog entry, I've decided to create my own Deserted Island Reading List.

In no particular order:
1) Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
2) The Structure of Evolutionary Thought by Stephen Jay Gould
3) The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook by James Green
4) Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian; if booklady gets to claim a 20+ series of books as one entry... why then so do I!
5) Traveller's Library compiled by W. Somerset Maugam
6) Battle Cry of Freedom by James MacPherson
7) Chess For Zebras by Jonathon Rowson
8) The Complete Walker IV by Colin Fletcher
9) The Hugo Winners (Vol. I & II) edited by Isaac Asimov
10) Robert Heinlein: A Readers Companion by James Gifford along with The Best of Robert Heinlein by RAH himself.

A nice mix of history, literature, fiction, science (I am after all a physics and biology teacher), and general knowledge books.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Clearcutting update

After speaking with people "in the know", the plan for the creek and ~5 acres of woods is "to leave as many trees as possible while straightening the channel".

Hmph. So far four logging trucks have pulled out loaded with, what looks like to my inexpert eye, "prime timber". Wonder who's getting the cash for that timber. My bet is the city.

So much for the two owls I've seen, and the fox that I spotted that was hunting the other evening as I was walking. Oh sure, they'll be fine ... for a while. That's the way destroying habitat works. No big difference immediately, and what some people view as a messy area is cleaned up. But 5 years from now, there probably won't be any foxes or owls. People who sit inside and watch TV will never know. People like me ... who know and desperately care, will get reputations as cranks opposed to "what's best for the community".


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sick to my stomach


It turns out that we didn't move to paradise after all. We bought a house across the street from the ~100 acre school campus. We were very excited about the open space and the potential for wildlife and birds.

However, the school proposed and the community voted to build a new auditorium/arena, which you would think would be a good thing. Unfortunately, some city engineer pointed out that water drainage would be an issue. Since it does rain a lot here in the winter and spring... what that means is that about 5 acres of timber/creek are basicly being clearcut one block away from where we bought our house.

I drove by this morning and watched machinery drag 100 year old oak trees with trunks 5-6 ft across out of the creek.

It made me sick to my stomach. I HATE progress. Sure, a new auditorium/arena will be good for the community and the schools. But that building will be long gone before we have trees like those again.

There HAS to be a way that we can have both. Unfortunately, I live in an area that has long embraced the clearcutting of forests for community (and business) profit. And since this is essentially a done deal... paradise, for me, was short-lived. :-(

Friday, August 8, 2008

Gateway Awards

The Gateway Award is annually awarded to a book voted upon and selected by secondary (grades 9-12) student readers. Initiated by the Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL), the program currently gives awards to books written at four different reading levels. Go here for more information on the awards etc.

My wife, a certified high school librarian, and I, volunteered for and were chosen as reader selectors for next years (2009-10) Gateway Award. What this means is that we get to read and rate 26 or so, copyright 2007, YA fiction books between now and December 1st. The pool of actual nominees will be selected from all the ratings submitted by reader selectors, and then will be voted on by secondary school students during the 2009-10 school year.

2007-08 Winner was Stephanie Meyer's Twilight; nominees for 2008-09 include Copper Sun by Sharon Draper and Terrier: Beka Cooper by Tamora Pierce (my vote goes to Pierce but she probably won't win).

I've already read two of the books in the pool.... Peak by Roland Smith and In Search of Mockingbird by Loretta Ellsworth.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Breaking Dawn [SPOILERS FOLLOW!]

Wow! Just finished reading Breaking Dawn after reading for 8 straight hours. I actually picked up my sister-in-laws copy last night from B&N, started early this morning (fending off her repeated inquiries about the whereabouts of her book) and just now finished it.What can I say about this book?

I guess first of all the reader needs some perspective… I’m a 49-year-old male high school science teacher. I read the first book on a recommendation from my librarian wife, along with recommendations from several of my students. I thought the first book was ok, liked the second book far more, and was satisfied with the ending of the third book as a wrap-up to the series. Especially since I felt that Ms. Meyer had painted herself into a rather difficult plot corner to get out of.

When I heard that there was to be a fourth book in the “trilogy” I wasn’t sure that it was a great idea since I feared that Ms. Meyer would have to use some very contrived solutions in order for everybody to “live happily ever after”.

I was sorely mistaken. Her solutions to the problems of Bella becoming a vampire, and the love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob Black were nothing short of brilliant. And the showdown scene between the Volturi coven and the Cullen family (and allies) was riveting, with a very satisfying (bloodless) outcome.

I have to say that the ending of this story was far more satisfying than the ending of the Harry Potter saga. Ms. Meyer has even left us with a few tantalizing possibilities for future installments…

Things that I really liked:

The half-vampire, half human child, Renesmee. I felt that she was an amazing addition to the story, and a very neat solution to the problem of Bella’s desire to become a vampire. I spent the first three books hoping that Bella would NOT have to lose her humanity in order ‘consummate’ her love affair with Edward, all while knowing that she eventually would. I’m still not totally happy with it, but it’s better than letting her die which she surely would have.

The introduction and inclusion of other vampires around the world. This opens up many possibilities for future interactions and stories. I especially liked the nomads and the South American vampires.

Things that I didn’t like:

The idea that being a vampire is so easy. If it was so easy and so great, why did Edward argue so long and so hard (in the first three books) for Bella NOT to become one? I understand that Bella broke many of the rules for the transformation… still once she made it through… what’s not to love about having super powers and super sex for the rest of eternity?

The way that Charlie and Renee are kind of left out of the whole loop. My daughter gets married and then nearly dies from some mysterious aliment contracted on her honeymoon… I would be making a much bigger deal out of it. Renee never even shows up after the wedding. Charlie is finally brought in on things… sort of.

All in all, I really liked the book. It was a satisfying end to an interesting story. As a guy, I probably complained over much about the mushy stuff and the wedding scenes… but by about p.100 I was completely hooked into the book. Pretty good Ms. Meyer!! Thank you!