Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Always, always good

I don't know where to begin when I talk about Charles de Lint's books - they are wonderful! They are inspiring, evocative and well written, with memorable, very real characters, and they always evoke a sense of wonder. He writes novels and short stories, many of them set in his fictional town of Newford, Canada. One thing I love about his books is that they feature recurring characters. A main character from one book might have a bit part in another, or a supporting role, or star in a short story. Usually it doesn't even matter which order you read them in (and anyone who knows me knows what a stickler I am for reading books in order!). I would make an exception for this book, though.

Widdershins is a sequel to Onion Girl, so definitely read that one first. And I'd even start with some earlier books, just to get to know some of the other characters a bit better before you start with those, because with that extra background the books will have more meaning.

De Lint's books often (but not always) center on characters who are artists or musicians, and there are almost always elements of Native American religions and mythologies. Everything is connected, and the plot tends to spin off in unexpected directions. One of the central conficts in Widdershins is the enmity between the "first people" -- spirits from the Native American tradition, like crow people and decendents of Coyote and Raven -- and the creatures of Faerie, who immigrated to the New World hundreds of years earlier, but are forced to live in towns and cities, leaving the wild places for the native spirits.

Lizzie, a fiddler from a Celtic band, gets on the wrong side of a group of bogans bent on exacerbating the situation, and when she interferes, she becomes swept up in a chain of events as inexplicable to her as they are dangerous. Meanwhile Jilly, as recovered from her recent car accident as she's likely to get, is drawn into the situation when she and Lizzie mysteriously vanish from their beds in the night. Their disappearance exacerbates the brewing enmity, which quickly escalates to the brink of an outright war. Geordie (finally) recognizes his true feelings for Jilly, but she is in a place far from his reach, a place where she must confront the deepest fears from an abusive childhood in order to escape.

You know a book's good when 560 pages aren't enough!

Widdershins by Charles de Lint (Tor, 2006)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sherlock Holmes' clever little sister

Enola is determined not to end up in a stuffy boarding school, tightly corseted and learning to take her "proper place" in society -- something that her older brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft, insist she must do. Instead, she has fled from their brotherly (smotherly) concern and has set herself up as a "perditorian" (finder of lost things). As a fourteen-year-old girl on her own in Victorian London, Enola cannot simply start her own business. But she is intelligent and resourceful, and she invents a man to be the owner, while she, in disguise, pretends to be his secretary and does everything herself.

Soon she finds herself in the midst of her first case -- but even as she investigates, she must always look over her shoulder, careful not to catch her brothers' attention. Indeed, when Dr. Watson himself shows up on her doorstep, asking her (unbeknownst to Holmes) to look into her own disappearance, Enola is astounded. Sherlock is worried about her? Is it possible he actually cares about more than family appearances? But how can she reassure him that she is all right, when any communication from her is sure to clue her clever brother in to her new identity?

In this second book in the Enola Holmes mystery series, our heroine has a tricky path to tread, one that takes her to the darkest, most dangerous parts of London in her search for a missing young noblewoman. Enola is a feisty, likable heroine, determined to maintain her independence despite her own loneliness and isolation. I look forward to the next installment in the series.

Books in the Enola Holmes series:
1. The Case of the Missing Marquess
2. The Case of the Left-Handed Lady
3. The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady: An Enola Holmes Mystery by Nancy Springer (Philomel Books, 2007)

Publisher recommends for ages 9 - 12.

Monday, May 28, 2007

"Consider this..."

A king is in mourning; life has lost meaning without his beloved queen. A boy presents him with a carved wooden box, something the queen had asked him to give the king after her death. Within the box is a message from the queen, a last request: the king and the boy must travel into the mickle woods to find the bear that lives there. The king is unwilling; what's the point? Nothing matters anymore. But the boy urges the king, invoking the queen's memory. The king grudgingly agrees to go.

They travel through the dark, snowy night. It is a harsh and tiring journey, especially for the boy, but finally they reach the bear's cave, a mysterious place lit by hundreds of candles that flutter like moths. The bear is mysterious, old and wise, a storyteller with stories that just might help the king -- if only he will listen.

This is a lovely book, sweet and poignant, with illustrations that add atmosphere and depth to the words. Although it is in a picture-book format, it is not for preschoolers -- with its rich language and complex emotional storyline, it is more appropriate for elementary-age children. This is a riveting read-aloud that I highly recommend.

Through the Mickle Woods by Valiska Gregory; illustrated by Barry Moser (Little, Brown & Co., 1992)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Expect the unexpected

As usual, you never know what's going to happen in a Diana Wynne Jones novel. This one is told from the point of view of several characters, notably Rupert Venables, a magid (a sort of mage charged with maintaining balance in the multiverse) and Maree, a young woman who is (unbeknownst to her) a candidate for becoming a new magid. Rupert is new to his work, having only been a magid for two years, but when his teacher dies, it is up to him to find a replacement. He is given a list of possibilities to investigate, but that investigation is difficult to pursue because he must also help out a government on the verge of collapse in another world. It doesn't help that Maree finds Rupert impossibly stuffy, and he thinks she is preposterous and annoying; they suddenly find that they are going to have to work together to find a way out of a very dangerous situation.

It sounds utterly far-fetched and complicated, but trust me - Jones will suck you into the story, and it will make complete sense. She takes seemingly unconnected plot threads and weaves them beautifully into a storyline that leads all the characters to PhantasmaCon, a science fiction convention that is an affectionate homage to all such conventions and their colorful attendees. When unbelievable and fantastic events occur there (such as the sudden appearance of a wounded centaur in their midst), no one bats an eye - they all assume things are part of the convention ("Wow, fantastic costume!").

The book is sweet and touching, with dark humor, romance, action and adventure. And just when you think you know where the story is going, you'll find a new twist to carry you along in an unexpected direction, wondering what could possibly happen next. As with just about everything Diana Wynne Jones writes, this one is highly recommended.


Books in the Merlin Cycle:
1. Deep Secret
2. The Merlin Conspiracy

Deep Secret (#1 in the Merlin Cycle) by Diana Wynne Jones (Tor, 1999)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Lloyd Alexander has died.


It always makes me feel a sharp sense of loss when a favorite writer dies. I'm sad for their family and friends, of course, but also so sad for all the books that they will never be able to write. I wonder what happens to those books. Do they drift out into the collective unconscious, where other writers, inspired by or with an affinity for that writer's work, somehow gather them up and make them their own?

“In whatever guise — our own daily nightmares of war, intolerance, inhumanity; or the struggles of an Assistant Pig-Keeper against the Lord of Death — the problems are agonizingly familiar,” he said in his Newbery acceptance speech in 1969. “And an openness to compassion, love and mercy is as essential to us here and now as it is to any inhabitant of an imaginary kingdom.”

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ah, the unreliable narrator

Thirteen-year-old Sophie is the only girl on the crew of The Wanderer, a 45-foot-long sailboat that's sailing from Connecticut all the way to England. Her beloved grandfather Bompie moved back to his native England years earlier, and Sophie, her two teenaged cousins and her three uncles are sailing there together. Everyone tries to discourage Sophie from taking the trip, but she is determined to be an active part of the crew and to learn to do everything the boys do. She is an admirable character, tough and feisty.

The book is told from her viewpoint, which alternates with her cousin Cody's, in the form of travel logs. The careful reader will soon find discrepancies between Sophie's story and Cody's -- something isn't quite right. Their cousin Brian keeps saying that Sophie has never met Bompie, so how could she tell so many stories about him? Cody mentions that his aunt and uncle, the ones Sophie calls Mom and Dad, aren't her "real" parents. But Sophie acts as if they are, and doesn't seem to know what Brian is talking about when he asks her what happened to her first parents.

This book is for teens, and it may well be a young reader's first experience with an unreliable narrator -- so Cody's version of events is a great way to clue the reader that things are not necessarily as they appear. The journey across the ocean is a spiritual journey for everyone on the boat, especially Sophie. She must deal with personality conflicts among the crew, recurring nightmares, storms and heavy weather, as well as the all-male crew's expectations that she fit into their idea of what a girl should be and do. At times the narration is exciting and intense, making the reader feel the boat rocking underfoot and smell the salty sea air. At other times there is a lot of technical sailing language, as the narrators talk about life on the boat and the things they're learning to do. I found it fascinating, but a younger reader might not. Still, I would recommend it to readers who enjoy adventure (especially seafaring adventure) and/or realistic novels about relationships.

Awards: ALA Notable Book; ALA Best Book for Young Adults; Christopher Award; Newbery Honor Book

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech (Scholastic, Inc., 2001)

Book-burning monument - very cool


On May 10, 1933, Nazis burned about 20,000 books in Bebelplatz, a public square in Berlin. (For more information about the book burning, check out the Wikipedia article.) Among these books were works by Thomas Mann, Karl Marx and Eric Maria Remarque.

There is now a memorial in Bebelplatz - it is unobtrusive, something you might even miss if you didn't know it was there. It is underground, beneath the square, and you have to look through a sheet of plexiglass to see it: enough empty bookshelves to hold 20,000 books. It gives me goosebumps!

Nearby there is a plaque with a quote from German poet Heinrich Heine's words: "Where books are burned, in the end people will burn."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Library fine scam


I just stumbled across this article about sneaky ways to get out of paying library fines, and I had a lot of fun reading all the comments about it -- especially the one where the library patron called up and tried holding the books hostage as a way to get out of her fines. Maybe you have to be a librarian geek like me to appreciate it, but I had to laugh. We have plenty of patrons at my library who get up to all kinds of funny things to avoid having to pay fines, and we all know who they are and just what they're trying to pull. And we make lots of fun of them after they leave, tee hee.

It's funny to see the different kinds of attitudes people have about fines. Some people hand over the money quite cheerfully, saying they don't mind supporting the library, or that it would have cost even more had they bought the books at a bookstore. Other pay grudgingly and grumpily, evidently believing that we gather up the cash at the end of the day and go out for margaritas or something. Hmm...now there's an idea!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Let's Get a Pup!"

There is a lonely place on the end of Kate's bed - a place where her cat, Tiger, used to sleep. Tiger died last winter, and since then there have only been Kate's two feet to keep each other company. But then, one bright summer morning, Kate leaps out of bed, runs to her parents' room, and says, "Let's get a pup!"

Her parents think it's a great idea, and at the breakfast table they look through the newspaper, hoping to find an ad for a brand-new cute little puppy that runs around in circles. Then they see an ad for "The Rescue Center: The center for dogs without a home. The center for dogs all alone." They run to the car, leaving their breakfast uneaten.

At the shelter they find the perfect brand-new cute little puppy, and it indeed runs in circles. They are delighted with their choice...until, on the way out, they see sweet, big, gentle old Rosie, who gazes after them mournfully on their way out. Back at home, they fall in love with the little puppy, but they all keep thinking about poor old Rosie. What to do, what to do?

The main reason I love this picture book so much is the way Graham has chosen to illustrate the family members. The mom has a nose ring and a tattoo of a rose on her arm. The father wears longish hair and several earrings. They are not the usual picture-book family, and I like that! I think that it's great for kids to open a book and find families completely different from their own -- and families quite a bit like their own. This is a lovable, touching book that is wonderful for all pet lovers, especially those who recently (or not so recently) have lost a pet.

Awards: Australian Children's Book of the Year; ALA Notable Book; Boston Globe Hornbook Award

"Let's Get a Pup!" Said Kate by Bob Graham (Candlewick Press, 2001)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I hate to say this, but...

...this was disappointing. And I had really been looking forward to reading it. Maybe that's the problem - the anticipation was just too much. I'd read Bloodsucking Fiends long ago, and so enjoyed it, that not only was I excited to find out what was going to happen to Jody and Tommy, but the bar was set so high with A Dirty Job that maybe my expectations were a little unrealistic.

The book begins where Bloodsucking Fiends left off -- Jody has turned Tommy into a vampire. But he's not too happy about it. Where Jody is reveling in her new power, able to walk in the worst San Francisco neighborhoods without feeling like a potential victim, feeding only from those who are terminally ill so there's no real guilt involved, Tommy is squeamish and upset about his new undead-ness. His squeamishness about being a vampire rang false with me -- after all, how squeamish could a guy be who had no problems talking to the corpse in the freezer and eating the TV dinners that were stored next to him there?

It was still an enjoyable read - with the usual laugh-out-loud moments. But it felt a bit rushed and superficial to me, as though Moore were keeping distant from the characters, moving them around like little puppets in order to fulfil the needs of the narrative. Usually in his novels, despite the multiple viewpoints and plot twists, there's a central focus that is maintained throughout. This time it felt - to me at least - a bit scattered and rushed. The characters were funny, but not very substantial. I'm finding myself wishing I'd stopped with the first one.

You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore (William Morrow, 2007)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Children's books by celebrities


This is something that's been bugging me for some time -- all these books for children that are written by celebrities who (probably) mean well but have no clue, and the publishers should be publicly humiliated for pushing out this stuff.

I'd been meaning to put together a post about it, but then I came across this little gem in Bookslut's children's book area -- so now I don't have to! :-)

People seem to think that it's easy to put together a children's book -- they're short and simple, right? Get someone to make some pretty pictures to go along with the words, and you can whip one off in an afternoon. Uh-uh, I don't think so. I remember hearing that Dr. Seuss spent months wrestling with the word list for The Cat in the Hat and almost gave up in frustration.

Not that these celebrity-written books are all bad. My kids insisted on checking out one of John Lithgow's books from the library, and I found it enjoyable, funny, and well written -- and, more important, so did they. We check out his books again and again. They also picked Jay Leno's once, but after a quick read-through they were happy to take it back and haven't looked at it since.

Here is a link to an interesting commentary by children's author Jon Scieszka about celebrity writers and children's books. He is absolutely right that when it comes down to it, it's the children who will be the judges of the books -- and they could care less who wrote them, as long as they're good. Still, I won't be sorry to see the end of this particular trend.

Trickster's Choice

Tamora Pierce writes children's and young adult novels that always feature strong girl protagonists. Her first novel, Alanna: The First Adventure, was published in 1983. Unfortunately for me, that was a little late as far as being able to grow up with these books -- and these are just the sort of action/adventure/fantasy stories that I would have loved. The adventure novels I read back then typically featured boys in the starring roles - so I am pleased on behalf of today's young readers that Tamora Pierce has given them so many wonderful books featuring strong, believable heroines.

This story features the daughter of Alanna, heroine of Pierce's first fantasy series. Sixteen-year-old Aly is dying to follow in her father's footsteps and become a spy - he has been training her all her life, after all, and she is skilled at all aspects of that profession. But her parents know firsthand the horrible things that can befall a spy who is caught, and he and her mother are dead set against such a path for their daughter. With that career closed off to her, Aly is directionless, aimless, floating from one frivolous thing to another, and her parents despair of her ever finding something constructive to do with her life.

When Aly decides to get away from the pressure for a while, sailing off down the coast on her own, the last thing she expects is to be taken by pirates and sold into slavery. Suddenly she finds herself drawing on every survival skill her father has taught her -- the penalty, if she fails, will certainly be her life. This is an exciting story, full of political intrigue, interesting, believable characters, and a touch of romance (although the romance is not the point of the book - it is not about finding the right man as the path to happiness -- it's about Aly finding the right path for herself). I am looking forward to the continuation of the story in the sequel, Trickster's Queen.

Awards: ALA Best Book for Young Adults

Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce (Random House, 2003)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Cats, magic and promises

Charles de Lint has been one of my favorite writers since I read The Little Country back in the early 90s. Some of his books are traditional fantasy novels, and they are good, but the ones I like the most are the urban fantasy novels set in Newford. They have a fascinating blend of native American mythology and religion along with more traditional Western fantasy themes. He has written numerous short story collections, and those are fun because they often include stories about characters from other books, and it's always interesting to see which characters will turn up.

A Circle of Cats is his first book for children, and while I read it and enjoyed it (and the gorgeous, evocative illustrations) when it was initially published, tonight I read it to my own children for the first time. I'd been planning on reading half now, half tomorrow, but the vehement protests that they just had to find out what was going to happen kept me reading through to the end.

The heroine is 12-year-old Lillian, who lives with her elderly aunt in a house at the edge of nowhere, far removed from the rest of the world but with a vast area of woods, overgrown orchard, streams and meadows for her to explore (once her chores are done). She is a kind-hearted, imaginative girl, longing to see the fairies she knows must be there, offering food to the woodland creatures. When she stops for a nap and is bitten by a snake, the forest cats gather around her as she lies dying. She's always been kind to them, and they want to save her somehow. But how? Turn her into something that's not dying, of course. Lillian wakes to find she has become a calico kitten. Better an alive kitten than a dead girl -- but she knows her aunt needs her, and she must find a way to turn back into a girl again.

This book is suitable for older children (at least 6 years old and up), because although it does have lots of beautiful illustrations, there is also a lot of text. It is not a picture book for preschoolers.

If I were to recommend a de Lint book to Virginia Gal (and anyone else in need of a nice romantic angle), I would say to try Medicine Road. I think you'd enjoy that one, VA Gal!

A Circle of Cats
by Charles de Lint; illustrated by Charles Vess (Viking, 2003)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Kind of cute but unexceptional

This is a young adult vampire novel, and it's supposed to be light and funny, and sometimes it is, but for the most part it left me feeling underwhelmed. The premise is promising - an American girl is dragged off by her Wicca/witch mother to Europe be part of a traveling "Gothfaire," a sort of carnival of mystical, magical performers. Fran goes kicking and screaming, hating being a part of this group of weirdos, dreaming, as only heroines of young adult novels can, of fitting in. That is, she goes on and on about how humiliating it is not to fit in, about how she hates her own special ability and wishes she didn't have it. She is a psychometrist - she gets psychic impressions from touching people and inanimate objects, and she hates this. It is never clear why, because it is a handy skill to have - evidently it doesn't go with being considered "normal."

She meets the hottest vampire ever, and she is overly intent on proving to him that she is strong and can take care of herself. This attitude is so at odds with her fitting in obsession, which frankly never felt terribly believable - mainly because she is so open and accepting of everyone else's differences and seems to be enjoying her new life and friends (despite her constant protestations to the contrary). Someone who is that strong and stubborn, it seemed to me, wouldn't be so wimpy about her own special skills. I felt I never got a handle on her character - it seemed to change with the needs of the narrative - and I also felt that the whole Gothfaire setting could have been put to much better use. The setting might as well have been a school or summer camp. I'm a firm believer that if a story involves the supernatural, it shouldn't just be window dressing. You could remove every last supernatural element from this story (make the sexy vampire a sexy college kid, for example), and the plot wouldn't change much at all.

This book might have been less disappointing had I not read it on the heels of Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends. I'm still waiting for the sequel to come into the library. Sigh.

Got Fangs? Confessions of a Vampire's Girlfriend by Katie Maxwell (Dorchester Publishing, 2005)

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Retold fairy tales

Not to belabor the subject or anything, but as I was writing the last post all these other wonderful fairy tale novels kept coming to mind, and so I've been wracking my brains to think of all my favorites. Here is a list of what I've come up with so far, in no particular order, in case anyone's interested.
  • Briar Rose by Jane Yolen - a powerful tale that uses themes from Sleeping Beauty to tell a story about the holocaust. (teen/adult)
  • Tam Lin by Pamela Dean - takes the story from the old Scottish ballad and sets it in a university where nothing is quite as it seems. (teen/adult)
  • The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker - 14-year-old Princess Esmeralda is persuaded to kiss a frog, but instead of landing a handsome prince, she turns into a frog instead. (children)
  • Jack, the Giant Killer by Charles de Lint - set in Ottowa, the story is retold in a surprising new way with Jacky, a female, as the heroine. (teen/adult)
  • Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper - Beauty manages to avoid the curse, but instead is kidnapped by mysterious people from another time and place. This one is definitely the most bizarre - and interesting - retellings I've read. (adult)
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter - really fun, feminist, sexy retellings of fairy tales that make you never think of them the same way again. Especially the Bluebeard one! (adult)
  • Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl - a poor goose girl does a good deed and finds herself rewarded with gold-dust hair and diamond tears. Soon a king and a prince are fighting over her (well, the gold dust and diamonds, anyway), and all she wants is to be her poor, normal goose-girl self. I love this one for the feisty heroine and the hilariously stupid prince. (teen)
  • Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis - a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth - very powerful, a fascinating twist on the myth. (adult)
  • The Godmother by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough - set in modern-day Seattle, it involves a social worker, a fairy godmother, and twists on several traditional fairy tales. This is the first in a trilogy that's a lot of fun. (teen/adult)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

I admit it - I have always been a sucker for retellings of fairy tales. Part of it is because I grew up reading fairy and folktales, and for whatever reason they resonated for me as a young reader. And part of it is that I always wondered about the stories, wished I knew more about the characters, why they acted as they did, what they thought about what was happening, and what happened afterwards. Maybe the many authors who have written retellings of fairy tales had the same kinds of questions I did; maybe they just love the stories so much they wanted to create their own spin on them. Robin McKinley loves the story of Sleeping Beauty so much that she has written two retellings (Rose Daughter and Spindle's End), and they're both really good, as well as surprisingly different from each other.

The story begins with Aza, a foundling who was adopted by loving parents who are innkeepers. Aza is not what anyone would call attractive -- she is toweringly tall with an extremely pale, overly round face. But in a country where singing is a way of life, Aza has been blessed with a beautiful voice. She works at the inn, hiding her face from those who would stare at her disapprovingly, and her life would have probably continued uneventfully had she not suddenly been chosen to take the place of a noblewoman's sick servant. Aza is whisked off to the palace to attend the king's wedding. There, she draws the attention of the new queen, once a commoner like herself, but of uncommon beauty. Aza soon finds herself at at a crossroads, and whatever decision she makes, it is certain that her life will never be the same again.

Fairest was an especially enjoyable fairytale retelling because it is very loosely connected to the original fairy tale, full of surprises and interesting twists and turns. I found myself caught up in the story, completely forgetting about the Snow White theme, and then when an element of the fairy tale crept in, it felt like suddenly seeing a familiar face in a new light. It was very neatly done.

I'm also a fan of writers who create fictional worlds that grow and deepen with additional books (Charles de Lint's Newford is my very favorite of these worlds). Fairest is set in the same world as Ella Enchanted, and it was fun to revisit it.

This book is shelved in the young adult section of my library, but I think it would appeal to strong younger readers and young-at-heart adults. It has romance, intrigue, action and adventure. And it addresses the issue of beauty, what it means, how we think of other and ourselves, its power and its weaknesses. Not a bad topic these days, I'd say.

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine (HarperCollins, 2006)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

An interesting censorship dilemma


In this article, a mother discovers her 15-year-old son is inhaling nail polish remover in order to get high. He says he got the idea for doing this from a book about drugs he found -- you guessed it -- in his school library. And, of course, the mother wants not just this book, but all books about drugs removed from the library, and she is going to challenge all of them.

It should be pointed out that these are not books that are glorifying the use of drugs. They are discussing different kinds of drugs, what they do to the body, why they are dangerous, where they come from. They are part of the school curriculum.

I empathize with the mother. I'm sure she thinks that, had it not been for this book, it never would have occurred to the boy to sniff nail polish remover. But think about it. What kind of judgment (or lack thereof) do the boy's actions demonstrate? He is fifteen years old. Millions of people read about all kinds of things every day, from books, magazines, newspapers, the Internet -- and they see them on television -- things about rape, robbery, drug use, embezzlement. Do they all go out and do them? I don't think so. The boy sounds like an accident waiting to happen. This same kind of parent wants all books about sexual education removed from the shelves, too -- if the kids read about it, they might go out and do it.

I'm thinking about Virginia Gal's comment on the Tango entry -- she calls these parents lazy parents. What if the parents sat down with the boy and they read over the book together? I imagine the book would describe the effects of this drug, and the parents could discuss his behavior, perhaps go together to a counselor. Instead, they sit back, accuse the books, never think that they (or the son) could possibly bear any responsibiliy for what happened. The mother simply says, "Now I've got a problem on my hands and I don't know what to do about it. That stuff's going to end up killing him." Maybe one of those books they would like to see removed from the shelves would have some helpful advice about what to do.

One of the parents in the article says that her son still believes in Santa Claus, and "he doesn't have a clue about drugs." She doesn't want him to be able to check these books out. He is in the fifth grade, which seems to me a bit old to be that naive. I want my children to be well informed so they know what is going on and have thought about how they will deal with it. In my second grader's curriculum they are already discussing these issues, and we are, of course, discussing them at home. I fail to see how keeping our children in the dark will protect them. In the end, I guess we're all just trying to keep our children safe the best way we can. Funny how we can see things from such different points of view, even as we're trying to accomplish the same thing.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Bloodsucking Fiends -- what's not to like?

I love a book that doesn't pull any punches, keeps me guessing, and makes me laugh. When I saw that Christopher Moore had recently published a sequel (You Suck: A Love Story) to Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story (published in 1995), I of course had to go back and reread the first one. Not that this was a burdensome task -- honestly, I'd so much rather reread a favorite book than read something new that is just kind of "eh." And Christopher Moore's books are never just "eh."

Bloodsucking Fiends is an absurdly wonderful mix of horror, humor, romance and drama. An aspiring writer from small-town America and a newly-turned vampire with a horrible track record in relationships fall in love. They might be meant for each other, but there are a few tiny little obstacles in their way, including a bunch of insane co-workers, a mysterious vampire with a hidden agenda, a pair of snapping turtles, and some suspicious police officers -- among other things.

The book may seem silly and superficial, but Moore tackles some serious issues in a subtle way that left me with more than just the pleasure of an entertaining read. Now I have to wait for my copy of the sequel to come into the library. I've been waiting a long time to find out what happens next!

Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story by Christopher Moore (HarperCollins 1995)