Mrs Peachtree

Is there a job where I can get paid to read?

I am a terrible blogger! March 1, 2010

Oh boy. I am so terrible at blogging! It’s been 4 months. Sooo…the NaKnitMo challenge is complete and I did make it to 30,000 stitches.

Another challenge I’ve been participating in is the 3rd Canadian Book Challenge and I’ve been fairly horrible at keeping up with that too! I had originally planned on reading and reviewing Canada’s earliest books for children, published in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. That, unfortunately, would have required quite a bit of reading on the microfiche machine at the library. Since my extra time is limited I figured that I wouldn’t really have enough time to hang around the library reading at the machine. Instead I’ve decided to do graphic novels for kids and teens by Canadian authors and illustrators. I’ve actually read three up to this point so I’ve got an awful lot of catching up to do.

 

My Big “Celebrity” Moment June 18, 2009

Sometime back in 2007 I was at Mabel’s Fables bookstore in Toronto browsing for an interesting book. There was only one other customer in the store who also appeared to be browsing and the owner of the shop, who approached me to ask if I needed help choosing something to read. She indicated the stack of Kit Pearson novels and asked if I had ever read any of them. Of course, I had read all of them multiple times as a child and loved every single one of them so I gushed a little bit about how much I loved them and about how my husband had just bought me the only one I hadn’t read as a child and that I always recommended them to kids who asked me what they should read next. To all this gushing the store owner replied “Well in that case I’d like you to meet someone…” Of course the other shopper in the store was actually Kit Pearson!!! She happened to be in town signing copies of her newest work A Perfect Gentle Knight and she had just heard me gush all about her writing. Teehee. I’m sure I turned a lovely shade of red and babbled incoherently. There is just something about meeting an author whose books fed your childhood imagination that is so exciting.

Kit Pearson’s novels are absolutely timeless and A Perfect Gentle Knight is no exception. Set in the late 1950s, it is the story of Corrie and her family as they struggle to achieve some sense of normalcy after the death of their mother in a car accident. Corrie and her siblings have immersed themselves in a game of knights and King Arthur’s Round Table but at 14, Corrie’s older brother Sebastian should be losing interest in childish games and moving on to pursue new interests in high school. Instead he seems to be sinking deeper and deeper into the game. In this work Pearson has examined mental illness in an extremely effective and sensitive manner that is accessible to younger readers without being overwhelming or scary. In a world where more and more people, especially young people, seem to be grappling with mental illness I think that a story like this one is an important tool for opening up discussions about the topic and for reassurance that there is nothing to be ashamed of in mental illness.

Even though this work, as well as most of Pearson’s other works, are set in the past, the story does not seem dated at all. Despite the numerous references to events and phenomenons from the ’50s, there is no sense that the story is “old” at all. I loaned my copy to a 12-year-old girl at the school where I work and she absolutely adored it. She is now in the process of seeking out and reading all of Pearson’s other work. Apparently I’ve become a Kit Pearson “pusher”…look out…I’ll convert you all!

 

This Book is Peanut Free April 15, 2009

That is the claim on the cover of Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen but it’s not entirely accurate since in the very first chapter we witness three bullies slip a peanut into Ambrose’s sandwich and nearly kill him. A severe peanut allergy and the fact that his father died before he was even born mean that twelve-year-old Ambrose has to move whenever his mother gets a new teaching job, that he never really has any friends, and that he never gets to eat out at a restaurant. Things start to look up when his landlords’ son Cosmo moves home after being in prison. Unfortunately, Ambrose’s over-protective mother does not approve of Cosmo at all. Much sneaking around and hilarity ensues and Ambrose manages to make his mother see that she may just need to learn to relax.

I really enjoyed this novel and I think that kids will too. Ambrose is hopelessly nerdy, so much so that you groan at the situations he gets himself into. With a neighbour and friend like Cosmo, however, there is hope that Ambrose can reduce the number of groan-out-loud situations.

 

Banned Together February 25, 2009

I attended an event last night called Banned Together in support of Freedom to Read Week. It was a lovely evening where many authors, publishers, and readers read from their favourite banned or challenged book. I have to say that I recognized the majority of the books having read them as a child and not even realizing that they had ever been banned or challenged! I am ever so grateful that my parents and my school librarians and teachers never, ever told me what I should or should not read. Not once was I ever told that a book I had selected was “age inappropriate”. I am so grateful for this because I’m pretty certain that my voracious reading habits ensured that I made it through elementary and secondary school even though I rarely did any homework and often felt lost and stupid. I know for a fact that I read books that contained foul language, sex and other things that many adults feel that children should never hear anything about. I also know that I self-censored, which I think most kids are more than capable of doing. If something is over their heads or too much to handle, kids will simply put down that book and read something else. I know that I read a lot of novels that were intended for adult reading when I was in my “tweens” and I know that most of the time I just thought, “Gee, this book doesn’t make any sense…I wonder why everyone thinks its so great?”. I have since gone on to reread those titles as an adult and they make ever so much more sense these days!

The highlights of the evening for me were Tim Wynne-Jones reading from Brian Doyle’s Angel Square and two authors (I’m terrible for not remembering their names! Leave a comment if you know who they were!) who read from six of Judy Blume’s books; Tiger Eyes, Deenie, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, Forever…, Then Again Maybe I Won’t, and Blubber. I am a huge fan of Tim Wynne-Jones’ work and I read my first short story written by him in Owl Magazine, probably when I was about 12 or 13. The story was Some of the Kinder Planets and it appeared later on in an anthology of short stories by the same name. I also vividly remember reading Brian Doyle’s Angel Square around the same time. I can actually remember lying on my bed reading the book in the evening after school. It was winter so it was dark out already. Obviously those stories made some impression on me since I generally have a memory like a sieve!

As for Judy Blume – what teenage girl’s life is complete without reading Blume’s entire canon of work? I remember reading and rereading all of her novels. They are so incredibly honest and it is so comforting to read a story about a kid who is just like you and has the same problems as you and is experiencing the same problems you are experiencing.

This is the first year I’ve done anything for Freedom to Read Week and I’m really glad I did. The importance of the cause is absolutely enormous and as someone who hopes someday to work in a school or public library with young people I think it is important for me to be an advocate for children’s rights to read and express themselves freely. I will be participating in Pelham Public Library’s Banned Book Challenge in an effort to become more aware of what kinds of materials people are challenging and what is being done to ensure the freedom to read. I have only set myself a goal of 5 books because of time constraints but I will certainly be reading more than that in the years to come!

 

Canadian Book Challenge Review #3 January 22, 2009

I have to say that I’m pretty terrible at keeping up with my reviews for this challenge! It’s not that I’m not reading, it’s just that I’m not writing about what I read. Also, I was planning to review only Canadian children’s literature but I seem to have veered off into some young adult titles so I’ll have to amend my challenge to Canadian children’s and young adult literature.

The book I just finished is Janet McNaughton’s An Earthly Knight. It is a book based on two ballads, the ballad of Tam Lin and the ballad Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight, and it is set in Scotland in 1162. McNaughton tells the story of sixteen-year-old Lady Jeanette Avenel who is struggling to fill the role of eldest daughter after her sister Isabel’s disgrace. The story is rich with detail about medieval life and the plot is subtly moved along, drawing the reader right into the story. Even though the story comes to a satisfying conclusion I found myself missing the characters and wanting to know more about them when I finished the book. The details of Isabel’s disgrace are not revealed in the beginning and emerge slowly and in pieces throughout the novel.

With elements of romance, drama, and adventure, this novel is one I would recommend to any teen and I’m glad I had the chance to read it now since I missed out in my own teenage years.

 

The Canadian Book Challenge review #2! November 24, 2008

Holy Cow! It’s nearly December and up to this point I’ve only posted one review for this year’s Canadian Book Challenge. I definitely need to pull up my socks! Since I’ve had no classes (because my professors are on strike) I’ve had lots of time to read so I will hopefully be posting some more reviews.

When I was a kid I read O.R. Melling’s The Hunter’s Moon and I absolutely loved it. I wanted to be Gwen, one of the main characters, and I was absolutely fascinated by the Irish folklore that Melling wove into her story. I didn’t find out about the rest of Melling’s books until I was an adult and I have to admit that I’m not quite as thrilled with the rest of them. I just finished reading The Singing Stone, which I began reading in August. I just wasn’t drawn into the story and so I hardly ever picked it up. The book is a slim volume and it tells the story of Kay, an orphan, who has been sent some mysterious books full of Celtic legends and who is transported to another time in order to accompany a girl named Aherne on a quest to locate four treasures and answer the question of who Kay and Aherne actually are. Melling has done what she always does, which is take Irish folklore and history and weave them into a story that involves modern day girls who are experiencing some sort of turmoil in their lives. Of course, there is also always a romance element and the girl always gets the guy in the end. I think the reason that I didn’t enjoy this one is that the book was too short to contain the story. Melling is tackling a huge part of Irish history – the debate about whether the Tuatha De Danaan actually existed or whether they are simply legend. Unfortunately, she crams this story into 205 pages, which is not enough to really get to know the characters or develop the plot. I didn’t feel like I really knew Kay and Aherne, I found their relationship unbelievable, and I often felt like the description and plot were rushed and confusing. I will admit, though, that I started to get into the story and enjoy it more in the last ten chapters, and I suspect that holding this work up to The Hunter’s Moon was unfair of me. I think that if I had read this book at the same time as I had read my first Melling book I would have enjoyed it much more than I did this time around.

Oh boy. I don’t think I’ve ever written an unfavourable review before. I do hope that O.R. Melling never reads this post because I still like her other writing and I will still be seeking out some of her other works which I haven’t read yet because I really am fascinated by the Celtic lore that she brings to her books and I also really enjoy the way she writes about Canadian locales that are familiar to me as well as these supernatural faery worlds that exist in the Irish countryside.

 

And the winner is… November 9, 2008

I attended my very first Canadian Children’s Literature Awards on Thursday night where Christopher Paul Curtis took home both the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People and the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for his novel Elijah of Buxton. The Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award went to author Frieda Wishinsky and illustrator Marie-Louise Gay for their work on Please, Louise!, and the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction went to Hugh Brewster for At Vimy Ridge: Canada’s Greatest World War I Victory. The event was put on by TD Bank at the Carlu in Toronto and it was all very swanky. The excitement in the air was palpable and it just made me itch to finish with school and get to work in a school or a library somewhere sharing fabulous literature with children!
Unfortunately, the TAs, contract faculty and graduate students at York University are on strike right now so I am rather worried about what will happen to my year. I should be graduating in the spring and I will be so disappointed and angry if I end up losing my year over this strike. On the plus side of the strike, it will give me time to do more reading! I haven’t been keeping up with the Canadian Book Challenge at all and I’d like to take the time to post some reviews in the coming weeks. Of course, my reading list for the challenge may be completely changed now that I’m dying to read all of the nominees and winners of the four awards presented on Thursday night. I’ll be starting with Elijah of Buxton and Too Many Books since they were both sent home with me in a lovely goody bag at the end of the evening.