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2013

Looking Again at Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is an absolute food-book classic. The town of Chewandswallow and its epic food-weather captured my imagination as a kid, and I still love it today. They even made a movie inspired by this book!

So what makes this story so captivating? Part of the draw is the language. The language mimics weather reports, with their specific style and vocabulary, but the addition of food makes this familiar language suddenly absurd. Sentences like  “periods of peas and baked potatoes were followed by gradual clearing, with a wonderful Jell-O setting in the west” spark imagination, and prompt every kid to daydream about living in Chewandswallow.

 

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That is one beautiful Jell-O!

Of course, as we learn, life in town isn’t all mashed potatoes and butter. The food weather gets out of hand, and the residents of the town must flee the ever-escalating meal-storms. While this turn of events seems like just another silly twist in an already silly book, the escalation of global weather disasters that we are currently experiencing seems to be mirrored in the lives of the residents of Chewandswallow. It only occurs to me now, re-reading the book as an adult, that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is more nuanced than I originally thought. The book tells the story of people driven from their homes by weather patterns–something we see all too often.

So while Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a silly story that makes every kid daydream of missing school because it got covered by a giant pancake, perhaps it is also a book that helps us empathize with people who are displaced from their homes. In this book, kids and adults alike are reminded to serve a side of compassion with their cream cheese and jelly sandwiches.


Win during #wheelockfinals

How do you study during #wheelockfinals?  In your dorm room?  On a quiet floor of the library until 1:00 AM?  Do you prefer to be alone?  Or would you rather have seven buddies close by, sharing a giant bag of Cheetos?

The library is running a contest to coincide with our extended hours, so show us how you study!  Post a photo to Instagram with the tag #wheelockfinals, and you’ll be entered to win a $15 Amazon gift card!

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So many books, I could build a fort with them

I recently had the privilege of attending the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) annual gatherings.  Or, as I recall them, “heaven with free tote bags.”

Hanging out with English teachers, librarians, authors, publishers, and general children’s book enthusiasts was nothing short of magical.  A two day expo held every wonderful thing I could imagine for free.  Advance reader copies of books?  Free!  Want favorites from your childhood autographed by Judy Blume?  Also free!  Do you want posters, bookmarks, teaching aids, a hug from Laurie Halse Anderson?  Free, free, free!

Technically I paid to register.  But since the conference was held in Boston, I did not have to travel and I did not have to pay for lodging.  And at the ALAN portion, I received a forty pound box filled with books, many not yet on sale.  I got my registration fee back fivefold and had the ability to make a fort out of YA galleys to boot.

After I received my books and learned how to barter and trade in the free book economy (I scored the new Sarah Dessen as well as Gene Luen Yang/Lark Pien books by trading extras of Perks of Being a Wallflower and How I Live Now),  I watched panel after panel filled with authors from every genre—humor, sci fi, realistic contemporary fiction, romance, and so on.  After every panel you could have your book signed, obtained through your book box, through trade, or from the free book distribution table they set up in case you weren’t able to get the book the first two ways.  Librarians are thorough people.

For the readers among you, I have a list of books that I received from the conference that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought to read.  Find here recommendations, and take my word that all of the authors are kind, brilliant people.

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang & Lark Pien

Romeo and Juliet: A Graphic Novel by Gareth Hinds

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore

Handle, Who Knew What He Liked by M.T. Anderson

The Field by Tracy Richardson

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

For any writers out there, the best moment for me came not just in getting lots of books, but also came in meeting Meg Rosoff (How I Live Now, Picture me Gone).  I told her I took heart in the fact that she hadn’t published her first book and won nine literary awards before her nineteenth birthday.  (In fact, she published her first novel when she was in her forties.)  She told me, “Being a writer isn’t like being a ballerina.  You don’t want your biggest success to be at twenty-one, because then you’ll have decades ahead of you.  And what then?  Take your time.”  I didn’t manically scream “I love you!” at her like I did at Judy Blume.  But know that I was thinking it.

All in all, I would like to send a love letter into the world for the NCTE and ALAN and encourage anyone to take a look at the wonderful world they offer.  Or, if you would rather, let me know if you need a book to borrow.  I have a few to spare.IMG_1368


Whiteboard Walls in the Library

Give into your childhood urge to write on walls! The rolling whiteboards in the 2M and 3M study rooms have been replaced with fancy, new whiteboard walls. Great for group work, mind maps, brainstorming, or doodling. Stop by the Service Desk to check out dry erase markers and get started “write” away! Too cheesy?

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My Fictional Heroines from Children’s Literature

The upcoming release of the second Hunger Games movie adaptation of the book, Catching Fire, has got me thinking about all strong female heroines that I had admired and still admire in the children’s and YA literature I had read when I was growing up. I have a list of about 20+, but listed some of my favorites from my childhood and teenage years.

eilonwy1. Princess Eilonwy from The Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander.  I first read about her in fourth grade. It was perhaps the first time I had encountered a princess who doesn’t act like how I had imagined a princess to act like. She is stubborn, hot-tempered, energetic, funny, and she says all sorts of things that sound very smart, reasonable, and flippant all at the same time. In addition to those qualities, she is also a very caring person. She has adventures and fights alongside the male characters of the story.

matilda2.  Matilda from Matilda by Roald Dahl. Matilda is a genius, teaching herself to read by age three, and has extraordinary powers, which she uses to punish the sneering adults for their misdeeds and unfair demands. A bookloving nerd with her own style of personal justice – what is there not to love! In the end, she uses her powers to save the only adult who cares about her, Miss Honey, from the evil headmistress, Miss Trunchbull.

3. Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  Jo is passionate, creative (she is an aspiring writer), independent, and irrepressibly stubborn. Though she chafes at the feminine requirements of domesticity, she also happens to be the glue of the March family. At an early point in the book, she cuts off and sells her own hair (supposedly her one true beauty) to pay for a train ticket for her mother to visit her injured father. I remember finding it shocking, heroic, and a quite sad and it endeared me to her forever.

cimorene4.  Cimorene from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles series by Patricia Wrede.  She is another unconventional princess. Annoyed that no one was willing to teach her all the stuff that were considered unprincesslike to learn and even more annoyed that her parents were going to arrange her marriage with some neighboring prince, Cimorene decided to run away and work for a dragon. She goes on to have adventures, foiling evil plots, saving her dragon boss from bad wizards, and recovering stolen swords.

5.  Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.  Who can forget Anne Shirley with her red hair, hot temper, chatterbox ways, and overly romantic imagination? She frustrates the grown-ups around her with her antics and mistakes (like getting her friend drunk on currant wine by accident). Nevertheless, her openness and kindness captures their hearts. We get to see her grow up in the book (and throughout the series) and witness her transformation from tempestuous preteen (at one point, she cracks a slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head.  He deserves it.) to stabilizing influence in the community and in the classroom (she becomes a teacher).

6.  Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.  No explanation needed. Voldemort would have taken over the wizarding world early on in the series if she weren’t there to help Harry save the day!

karana7.  Karana from Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.  Karana is a Nicoleño Indian girl girl, whose tribe ends up being devastated by a war with the Aleut people. When her brother, Ramo, misses the ship to bring their entire tribe to the mainland, Karana jumps off the ship and swims back to the island (pretty badass!). When he is killed by wild dogs, she is left all alone on the island. She becomes completely self-sufficient and survives by hunting and fishing for her own food, building her own weapons, setting up her own shelter, and fighting her own battles. She eventually makes peace with one of the dogs who attacked her brother and befriends an Aleutian girl who later arrives on the island.

Others include Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Harry Crewe from Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, Janie Crawford from Their Eyes Were Watching God, Sophie Hatter from Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle, Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet, Sadako from Eleanor Coerr’s Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, and Princess Elizabeth from Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess.

Who were your favorite childhood heroes and heroines from children’s literature?