Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Most Interesting Bookstores in the World

Readers are booklovers and booklovers love libraries and bookstores. Some of us make it a point to visit well-known libraries and bookshops as we travel. If I ever get to Buenos Aires, the El Ateneo bookstore pictured here will definitely be on my itinerary.

It looks magnificent and practically worth the trip all by itself. Of the stores around the world featured here, the only one I have been to is Shakespeare & Co. in Paris. I understand that they've moved the shop now and I can well believe they had to. It was cozy and historical and in need of some repair.

But whenever you've found this many books in one place, whether it be a library or bookshop, you've found a sanctuary. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Review: Late for School

For many families, getting out the door and to school on time each day is a challenge. But what happens if the teacher wakes up late? That is the premise of Stephanie Calmenson's inventive story accompanied by Sachiko Yoshikawa's whimsical illustrations.

Mr. Bungles has a strict rule that absolutely no one should be late for school. When he wakes up late one morning, he experiences one travel disaster after another - the kind of cascade failure that many of us have experienced when running late. Beginning with his car not starting, Mr. Bungles tries a train, bus, animal van, hot air balloon, unicycle and finally his feet before he finally gets to school. Once there, of course, his students remind him of his rule which then, of course gets modified.

A fun quick read, colorful charming illustrations with lots of conversation starters about transportation and the reasons for rules.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Case of the Missing Books

Although not specifically a book for the teen-YA crowd, The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom is a terrific introduction to genre fiction for teens looking for a good read. Very commonly, genre fiction such as science fiction, romance, and mystery are the first adult books that teens read outside of the classics they study in high school English.

There is much to recommend genre fiction for teens.
First of all, with rare exceptions, they are "appropriate" by most standards meaning there is little in the books to morally offend. It's clear who the white and black hats are. Secondly, the emphasis in genre fiction is on telling a good story rather than creating literary beauty. Although those things are certainly not mutually exclusive. Thirdly, if a teen likes the story, they are usually part of a series; so more to read.

As I am always a sucker for stories about books and libraries, and I was looking for a quick, fun read, I picked this up at the bookstore over the weekend. As is true in much genre fiction, this book is part of a series. In fact, it is the beginning of a new series called "A Mobile Library Mystery" series.

The protagonist, Israel Armstrong, is a nebbish, vegetarian Londoner who has taken a job in a small Northern Ireland community to become the local librarian only to find upon his arrival that the library has been closed and all the books have gone missing. As he learns about his new community as chief sleuth, he encounters a full range of eccentric characters on the search for the missing books. As this is the first of a new series, there are introductions to a host of characters who are quirky. Some are recognizable stock characters who we would expect to see more of in future stories, but others are intriguing introductions with back stories that we can hope will be shared in further adventures.

Because at heart this is a book about libraries, there are some wonderful lyrical passages about libraries and books such as the following:
Israel had grown up in and around libraries. Libraries were where he belonged. Libraries to Israel had always been a constant. In libraries, Israel had always known calm and peace; in libraries he'd always seemed to be able to breathe a little easier. When he walked through the doors of a library it wa like entering a sacred space, like the Holy of Holies: the beautiful hush and shunting of the brass-handled wooden drawers holidng the card catalogues, the reassurance of the reference books and the eminent OEDs, the amusing little troughs of children's books; all human life was there, and you could borrow it and take it home for two weeks at a time, nine books per person per card.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Banned Books Week

Even though I've been distracted by other things (like working for my clients) and not keeping up with this blog very well, I can't let Banned Books Week pass without a comment or two.

Special interest groups or individuals who force the banning of certain books from school and public libraries are anaethma to a free society. Restricting access to information is not a component of a free and democratic society. Period.

Many wonderful titles have suffered the indignity of being challenged by people who have appointed themselves as moral watchdogs of their communities. The list of banned books which you can find here, always surprises those who see it for the first time. Not only are dictionaries on the list but also such beloved classics as the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Farenheit 451 (ironically), and Catcher in the Rye, etc.

For a wonderful essay on Banned Books, check out Cheryl Rainfield's blog. Here is my review last fall on the wonderful Higher Power of Lucky - also a banned book. And, as always, the most up-to-date information about challenged and banned books can be found at the American Library Association.

Don't let someone else make the decision about what you will or won't read.Freedom to choose our own reading material is a critical success factor for vibrant societies.