Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Book Fair Ends Its Run

 Book Fair Fall 2009

                                                       packing up another fair

This is my fifth year at my school as librarian and the second best fair monetarily since I've been here. A fair is only as successful as the volunteers who donate their time and energy to make it run smoothly. Regina S. has worked with me four out of five years (we didn't have a fair last year--normally we have two per year). Her two girls and one son attend high school next door and her three younger boys go here. Valerie S. has two girls, one in third grade and one in pre-school. What I really like about both these wonderful volunteer workers is that they take initiative without trying to assume authority. I wish a Regina and a Valerie on every librarian who sincerely wants to have a good book fair. They are the life blood of the volunteer domain.

Two of our volunteers were new--everyone loves to have new volunteers come in. The more involved parents are, the better it is for everyone. Most children love to see their parents participate at school events. It means something.

Observations made over a week:

1. Someone put two little items on the cashier's desk on Monday. All the little ones whose heads peered above desk level picked up those items and asked what they were. I had to tell them I didn't know. They stayed there all week until Valerie's younger daughter found where one came from and replaced it (from a pre-school "first purse"). The little red flat coke can less than an inch long is still on top of that desk. The point I'm making is that honesty prevails in my school. Several children asked if they could have the items. I kindly said no because  I wanted to see how long they would remain.

2. Little ones in PreK-3 and -4 memorized where the books of their choice were located. When their parents came in with money, those children ran straight to those books to show them! I found that fascinating that they could remember something like that!

3. One second-grade boy wanted his mom to buy a CD-ROM, which he claimed would play on his DS unit. She didn't want to get it until she knew for sure. He was adamant that it would because it played on his cousin's. They returned the next day and found that it had been sold. He was so disappointed. Then they returned the next day to find out if any more had come in. They hadn't. That child was so disappointed. Yes, they can find it elsewhere, but Scholastic had put all their CD-ROMs on sale for $5. What is the point of this story? That children do know what they're talking about? Not always. That mothers are behind in their technology? Not all of them. That life has disappointments which we must learn to deal with? Yes, we know that's true. The fact is that I don't know what lesson was learned here. I know I was sad for both mother and son and wish I could have done something.

4. Children love books until about middle school, then they go one of two ways: They stop reading except when forced to read. I'm sad for them, too. The others commit to a lifetime of reading.

5. The most popular subjects sold were books about monsters. The fair carried several. In May when the Twilight series was the rage, I could have sold copies right and left. Not this time. Not one copy of any of the three in the series sold. I guess those who were interested had already read the books.

6. The most surprising book that we sold out of was Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James Swanson. I am delighted!

7. Another surprising "hit" was Humphrey's First Christmas, a story of one of the camels with the Three Wise Men. It's a wonderful, delightful children's illustrated book and certainly an unusual approach to the traditional Christmas story.

November 6, 2009

Four guessing contests sparked additional interest in the Fall 2009 Scholastic Book Fair. 
 Only boys won the four guessing contests.  In one large jar were 235 pieces of Italian vegetable rotini. Andrew, eighth grade, (far left) guessed 239. The most amazing win was by Noah, fourth grade (in the black t-shirt), who guessed 1200 Cuban Black Beans in a container. Other students guessed far far less. There were 1263. Skylar, sixth grade, guessed 222 for the American Southern Pecans. The actual number was 230. The winner of the fourth guessing game was Matt, fifth grade, (far right above) whose number 227 was really close to the actual 237 in a jar of Italian spinach garganelli. Each winner selected a book of his choice from the Book Fair.

The Original Post
October  26, 2009 

At last it is time for another Book Fair! Oh how I love a good book fair! For one thing, my library fund has only moth holes in it. Yes, that must be mentioned first, although the real reason I love fairs so much is the delight I take in seeing how much the children LOVE them! Many of them return again and again to buy another book. On the last day--the fifth day--they return to buy the doo-dads, I call them. I want them to buy books, absolutely, but the doo-dads are a thrill for them, too.

 I read an article not long ago in argument against the pencils and pens and keychains and diaries and bookmarks--Wait, diaries and bookmarks? Aren't they part of the reading/writing experience? Pens? Pencils? Pens with feathers on the end? Reminiscent of quill pens, maybe? I cannot think of a single argument against doo-dads, as many ARE book-related and sub-related. Besides, kids think of those things as treasures (maybe for a short while), adding to the idea of the Book Fair as a  magical place!

(Click here to read the blog about doo-dads.)

This year's theme for the Scholastic Book Fair is "Destination: Book Fair (Read Around the World)." That is basically my library theme for the year. Decorations are a done deal. Seven huge metal cases arrived today and are lining the office hall until Saturday, when I will open and arrange them, put out the doo-dads, and weave all the world-travel and culture themes throughout. I can hardly wait!

Give up my Saturday to set up a Book Fair? That's not work to me, although I go home exhausted from pushing and pulling those big cases, picking up and moving boxes of books. Climbing up and down a ladder to place things. But a good fatigue. I'll return Sunday just to look it over. For a bibliophile, walking into a book fair is the equivalent of walking into a chocolate factor for the chocoholic, or a bar for the alcoholic.

On my way out to go home in a while, I will drag a chair over to that line-up of cases and take a peek--or a full gaze--into those boxes. Can't wait to see what they've sent this year!

The office manager called me downstairs to ask if we should move the cases into a locked room, so we did. She is as much a book lover as I, so along the way of moving, we opened and oohed and aahed at bunches of books. We've got great variety again this year!

 Our area had serious rains and flooding on Friday. Schools were closed. 

I jumped at my opportunity and worked until 9 last night. A Book Fair in progress:   
Getting displays ready: Phase 1 
Phase 2 (with one of my most faithful volunteers)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Book Review

Note: This review first appeared on Amazon on June 11, 2009. I'm reprinting it to relate my progress.

"Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding" is for "collectors," of which I most certainly am one! If you are a "collector," you know you must solve--all on your own--this problem of accumulating too much stuff.
Oh yes, it would be wonderful to have someone come in and help you make all the stuff disappear, as the team on "Clean House" does. Sort it in bins, then discard, donate, sell--yep, the way to go, except, Mr. or Miss Collector, you cannot put it in any bins except to keep it. Right?

That's where this book comes in--it actually breaks down every argument your pesky little mind can throw in your way to de-clutter. I won't go into details, but my severe acquiring and cluttering developed as a result of divorce. I literally could not touch anything to put away or discard. It had to just sit there, taking up space, keeping people away. Someone volunteered to help me organize, but the thought put me in panic mode.

"Buried in Treasures" is helping. Writers David Tolin, Randy Frost, and Gail Steketee name the condition as compulsive hoarding and stating that overcoming the problem is hard work. They define three conditions for hoarding:

1. Accumulating, then having difficulty getting rid of things of limited or useless value,

2. Clutter that limits or prevents the use of living spaces in the manner for which they were intended,

3. Both the clutter itself and discarding the clutter cause distress.

In order for the hoarder to address the problem, he/she must understand the causes for hoarding, the results, and reasons to change. Hoarding did not happen overnight nor will the clutter disappear overnight. Reinforcement through repetition of information and self-help tests interspersed throughout the book force the reader to think and respond, think and respond.

The authors show the hoarder how to begin discarding through information: strategies, lists, categorizing, flowcharts, agencies that will accept your discards, setting up filing systems, rules, everything, anything that will help begin the discarding process.
Here's an example of treating one aspect of hoarding: Making decisions. Easy for you? A hoarder will pick up something, not be able to decide what to do with it, and put it back amidst the clutter for a decision later. A decision has two parts: make a decision, then follow-through. So, how does a hoarder follow through? A whole list of questions is provided for handling each item. Tedious, you say? The point is to get past the point of getting started.
Getting started: Obtain bins for trashing, donating, and keeping. The point is to have the "keep" bin the emptiest. The second step is to set a specific length of time every day to de-clutter until the clutter is gone, whether one hour or fifteen minutes. Make a schedule. Follow it.
The book is very helpful. At least, I have started the process and have thrown out several boxes of stuff in the last week alone. It's a beginning, whereas I was stuck in time before this book.

Thank you, Tolin, Frost, and Steketee. Your book is itself a treasure, but it's not buried.
Addendum: Several months have passed since I wrote this review. What I didn't mention is that I was stuck psychologically and emotionally after my divorce. I was mentally drained from verbal abuse. After five years I am finally "waking up" again.
Here's what I have done in my house. I have framed and hung pictures on my bare walls. I have scrubbed spots from my carpet. I have recaulked one bathroom that couldn't be used because the shower caulk had worn away. Did the whole floor while I was at it. In my other bathroom, I am finishing priming, painting, and adding accessories like handles to the drawers and doors. I've been prying them open with my fingertips for five years! I have thrown out so many boxes of old papers, tests, lecture notes, magazines. I have even discarded old, yellowed, books with missing pages. My house is becoming a home. And I am mightily proud!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

The Giver by Lois Lowry

How many years have I known about The Giver? Why haven't I read it before this? Students who have read it always say what a good book it is. It's just one of those things, I think, kind of what my sister calls such things: "It is what it is."

I take my lunch  most days and eat in the library where I work. Twenty minutes of quiet time. I always take whatever book I am  currently reading. One day I forgot.  No way am I going to just sit there, so, aha, what book catches my eye? It's time I say.

The Giver by Lois Lowry won the Newbery Award in 1994. That means it was voted Best Book in older children's literature for that year. Devil's Advocate that I am, I always want to know what books were in contention, the Honor Books. They are Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conly, Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery by , and Dragon's Gate by Laurence Yep, all worthy choices.

So, The Giver. Set in a nameless community in an unidentified future, the story is about a utopian society or seemingly, depending on whose opinion is being solicited. No hunger, no domestic violence, no deformities or disabilities, no painful and lonely old age, really, basically no worries. To accompany those realities, no color, no variations, no differences, no choices. Ah, this utopia begins to look dystopian. Yes? 

No, of course not, why would you question? Choices, colors, differences have been removed. How can one question if one has no frame of reference? That's where the character of The Giver comes in. In this society children go through a naming ceremony when they reach the age of twelve. The main character, Jonas, has no idea what his future will hold. He has no particular interest in any particular field.

During the ceremony Jonas is skipped over, only to be given his future at the very last. Receiver. Keeper of the community's Memory. Jonas will be the next Receiver, an assignment held with such reverence and awe that Jonas can hardly fathom that he is the one to be trained by the old Receiver, who will now become The Giver. Therein lies the rub.

The Receiver is privy to all that has been erased from community memory: color, smells, bird twitter, tastes, things now controlled and wiped out of existence, such as snow, and sunshine, and forests. Things that make life interesting, but certainly unknowable. Things unpredictable. Love. Family. Yes, certainly, Jonas has a family of two parental units well-chosen for compatibility, one annoying sister (some things don't change), and a temporary baby.

Jonas's dad is a Caregiver, meaning he takes care of babies. This particular baby shows signs of not adjusting--he cries when it's time to sleep, so Dad brings him home to socialize him. If this doesn't work, Dad will be required to "release" this baby. During Jonas's training, during the transfer of memory from the old Receiver, now called The Giver, to the young Receiver, Jonas begins to learn differences. Jonas in the belly of the whale.

And a plan is formulated. There is a sequel.

Newbery, yep, definitely.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Framing Favorite Things

I taught Fine Arts Survey for 10 years at the high school level. Everywhere I went on vacation I bought prints and touristy items, expressly for the purpose of using them in my Fine Arts class.

I had favorite prints: "Woman Weighing Gold" by Vermeer; one of Cezanne's new age, early cubist efforts called "Chateau Noir." When I retired, I promised myself I would frame my favorite things.

 Here's how I framed the Vermeer:

Touristy Items

Then there were favorite touristy items bought to use as cultural props in conjunction with the fine arts of various countries:
1. A print of the Library of Congress as a postage stamp

2. A poster of the fruits of Thailand (not yet framed)

3. A tea towel featuring cats on  linen woven in Ireland--Do you see the one cat turning to look at you? It's as if he is winking that the kitten to his left is his. The pairings are quite interesting and hold little genetic secrets.

4. A small tapestry made in Tunisia--This is the front side.

When I frame it, I want it enclosed in double glass so that it can be turned to the back, for this is what this tapestry looks like on its back side:

Isn't this incredible?

The setting is Sidi Bou Said, the most unusual town we visited in Tunisia. Young men and women freely mixed without head coverings. I don't know what the cultural occasion was but these young people reminded me of college kids in any European city. They were all drinking sweet hot tea spiced with mint and pine nuts, or smoking these big herb pipes.

For more information about this charming town:


5. A poster of Mont St. Michel, which has the American price of $1.25 written right on the poster--I bought it as the last one in stock, this in 1976. If you look carefully, you can see it right at mid-section on the right.

 6. A poster of Venezia:

Hmong Art
How about local art? The detailed clothwork of the Hmong is featured in one of our local art museums.

This artwork of tiny pieces of cloth sewn together to create a triple frame for the embroidery-rich animals gathering at the waterhole measures 19" x 18". Its color is a deep blue instead of that gray-looking color. The brilliance of the embroidery threads is depicted accurately!

I bought this piece many years ago at a special exhibit of Hmong artwork in conjunction with the special collection of art housed at Meadows Museum of Centenary College. French artist Jean Despujols was commissioned by the French government just before World War II to paint the people of Southeast Asia (Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand). His work is one-of-a-kind and documents that region before it was forever changed by  the Vietnam War. Because of a Shreveport connection, Meadows owns the entire collection.

For more information, please visit the Meadows website: http://www.centenary.edu/meadows


Two of my favorite posters that I used for 30 years (!) were this Stonehenge and another of the Eiffel Tower. I used the same frames and mats for both. The frame and mat look more dramatic with the Eiffel, but certainly work well with the Stones. The saying at the bottom is "Becoming is superior to being." I used that statement for a writing prompt on more than one occasion.

Becoming is superior to being.

For books about framing a treasured photograph or print or original, go to this link:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

At the Revel

Red River Revel
I had no children, so have "adopted" my great-nieces and nephew as my Pretend Children. I do things for them: send them to safe, private schools, take them on outings that their direct family members would never think of or do if they did. Today we went to the Red River Revel, an annual arts and music festival held along the Red River. It's just a few blocks from our school, so we drove directly down for our short fling at festing!

One niece is eleven, an often mature eleven--she's already taller than I (has a daddy who is six four); the other is five and goes into lock-up mode every day about six o'clock. It's an amazing phenomenon to watch. She acts possessed in varying degrees, according to what happened during the day. Often she howls as if possessed. Today she meowed. Is she insane? Truly not. After about an hour she becomes normal again. You can't make her stop it--it just has to wear off. We know she is probably ADHD. But she's our girl and we love her.

The older one, Chelsea, really is torn about growing up. She is moody one day and can't be trusted to be nice; all dependable the next. Today was a good day. I'm a good influence--or try to be. She wanted to stay in the kids section and play, but I wanted her to see the art and crafts.

Food first
But first, we ate food--another aspect of the Revel that people love! Of course, everything costs too much because each group is trying to make a good profit for their group--our school has a booth, for example-- Anyway, Chelsea wanted Carolina to try a smoothie, so they split a strawberry-banana. I watched. We got a muffaletta pizza that Carolina wouldn't touch--remember, five? So Chels and I split it. Got curly fries for the little one. Those she gobbled.

But it was the art that got to Chelsea. We recognized the Hmong handiwork as soon as we reached the booth. Last year they wanted novelty toy items--a snake for Chelsea--I've forgotten what Carolina got or what we got their brother.

Hmong Art Again
This time Chelsea simply fell in love with these small but incredibly designed purses with an outside stitching of one of those mesmerizing Hmong mandalas. In fact, the mandala is a square of fabric made of tiny intricate pieces stitched together. Chelsea chose a turquoise design. There's a long strap that can be shortened. Five zippered sections!! One pocket for a cell phone and on the other side, two insert sections for pens or sunglasses. Then the inside deep pocket for personal items. It is a very thoughtfully designed purse just about the size of those around-the-neck passport holders that are so the rage. (I just realized--days later--that the mandala is really "an elephant's foot print." Yeah. Live and learn!)

This is my elephant's footprint which I bought last year and recently framed.

I am the librarian at my school and am using a travel theme with middle school students this year. I took a small carry-on bag filled with my travel supplies for an early class demonstration of what to take on a long trip to an exotic destination. Later I will show them how to plan an overseas trip (Paris, Rome, etc.). One item I showed was my passport, credit card, airline ticket, and other small item holder that is worn around the neck for safety and easy access.

The instant she saw the purse, Chelsea said, "Look, Aunt Judy. It's the size of your passport holder." And so it is, and so the one I bought will become my new and stylish passport holder. Perfect!! Of course, I bought Chelsea one, too. In fact, she talked me into getting one. We are going to Dallas in December for the regional Science Olympiad competition. (Chelsea competes in three categories, and I coach one of them: Ornithology.) She kept saying how perfect the purses were for that trip. Yes, I paid more than I could really afford, but I wanted her to see that investing in quality items from an artisan like the Hmong woman is well worth the extra expense. Yes, I'm admitting that $25 each is a bit pricey for my budget--school librarian and all.

I choose this purse design and color for something different. There are so many zippered areas: about six. See the little pouch to the right. That's a perfect fit for a cell phone.

For more information about the Hmong and Hmong artwork, please visit a representative website at www.womenfolk.com/quilting_history/hmong.htm

Dragons and cats and other magical creatures of the night...

One booth we really enjoyed was Randal Spangler's. His work is so reminiscent of magic and candles and books and cups of tea and masters of book domains. We were enthralled with his art.
 To view some of his artwork, go to http://www.randalspangler.com/
Here's one example 
This is the print I bought and framed:

I had to tilt my camera a bit to prevent glare. My not-so-great shots of artwork are taken from the angle that produces the least glare. The name of this lovely print is "The Well-Read Cat."

Duck callers
We found another booth where a man sold beautifully carved duck callers. Some were real works of art, with a caller incorporated into a setting that also featured a postal duck stamp. These were beautiful. Each duck was a distinctive breed. I told my nieces how my father could really make his duck caller come to life! This artist is an artist but not an artistic duck caller. All he could do was blast through his. My daddy could sput out those little rapid chuckling sounds ducks can make, as well as those blasts! I hear ducks often as a flock lives on the bayou behind my house and often they camp overnight on my section of yard along the water.

Debris Art (Found objects)
Another favorite artist that we also visited last year was Trish Ransom, one whose work comes from "debris"--in fact, that's what she calls her business. She uses found objects, discarded items, which she turns into shimmering, whimsical, fantastic works of art. An example: she made a fish out of old Orange Soda caps for scales, pieces of netted bronze metal for fins and glued against an old piece of wood. Another is of a shimmering rainbow trout made of those pop top pieces from soda and beer cans. What imaginations artists have, what hard work they put into their labor, and what magnificent results.

Her URL is http://www.debrisart.com/

Here's an example of "debris" ("found objects"). I bought this last year.
Isn't this fish a delight!! Can you see that its scales are A&W bottle caps?

Chelsea was so glad we meandered through art and beauty. You know I am.

For more information about our annual festival, please visit http://www.redriverrevel.com/

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mother and books

My mother always reads what I recommend. She is currently spending time in the hospital. She first went in for pneumonia. Now her stay has been extended for a biopsy of a persistent infected area in one lung. So, she asked me to bring some books from the library where I work (a small Catholic school library with over 10,000 books.) She requested "Daughter of the Mountains" by Louise Rankin, her favorite book of the dozens and dozens she has read since I've worked here (in my fifth year). She says this book is so gentle and sweet that middle school students should be forced to read it to render their hormonal behavior more controllable. My mother is a hoot! The nurses told me she is ornery. They have no idea!

Anyway, I took "Officer Buckle and Gloria," winner of the Caldecott gold medal for the best in children's books in 1995. She didn't want me to leave it for fear someone would see her with a CHILDREN'S BOOK!! Oh my! But when she told me about it on my next visit, a big face of joy presented itself to me. Oh yes, children's books are all that!!

Officer Buckle and Gloria

A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

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A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.