Teen Stuff: The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt

Read this book. Really. The Wednesday Wars is a hilarious look at September through June in the seventh grade. Told from the POV of Holling Hoodhood, who is the only Presbyterian in his class, the younger brother a flower child teenager, and “hated” by his teacher Mrs. Baker. For Holling seventh grade is full of death threats, pranks, escape rats, penitentiary-bound eighth graders, baseball stats, and creampuffs covered in chalk dust- you know the usual seventh grade stuff. Set in Long Island, NY in 1967-68, during the Vietnam War, with Walter Cronkite on the TV, the book isn’t all fun and games. Holling is stuck spending Wednesday afternoons with Mrs. Baker, who may or may not hate his guts, reading Shakespeare plays, which makes way for some great metaphors throughout the book. Holling learns a lot that year, about himself and the world around him. This 2008 Newbery Honor book made me laugh and cry, and I was sad it had to end. (For grades 6 and up.)

African-American Woman's Book Club

Are you a female fan of Black Literature? With more than 30 chapters in 12 states, The Go On Girl! Book Club claims to be the largest African-American woman's book club in the country. Their website has a great list of reading resources as well as information on how to start your own local GOG chapter.

Interested in catching up with their reading selections? 2010's winter/spring books are as follows:
January 2010 - Wife of the Gods, Kwei Quartey (Mystery)
February 2010 - Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell (Nonfiction)
March 2010 - Black Water Rising, Attica Locke (Fiction)
April 2010 - Sag Harbor: A Novel, Colson Whitehead (Fiction)


Find a Bike Route for Your Commute

Last week, Google added an interactive bicycle route mapping feature to their popular Google Maps. Still in its beta version, the feature is designed to "include as much bike trail data as possible, provide efficient routes, allow riders to customize their trip, make use of bike lanes, calculate rider-friendly routes that avoid big hills and customize the look of the map for cycling to encourage folks to hop on their bikes," according to Peter Smith.

The good news for Ann Arbor bike commuters and bike enthusiasts is that Tree Town is already part of their mapped data, so you can try out their suggested routes right away. Although I wasn't in love with the route they mapped for my commute to work, the map did highlight -- in bright green -- some paved trails that I would definitely use for commuting on two wheels. The AADL also has books on the rise of cycling, such as Pedal Power by J. Harry Wray and Bicycling Magazine's Guide to Bike Touring by Doug Donaldson.

Parent Magazine Update -- Good for You

This month's parent magazine update focuses on things that nourish the soul and body, starting with my personal favorite -- books.

Book Links magazine starts with some interesting articles on multi-platform books -- books that include online components. The popular 39 Clues series is a great example of this innovative genre, as is the Skeleton Creek series for teens. Also featured in this issue are series books that are good for reading aloud -- The Porcupine Year, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and The Runaway Dolls for example -- and books about young artists, along the lines of Peter Reynolds' classic The Dot.

Mothering magazine has its own list of recommended books -- "visually sophisticated" picture books. Though he isn't mentioned in the article David Wiesner would be my personal recommendation in this category. This issue also features lots of other good-for-you stuff -- foods to boost the immune system, ways to foster creative play indoors and an article about celebrating your daughter's menarche in a supportive and empowering way.

The Countdown Continues!


With only two weeks to go, we at AXIS Coffeehouse are doing our best to send you to summer with a bang. Last Friday we got a visit from Detroit rap artist The Chozn Bravesoul, and this Friday we will host another special guest -- Maggie Hanks of Ann Arbor Word Works! Don't miss this chance to get some writing advice from a poet described as "bold and insightful".

Also, our last day at AXIS Coffeehouse, March 26th, will be recorded for for the AADL podcast, so bring that poem you've been working on for a chance at library fame!

As always, AXIS Coffeehouse will offer food, drink, good writing and good company -- as well as $5 fine forgiveness coupons and free books for those who present at the mic. Join us at Mallett's Creek this Friday, from 6:30-8 for a great time!

Great Lakes, Great Times Reading Series 3/20

Great Lakes, Great Times is a monthly reading series that, according to the host, “showcases the best established and up-and-coming writers working today.” The March reading will take place at 826Michigan, and will feature readings from authors Dan Chaon, Laura van den Berg, and Christian TeBordo.

Check here to see which authors are up next in the series. So many authors are visiting, and these events have been filling the house!

The monthly event is geared towards adults, admission is FREE, and anyone is welcome. It's all happening Saturday, March 20, 7pm at 826michgan/ The Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair Shop at 115 East Liberty.

An Icelandic tale

Not a saga by any means, but the 1935 Nobel Prize winner's Haldor Laxness' novel, The Fish Can Sing still captures the earthy beauty and earnestness of the Icelandic people in this, one of his later books. In a small village near Reykjavik at the beginning of the twentieth century, a boy named Alfgrimur is raised by his beloved foster grandparents. His grandfather, Bjork, is a simple fisherman, often taking Alfgrimur out in his boat to catch lumpfish. Alfgrimur tells the villagers, when they ask what he wants to do with his life, that he wants to be a fisherman like his grandfather. But the return of the reknowned lieder singer, Gardar Holm, to his native village inspires Alfmigur to follow in Gardar's path after Gardur has heard him sing and thinks he has a future. The plot, which is meandering but not to a fault, moves toward a recognition of who Gardar really is and what Alfmigur learns which is the "one true note." Poignant, funny, and revealing the independent spirit of the people of Iceland at that time, this is a special book. And Magnus Magnussen's translation is poetic and lush. I can't wait to read some of Laxness' other books.

Database Spotlight: DearReader.com

Would you like to read or read more but don’t have time? DearReader.com is a way you can receive books in your email inbox. Although DearReader.com is included on AADL’s long list of many databases, what’s nice about it is that you don’t have to log in to your AADL account to access it. You can go straight to DearReader.com from any computer without logging in.

With DearReader.com, Monday through Friday you receive 5 minute sequential reads of part of a book, and by the end of the week you will have read 2-3 chapters. At that point you can stop or continue reading by finding the book at your library or in a store. You sign up simply by entering your email address and choosing a genre on DearReader.com. (You may choose more than one genre.) Some of the genres are Business, Science Fiction, Author Buzz, Nonfiction, Mystery, Pre-publication, Teen, Good News, Thriller, and Classics. You can unsubscribe at any time, and the emails have a link to check availability at your own library. There is a book forum for each book so if they choose to- readers get a chance to chat about the books with each other. Readers can also check out past books and read emails they may have missed.

It all started when Suzanne Beecher was sending 5 minute excerpts of books to her staff after some of them had complained that they didn’t have time to read. Many found that reading Suzanne’s snippets got them hooked on books again. Now more than 375,000 library patrons start their morning with a book excerpt in their email, thanks to DearReader.com.


Jane Austen In Connecticut

Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility has not inspired nearly as many movie adaptations, sequels, or retellings as her most popular novel, Pride and Prejudice; but Cathleen Schine’s latest book, The Three Weissmanns of Westport, makes up for the lack of quantity with quality. Judged merely on its literary merits, the novel is a little lacking; the pacing is slow, and the characters are sometimes two-dimensional. But as a reimagining of the story of the Dashwood sisters, their mother, and their lovers, it is as faithful as a devoted Austen fan could want.

Updated to present-day America, set in New York City, Westport, Connecticut, and Palm Springs, California, the Dashwood family is now the Weissmann family. Older sister Elinor, quiet and practical, is Annie, a library director. Younger sister Marianne, headstrong and emotional, is Miranda, a literary agent. One major change is that all the characters are older than in Austen’s story; Annie is 52, Miranda is 49, and their mother, Betty, is 75. When Betty’s husband of 48 years dumps her for another woman, the three Weissmann women retreat from their elegant New York apartments to share a tiny cottage in Westport, owned by their gregarious cousin Lou. Here, Annie pines for Frederick Barrows, a distinguished author; Miranda falls for Kit Maybanks, a dashing young actor; and Betty tries to put her life back in order.

For Austen fans, the fun comes in recognizing the new incarnations of various characters. All of the important plot developments occur just when they are supposed to, which makes the book rather predictable, but comforting in its familiarity. The only notable deviations from Austen’s plot come at the end in some surprising twists, but I thought those changes actually worked well, and give the story a satisfying finish. I also enjoyed Schine’s evocative similes (“[Betty’s lawyers] seemed to find the law a constantly surprising series of impediments, as if they were crossing rocky desert terrain for the first time and had forgotten their shoes.”); and I found her to be most poignant in her depictions of parent-child relationships. All in all, this is a book that will mainly appeal to fans of Austen’s original, but it has enough inventiveness to stand on its own as mildly entertaining chick-lit.

Crazy Like Us, Sharing More Than Cultural Trends

Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche is a book about how not only does America export modern cultural trends such as strip malls and fast food chains, but it's prevalent maladies from anxiety disorders and depression to anorexia and schizophrenia. The author Ethan Watters is an anthropologist who went to research medical trends in several countries around the world. Watters noticed the re-occurrence of anorexia in Hong Kong, schizophrenia in Zanzibar and depression in Japan. He also discusses how the treatment of these illnesses, whether experimental or otherwise, clashes with the local cultures that fall prey to these trends. Watters feels that the American medicalization of other societies threatens traditions of these cultures: "We should worry about the loss of diversity in the world's differing conceptions of treatments for mental illness in the same way we worry about the loss of biodiversity in nature."

Syndicate content