Monday, January 21, 2008

Guest entry - YA Librarian's 2007 reads

My dad has kindly invited me to post reviews to his blog here.  I'm a YA Librarian in small town Virginia, to give you a little bit of background knowledge.  Not much to do in our town, but we have a great library.  So here's a quick run down of my reading and its highlights for 2007:

-I read more than 170 books, probably at least 200 with graphic novel volumes counted (this does include audio books)
-Best series: The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins.  The first book is "Gregor the Overlander," and is somewhat a modern, urban twist on Alice in Wonderland. Unshelved gives a booktalk on it here. Lots of fun adventure, strong and dynamic characters (including a butt-kicking princess), and good writing.
I'd also recommend the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan, the Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney (Tim Burton is planning on directing the movie), and the Bayern series by Shannon Hale.
-Book I wished I hadn't read: "Maximum Ride" by James Patterson, I just don't understand his appeal.
-Best Standalone books: "Book of a Thousand Days" by Shannon Hale, "Boris" and "God Went to Beauty School" by Cynthia Rylant, "Fat Kid Rules the World" by K. L. Going, "Life as We Knew It" by Susan Beth Pfeffer, and "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cybils Graphic Novel Finalists

The Childrens' and YA Bloggers Literary Awards finalists for 2007 have been announced. I'm going to touch on a couple of my favorite categories here, but encourage anyone who appreciate literature for kids and teens to check out the Cybils. It's encouraging to see recognition of quality graphic novels. Annotated listings and more are available on the Cybils website.

2007 Graphic Novel Finalists

Teen/Young Adult:

Elementary/Middle Grade:

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Equinox Flower

This was Yasujiro Ozu's first color film in 1958. Throughout his work, Ozu controlled his elements so tightly and formally that adding color must have been a big step for him. The color serves to punctuate and tie together many scenes, though compared with the later Floating Weeds, the color sometimes seems overstated. But it enhances the visual imagery, as do several instances of reflected images which seem to comment on the characters. Ozu fans will relish this film, a poignant blend of family drama and societal change.

The story is similar to Early Summer in dealing with a daughter who wishes to make her own marriage decisions. But in Ozu, story doesn't count for much -- it's all about characters and relationships. The characters here are harder-edged, sometimes rude and manipulative, and in at least one case, blatantly hypocritical.

Much of the drama is watching the traditional father make a fool of himself as he publicly praises romantic love and privately condemns his own daughter for practicing what he has preached. He is utterly insensitive to his long-suffering wife. When the wife says, without apparent irony, that she was really happy when the family was all together in a bomb shelter during an air raid, her husband should have some clue as to what his family has endured since. Workaholic affluence has brought about greater distance between the father and his wife and two daughters. Can he ever see it, or will he left the family fall apart in his pride?

Relationships in other families mirror these dysfunctions in different ways. Ironically, the father who is driving his own family apart is seen as a source of wisdom and advice by other troubled parents. The end result is characteristically engaging and thought provoking in the quiet way that is uniquely Ozu.