Friday, January 30, 2009

Book Review: I, Crocodile, by Fred Marcellino

     "And a crocodile," he bellowed. "I must have a crocodile."
     Suddenly some bozos with funny hats and a big net were all over me.

This is the story of a particular Nile crocodile, told by the crocodile himself. He lives a contented life in Egypt, a life of crocodilian leisure, until one day a famous stranger arrives, and his idyllic life is uprooted. He finds himself one of the objects Napoleon wishes to take back home to France. Once there, he lives a new life of leisure, with some celebrity thrown in, and he comes to love this life as well. But when Napoleon's interest wanes, the crocodile is in danger of being dinner, instead of eating dinner. What is a captive crocodile to do? How will he possibly escape this culinary fate?

With pictures that complement the text perfectly and add even further detail to the story, the reader gets a very sharp picture both of the crocodile's personality and feelings, and of the unusual situations he finds himself in.

For Teachers and Librarians:
I, Crocodile is so much fun. Your students will delight in either hearing or reading this story, with the crocodile's humorously narcissistic ways, its love of eating, and its smug, self-satisfied mannerisms. But, beyond a funny story, it is also an excellent teaching tool for you. From the history angle, there is Napoleon and his famous conquests and collections, and his invasion of Egypt. You could delve into a bit of basic anthropology: the ancient Egyptian's propensity for crocodile worship, and ancient Egyptian treasures such as the Spynx, obelisk, and temples. How about some earth science, discussing the Egyptian landscapes and plant and animal life?Science can fit in with some discussion of the crocodilian diet and habitat needs. Or how about travel methods in the late 1700's: ocean ship voyage, horse-drawn coach, and horseback? You can even touch on a bit of French history at that time: Paris, fountains, Napoleon and his collections and exploits, French Fashion, food, etc. You can even talk about how this book pokes fun at that old, persistent rumor of crocodiles living in the sewers. So. Fun and educational! How can you possibly resist?

Scroll down to "Wrapping Up" in this post, for a link to a video you can use for your own edification, as well as share with your kids.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
You and your kiddos will thoroughly enjoy I, Crocodile. The crocodile tells his own story. He is at times smug, at times narcissistic, at times sentimental, but always funny. There's even a bit of poetic justice thrown in at the end, which will have both of you giggling, for sure. If you read the teacher section above, you've already noted the educational aspects - which might spur a trip to the library to get some books on the subject, or a fact-finding mission online. Definitely a book you'll be glad you shared with them!

For the Kids:
Can you imagine a crocodile sitting down to tell you a story? That is exactly what happens in I, Crocodile, but don't worry - he doesn't want to eat you. He just wants to tell you all about what happened to him when his perfect crocodile life was totally turned upside down when a little man on a big white horse decided he wanted to take the crocodile home. All the way from Egypt to France! For a while, the croc is doing great - until the little man (Napoleon) decides the crocodile isn't so great anymore, and our crocodile friend is in danger of becoming dinner! Does he escape this awful fate? What happens next? Better go find this book, so you can find out.

For Everyone Else:
I, Crocodile is a work of art, both in picture and in story. Pay close attention to the pictures, as they tell even more of the story and may even provoke a few giggles at the situations presented. A fun diversion for adults, even if you don't usually read books for the little guys.

Wrapping Up:
I, Crocodile isn't your typical picture book - it has a bit of a twist in both story and picture. To see and hear the story come to life, as well as hear the late author discuss the book, click this link: Pulcinella Press. Scroll down to the end, and you'll see a video near the right hand side of the page which you can click to view (it opens into a new, small window). There are links in the last of the text on the page, as well, where you can choose to watch it in either QuickTime format, or Windows Media format. Well worth the 7+ minutes it will take to view! And kids can watch it, too.

Title: I, Crocodile
Author and Illustrator: Fred Marcellino
Pages: 40
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Publisher and Date: HarperCollins, September 8, 1999
Edition: 1st Edition, Third Printing
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $15.95
ISBN-10: 0062051687
ISBN-13: 978-0062051684

Author Spotlight: Fred Marcellino

Fred Marcellino's career included abstract impressionist painting, designing, album cover art, book cover art, children's book illustration, and children's book illustration and writing - in that order. 

He was born October 25, 1939, in Brooklyn, New York. At age 13, he and his family moved to Bayside, in Queens, New York, where he graduated from Bayside High.

He began his art career as an abstract expressionist painter. After earning degrees from Cooper Union and Yale, and studying abroad in Venice in 1963 under a Fulbright Scholarship, Mr. Marcellino returned to the United States and became a designer and illustrator. His main focus was LP cover art, and by 1969 he was creating album covers for Capitol, Decca and Polygram.

In 1975, he entered the book publishing world, producing 40 book jackets per year for the next 15 years - winning many awards for his work along the way. But it wasn't until the mid-1980's that he turned to the children's book field to focus on picture book illustration. He won a 1991 Caldecott Honor for Puss in Boots - his first full-color picture book - and received many other honors for his children's book illustrations. On the subject of narrative illustration, Mr. Marcellino once said,
"...each picture is a link in a chain, and they all exist in counterpoint with the text. And although you want each picture to have impact, just like a jacket, the book illustration can also be more subtle. It can be pondered and savored over a period of time. It's a very different discipline from what I was used to, but I must say it was love at first sight."

He extended his career into writing with the publication in 1999 of I, Crocodile, the first book he both wrote and illustrated. It was a huge critical and commercial success, garnering many awards and honors.

Fred Marcellino was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1998. At the time of his death on July 12, 2001, he was working on an I, Crocodile sequel: Arrivederci, Crocodile, or See You Later, Alligator. Sadly, it remained unfinished.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day!

This totally fun day comes around every January 28th (or 26th, depending on the source). Now, in case this caught you unaware, and therefore unprepared with your very own sheet of bubble wrap, I found this awesome solution: click on the link below, and pop away! Though it's virtual, it's almost as much fun as the real deal (trust me - I downloaded the Bubble Wrap app to my cell phone, and I love it!):

Not only can you pop virtual bubble wrap on this site, but you can also:
  • E-shop for some cool merchandise to proclaim your love of bubble wrap to the world
  • Learn some methods and styles for popping bubble wrap
  • Discover how to identify the different types of bubbles on your real-world bubble wrap sheet
  • Find out about Bubble Wrap Etiquette 
  • Download some bubble wrap desktop wallpaper
  • Read "some interesting information about Bubble Wrap"

What are you waiting for? Whether virtual or real-world, go on! Get popping!

Monday, January 26, 2009

They Make a Bra for Cars, So Why Not?

Life used to be so simple. When I was a little girl, I knew bras were for the support of that part of me that seemed destined to be forever flat, which therefore rendered bras unnecessary. And I was cool with that. But nature eventually kicked in, and I had to face the fact that a bra was indeed necessary. I lived in this blissfully simple one-purpose-and-one-purpose-only-for-a-bra world...until I got my first car. 

It was a sports car (not extravagant, but it was my baby), with a front spoiler, and so that the paint wouldn't chip, I asked the parts guy at the dealership for a car cover for the spoiler. He stifled a grin and said, "Oh, you need a bra." My face turned 52 shades of red and, thinking he had somehow misunderstood, I repeated my request. S-l-o-w-l-y. But I got the same answer: "You. Need. A. Bra." Before I could tell him exactly what I thought of his cheek (because I was wearing one, thankyouverymuch), he held up one finger and then went back to the shelves. When he reappeared, he was holding the black leather cover I envisioned for the front of my car. I grabbed it, and looked it over. The packaging said clearly, "car bra."

Well. Color me confused. And red. Very very red. (Not to mention excruciatingly aware of being the only woman in the parts department.) So, after Parts Guy accompanied me out to my car and showed me how to put on my "bra," I zipped out of there as fast as I lawfully could, and tried to put things into perspective. OK, so a bra was for my own support up top, but, like, a bra was also a front spoiler protector for my car? Hmmm. That was where the headlights were. Did that mean my car was a girl?  

So, life got a little more complicated, but I handled it. And it all was cool. Weird, but cool.

But now here I am, mumble-mumble years later, and my slightly modified world view has been rocked again. All this time, I thought bras had two purposes: mammary support, and car protection. But, no. There is another...

...derriere support.

You read that right. They call it the Butt Bra. AKA "bottom enhancer." AKA "padded panty." And, just like the original bra worn up north, they come in different varieties, too. One type looks like a little set of seat belts - one wrapped around the waist, and two others wrapped around each cheek. (Just strap yourself in.) Another looks like a girdle, but with a significant, umm, breezeway built in around back. (Not sure how that one works.) Still others look like girdles, but have padding sewn in back (with model names that are nothing if not creative: "Buttilicious," "Bootyfull," and "Unbuttlievable" to name a few). 

But wait! There's more: if you don't want to go the support route, preferring to be unencumbered by straps or constriction, you can just get yourself some squishy silicone "butt pads." Yep. Peel and stick 'em, just like you do with their cousins for up north. Yes, really. 

So, a bra for the usual. A bra for your car. And a bra for your bum. Yeesh. I hope this is the last of 'em. My life is complicated enough.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Book Review: Pete & Pickles, by Berkeley Breathed

Pete was a perfectly predictable pig.
He was also a perfectly practical pig.
And a perfectly uncomplicated pig.
Being all those perfect things, Pete might have run for the hills if he had known what was coming that night.

Pete is a very orderly pig. He likes to have things just so, and bristles when things get out of whack. But he also harbors a sadness in his heart, and suffers nightmares on stormy nights. One such night, Pete is startled from his usual nightmare by a late-night visitor: a fugitive elephant from the circus, named Pickles. When a clown comes looking, Pete rats her out, and the clown leads Pickles away. The next day, Pete is cleaning up and finds a dandelion - a gift left behind by Pickles. "Ridiculous," he muttered. He goes about his usual day, until that afternoon. While on his usual short walk, clutching Pickle's dandelion, he sees a circus tent. And then, Pete's life begins to change.
For Teachers and Librarians:
Pete & Pickles is a sweet story that will hold your little people's attention, and their hearts. When reading it aloud, be sure they all have a good view of the book, as the words and pictures work inextricably to tell the whole story. Pete is a pig who lives alone, grieving his deceased wife and moving through life by simply going through the motions. But then Pickles comes into his life, turning his orderly existence upside down. It is a story about friendship, and love, and big changes. And though Pete goes through trials and scary moments, he comes to find that big changes can bring much happiness. 

You could easily use this book as a springboard into a friendship unit: things friends do for each other, stuff friends do with each other, how friends feel about each other - from happy to sad to mad and lots of other feelings in between. Use it as a step to soothe children facing a big change in their life that they're unsure of, to show that it might be hard, and scary, but that change can be good. And of course, use it as a lovely story for a simple read aloud. There are lots of possibilities, here. Which will you choose?

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Your little guys will love Pete & Pickles. It will remind you somewhat of The Odd Couple in that Pete the pig and Pickles the elephant are such opposites: Pete is small, Pickles is big. Pete is orderly, while Pickles is not. Pete likes routine, but Pickles craves excitement and new adventures. But, it is ultimately a story about love, and friendship, and change, and the very big things a friend will do for a friend in need. When you read this, be sure your kiddos have a good view of the pictures, and be prepared for them to break into your reading as they notice all the little things nestled into the illustrations, and how the illustrations tell even more of the story that the words don't say. It is a story they will cherish long after they're not so little anymore. And so will you.

For the Kids:
Have you ever heard of a pig and an elephant being friends? If you read Pete & Pickles, then you will find out! Pete the pig meets Pickles the elephant when she hides in his house in the middle of the night, escaped from the circus. (She tries to hide under Pete's couch! Can you believe it?) The circus sends a clown to come get her, and Pete is glad. But, the next day, Pete finds himself searching for Pickles, and then they have lots of adventures together, until one day they argue. And then something happens, and Pickles finds herself in quite a pickle. What happens to her? Will she be saved? And what happens to Pete? Better go get the book and find out.
For Everyone Else:
Pete & Pickles is one of those books. You know, a kids' book that you'd swear was sending a message to all the adults out there, too. And it is. But the great thing is, this book can touch you no matter how old you are. It is a story that will pull you in, remind you of similar times in your own life, make you sad, make you smile, make you hope, make you laugh, make you worry, and flood you with relief. And then, it will make you smile all over again. Find it. Borrow it. Pretend you're buying it for a kid you know (instead of yourself), if it will make you feel better. But get it. Read it. You won't regret it.

Wrapping Up:
Pete & Pickles is a story of love, friendship, change, fun, discovery, and caring. Pete the pig and Pickles the elephant will find their way into your heart, and set up camp there for a long time to come. From Breathed's carefully chosen words, to his evocative and detailed illustrations, Pete & Pickles is a book that you will definitely want gracing your own personal bookshelf. No matter how old (or young) you are.

Title: Pete & Pickles
Author and Illustrator: Berkeley Breathed
Pages: 48
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Publisher and Date: Philomel, October 16, 2008
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $17.99
ISBN-10: 0399250824
ISBN-13: 978-0399250828

Author Spotlight: Berkeley Breathed

Berkeley Breathed's career has taken a long and artistic path: cartoonist, director, screenwriter, and children's book author/illustrator.

Mr. Breathed is probably best known by teens and adults for his cartooning and comics career - and especially as the artist behind the beloved character Opus. He also inked what he has called "the comic strip that never was:" the cartoon art (titled "Walter and Jasmine") for the film Secondhand Lions. He has also written for several publications including Life, Boating, and Travel and Leisure. But kids know him best for his seven children's books - some of which feature Opus.

Born June 21, 1957 in Encino, California, and raised in Houston, Texas, Berkeley Breathed lives with his wife and children in Southern California.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Funniest Thing I've Seen All Week

Have you seen this? Ellen is talking to Gladys Hardy. Well worth the 6+ minutes:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Little Quack, written by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Derek Anderson

"Come little ducklings," Mama called.
"Paddle on the water with me."
The five little ducklings squeezed close in the nest.
"No, Mama, no!" they cried. "We're too scared!"
"You can do it," Mama said, "I know you can."

Mama Duck tells her five little ducklings, Widdle, Waddle, Piddle, Puddle, and Little Quack that it's time to leave their soft nest. She coaxes them to come out on the water with her, and they are afraid. But with a little encouragement from Mama Duck, one by one the little ducklings face their fears and jump into the water. Little Quack is last to go, but he is "just too scared." Can he be brave? 

For Teachers and Librarians:
Little Quack is a sweet story about having courage and trusting in yourself. Your little guys will delight in the whimsical, brightly painted illustrations. They will cheer on each little duck as they heed their mother's gentle encouragement to "Paddle on the water with me." The children will easily make the connection between trusting in yourself and facing your fears, and will delight as each duckling splishes, splashes, splooshes and sploshes their way into the pond. A fun bonus is the "Quack-U-Lator" that runs along the bottom of the pages: a simple introduction to addition that they will enjoy chanting along with each time it appears. 

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Little Quack is fun to read aloud with your small fries. They will be entranced by the bright, expressive illustrations, so be sure to linger a while after reading each page to let them drink in the pictures fully. They will love the different personalities of each little duckling, and will identify easily with having to face something new. The Quack-U-Lator is a fun introduction to addition - be sure to let them follow and chant along as you read it each time.

Wrapping Up:
Little Quack is bright, colorful, fun, and reassuring. It subtly teaches the little guys to trust in themselves, and throws in a little bit of easy math to boot. What's not to like?

Title: Little Quack
Author: Lauren Thompson
Illustrator: Derek Anderson
Pages: 32
Reading Level: Baby-Preschool
Publisher and Date: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2003
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $15.99
ISBN-10: 0689847238
ISBN-13: 978-0689847233

Author Spotlight: Lauren Thompson

Lauren Thompson has been writing since childhood. In fifth grade, she began writing in a journal - a going-away gift from her classmates before she and her family moved to the Netherlands for a year. 

That journal was but one part of her lifelong writing career. She spent 18 years as a children's book editor before becoming a picture book author. Her titles include the Little Quack series, the Mouse's First series, and several other stand-alone titles. 

Ms Thompson has won many honors and awards for her work, and is a New York Times bestselling author. But success did not come overnight. She wrote steadily for seven years, once she decided to write for children, before she wrote anything strong enough to be published.

Born in 1962 in Oregon, Lauren Thompson is the oldest of her siblings - one sister and two brothers.  Her family moved to Massachusetts when she was three, then to the Netherlands for a year when she was 10. She now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and son.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's Like They Made This Ad Just For Me

Oh, yeah.

They went there.

Be sure to check out the fine print there along the, erm, bottom edge:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Art Imitates Life

When you think of "nothing," what comes to mind? 

A blank page? 

The balance of your retirement account?

An empty void? (Oops! didn't mean to give all you kenophobics a scare.) 

Maybe it makes you think of Seinfeld

Well, before there was Seinfeld, there was Harold Pullman Coffin. 

Back in 1973, when Harold Pullman Coffin thought of "nothing", he thought of "holiday." And so, we can thank this newspaperman for coming up with National Nothing Day - a sort of un-holiday observed annually on January 16 - whose goal is "to provide Americans with one national day when they can just sit without celebrating, observing, or honoring anything." 

I wonder... When Mr. Coffin first proposed his idea to a buddy, d'you think the conversation may have gone something like this?

National Nothing Day is two days from now.

Photo Source:

Holiday Info Source:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Write This One Down

Don't have a blank book? Grab a sheet of paper. Or a note card. Or some stationery. Whatever. Then pick up that pen/pencil/crayon and get writing: 
  • Write a poem for your loved one. 
  • Write that story that's been swimming around in your brain. 
  • Write the letter you've been meaning to send to an old friend. 
  • Write a funny note for your kiddos. 
  • Write a list of all the things you've been itching to say to that so-and-so that irritates you to no end. (Better burn this one as soon as you're done, though. Especially if the so-and-so is really, really BIG...)

- - -

* National Handwriting Day is celebrated in conjunction with John Hancock's birthday. (John Hancock, you will recall, was the first signer of the United States' Declaration of Independence, and he did so in large, flowing script.) 

Now, herein lies the controversy: some sites say John Hancock's birthday is January 12, 1737. Other sites list the day of his birth as January 23, 1737. I'll list below some of the sites I found, and let you sort it out, if you're so inclined. 

As for me, I intend to celebrate on both days. Because there's no such thing as too many blank journals to write in, nor too many fantastic pens to write with, nor too much birthday cake to eat...


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Go, Clara, Go!

January 10th is Where's the Beef Day

Do you remember Clara Peller and her wildly popular Wendy's ads? According to Wikipedia, she was 81 when she took the commercial gig. It all began in 1984, as she continually demanded, "Wherrrre's the beef?!?" Her insolent query became an instant catch phrase, and her relentless search for the beef became legendary.  

Despite the ad campaign's huge popularity, the Wendy's ride came to a halt for Clara in 1985, when the famed hamburger joint fired her for doing a Prego sauce ad in which she declared that she had "found the beef." (Phew! Mystery solved. No more searching for the beef...)

Besides her commercials, Ms Peller had appearances in a couple of movies, on Saturday Night Live, and even at WWF's WrestleMania 2 pay-per-view event. 

Sadly, Clara Peller died in 1987, but thanks to YouTube, her legacy lives on...

Friday, January 9, 2009

Book Review: Paper Towns, by John Green

The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never be struck by lightning, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us... ...My miracle was this: out of all the houses in all the subdivisions in all of Florida, I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman.

The story begins a few weeks before graduation. High school senior Quentin Jacobsen (Q) has been in unrequited love since childhood with carefree and storied next door neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman. When she is betrayed by her circle of friends, Margo enlists Q on an all-night, meticulously planned revenge trip. Then she disappears. It is up to Q and his friends to follow obscure clues left for him, and to try to find out what happened to her. In the process, they learn there is more to Margo Roth Spiegelman (and to themselves) than anyone ever thought.

For Teachers and Librarians:
Paper Towns is a fast-paced coming-of-age story. It's part love story, part mystery novel, and part young adult novel. You can use this book to fuel discussion with your teen students on who they are, and who they can become. Q is a guy who loves routine, is loathe to break rules, and is content to play it safe. But his heart pines for Margo Roth Spiegelman, who is exactly his opposite. Part of him wants to embrace her adventurousness, and part of him is afraid to push himself to extremes, as Margo does herself - for reasons no one is entirely sure of. The book can spark conversations about relationships, knowing oneself, pushing one's limits in order to grow. What are your students' limits? How far would they go to help a friend? What path do they want to travel into adulthood? And is there only one path? Or several? 

So many opportunities for discussion, and best of all, it is a book your teen readers will not want to put down. Full of a range of emotions, this book will have them laughing, crying, and everything in between. The author writes with such convincing voice, they can't help but be pulled in.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Your teen will not be able to resist Paper Towns. Though it is narrated by a boy, it explores equally the lives of both the boys and the girls in the story. They are seniors, about to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives, and they're trying to find their way, yet still be true to themselves and to their friends. It has a little bit of everything: love, mystery, adventure, intrigue, some rebelliousness, lots of soul-searching, and a bit of humor sprinkled throughout. The characters come to learn something about each other, and about themselves. 

For the Teens:
Paper Towns is a book you won't be able to put down. By-the-book, routine-loving Q has always loved adventurous, carefree next-door neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman. But she doesn't return that love. Then one night she appears at his window, and convinces him to take his parents' van and come with her on an all-night revenge-fest to get back at the friends who betrayed her. The next morning, she is gone. At first, no one is concerned, since her past exploits are the stuff of legend, and she's always come back. But with only weeks to go before graduation, Q begins to worry as the days pile up and she still doesn't show. Then he discovers clues she left for him - some intentional, some not - and he enlists his friends to help him figure them out. Where is she? Why did she go? Do they find her? Alive? Better grab your copy, and get reading.

For Everyone Else:
Though Paper Towns is a teen novel, adults will find themselves drawn into this coming-of-age story as well. It is at times touching, at times heart-wrenching, and at times laugh-out-loud funny. But throughout, it is completely authentic, right down to the teenage boy's preoccupation with body parts and occasional crude humor and language. It is a book you will not want to put down until you've finished it.

Wrapping Up:
Paper Towns appeals to teens as well as adults. Fast-paced, mysterious, touching, and funny, it is a book you don't want to miss.

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Pages: 352
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher and Date: Dutton Juvenile, October 16, 2008
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $17.99
ISBN-10: 0525478183
ISBN-13: 978-0525478188

Author Spotlight: John Green

It was John Green's childhood ambition to be an oligochaetologist. (That's an earthworm scientist, to the uninitiated.) However, young John proved to have "a general inability to care for pets," resulting in the demise of his entire earthworm farm. 

So, he made a list of his strengths: "telling lies," and "sitting" among them. From this list sprang the determination that he should become...a writer.

After graduating from Kenyon College with a double major in English and Religious Studies, Mr. Green spent six months as a student chaplain at a children's hospital - from which experience sparked the idea that eventually became his first novel, Looking for Alaska (2006). Following his student chaplain days, he wrote reviews for Booklist Magazine, as well as for the New York Times Book Reviews. He has also written for National Public Radio's All Things Considered, the Chicago radio station WBEZ, and often writes for mental floss magazine.

John Green is the only writer recognized twice by the American Library Association's Printz Committee (the young adult genre's equivalent to the Caldecott and Newbery). Looking for Alaska won the Michael L. Printz Award, and his second novel, An Abundance of Katherines (2006) won the Michael L. Printz Honor.

His latest novel, Paper Towns (2008), debuted at #5 on the New York Times Bestseller List for children.

In addition to his printed works, Green is known along with his brother Hank for their popular YouTube video blog project: Brotherhood 2.0. It began through an agreement between the brothers that they would spend one year (January 1 - December 31, 2007) eschewing text communications, and conversing exclusively by video. They broke the pact nine times, and so did penance via "comically bizarre punishments," such as trying to give away 200 Peeps in downtown Missoula. Of course, those punishments were posted to the video blog as well. Though the initial project has ended, the brothers still post video at least once a week.

Born in 1977, John Green grew up in Orlando, Florida, then moved to Alabama to attend boarding school. Following college in Ohio, and working in Chicago and New York, Green now lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his wife, Sarah.

John Green - Bio & Contact (*This link has been removed because it no longer goes where it did in 2009. As of 4/19/2013, it now goes to some search site for "head lice." Weird.)
John Green - official site: About + Contact info (*This link had been added on 4/19/2013, to replace the weird one above.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thursday Funnies

I needed a good laugh today, so I went on searching for my favorite, favorite comedienne, Carol Burnett. One of the best parts of The Carol Burnett Show was where she came out to talk to the audience. Here's what I found, and I hope you enjoy it:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Holiday Confusion

Today is Old Rock Day. According to Holiday Insights, Old Rock Day is supposed to be an opportunity to enjoy and appreciate old rocks and fossils.

But I wonder, do they mean old rocks and fossils of the earthy, geological kind:

or old rocks and fossils of the, erm, chronologically-challenged, homo sapien kind?

To add to the confusion, it's also I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore Day. Now, one could see this day as an opportunity to vent one's pent up frustrations - which could be many, in this economic climate. But I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore Day also conjures up a Blast From the Past: a certain hair band with a hit sporting a similar-but-not-quite-orthographically-correct title.

So I wonder, could we combine the two days?

Let's do:

Don't you just love "the holidays?"

Rock on! 

Monday, January 5, 2009

Fits and Giggles with Quotes

I do love a funny quote. And when I find one, I scribble it down in a notebook, scratch it out on a stray bill envelope, or write it quick on the back of a grocery receipt - whatever's handy. Today, I gathered up the bits and pieces, so I could share a few with you:

"I've got to talk to M'Lynn about her husband. He is a boil on the butt of humanity!"
     - Ouiser, Steel Magnolias

"You're about as useful as a poopy-flavored lollipop!"
     - Patches O'Houlihan, Dodgeball

"Your family is better than cable."
     - Lilly, Hannah Montana

"One morning I  shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know."
     - Captain Spaulding, Animal Crackers

"Oh, you in trouble, Dum-Dum. You better run-run. From Attila the Hun-hun!"
     - Easter Island Head, Night at the Museum

"When I buy a new book, I read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side."
     - Harry Burns, When Harry Met Sally

"You know what's weird? Donald Duck never wore pants. But whenever he's getting out of the shower, he always puts a towel around his waist. I mean, what is that about?"
     -Chandler, Friends

And now, I'll end with a little snippet of dialogue, because everybody needs a little Spongebob in their life:

SQUIDWARD: Would you not stand so close? I'm getting claustrophobic.

PATRICK: What does "closterphobic" mean?

SPONGEBOB: It means he's afraid of Santa Claus!

SQUIDWARD: No it doesn't!


SPONGEBOB: Stop it, Patrick. You're scaring him!

     - Spongebob Squarepants

Now go on and have a hilarious, giggle-filled day!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Book Review: The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau

When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future.
     "They must not leave the city for at least two hundred years," said the chief builder. "Or perhaps two hundred and twenty."
     "Is that long enough?" asked his assistant.
     "It should be. We can't know for sure."
     "And when the time comes," said the assistant, "how will they know what to do?"

It is the year 241, and the city of Ember is old. Supplies are dwindling. Everything is in need of repair - most notably, the power lines that run the city's only source of light. When the power goes down, the lights go out, plunging its citizens into complete and total darkness for minutes at a time. But the intervals of no power are getting longer and more frequent, and people are beginning to worry that someday soon the lights will "never come back on."

When twelve-year-old Lina Mayfleet receives her job, as does classmate Doon Harrow, neither are happy with their lot, so they trade. Both go confidently into their work, learning their jobs, uncovering mysterious circumstances, and discovering new information. But it's not until Lina happens upon the contents of an old, dented box deep in her grandmother's closet that both kids start to piece things together. What is happening to the city of Ember? Can they save their people?

For Teachers and Librarians:
Here is a book that will hook even the most reluctant of readers. The City of Ember is mysterious, adventurous, thrilling, fast-paced, and will hook your readers from the very first page. Given the world's current economic situation, it is a timely choice to integrate into an economics unit: supplies in Ember are scarce, driving prices up and causing people to worry and hoard, make choices they normally wouldn't, and stretch what they have. Use it as a springboard to discuss the often overlooked value kids have in society, and how even the youngest among us can contribute strong and viable solutions in a crisis. Have them talk about times when they've splurged on a wanted item when they knew something else was needed. How did they feel once they'd bought it? Would they make the same choice again? Above all, The City of Ember is a great piece of fiction that will appeal to girls and boys alike. Descriptions are vivid and the story is gripping. Your students will find themselves sucked into the story, reluctant to put it down.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Tweens will love The City of Ember. It stars two of their own. Ember is a city in crisis, and its fate rests in the hands of two twelve-year-olds as they unravel the mystery of what's happening to their city, and puzzle through what they have to do to save its people. It's great to read aloud with your kids - you will enjoy it as much as they will. If they want to read it on their own, you can feel confident that you've given them a quality book with plenty of action, mystery, and thought-provoking situations, as well as a book with a strong, positive example that kids can and do make a difference in their world.

For the Kids:
The City of Ember is awesome! It's got mystery. It's got action. It's got danger. It's got thrills. The kids are smart, and real. And they're the only ones who can save the people of the city. Get it. Read it. You won't be disappointed. At the end, you'll be wishing you could read more about Lina and Doon and the people of Ember. And guess what? You can: there are three more books in this series!

For Everyone Else:
The City of Ember will pull you in from the first page, and not let you go, no matter how old you are. It is a fantastic story, and rather timely, given the current state of world economics. Buy it, borrow it, whatever, but make sure you read it. You'll be glad you did.

Wrapping Up:
The City of Ember is a book that relates to adults as well as kids. Full of action, mystery, and suspense, it leaves the reader wanting more. And, happily, with three more books in the series, readers will be able to continue the thrills.

Title: The City of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Pages: 288
Reading Level: 10 - 13 years
Publisher and Date: Random House Children's Books, May 2003
Edition: Hardcover, Book 1
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $16.99
ISBN-10: 0375822739
ISBN-13: 978-035822735