Showing posts from 2008

Digital Storytelling

I've been fortunate to have a great RA this semester. Recently she requested some sources on digital storytelling. The titles of the books appear related to the topic as I understand it, but the subjects are wide-ranging and not especially useful to the particular aspects of digital storytelling that interest me... Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment, Gobel et al. (conference proceedings) This was the most promising of the bunch, with an article by Kibbat, Harald titled "Oral Tradition versus Digital Storytelling: On Educational Effects of Middle European Folk Tales and Their Value for Digital Storytelling," p. 292-296. But wait, that's a mighty tight page range for such an expansive title, and sure enough the piece is by a storyteller who offers his opinion that these digital tools might be good for retelling folk tales. No argument from me, but neither is there enough depth or substance here to warrant more than a cursory citatio

letting books and even projects go

If I had time to write that paper I wanted to write about the history of how food production is portrayed in children's literature, I'd go back to these sources: Stoll, The Fruits of Natural Advantage: Making the Industrial Countryside in California Recommended by L. B-K. who would know! Iatridis, Teaching Science to Children (2nd ed., 1993) Has a heavy focus on evaluative criteria and a very lightweight scope and intellectual depth. For example, "evolution" does not appear in the index. Finishing the Ph.D., there seemed to be a scarcity of topics. Now I'm finding such abundance that I'm actually giving projects away to others. I recently handed off a whole folder of database search printouts to a deserving doctoral student. If I can't do it, then I hope somebody will tackle this project sometime. I'm on two other tracks right now: children as readers from 1890-1930 and evolution in children's books from the same period.

Castle Blair by Flora L. Shaw

Written at the urging of John Ruskin, recommended as exemplary fiction for children by Minerva Sanders in her 1890 Reading of the Young report because it depicted real children, Shaw's book is an interesting puzzle to me. It certainly fits the idea that approved children's fiction was written from any perspective but that of lower-class children. These children are the heirs and heiresses to an Irish estate. They also have little inherent moral sense, especially the eldest boy, Murtagh, whose temper almost causes him to have the estate manager killed by one of his non-wealthy friends. The poor children are there for the amusement of the rich children. They even tell Teresa at one point. Murtagh declares that they will "protect" her, and his sister Winnie agrees, saying: "Why, ye live on our land, don't you? So we're bound to protect you even if we didn't want to." (p. 55) I'll be thinking about this one for awhile... there could be


You Are a Question Mark You seek knowledge and insight in every form possible. You love learning. And while you know a lot, you don't act like a know it all. You're open to learning you're wrong. You ask a lot of questions, collect a lot of data, and always dig deep to find out more. You're naturally curious and inquisitive. You jump to ask a question when the opportunity arises. Your friends see you as interesting, insightful, and thought provoking. (But they're not always up for the intense inquisitions that you love!) You excel in: Higher education You get along best with: The Comma What Punctuation Mark Are You?

Ah, Goodreads has it figured out!

They let me blog my reviews with a quick copy-and-paste: Playing with Matches by Brian Katcher My review rating: 4 of 5 stars High school is actually like this... Leon is kind of a geek, and he's attracted to a girl (especially attracted to her shapely butt) who has massive facial burns. But then a "regulation hottie" (please watch Mean Girls if this doesn't register) shows interest in him, and he does the wrong thing. He ditches facial-burns Melody, then gets dragged around by hottie Amy until he realizes he really loved Melody. He tries to get her back, and she flatly refuses. The ending is ambiguous, but Leon may have a shot again. Good read, and new as of July 2008. Out of the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst My review rating: 2 of 5 stars Durst's first, Into the Wild, is much better. This time, the fairy-tale "wild" takes over the world, and Julie Marchen (daughter of Rapunzel who escaped) has to save the world from the wild. It's a

What will Goodreads mean...

What does it mean to keep a reading blog when you're also on Goodreads? I'm still convinced that these notes to my self are extremely helpful, and I am also aware that some at-home viewers may benefit from seeing my beyond-the-classroom reading habits and thoughts. They may function in complementary ways. For instance, I'm sitting here with a pile of 10 books that I've read, and they aren't all worth a big review. Twain's The Prince and the Pauper, for example, was a fine read but I don't really need to blog it, since it's out there all over the place. Newer things, though, I almost feel I should blog, but then again not all of them seem worth the effort. Making this commitment to track my reading with a blog has been most valuable, and I've really held to it for a long time now. At the same time that I want to see what my friends are reading, I also know that Goodreads will dilute my focus on children's/young adult books in favor of adult

Laughing out loud...

I'm reading Lucky by Rachel Vail, and just came across this line: "[S]he'd been obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which I couldn't get through at all; it just seemed like long stretches of weather punctuated by Pa making another chair." (p. 153) Weather... another chair! Do not misunderstand, I loved these books myself, but that is a priceless perspective. Weather. Another chair.

Rumi and Rilke

I've been delving slightly and slowly into both of these poets' writings. So far my favorite from Rumi is a poem called Green Ears in The Essential Rumi . It's a long poem, and I'll give a few short quotes: "...Manyness/ is having sixty different emotions./Unity is peace, and silence." (p. 241) "This present thirst is your real intelligence,/not the back-and-forth, mercurial brightness,/Discursiveness dies and gets up in the grave.//This contemplative joy does not./Scholarly knowledge is a vertito, an exhausted famousness./Listening is better." (p. 242) "Love is the falconer, your king." (p. 243) Rilke's book Letters to a Young Poet is astonishing. To collect quotes would be to xerox almost the whole thing. It is his celebration of solitude that I find most compelling. But still, a few quotes: "Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn't force its sap and stands confidently

Toby Tyler

Toby Tyler by James Otis This comes up in children's reading evidence as a popular book in the 1920s. Adults talk about it as a "dime novel alternative." It's one of those classic books that talk constantly about how immoral the character is for running away to the circus and how much he regrets it, while reveling in the circus atmosphere, the monkeys, horses, elephants, circus freak show performers... Toby is indeed a bad and remorseful boy who, at the end of the book, happily rejoins the minister who took him in when his parents died. But along the way, you get an adventuresome ride through circus life. This was first published in 1880, but the edition I have is 1923, and there are "shadow" illustrations at the bottom and side margins of many pages, in a mustard yellow color that belie the tension in the text. While the text is all about Toby's remorse, the illustrations show circus performer, animal and human, in exciting costumes and doing dari

For future reference

Dority, Rethinking Information Work: Career Fuide for Librarians and Other Professionals A good book to refer students to when they are facing big career decisions in LIS. Which seemingly everyone is as soon as they graduate, so it's practically universally useful. McCarty, Willard, Humanities Computing The SHARP newsletter reviewed this very favorably. This would be a great reference point for when the History of Children as Readers project is ready to go digital (or at least to proposal) for an NEH grant. Books for the Fantasy Lit and Media Bibliography of suggested further reading: Westfahl, Gary et al. Foods of the Gods: Eating and the Eaten in Fantasy and Science Fiction. University of Georgia Press: Athens and London, 1996. Harrigan, Pat and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media. MIT Press: Cambridge, 2007.

quotes and novels

First, a quote I found in the gift shop of the Bodleian library of Oxford: "'Tis the good reader that makes the book good." --Ralph Waldo Emerson Which is precisely why I'm researching the history of children as readers. I also went back to my old pal Roland Barthes, to see if I could scare up any good quotes about reading.... "If a book bores me, I have the courage, or cowardice, to drop it. [...] So if I read a book, it's because I want to." --Roland Barthes, from The Grain of the Voice p. 220 Go Roland! I also searched for some quotes, and liked this one: What do we ever get nowadays from reading to equal the excitement and the revelation in those first fourteen years? --Greene, Graham, from Oxford Reference Online Now to novels: Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen If addiction is the disease of our time, then Dessen's novel is very timely. It contains the usual introspection of her female protagonists. Ruby is saved from the memories of her alcoholic

Additions to 409 bibliography

The Story Factor by Annette Simmons This deserves a place on the bibliography, but not on the reading list, for LIS409 Storytelling. It's a business book with one good idea, which is a list of six types of stories that you need to know how to tell in order to have influence: stories of 1) who am I, 2) why am I here, 3) the vision, 4) teaching, 5) values-in-action, and 6) I know what you are thinking. This reference came to me from a student who used this framework to analyze the stories told by presidential candidates. Her paper, with edits, would be as solid as this book. It's not a bad book, but like so many business-oriented books for the mass market, it oversimplifies. While the categories are useful starting points, greater explanation and analysis would be needed for the reader to gain real skills in the use of storytelling in business. If I add this one, I really need to add or assign a chapter/article by Julian Orr about how storytelling in business actually work

Ursula K. Le Guin (and Voices for 409)

These three books share a world as a setting, and have a few characters in common, but they are not a conventional series like the Harry Potter books or the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The relationship is a bit like that of The Hobbit to The Fellowship of the Ring. We begin with a story of Orrec Caspro as a boy, but years are lost between the first and second books; the next book shows him as an accomplished and renowned poet. It's like The Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones, which skips Christopher Chant's middle years entirely, showing him only as boy and then as master. Gifts High on desolate, rocky hills live lonely peoples whose supernatural gifts allow them to unmake, sicken, or injure one another. These small bands do constant battle for the scant resources that are there. Orrec and Gry have been friends all their lives, and they hope to marry, but their families each have planned other marriages in order to increase their wealth. Orrec struggles with blindnes

Story Proof and Storytime

Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story by Kendall Haven Here's how I can imagine discussing this one in 409: --Chapters 1, 2, and 7: all are about the definition of "story," including pitfalls of previous overly broad definitions. --Chapters 3, 4, 5, 6: all are about the way the human mind is set up to use story. --Chapters 8, 9, and 10: 8 is anecdotes, 9 is research results, 10 is concluding inspirations. Haven is redundant in a way that is probably reinforcing in the oral, but drags in the written version. I wished several times that chapter 7 followed chapter 2; he doesn't give enough sense of why the brain science is compelling before spilling the beans on what he thinks a story actually *is.* When that's the main point of a book, you want to know it up front. Too many of the chapters are full of long paragraphs quoted from other research, strung together by bare connective tissue that is less an argument and more a "see this,

Top 10 fantasy titles for 2008, from Booklist

And yet another source of info on fantasy books... Quick list of the titles: 1. Book of a Thousand Days 2. Tunnels : Book 1 3. Cherry Heaven 4. The Golden Dreams of Carlo Chuchio 5. Red Spikes 6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 7. Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat 8. Powers 9. Exodus 10. The Land of the Silver Apples I just finished Powers by Le Guin, and I'll blog that loosely-connected trilogy separately.

Evolution as the link between arts and sciences

The NY Times has a great article on an interdisciplinary program that involves the serious use of methods from the humanities to investigate scientific topics. What's remarkable is that this program aims for a true balance between the fields, not the borrowing of humanities by the sciences of which I have heard complaints from some humanities-oriented colleagues. I'm interested because of the example given in the article of evolutionary studies program that involves a "crossover approach" by David Sloan Wilson, author of Evolution for Everybody . He points out that Darwin's data were qualitative. This could link to my research on evolution for children, 1882-1914 or so.

American Indians in Children's Literature: Meyer's Twilight: second post

An interesting post about the depictions of Native Americans in the fantasy/vampire novel Twilight by Stephanie Meyers, a book that will be on the reading list for LIS590VV, Fantasy Literature and Media for Youth.... American Indians in Children's Literature: Meyer's Twilight: second post

Fantasies featuring storytelling

Is storytelling always this pervasive in fantasy literature, or is it just my reading lately? I'm musing on what a research question about the function of storytelling and/or portrayal of storytellers in fantasy might become.... The Castle Corona by Sharon Creech A fun and funny fantasy about 2 children who find a mysterious royal pouch, and are eventually taken to the Castle to be the king's tasters (in case of poisoning). This has Creech's characteristic light and quirky feel, which is nicely suited to the fairy-tale setting. The only hiccup comes at the end of the book, which felt precisely one chapter too long. But otherwise, it was a fine read, and features a Wordsmith who is the castle's designated storyteller. He weaves tales out of the elements that his royal audience chooses for each evening. The Giver by Lois Lowry is really about The Receiver, Jonas, whose whole world changes when he is assigned to apprentice with the elder that he will come to know at

Short blurbs on books about children/YAs and technology

Goodstein, Anastasia. Totally Wired. Written in an easy-to-read journalistic style, Goodstein covers all the essentials of teen technology use for bewildered parents (or librarians). Though parts are redundant with Harris (see below), both are of use to future youth services librarians. Chapters 1-4 deal with teens, and then chapters 5-7 address what adults can or should do about all the things teens are doing. Mostly, Goodstein calls for understanding, relating contemporary tech activities such as IMing to her own 80s-era teen experiences such as 3-way calling. I Found It on the Internet. Harris, France Jacobson. Though it's short, the book is worth reading as written, in 3 parts, one at a time. Part 1 parallels the first 4 chapters of Goodstein. Part 2 is a little different, in that it lumps all the dangers-and-dark-sides together. Part 3 is for adults, and would go well as a parallel reading to Goodstein's chapters 5-7. Although the writing is more laden, the audien

4 YA Novels

How does a professor have time to read 4 novels at the end of the school year??? By getting very sick for over a week, that's how! While able to do nothing else, I read these 4 great books, and I do think they helped my immune system. Frannie in Pieces by Delia Ephron (Related to Nora Ephron?) Frannie's life is shattered when her father dies. She begins to pull herself back together when she finds a box with her name on it filled with a handmade puzzle that her father created, apparently as her birthday gift before he died. Since he was never on time with gifts, and he died a week before her birthday, this makes her suspicious but not suspicious enough to unravel the mystery of the puzzle's origin, not until the end of the book. In the middle, Frannie's mom sends her off to be a counselor at summer camp. She's put in charge of arts and crafts, and has the kids make an enormous mural of all the household items that, in small print, say they can kill you. The

Children and Gender in Libraries, 1876-1900

So way back when, in the late 1870s and early 1880, Caroline Hewins made lists. She made lists of books for boys and girls in her library in Hartford, Connecticut. She even marked them with special symbols for whether they would appeal to boys, girls, or both. Others in librarianship also talked about reading and gender, including Lutie Stearns, who was concerned with girls' reading of romance stories, a position that fit with her own activism and feminism. There were a smattering of others too, some of whom did not come from such progressive perspectives. If I were going to write the paper I've had in my mind for some time on what gender means in these book recommendations, what it says about the children and about the books, then I would use these books to launch that project: Women's Education in the United States, 1780-1840, by Margaret A. Nash (2005) This book would be a great way to get a feel for at least some women's lived gender context, and it's suppos

Two Delicious YA Novels and a Fairy-Tale Fantasy

Good Enough by Paula Yoo Is it ever good enough for Patti's parents? She and the other Korean American kids in her church youth group have it bad, with parents who crave to send them to HarvardYalePrinceton. Patti loves music, and she begins to take control of her life when it occurs to her that her viola-playing days are over as soon as she hits college. But her music teacher thinks she could make it in to Julliard. It's a tough and also touching novel, as Patti struggles under the breakneck pace of her school work and extra-curricular obligations while also trying to get to know Ben, the attractive new boy from youth orchestra. This one is a sure hit for anyone burdened with high-pressure parents, now or in the past. Funny aside: this made me remember 1991 or so, when I had a boyfriend pierce a second hole in my ear. When my father saw the little black rose stud I had in that new hole, he was furious, and yelled at me that I'd "never be a dean at Harvard"

Food in Children's Science Trade Books

Previously, I mentioned that there were some problems even with well-reviewed books for children on food. Here are some examples.... Apples and How They Grow by Laura Driscoll, illus. Tammy Smith (All Aboard Science Reader, Level 1) [BCCB-Ad, 2003] On p. 31, the apple is picked as if in an orchard, and eaten by the person who picks it. Lacking is any mention of typical food transport. The Pumpkin Patch by Elizabeth King [BCCB-R, 1990] This also lacks transport information, but reasonably so; the book is the story of visiting a pumpkin patch in the fall. Mechanized farming is clearly in evidence in the early pages of the book, which is a major plus. Pumpkins by Ken Robbins [BCCB-R, 2006] Aesthetically, Robbins' books are very sleek and pleasing. Informationally, they make all the standard omissions. No pesticides, migrant workers, or transport are shown in the making of these pumpkins. Apples by Ken Robbins [BCCB-R, 2002] Again gorgeous pictures, some of which borrow the white

Apples and Oranges

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman This picture book, with endpapers that show a map of the world, details exactly what level of continental hopping would be required to get all the ingredients for an apple pie if we had to do the traveling ourselves each time we wanted to bake one. It's an eye-opening tour of food origins for the young, and stands out among many books on food production for children that elide or obscure what really goes on. As I've said before, to read children's nonfiction on food, you might think it was all organic, local, and paid good wages to harvesters. An Orange in January by Dianna Hutts Aston, illus. by Julie Maren Another rarity in that this book tells the true, if rosy, story of how oranges comes to be available in January, including all the transportation necessary to make it so. The orange does, unfortunately, seem to come from a mythical land of goodness and sunshine. No mention is made of the harvesting lab

Narrative across media, narrative within folklore

Eight Words for the Study of Expressive Culture by Feintuch (ed.) The words are: group, art, text, genre, performance, context, tradition, and identity. Of the eight essays, those on Group and Genre seemed most compelling. Group (by Dorothy Noyes) gets into the complexities of defining who is in and out of a group, using the example of an Italian street festival in Philadelphia. Genre (by Rudier Harris-Lopez) touches on the emergence of folk texts in new media and therefore overlaps with my wishes to investigate digital storytelling. It would be good to read with one or both of the below chapters. Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling by Ryan (ed.) This is based in literary theory, but has 2 essays of use to thinking about new forms of fantasy media. They're back-to-back in the book, and read very well together. "Will New Media Produce New Narratives?" by Marie-Laure Ryan offers a typology of narratives in various kinds of media, trying to establis

Napoli, Reeve, Eddy, and Cohen

Jacalyn Eddy, Bookwomen Since I'll be referring to this book for years to come, I'll just note a few most useful and surprising highlights. --"To accept the traditional narrative that women were merely forced into unwanted careers, however, simplifies a complex phenomenon." (p. 6) --Gives good overview of first publishing houses to have children's imprints, starting with MacMillan and Doubleday (p. 131) --Eddy's arguments about the child guidance movement echo Ehrenreich's arguments about "experts" and the masculinization of women's traditional realms of knowledge. (p. 110-111) Donna Jo Napoli, The Prince of the Pond Napoli retells the frog prince from the view of a young female frog with whom the frog prince has a family before his eventual transformation back into a human. Napoli is always good at getting to the bones of the tales she retells. The opening has remarkable resemblances to some of the dialogue between Robin and Kermit in He

Fantasy and fantasy graphic novel test-drives

I'm playing around with what I'll teach in fall, which now has changed to include the fantasy class (590VV) on-campus and the youth services class (506LE) via LEEP. Just thought some of you might want to know that I'll have a section of 506. I'm thinking about writing a paper that will draw on the 590VV class, looking at the major awards and what recent trends (Harry Potter etc.) and tensions (religious objections) as well as new awards (Printz) have done to the "population" of fantasy books that inhabit that select and magical land of Newbery winners. It would also be great to explore how fantasy as a genre is specializing even further into sub-genres in light of the "long tail" phenomenon, or technological changes in the ability to profit from making small numbers of many distinct things available to small number of customers. The idea comes from: and author Anderson's main argument centers

Fantasies and other random amusements

Next fall, I'll be teaching a course on Fantasy Books and Media for Youth. This means that I am trying out lots of recent fantasies to see what I want to teach. Of course, I'm also thinking about the children's lit and young adult lit classes at GSLIS and doing my best to avoid overlap in specific books if not specific authors. I'm already amassing a long list of 25+ books I want to teach, and sometime soon I'll have to fine-tune it as I turn in my texts for fall. The Imp That Ate My Homework by Laurence Yep I'm searching for two things that I hoped to find in this book, fantasies for younger readers and fantasies that representing something other than a purely Western set of imagery or magical elements. Lewis and L'Engle have pretty much covered the Christian fantasy approach, and many other books by White writers either consciously or unconsciously base their books on Arthurian legends or other European myths and legends. Yep brings a great perspecti

Preschool to the Rescue!

Yesterday I gave a talk to 60 preschool teachers in Danville, and it was a fabulous event. I was their last speaker of the day, which suited me just fine since I had some interactive components planned and I always enjoy the challenge of firing up an audience. I brought them books that I knew they could use as read-alouds in their preschool classrooms, and tied it to the very concrete things that children are interested in, such as animals, food, trucks, dinosaurs, big things and small things and differences in size... actually, that last idea deserves some expansion and explanation, and maybe even a paper. We talked about humor for preschoolers, and especially the kind where it's funny because the kid knows better than the book. For instance, many books use the trope of having an animal make the wrong noises, and preschoolers love this because they know it's wrong, so it's both funny and empowering. It felt so extraordinarily practical and meaningful to be back in fron

Newbery Honors are Okay.

Yeah, just okay. Not bad at all, but not the best ever either. It all depends on the year, I suppose... Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis The setting, a free village in Canada populated by former slaves who have escaped from America, is extraordinary. Curtis must have researched the dickens out of this location and these free Canadian communities. Protagonist Elijah was born into freedom, which makes him an unusually naive character when he comes to interface with the wider world. This takes 3/4 of the book to happen, however, and though it's a nice meander, the page count is mighty high by the time the main action of the plot ensues. Still, Curtis takes on the topic of slavery like no one yet has in children's literature, and his naive protagonist is the perfect character to have encounter the brutality of slavery. And it is brutal, to the tune of brief nightmare-inducing images of a man who was tortured, mutilated in a way that I wish I could get out of my

Ah, the good old days of vacation reading....

I remember winter break as if it were only yesterday. Actually, it technically ended day before yesterday. For me, it ended after Jan. 1, when I had to start cranking out my paper for the ALISE conference. Here's some of what I read in those now bygone days... Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen An old man, now in a nursing home, flashes back to his younger days when he ran away and became a circus vet, met the love of his life, and witnessed a gruesome murder. This is a good read, page-turning, and heartbreaking in places but ultimately hopeful. Hopeful because we don't have to give up dignity, even if our circumstances seem wretched. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh You can see why women's self-help gurus of today might want to trace their origins back to this vaunted little tome. A couple of quotes: On honesty: "I find that I am shedding hypocrisy in human relationships. What a rest that will be! The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered

Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins

I skimmed the above book at rapid-fire pace today, and here's what I came away with: Jenkins is all about how multiple forms of media allow consumers to become participants. He wrote chapters on the group that tried to sleuth out how each season of Survivor would end by analyzing the footage frame-by-frame, the American Idol participatory phenomenon, and the Matrix with its "transmedia storytelling" through 3 movies, games, and websites. Jenkins writes: "Transmedia storytelling is the art of world making." And I think of all those fantasy novelists who have always been involved with world making, but their worlds were specific to the medium of print. Except when there were also role playing games... "Transmedia storytelling" is an interesting idea, and one I imagine I'll be mulling over for awhile. Finally, he has a chapter on Harry Potter, which I know I'll be assigning to my students for next fall, because it's all about children a

Sherman Alexie, Circadian Rhythms

(nothing so fun as catching typos like "Alexia" for "Alexie" in posts that are months old... long-time GSLISers will know why I made the error....) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie What they're saying is true, this is a beautiful book. From the scene where Junior's new friend Gordy tells him that books and learning should give him a "metaphorical boner" to the scene where his mom rejects the gift of a pow-wow dancing outfit from the white man Ted (not that Ted fully understands that his hand-outs are being scoffed at, but all the folks on the res do), this book is outstanding. Alexie shows the frustration of being the only "Indian" at his high school besides the mascot. There's a section from this that I'll be reading to my storytelling classes this spring to spark discussions about cultural ownership. Two quotes, both relevant to storytelling in different ways: "So Coach and I sat awake a

Great Reading, Not-So-Great Holidays

This is not the place to complain, but the holidays could have been better this year. Fortunately, I devoted much of my time to the escapist reading of these great books: Rita Gelman, Tales of a Female Nomad Not the best written book in the world, in that there's not a strong narrative binding her wanderings together, but I was in the mood to read about someone else's wandering and it was perfect for that. Gelman has built a life around moving from place to place while also making deep attachments while she's in a place. Her tricks for gaining entree include wearing the local dress and cooking with the groups of women, wherever groups of women are cooking. The author is made of iron, which I envy, but when all's said and done I'd rather be an armchair traveler. She takes us to Mexico, Nicaragua in the '80s, Bali for 8 years, New Zealand, and on various trips back to the states as she maintains ties to her own family even as she builds deep relationships els

Giving up one of many possible paths

I went and saw The Golden Compass on the big screen this week. It was fun, but I echo the comments of others who told me it would be pretty disorienting without the book. I really enjoy the villification of religion, simply because it's such a refreshing change of pace from fantasies where the good is implicitly God. But the point of mentioning Pullman was actually to segue to multiple universes... if I could be all the researchers I want to be, if I could follow every passion, then I would certainly devote some time to trying to scare up the existence and contents of libraries that were in reform schools for kids in the 19th century. The 1876 report Public Libraries in the U.S. has some great leads in this regard. And I found these books.... --Schlossmann, Steven L., Love and the American Delinquent: The Theory and Practice of "Progressive" Juvenile Justice, 1825-1920 --Clapp, Elizabeth J., Mothers of all Children: Women Reformers and the Rise of Juvenile Courts