Catching Fire (#2 Hunger Games Trilogy)

Image from the publisher at

Frankly, I liked Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins a lot, but didn’t love it like I did the Hunger Games. I’m not sure why, but I have a few ideas. For one thing, there’s not as much action and although I’m not usually an action kind of reader (or movie viewer, for that matter), the action of the games in the first book really captured my attention. The pace in the second installment is noticeably slower. Another thing is that I don’t think the love story really grabs me and in Catching Fire it’s an arranged marriage of sorts, which doesn’t interest me much even though I do like both characters (Katniss and Peeta). The love story has also evolved into a triangle including Gale. So, the focal point of Catching Fire is the 75th Annual Hunger Games (an abbreviated version) in which previous Hunger Games winners compete. Readers may find the history, politics, and other  details of the nation of Panem interesting since these are explored more thoroughly. I have to say I was taken by surprise by the cliffhanger ending. I liked that very much!

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Stitches: A Memoir

I gave Stitches: A Memoir by David Small to a friend for Christmas. She loved it and gave it back to me to read. David Small is an award-winning author and illustrator of more than 40 children’s books. He won the Caldecott Medal in 2001 for So You Want To Be President? My favorite book by Mr. Small is Imogene’s Antlers about a girl who wakes up one day and has antlers. It was a PBS Reading Rainbow selection for 10 years.
Back to Stitches which by the way was a National Book Award finalist. This memoir is also a graphic novel. The graphic novel genre expanded to nonfiction since the publication of Maus, a Holocaust story, by Art Spiegelman. Mr. Small tells a heartbreaking and moving story of a difficult childhood. His father was a doctor who repeatedly subjected him to x-rays to monitor a sinus problem. Mr. Small develops cancer as a result. He goes through surgery and loses his ability to speak as a result of vocal chord damage. Through all of this he is never told about the cancer. Mr. Small’s ability to draw is a constant in his life as well as a gift. The beautifully detailed illustrations in Stitches really do enhance the story. They are strong enough to elicit emotional responses from the reader. For more information about Mr. Small check out Powell’s Books for an interview with him.

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Book Review

I just finished reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. What a sad, but wonderfully told story. Early versions of the title include the subtitle, “a fable.” This Holocaust story is told from the perspective of nine-year-old Bruno whose family has just moved from Berlin to Auschwitz (which he pronounces Out-With.) Bruno doesn’t know what this place is or that his father is a Nazi officer. He is terribly lonely and homesick and befriends a young prisoner of war, Shmuel. Bruno secretly visits Shmuel every day and sneaks him food through the fence. These boys quickly form a strong bond of friendship. I am not going to go any farther with my summary so as not to spoil the story for you. It is touching and poignant. This book will definitely go on my list of favorite Holocaust literature. And for you page counters – it’s a short book that packs a wallop. This book was also made into a movie. For more information and reviews check Amazon.

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I love this!

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What a week! Two snow days and now bitter cold. For me it’s been all about reading and movie viewing? How about you? I hope students took advantage of the extra time to study for midterm exams.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Book CoverThe book club met and discussed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.  This is one of my favorite titles and it was a hit with the book club at my last school in Columbus, OH. I believe of all the books we read in that club this was the one book we were unanimous on. It’s the story of Christopher, a teenager who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and his quest to solve the mystery of who killed a neighborhood dog. Christopher is a complex character who is extremely likable. He’s a Math whiz who’s studying for a big exam so there are problems interspersed throughout the book.Because I had already read the book I decided to listen to it this time. I found it just as enjoyable (though you don’t get to see the Math problems). Maybe it was the British accent of the reader/actor!

The WHS book club has chosen an interesting title for next time.It’s House of Leaves by House of Leaves Book CoverMark Z. Danielewski recommended by book clubber Stephen Brikiatis. This is the first sentence from the review, “Had The Blair Witch Project been a book instead of a film, and had it been written by, say, Nabokov at his most playful, revised by Stephen King at his most cerebral, and typeset by the futurist editors of Blast at their most avant-garde, the result might have been something like House of Leaves.” Intriguing, right? Pick up a copy at the library if you’d like to join us.

What am I reading now? The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It’s a fascinating book written in a well-paced, journalistic style that chronicles the elusive search for a cure. I found it interesting that in the beginning of the book there are links to my hometown of Buffalo, NYSidney Farber who developed the first successful chemotherapy for childhood leukemia, was born in Buffalo and founded the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation in 1947 which is now the renowned Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The research of Roswell Park of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo is also written about. I’ll never forget my elementary school field trip there. We saw rats with cancer and the smoking machine that “smoked” 200 cigarettes at once. The machine in the image below is similar, but much smaller.

Cigarette smoking machine image from via Google images photo of Dr. Evarts Graham, founder of thoracic surgery, conducts research on cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

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Last Day Before Winter Break

Students Decorating Cookies

Students Decorating Cookies

The Library Media Staff provided treats for students today which included some cookies for decorating.  Turned out several are Culinary Arts students so it was perfect!
Where did the semester go? My goodness it flew. Especially after Thanksgiving. I am beginning to feel more settled in my  role at WHS. I have enjoyed getting to know the students during study halls or research instruction in the Media Center  and at various school activities. I hope they, and the teachers and staff, have a restful and restorative Winter Break. See you next year! 2011 – double number 1s, it’s gotta be good.

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Candy Jar Winner

Candy jar contest winner

Hannah Moore

Congratulations to Hannah Moore! She won the jar full of candy on the Media Center desk. Hannah’s guess was 243 pieces and there were 246 in the jar. It sure was fun watching students (and a few teachers) make their guesses. One teacher consulted the Internet to see how many M&M candies are in a bag. But what size bag did I use? Did I use the entire bag? A couple of students used rulers and the library staff answered lots of questions. I didn’t ask Hannah what her strategy was. I have a feeling it was just luck.

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