28 April 2008

Review:: Yotsuba&! (manga)

Spring is here! Know what you need? A little bit o' love from the most adorable little girl in contemporary manga: Yotsuba (yotsu: four, ba: leaf). She is the main character in the Kiyohiko Azuma masterpiece Yotsuba&!-- which should be pronounced as Yotsuba to (as in, Yotsuba toh).

Now if you're familiar with Azumanga Daioh, then you know what I mean when I explain Yotsuba as a cross between Chiyo-chan, Osaka, and Tomo-chan. Basically, get ready for some irresistible shenanigans from Yotsuba herself as the constant main attraction. She's a little strange and she might be a foreigner. She's sometimes blunt, sometimes quite slow, but completely adorable. You may see her ecstatic or angry or confused, but that girl is never depressed, never emo.

The storyline consists of different vignettes, allowing the reader to really get to know the characters and sometimes be surprised by them. (For example, you might just be in awe of Jumbo's profession.) Sometimes the adults are quite child-like, and the kids are more mature. Classic Azuma here. Thankfully, Yotsuba is not the only one entertains. They characters are all in it together, whether they want to or not. From tackling global warming to cicadas to teru teru bouzu, Yotsuba&! is such a joyful and gorgeous chaos.

9 of 9!
It would be easy to ensure that the characters stay funny by keeping them static. They rarely fall into the same old gag, and if they do, it's because it was darn hilarious in the first place. There are very few characters here who are normal. They are all quirky and special in their own way.
Some people might find that the vignette format gets a bit repetitive after a while. I had to take breaks but that was because I wanted to spread out the joy.
Anyone and everyone with a sense of humor. For all ages, really. Awesome!
Like it? Try this!::
Azumanga Daioh, of course. There's nothing quite like that Azuma magic.
Further Notes::
I know what you're thinking. Maybe you just don't do cute. Maybe you're not won over by the flower cupid, as shown in the pic above. You know, I cannot speak highly enough of this series. I read the first five volumes and it just didn't get old. It brings a warm glow to my face anytime I talk about it. Ha ha. And you know how some things are billed as "laugh-out-loud funny" but they really aren't? This one is. It totally, totally is.

Share it with all you love.

Yotsuba&!, Volume 1. By Kiyohiko Azuma. ADV Manga, 2005. 232 pages. $9.99.

26 April 2008

Review:: Ojo (Graphic Novel)

I was perusing the graphic novels shelf at the library and saw this one staring out at me with a curious and benevolent eye.


So, yes, I was immediately drawn to it-- partly because it's published by Oni Press but mostly because the title is Spanish for "eye." Culturally, when you give someone "ojo"... well, it's like the evil eye. Bad luck can run rampant simply with an ill-meaning stare. Although this story is more about coping with loss instead of flaky luck.

Annie is a young girl who has lost her mother and is rather obsessed with death. She's struggling, as anyone would, to come to terms with the loss and how it affects the people she knows: her well-meaning grandfather, her rather grouchy sister, and the father that may or may not ever come back. This story could have gone either way-- really sappy or really goth-- but instead it's, gloriously, somewhere in between. The creativity is impressive (watch out for the charismatic mysterious trout!) and the story only lulls right before it ends.

The best part? Seeing Annie love. Seeing her mess up. Seeing her grow. Seeing her begin to acknowledge the pain in her life. In other words, this story is all about Annie, even when you can see her making the wrong choices.

This one has been illustrated by 3 different artists and I found the differences really distracting. Plus, some pages are jam packed with graphics, making the content really hard to read. Clearly, that's the point, and that's quite alright. For every page that didn't work with me, I was given a masterpiece.

7.13 of 9.
One of the strongest elements of this piece is the characterization of Annie. She may be a troubled ten-year-old but she is quite maternal and fierce. This is definitely one to be remembered.
Moderate. At times I felt that the page was much too crammed with information and the story definitely lost me right before the last few pages.
Mature teens and up. I felt particularly nauseous after a humorous take on inner organs. Nope, not for me, so I would not necessarily recommend it to a younger audience. Although, some of them do love that stuff.
Like it? Try this!::
I couldn't help but be reminded of Emily the Strange through all this.
Further Notes::
I was riveted to this one during the appetizer portion of this book, then it lost me during dinner. The dessert, however, was extra sweet and special. Definitely a worthwhile read.

24 April 2008

Randomness:: Now that's what I'm talking about!

I'm at a nice, obviously renovated library in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. Not only does it have great sunlight, functioning Wi-Fi, and tables with electrical outlets (hear that, Panera?), but I just had a sweet conversation with a librarian.

I was curious about
  • the quiet space in the library
  • the available access to the internet on my laptop
  • the person I go to if I have any problems
She really went out of her way to make sure that I knew everything. I thanked her, walked away, but then she flagged me down to tell me something she'd forgotten. In other words, she really cared about my experience as a patron and wanted me to be well-informed.

Then I told her I was in library school and just about finishing up my degree. And she-- get this-- high fived me! Sweetness. What do I keep saying about being supportive of those poor suckers like me working on their MLS?

Be friendly!
Help if you can!
Be made of awesome!

That high five has carried me well into the second hour of being here. I'm all warm and fuzzy and I shall treasure it in my heart as long as I live. Or until I forget and some starry-eyed library student reminds me of what it's like to fight for our right to library.

Okay, so that sentence makes no sense but no matter.

High fives rock!

22 April 2008

Randomness:: I'm famous! Nearly. Almost.

Hallelujah, Matthew Holm!

It looks like my blog post on Babymouse has been noticed by none other than the author/illustrator himself. I know that Aimee Friedman found my blog and commented on my review of her graphic novel Breaking Up-- which was way exciting. Matthew, however, actually posted on his blog.

About me.

Oh yeah.

Lo and behold, his comments about me. Here's my favorite part.


"[I'm] glad she's entering the fray. The country needs more children's/teens' librarians—especially multilingual ones."

Woo. Hoo. To think that he posted this months and months ago and I'm only just now finding it. Thanks to friend and fellow librarian hopeful A. Koehler for telling me she googled me-- which inspired me to google myself, which I rarely ever do.

Y muchísimas gracias a ti tambien, Matthew! Yes, I am living in Pittsburgh but I'm moving back home to Texas shortly. Sorry I missed your fabulous TLA presentation but I'm sure we'll meet at some point.

Oh, and for those of you fascinated by graphic novels, here's a fascinating entry by him.

Y a todos ustedes que leen mi blog, después nos vemos!

21 April 2008

Randomness:: ALA baby!

Thanks to the Mejor Futuro/Better Future Scholarship, I am going to the American Libraries Association (ALA) Conference in Anaheim, CA in late June/early July. Can you tell that I'm excited? I get to go to California to meet YA authors and I don't have to pay for it! Hells yeah!

Library conferences and I go way back. To April 2007. Okay, so we don't exactly have a long and intimate history together but that Texas Library Association (TLA) Conference in San Antonio influenced my career tremendously. At that point, I was still indecisive about whether I wanted to be an academic or public librarian. I have quite the disposition for either, really. However, when I found myself buggering off to YA talks only, I knew I'd pretty much made my choice. I was a changed woman after that!

And why not? I met Scott Westerfeld!
And Justine Larbalestier!
And Rick Riordan!
And John Green!
And Avi!
And Stephenie Meyer!

In an instant there was no going back. I was a true blue YA junkie.

So I stood in line.

I bought books.

I talked to other librarians.

I bought more books.

And I stood in more lines.

I'm serious. Once I got the author fever, that's all I wanted to do. Meet writers. Talk to them. Get their autographs. I remember getting to the point where I didn't care who the author was. I just wanted that author lust in my veins!

At one point, I saw a short author line. It was for Cecil Castellucci. I'd never heard of her till then. Yes, I was a Castellucci virgin. Yes, I now see the error of my ways. Anyway, I paid $10 for a book by this writer who was a stranger to me, just so I could take a picture with her and get her autograph. Once I got to talk to her, I asked if she minded if I whipped out my camera for a two-shot. The wench said she was feeling sick and would rather not. By my account, she looked just fine. I was pissed that I, a struggling student, paid for some book with pink leopard print on the cover only to be lied to.

Ha ha. Well, there was no point in getting pissed off. And really, all is forgiven when you get to meet Stephenie Meyer. But I tell the Cecil Castellucci story for a reason. I mean, she can do whatever she wants to. And it kind of taught me a lesson. Don't buy books from divas-- I mean, writers that you know nothing about. Know who's who. Be a more informed librarian. And don't take anything personally. Writers are people too and that kind of meet and greet is exhausting. Yes, even if you're paying for their books. So yeah, no pictures of Cecil Castellucci here. And that's cool. She is going to be at ALA... and so are several other YA authors... If I get a pic with her, cool. If not, whatevs.

Because I've learned a valuable lesson. It's not about being author struck. It's about the *literature*. That said, here's a list of authors I don't know that much about but will take pictures of anyway. See YALSA's Young Adult Author Coffee Klatch.

Really, I was lucky at TLA. I have been told that TLA rocks so much because it's such a large conference-- since it's such a large state that brings in many attendees-- and it's worthwhile for the big names to stop by. I mean, Isabel Allende! Oh she made me weep. It was a very emotional moment, hearing her speak. My mother turned me on to Allende's work, and I know that mom would have been so overcome to see this picture of me and esta señora chilena llena de literatura y gracia.

Just imagine what it's going to be like to go to a national conference! I promise to not act like such a newbie. I will be all calm and cool and collected when I get to see John Green again as I totally rock an uber loud and homemade Nerdfighters shirt.


06 April 2008

Road Map:: Brookline, Whitehall, Baldwin, and Pleasant Hills Libraries

More library jumpy pictures! This is the first batch of the month, all taken during April Fool's Day while we were in search of the ideal external hard drive for my laptop.

a) Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh: Brookline
Pittsburgh, PA (04.01.08)

Unfortunately, we didn't have quarters for parking, so my husband stayed outside in the car while I perused the inside of this modern and adorable library. Hence, there's only one picture of this fabulous branch, though I do intend to go back soon. The children's department in particular was quite spacious, colorful, and accessible.

Brookline Library + renovations = Work it, lib!

Our quest to a nearby Circuit City was easily sidetracked here. I normally like to do 3 libraries in one outing but this trip took us to 4. Yeah, baby! You know that when we see that library sign on the road, we're *definitely* pulling over-- provided that there is still enough natural light to take a picture.

b) Whitehall Public Library
Pittsburgh, PA (04.01.08)

This is a district library that definitely had a welcoming feel. The coolest thing I noticed here was a flyer for a tea party. A very merry un-birthday to all! I'd love to do something like that eventually.

What do you think about this library's decorations, as seen in this pic? I was definitely impressed by them, because they seem inexpensive, fun to make, and like several people contributed to creating them.

What a fabulous way for patrons to leave a part of themselves at the library!

c) Baldwin Borough Public Library
Pittsburgh, PA (04.01.08)

Again, the loopy drive around South Hills led us to this library, which has one of the coolest locations of any library I've ever visited. It's right on top of a hill (sweet!), and it's in a magistrate's office that definitely has a '50s high school, Back to the Future feel. I'd already met the teen librarian there at the Teen Summer Reading seminar.

The YA fiction section was small but I totally dig the red furniture. This is one of those libraries that proves that it is possible to:

a) do what you can with the space you have, and

b) still have it look awesome.

d) Pleasant Hills Public Library
Pittsburgh, PA (04.01.08)

This is another library that tries hard to do the best with what it has. Upon entering, the staff worker asked me if I needed help finding anything in particular. She explained that items can easily be ordered if I didn't find what I was looking for.

This is rare and way cool! That way, patrons know exactly what their options are. I know that some people don't like to wait for items, so they don't take advantage of this service. Still... Knowledge is powah.

Speaking of powah...

After we left Pleasant Hills, we finally made it to Circuit City, where we got a large external hard drive for less than half of the marked price. ("Apparently, this one's on sale!") It could have been a coincidence...

... Then again, it could also have been the powah of da library!

*Freaky Twilight Zone music in the background*