Tuesday, May 31, 2011

BULLETIN BOARDS & DISPLAY : Graduation & summer break

          I was feeling uninspired regarding a few of the bulletin boards, since it's the end of the school year and we're having lots of drama, with the Librarians being laid off, and the Library techs being cut from 11 months to 10.  Then suddenly today I realized we'd be having people from "the community" in the Library this Thursday, for something called "Senior portfolio presentations."  That means board members could saunter in here, and it shouldn't have the look of bitter resignation.
          I was trying to think of some "goodbye" slogan for the seniors, and remembered those awesome singing dolphins in Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy," how they sing that adorable little song right before they leave Earth and the planet explodes.  It seems appropriate, and literary.
Douglas Adams reference
           Then I had this great idea to make one of those coin-operated fortune teller booths, only instead of "You will meet a tall dark stranger," it would be spitting out the names of colleges our students might be accepted to.
"What does the future hold?"
          Some of the colleges I included are UC San Diego, UC Riverside, Pepperdine, NYU Abu Dhabi, Cypress College, and more.  I asked one of my Library assistants to name all the colleges he could think of that our students had actually been accepted to this year, so the fortune teller wouldn't inadvertently taunt them with places none of them will get to go.  (It's getting more competitive every year)
Detail of the "fortune" coming out of the slot. I made it 3D! I'm awesome, right? Look at it.
          There's a long narrow bulletin board toward the back of the 'brary.  I used this one to encourage leisure reading, which hopefully the kids will have some time for this summer.  I figured I might as well continue with the baby shower colors, for the sake of consistency.
"Read something JUST FOR FUN this summer"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

BULLETIN BOARDS & DISPLAY : June is Gay & Lesbian Pride Month!

          OMG, this narwhale is totally freaked out about the final library due date of the year!  She's so worried that students won't clear their library and/or textbook fines until the last minute, creating a library traffic jam for poor Mr. Kovac!
The stunned, half-wild expression is what comes most naturally to me when I draw.  Why is that?
          Just to be different I papered the bulletin boards in the library (all 4 of them) with a charming combination of pink and blue/yellow stripes, accented with navy blue borders.  The Librarian came in and said, "Who's having a baby shower?"
          I snapped, "NOBODY is having a baby shower!  I just thought the pink and pastels would be sort of summery, and also gay, for Gay Pride Month."
On the left we have Gay Pride, on the right is Summer Reading
          I put this stuff up right before the weekend of Harvey Milk Day, which is May 22nd.  The first official Harvey Milk Day was last year, and I'd made this big poster with clip art I pulled off the internet and a picture of Harvey.  I like the slogan on the big white button that says, "If the fetus you save is gay, will you still fight for its rights?"
          Let's talk about the Gay Pride clown for a minute.  He's new this year.  I had made the conversation balloon last year for my June is Gay Pride Month bulletin board, and a squirrel was shouting, "Say it loud, say it proud!" But I don't know where the squirrel is now, so I had to draw a new loudmouth.
          I was thinking about the rainbow as a gay symbol, which I've never particularly liked because it's just so... well, GAY.  But then I thought about those Native American rainbow figures.  Dancers, warriors, whatever they are. 
Native American Rainbow person
           I thought I'd draw my own version of one of those, because that would seem clever, right?  It would allude to existing mythology, AND tie in with Gay Month.  Sort of.  But as you can see, my little rainbow guy came out looking nothing like the Native American rainbow icon.  Before I knew it, he had morphed into a sort of mean-looking clown.  I was a little concerned that "clown" imagery would be a poor choice for Gay Pride Month, but I left my clown on the board because I like him.  Despite his playful appearance, he looks like he would NOT take shit from anybody.  And that's a good message for the gay kids, right? 
There's that half-wild expression again, but with a touch of menace. Is the clown dangerous? If you aren't gay & proud, will there be consequences?
          The other three bulletin boards are not pictured because I haven't finished with them, yet.  As we careen closer to the end of the school year, I'll have less and less time & energy for that, so those other boards may end up with quick and ill-tempered slogans like, "See ya, wouldn't wanna be ya," or, "So long, suckas."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

DISTRACTING AUTHOR PHOTO : Aprilynne & her tutu

          Maybe I shouldn't be so critical, but I find it just a little pretentious for a writer with books like "Wings," "Spells," and "Illusions" (young adult magical romance series) to be wearing a tutu in her author photo on the book jacket.  A TUTU, for Christ's sake.  
          "Oh, THIS old thing?  I guess I forgot I was surrounded by tufts of gauzy fairy magic...  It's just my way."
         
Aprilynne Pike: "I am serene in my choice of tutu..."

          IN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE:
          I myself have indulged in pretentious author photos, and will no doubt do so again in the future.

I don't drink, but this seemed like a funny set-up for my "Skelebunnies" author photo

This is for an upcoming convention program, with my pretentious feather pen(cil)

Monday, May 23, 2011

ROSEMARY'S WITCH : the better cover

Quite some time ago I did a post (here it is) about one of my favorite teen books which had an unfortunately horrible paperback cover illustration.  I was pretty sure I remembered the hardcover having a much cooler image, moodier and more indicative of the tone of the book.  
          Well, my mom, being the awesome mom that she is, found a copy of the hardcover through a rare book vendor and ordered it for me.  How sweet is that? 
The horrible "Babysitter's Club" style paperback cover
 
The awesome original hardcover image

Saturday, May 21, 2011

ONCE UPON A TIME ("The Two Caskets")

          In a previous post (The Two Caskets: inspiration for Alice In Wonderland?) I wrote about an animated movie I remember from childhood about a girl falling down a well to a magical land.  I couldn't remember the name of it, and hadn't been able to find a story it was based on.  But then I ran across a fairy tale called "The Two Caskets" in an anthology, and knew it was one and the same.  The problem is I couldn't find any record of a movie called "The Two Caskets."
          Finally, after trying every string of search keywords I could think of, I finally found it.  "Once Upon a Time," from 1976.  Then blog reader Muhammad Khalid wrote to let me know he also remembered the movie, and had discovered the name of it.  He went the extra mile and also included a link to where you can purchase it from Amazon.
          I rented it through Netflix, and it's been sitting there unwatched.  I keep thinking about it, but I'm afraid I'll be disappointed, that it won't be anywhere near as magical as my childhood self found it.  I think it was just the idea of a girl falling down a magical well to another world that set my mind a-whirl.  But there is a blue dog in it, and that's definitely a plus. 
          I remembered Disney's "Snow White" being chock-full of magic, horror, and adorable talking animals, but when I watched it as an adult I was stunned to find it slow and draggy, way too much time spent with those grimy little dwarves dancing and singing and acting like drunken morons.  And Snow White, sitting there clapping delightedly, like a slow girl.
          I had a similar disenchantment with the Smurfs.  I could go on a tirade about it, but that's for another day, and wouldn't do me or them any good.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BOOKMARKS (original art)- Cute & not-so-cute

          I doodled some more bookmarks on recycled cardboard card thingies.  The first was a cute pony-ish creature in space, but then I abruptly felt like drawing something NOT cute, possibly disturbing.
"Space Pony"
"Happy Panties"

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

MY DAILY MOMENT OF CHAOS

         
          This morning's chaos moment practically made my head explode, I think because I'm also battling congestion and a sinus headache. 
          Here's how it was:
          During one class period a few kids came in to work on an assignment as an alternate for the sex ed lesson (parents wouldn't sign permission slip). That started out very quietly, so I thought I could get a few things done while those kids were not learning about safe sex.
          I needed our site technology guy's help with a computer program so I could meet an ordering deadline that was last Friday. He showed up and crawled back and forth under my desk working on my computer. Then we had to call the school secretary for help, and she came over. So then I had the tech guy AND the secretary both looking over my shoulder and giving me directions.  We were still having problems with the program, and I was trying every combination of username and password I had scribbled on little notes in my wallet.
          A whole class showed up with their teacher to do World War II research, and the library suddenly filled to capacity. As the computer tech and the school secretary were still at my shoulder, bossily giving me contradictory directions, the teacher started yelling questions to me about the school's databases, wanting me to address the whole class and clarify where they should look for certain info. Right at that moment I was trying to set up new security questions & answers in the computer system, and the tech and the secretary were saying, "Just focus on the security questions!" and a student walked up to the desk and asked me, "Do you have this book in the library?" showing me a slip of paper with a title written on it.
          I answered the teacher, gave the class general directions, looked up the book title for the girl at the desk, re-set all my passwords, and generated the stupid purchase order.  Now it's time for another pot of coffee.
         
         

THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST by Rick Yancey

          My new absolute favorite horror series is "The Monstrumologist" by Rick Yancey.  I picked up the first volume as a free "advanced reading copy" from a library convention several years ago, and donated it to the school library. 
Pretty rad cover image, right? Puts one in mind of a "Cabinet of Curiosities"
          I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume, but it wasn't until I read the sequel, The Curse of the Wendigo, that I decided, "Okay, this is TOTALLY my new favorite series."

My review of The Curse of the Wendigo for Goodreads & Shelfari:

Even though I read very little YA lit, I read the first book in this series and totally loved it. This sequel just gets bigger and better, developing more of the complex themes and compounding the tragedy and poignancy. The writing is so poetic at times, subtle and artful. Weirdly enough, it's also some of the most gruesome and shockingly brutal horror I've read in a long time. "The Curse of the Wendigo" is about the Monstrumologist's search for a murderous creature with a penchant for removing its victims eyes and faces and doing "creative" things with them. Set in the late 1800s, the meat of the series is the incredibly complex relationship between the self-absorbed doctor ("Monstrumology," or the study of so-called monsters, being his specialty) and his 11-year-old charge Will Henry, whose father died while in the dangerous employ of the Monstrumologist. The doctor never officially adopts Will Henry, yet they have a powerful and multi-layered bond. The story is told from Will Henry's point of view, from journals found after his death, and his tale is truly heart-breaking, as his beloved doctor drags him into situations no child should endure. In this book Will Henry is presented with a terrible decision in a life-defining moment. I was riveted. The time period provides for some awesome set pieces and descriptions, plus cameos by notorious real life characters such as Algernon Blackwood and Bram Stoker.

Scary red Wendigo face!!!
          I would like to also add that Will Henry's painful yearning for Dr. Warthrop's love really pulls the reader in. Dr. Warthrop is so cold and analytical and demanding of poor Will Henry that when the doctor DOES finally show some glimpse of affection, it's practically heart-rending. Very effective, from a writerly standpoint. I catch myself making all sorts of embarrassing facial expressions when reading these books, gasping and blurting out, "Oh, no!" or, "Don't leave the baby in that creepy hallway!"
          You better hope you don't hear the Wendigo's voice calling your name on the high lonely wind... 

Friday, May 13, 2011

GO ASK ALICE (when she's wearing her white pants suit)

          Sometimes when a student is really effusive and passionate about a heavily issue-driven book, you have to pay attention and try to find out if the kid is trying to let you know that they themselves have (or are having) some of the same issues.
          Years ago at the junior high school we had a boy who was a library regular and he became really fixated on A Child Called It, which led to us discovering that he had been abused and neglected by his own mother.  Apparently she kept him locked in a closet for long stretches of time, as well as worse things.  Luckily the counselors already knew about all this and it was being addressed, but it helped that we knew, and could be part of his support network.
          A few weeks ago during our lunch-time library book club meeting, one of the girls was just on fire with passion about Go Ask Alice by "Anonymous."  She read us passages from it, and talked about what an impact it had on her.  She was almost breathless with emotion about the book.  The Librarian told us she remembers when it first came out and was very controversial because of the subject matter.  The book club kids asked why it was so controversial even for older teens, and I said something like, "Sometimes adults forget that kids are exposed to all kinds of things that we WISH they weren't," to which the girl replied quickly, "You have NO IDEA..." sort of under her breath.  Of course that made me go, "Hm..."
Go ahead.  Ask her.
          Most people are familiar enough with Go Ask Alice to know it's about teenage drug addiction, supposedly a real diary kept by a girl who lost her battle.  Because the publisher states that names and places had been changed to protect the privacy of the real families involved, it has to be kept in fiction.  Personally, I'm pretty sure it is TOTAL fiction, just based on very real issues.  But the publisher presents it like a real diary, which totally hooks the teens.
          I suggested the girl also read Jay's Journal, another supposedly real diary from the same publisher/editor.  As we were wrapping up our book club meeting, the girl implored me to read Go Ask Alice, saying she really wanted me to read it so we could talk about it.  How can I say no to that?  I checked it out that day, but it sat around at home for over a week since it's not the kind of thing I usually read.  I finally started it today.  I keep debating on whether or not I should worry about this girl's strong connection to the book.  Is there some kind of drama unfolding at home?  Or maybe she's just fascinated by the subject matter.  She's a good writer, and seems to like writing about the darker, grittier side of life. 
          Teens are tricky.  It's important to pay attention to them, but you also don't want to cause a fuss over nothing and embarrass them, so that they stop sharing things with you.
"Jay" is such a copycat.
          Go Ask Alice was published in 1971, and at first I was thinking the author had done a pretty good job being just vague enough with details about music, clothes, and movies to make it seem timeless.  But then I ran across a mention of "Alice" having her mother help her sew her own clothes for school.  Then she wears a "white pants suit" to a party, and I thought, "Oh, girl...."
          Then she puts her hair up with orange juice cans so it'll have just the right amount of curl at the ends.
          Aside from jarringly '60s/'70s details like that, I can totally see why this book appeals to teenage girls because "Alice" is quite melodramatic and prone to hyperbole.  Worried about boys, about popularity, her weight, her skin, her hair...
          I haven't yet come to the part where it all hits the fan, though.
          The next teen novel I need to read because of an adamant student recommendation is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, which I will probably easily relate to.
          (Not that I CAN'T relate to worrying about boys, popularity, weight, skin, and hair.)
Well, I like the chartreuse cover, so I guess I'll read it.
    

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

POETRY MONTH (late)

          Well, April was poetry month.  I displayed about 10 awesome and varied books on poetry right where the students sit at the computers, but none of them checked out. Either kids don't dig poetry anymore, or else there's just too much going on at school right now with all the state testing over the past few weeks. There was a TON of fiction checking out in April, but not poetry. At least I tried.
          I put up a giant rainbow-trimmed sign on the main bulletin board stating that it was POETRY MONTH. In one of my black frames I posted an excerpt from Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise," with a special banner dedicating it to all the Library staff in our school district because we're all feeling downtrodden and unappreciated from the budget cuts.  Here's part of the excerpt:

"Still I Rise" (excerpt)

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

          In the other black frame I put this fascinatingly strange poem by Charles Simic:

“The School Of Metaphysics”

Executioner happy to explain
How his wristwatch works
As he shadows me on the street.
I call him that because he is grim and officious
And wears black.

The clock on the church tower
Had stopped at five to eleven.
The morning newspapers had no date.
The gray building on the corner
Could've been a state pen,

And then he showed up with his watch,
Whose Gothic numerals
And the absence of hands
He wanted me to understand
Right then and there.

Clip-art cuckoo clocks and clock gears, with some question marks to indicate it's freeeaky, man.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

REDUCTION IN HOURS : yet more cuts to the Library

          I assumed the budget cuts to the Library would stop at the Teacher Librarians being wiped out (High School District Fires All Librarians), but then all the Library Technicians got letters from the district saying our jobs "might" be affected.  Next thing you know, we all received yet ANOTHER letter giving us official notice that we're all being cut to 10 months.  I am currently an 11-month employee, so I will be losing an ENTIRE MONTH of pay.  Obviously this sucks Melvil Dewey's rotting balls.
          The letter itself is insulting because of wording like this:

"Because of budgetary restraints and workload changes..."
         
          -I have noticed no workload changes, at least not a DECREASE in work load.  I still have a lot of stuff to do all the time, and the library gets used more than ever.  Since I've been working in that library, we have INCREASED our circulation to about TEN TIMES what it was before.  I'm not exaggerating.

"...classified employees subject to layoff for lack of funds or lack of work..."

          -Lack of funds OR lack of work?!  They couldn't say it's DEFINITELY because of lack of funds, they had to leave it open-ended so it sounds like maybe we were just sitting around with our thumbs up our butts, with nothin' to do?

"Education Code... allows an employee to take a voluntary reduction in lieu of a layoff. You may elect to accept employment with a decrease in months..."

          -I love this.  It's so KIND of them to ALLOW me to take a "voluntary" reduction.  Apparently they aren't allowed to change your work hours without your consent, you have to be presented with an option.  So our option is either accept the reduction in hours, or be laid off.  The situation sucks all the way around, like a poop cake frosted with barf.  (Sorry.)
          Of course we're all checking the box that says we accept the reduction, and signing it, because what else are we gonna do?  I understand that cuts have to be made because things are financially grim, but they're already planning to re-instate some of the after-school sports programs they were pretending to cut, and I'm sure there are other areas that could be trimmed-- areas less vital to education than a fully-functioning school library.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

BOOKMARKS (original art)

          We ordered about a million boxes of self-adhesive book pockets, to go with our new security system. In each box the two rows of closely-packed pockets are separated by a strip of cardboard that is the PERFECT size for a bookmark. I love drawing on cardboard because of the grainy texture and natural color, and the idea of recycling/re-using.
         
This one I think of as "Cthusie." (Cthulhu + Susie. Get it? Is it even funnier when I explain it?)
My husband asked me what their names are, and I don't know. I feel bad for the one on top, though.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

EXCESSIVE LABELING BUMS ME OUT

Is there really a need for this?:
"OVER SIZE" labels.  Lots of 'em.
          In the library I work in, a previous Librarian had invested in these redundant labels for the larger coffee table type books in our collection.  The kind of books that you glance at and immediately think, "Damn, that's a big book!"
          I mentioned it to the current Librarian, pointing out the "OVER SIZE" label on an obviously gigantic book and saying, "No shit."
          She explained that one of her predecessors used to keep all the oversized books in a special "OVER SIZE" section.  I guess in case a student came up to the desk and said, "Can you please help me? I would like to check out the most unwieldy book you have," and then you could just point them to the OVER SIZE section.
          I'm trying to understand this, because it must not be as stupid as it seems. The labels must have seemed necessary so that student library aides would know to shelve them in the "OVER SIZE" section, right? Because without that label, they'd never be able to figure out which books are really big?
          This pisses me off because when the books are lined up on the shelves, the only way they have of catching a potential reader's attention is by their spines. If you clutter the spines with all sorts of stupid labels, it is UNATTRACTIVE. 
          We recently received some donated books from a defunct library in our district, and they were practically obliterated with labels. First there were the necessary barcodes and call #s, but these poor books also had color-coded reading level stickers, reading program labels, and/or genre labels. In some cases you honestly could not read the TITLE of the book on the spine, because it was covered in labels. No one would choose that from a shelf.
          I peeled every unnecessary label from those books, sometimes having to coat the offending labels in Windex or rubbing alcohol until they would release their hold. In some cases I even removed the necessary spine label so I could re-position it so it didn't cover the title. I also re-positioned a bunch of the barcodes on the back, so they weren't obscuring the plot synopsis, which is ALSO important to potential readers.
          STOPPIT WITH THE LABELS, people!