Monday, October 29, 2007

Turbosluts and class bitches

You know how Amazon lists the "key phrases" in each book it displays? Well, #3 on the list for Carol Plum-Ucci's The Body of Christopher Creed is "turboslut." Besides being a tasty piece of 90s slang, "Turboslut" tells us something about Plum-Ucci: she loves to endear us to the bad girls.

The Body of Christopher Creed has shown up on a number of summer reading lists in Providence, because educators think it's a quick-pick-with-issues. The plot revolves around a boy who is tortured by his classmates for 11 years until he suddenly disappears, leaving a mysterious e-mail that's either a suicide note or just a dig at his mom.

But forget Chris, because the truly interesting character is Ali, a.k.a. class slut. She's the cheerleader who can't keep her skirt down, and just being seen with her can get a boy in trouble with his girlfriend. But by the end of the novel, we're sympathizing with Ali, to the point where we want to tear out the hair (and earrings) of the girls who gossip about her.

In The She, which I liked even better, Plum-Ucci gets us to like Grey, a Queen Bee who drugs unsuspecting freshmen at parties and take cracks at the one-legged girl in class. Seriously.

That's Plum-Ucci's real claim to fame: she teaches readers that even turbosluts and bitches have backstories. Now I'm looking forward to checking out What Happened to Lani Garver. Who will Plum-Ucci trick me into liking next? The girl who sits on a toilet with asprin and vodka, calling her friends, threatening suicide? The girl who started the petition to kick me out of our lunch table? Or will I recognize myself this time?

Monday, October 15, 2007

your slang is whack

I cracked open A Sky Full of Stars by Rene Saldana, Jr., hoping for some eye-popping action that would appeal to boys. After all, it's about a kid who gambles on his best friend in an underground boxing match. The front flap promised Spanglish, fight scenes, card sharps, prize money and 1964 Fold Galaxies. Unfortunately, I couldn't get past the first chapter, because of lines like this: "What kind of friend pops a buddy in the schnozz for no good reason?" (2).

OK. No self-respecting person under the age of 50 says schnozz. My Dad says schnozz. I actually remember him accusing this high school friend of mine, CJ, of leaving a "schnozz print" on the windshield of his car. And it's OK for my Dad to say schnozz, because he's a 1950s boy straight outta Stand By Me. He sounds good saying schnozz. But not the pre-teens of today, people. They say, "Yo, I thought you was my boy. Why you trying to get dumb?" They don't even mention schnozzes.

I'm not bringing this up so I can hate on Saldana. (He's in Guys Write for Guys Read. I'm sure he has a lot going for him.) I have the same problem with Carol Gorman, who, in her recent effort, Games, has one kid trash-talk another by comparing him to Yosemite Sam. Yosemite Sam? Really? And I see this in alot of books for boys. I guess it's OK for girls to talk in Standard English (always hated the caps on that), but guys are supposed to use slang and sound tough. So authors give it their best shot, but they're not even on the court.

I mean, if you don't know any kids, you can at least watch TV, right?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

How do you like your coffee?

So I'm worried that my storytimes are really white, and I don't know if reading books with pretty colored kids is enough to make my programs welcoming to everyone. So I was researching children's rhymes from difference cultures and I found this site: CocoJams, which documents African-American children's rhymes.

The webmaster and brain-mother of the site, Azizi Powell, has a scholarly background and a smart way of moderating other people's contributions. And my favorite part was discovering that some of the jumprope rhymes I used to sing were literally white-washed. Check this out. I grew up singing:
I like coffee, I like tea
I like the boys and the boys like me!
Apparently, some other girls were singing:
I like coffee, I like tea
I like a black boy and he likes me
So step back, white boy, you don't shine
I'll get a black boy to beat your behind.
Should've known the real things was more raw than what we sang in the suburbs ...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I feel so exposed!

Amazingly, this Emily also takes on the combined Army, Navy, Air Force, and Special Forces--all in defense of her rabbit! Reminds me of summer camp ...