Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Nif's Recent Reads: Five Titles That Bear Absolutely No Relation to One Another Except That Nif Just Read Them, Plus Two Books That Nif Wants To Finish If She Ever Gets Time

Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon (Little, Brown, $24.99)
I picked it up because Rachel Simon and I both went to Bryn Mawr (at different times) and I was intrigued because it featured an interracial couple with disabilities. Moving and heartwarming.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Penguin, $19.99)
I was excited to see a true sequel to Graceling, and it was very satisfying. Now I have to go back and read the companion novel, Fire. This series is sure to please fellow fans of young adult fantasy.

Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller (Norton, $25.95)
All about the corruption of the olive oil industry. The book made me eye the bottle on the shelf next to my stove with sad suspicion. Then I went out and bought a bottle of something much fresher and more tasty. Good food = good health!

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (Penguin, $17.99)
Disclaimer: I am one of John Green's legion of YouTube fans. That said, of all the books I have read this year, this is the one I am most glad to have read. It's going to stay with me for a long time.
Hazel and Augustus are snarky nerds who meet at a support group for teens with cancer and fall in love. Incredibly life-affirming, and much funnier than you would expect. Sad too, of course, but deeply satisfying.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Random House, $15.99)
A boy with serious facial deformities leaves homeschooling for middle school. Brave kid. I really liked how the point of view shifted from the kid himself to the various people in his life. His presence was a test of character for the whole community. My coworker found me dissolved in tears at the end (in a good way). Lovely.

Two more books that Nif wants to finish if she ever gets time:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Random House, $26.00)
Wow, the descriptions of the extroverts at the beginning frightened me. I'll pick up again when I've calmed down. Preferably when I can read it in a quiet room all by myself.

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker (Viking, $40.00; paperback coming in September!)
I picked it up because I had just re-read The Language Instinct. (You know it's good when you keep your assigned reading from college and re-read it several times over the next 20 years.)
The argument is that humanity has been becoming less violent over time. I found the examples of just how violent and uncouth we as humans used to be both disgusting and compelling. Did you know that medieval etiquette manuals FOR ADULTS instructed folks not to blow their noses on the tablecloth or pee on the curtains? I believe Steven Pinker when he says that we've improved!
The text is dense, leavened slightly by lots of charts and graphs, which is why I put it down. But I do want to see it through to the end.

Jennifer Woodfin, August 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Claudia's August Recommendations for Writers-to-Be

Last spring I took a writing workshop with Mount Airy's Writing Highness Minter Krotzer. It was an inspiring experience and convinced me to become famous in this field and have my name on the New York Times Bestseller List. These are my tools to lead me to the road to success:

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White (Longman, $9.95)

Tyrannosaurus Lex by Rod L. Evans
(Penguin, $14.00)

Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge
(Random House, $13.95)

For Writers Only by Sophy Burnham
(Penguin, $15.95)

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
(Random House $15.95)

Claudia Vesterby, August 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Janet's Five Kind and Courteous Books for August

"And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God."
Taken from:
Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Random House, $15.99)
August is home-schooled until fifth grade due to a severe facial deformity. The lessons learned about courage, integrity and the heart are presented in the format of a kids’ chapter book personally recommended for every age.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (Dell, $6.99)
Stargirl is a young adult book about a holy woman in a teen body and culture. It may be helpful to go on to the sequel.

Excuse Me by Karen Katz (Grosset and Dunlap, $4.99)
Complete with a set of stickers, this children's book is an introduction to polite expressions.

Words Are Not For Hurting by Elizabeth Verdict (Free Spirit, $7.99)
Found in the parenting section, Words Are not For Hurting is one of a series of board books with very clear messages for toddlers. Some adults might benefit as well. "Some words are loud, and some are soft. Some are kind, but some are not."

Apple by Nikki McClure (Abrams Appleseed, $12.95)
A new arrival at the bookstore, this simple kids’ picture book makes me take a deep breath and relax...a few moments of yoga for you and your child. And when we are more relaxed, we tend to be kinder...

So be a little kinder than is necessary...especially to the staff at Big Blue Marble Bookstore.

Janet Elfant, August 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jen’s Five Revisionist Fairy Tales, Plus One Book of Important Advice

Just as some of the fairy-tale movies out this summer* don’t follow traditional narratives, these books take traditional tales as their starting points and then go their merry ways...

Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley (HarperCollins, $6.99)
If Cinderella had had a pragmatic and practical next door neighbor, how might their stories have compared...?
[picture book]

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (HarperCollins, $6.99)
An explanation we’ve all been waiting for. What a nice fairy godmother to offer a newborn the gift of obedience....Not.
[kids’ chapter book]

Ash by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown, $8.99)
Another Cinderella tale, with a vastly different take on the world of Fairy. [young adult]

Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst (Penguin, $7.99)
And supposing you’re a basically regular kid in central Massachusetts who has to keep all the stories of fairyland safe and tame under your bed?
[kids’ chapter book]

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins, $7.99)
The witches of Lancre are called upon (or at least one of them is) to take over fairy-godmothering in distant Genua, where they are charged with the difficult task of making sure the story doesn’t happen.

Instructions by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Charles Vess (HarperCollins, $14.99)
What to do if you suddenly find yourself entering a folktale or fairy story. Beautiful pictures; sage advice.
[picture book for all ages]

*This is our final list based on the Summer Fairytale/Superhero Movie Promotion! Go fetch your tickets, and bring them in before Labor Day...

Jennifer Sheffield, August 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cordelia's Pick of Five Fairytale Collections

Only a few weeks left of our Summer Fairytale/Superhero Movie Promotion! Here and in the next post we'll sneak in a few final suggestions...

Grimms' Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
(Puffin-Penguin, $4.99)

Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales, told by Virginia Hamilton
(Blue Sky Press, $25.99)

The Barefoot Book of Father & Daughter Tales (Book & Story CD included), retold by Josephine Evetts-Secker
(Barefoot Books, $23.99)

The Barefoot Book of Princesses (Book & Story CD included), retold by Caitlin Matthews, Olwyn Whelan & Margaret Wolfson
(Barefoot Books, $15.99)

The Barefoot Book of Fairytales, retold by Malachy Doyle (Barefoot Books, $23.99)

Cordelia Jensen, August 2012

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Poetic Profile: Bonnie MacAllister

Bonnie MacAllister will be teaching a Collaborative Multimedia Poetry Workshop this Saturday, August 4th from 2:00-4:00pm. For further details or to register, please email

The following interview with Bonnie is reposted from the very first post in our Poetic Profile series!


Another new Big Blue Marble blog series! Poetic Profiles will be asking local poets and writers five questions about writing, life, and books. We're starting the series with the multidisciplinary and very talented Bonnie MacAllister.

1) How would you describe your poetry?

Examining sound and syntax through uncommon combinations, my verse thrives on a chopping constructs and forms often four or five line stanzas: rarely rhymed, strictly metered, intensely syllabic, occasionally crafted sestinas, a deconstructed breath verse.

I publish small editioned chapbooks including SOME WORDS ARE NO LONGER WORDS and PAID IN GOATS and collaborate to produce poetic films. The chapbooks are in permanent collections including the Zine Library at Barnard College, the Utopian Library in Viareggio, Italy, Concentrated Experimental Poetry, and la GalerĂ­a del MEC, Montevideo, Uruguay. My book, IN THE AFTERMATH, currently in production will become part of the new Brooklyn Art Library, formerly Art House Co-op in Atlanta, Georgia.

My work has appeared in venues such as Helix, Parlour, Black Robert Journal, nth Position (UK), Dead Drunk Dublin and Other Imaginal Spaces…(Ireland), Turtle Ink Press (Pushcart Prize Nomination 2007), the Feminist Journal, and Paper Tiger Media (Brisbane).

2) How does poetry fit into your everyday life?

As an educator, I have taught urban youth populations from 5th -12th grades in language arts, reading, mural arts, performance poetry, breath verse, zine creation and theatre through schools and non-profit organizations such as the Mural Arts Program, and the Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival. I conducted workshops at Shaw Middle School’s Sonia Sanchez Literacy Night and at Temple University for Central High School’s Philadelphia Immigration and Culture Conference. I have only taught in high need schools in urban settings so I understand the necessity of instilling hope and optimism in this youth through the work.

As a teacher of British and World Literature and French Language at the new Arise Academy Charter High School for students who have been in the foster care system, I am also the academic advisor for the Arise SUNRISE, the student art and literary magazine with a staff of seventeen students. These students came to me with piles of poetry and sketchbooks filled with art so our group fills a definite need for them.

3) What poets and/or authors inspire you?

My English and French students read poetry in my classes including some personal favorites such as Edmund Spenser, John Keats, T. S. Eliot, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Leopold Sedar Senghor (Senegal), Dr. Tanure Ojaide (Nigeria), and Ken Saro-Wiwa (Nigeria).

My preferred poets have been the same since I was a teen: Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Louise Gluck, Marge Piercy, Elizabeth Bishop, Mary Oliver, and Sylvia Plath. Antonin Artaud and Haruki Murakami have also become obsessions for me over the last two decades.

My favorite local poets are Beth Boettcher, Jane Cassady, Monica Pace, Dr. Niama Williams, Gabrielle Casella, Michelle Wilson, and Lora Bloom. Fortunately, I can call all of these talented ladies dear friends.

4) How does the community of Philadelphia play a part in your poetry?

I have hosted poetry events at the Wilma Theatre, the Highwire Gallery, and October Gallery. As an active member of the Women’s Caucus for Art Philadelphia, I hosted a 2009 women’s poetry reading at the Plastic Club. I performed on the curated Nexus Radio Project for a show of zinester artists. In Philadelphia, I have upcoming performances at the Rotunda for Gabrielle Casella’s Poet-tree In Motion for Women’s Her-story Month on March 3rd at 7 p.m., Radio Eris’ Temple of Eris in West Philadelphia on March 13th, and July 1st for the Lights of Unity Association Festival of the Friends of the Free Library. I love to collaborate with Lora Bloom on the Temple of Eris stage.

My previous background was in poetry slams in the United States and in France, but I no longer perform in those and prefer multimedia collaborations in film, art, and sound installations. I attempt to render moments through a variety of media. Often pieces are multi-genre, fusing painting, photography, slide installations, spoken word, video, and performance. I have shown visual art in Italy, Uruguay, Belgium, France and various university galleries in the United States.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.

Lately I’ve been reading a bit of Ethiopian poetry in preparation to teach the work in the spring. Last summer, I was fortunate to be awarded a 2009 Fulbright-Hays award to travel to Ethiopia to study history, culture, and migration. I am still digging through the suitcase of books I brought back. Two favorites are certainly Asafa Tefera Dibaba: Decorous Decorum and Lulit Kebede and Wossen Mulatu: Ribbon of the Heart.

Dibaba is an Oromo national (one of Ethiopia’s 80 different ethnic groups) who writes in English punctuated by the Oromo language. His work examines the idea of nationality and country through both gorgeous and sometimes bawdy, controversial poetry. He now teaches Literature and Folklore in the College of Education, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia where he is a PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature.

Lulit Kebede and Wossen Mulatu are two young college educated women writers living in the capital, Addis Ababa, whose artistic and poetic collaboration, Ribbon of the Heart tackles important issues such as HIV, street prostitution, women’s roles, and foreign corporate infiltration of a country so fiercely proud of its independent status in Africa as a country never colonized.

Bonnie MacAllister is an artist, author, and educator. She is a 2009 Fulbright-Hays awardee to Ethiopia, a 2007 Pushcart Prize Nominee and five time slam poetry champion in the United States and France. Publication credits include Black Robert Journal, Paper Tiger Media, Dead Drunk Dublin and Other Imaginal Spaces, and nth Position. MacAllister has most recently exhibited at the Utopian Library in Viareggio, Italy and in la GalerĂ­a del MEC, Montevideo, Uruguay.

She is an active member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Women's Caucus for Art and fundraises for Girls Gotta Run Foundation which sponsors Ethiopian girls' running teams. Bonnie teaches French and British Literature at the new Arise Academy Charter High School for foster children in Center City. She is the webmaster for the Fulbright-Hays Ethiopia outreach website which offers teacher resources on Ethiopia.