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Christie’s TLA in a Nutshell

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So I had an awesome time at the Texas Library Association last week. I got to meet Justin the Librarian and we talked and mutually fancrushed, and I got some wonderful ideas from his makerspace presentation that I’m implementing. He also reinforced what I’ve been thinking and saying (mumbling) all along:
IF YOU HAVE A TABLE and a CRAFT, you have a MAKERSPACE.
JUST DO IT.
 Karen and I got in tons and tons of author lines,
and I got hugs, HUGS I TELL YOU from Alex London!!!
We had dinner with Little, Brown Publishing and got to chat with Holly Brown, Kami Garcia, Paolo Bacigalupi and Libba Bray….
Did I mention Libba Bray?
 
Karen had a moment…  I had mine later with Rae Carson, Alex London,
and Laini Taylor, to name a few….


 
 I then crashed the Maverick’s 5th anniversary party on the advice of WONDER WOMAN ( @librariansti) who was at my panel in the morning, and while no one told me it was a fancy dress party, I actually found my people!
If you don’t know, the Maverick Graphic Novel List is an annual list done by librarians across Texas to recommend graphic novels to librarians of ll areas of interest. Tuan (the Joker above) was one of the founders, and I am going to haunt him for an interview for our Comic Week coming up.
And I got to meet some of the wonderful teens on Thursday who got to take advantange of the Teen Day- it’s an awesome program and if you can get your administration to do it, go for it. They get discounts, and a room just for them, and special speakers- and wonderful energy. (Otterbox rules!)
The exhibits wonderful, and I really enjoy how Texas does it’s author signings- with the majority of them in numbered booths to the side in a specific area. I really wish those at ALA would take note- it makes things a lot easier in the aisles.
I took That Guy along with me as roadie and geek, and unfortunately he had a huge work deadline so he didn’t get to meet as many authors as he would have liked, but we scrimped and saved and splurged on one big thing: the Dinner with an Author dinner, which was Zombie night. It was a wonderful event, and we got to hear passages read by Paolo Bacigalupi, John Campbell, Jonathan Maberry, Diana Rowland, and David Wellington. We got to hear about Maberry’s adult works, and got introduced to Bacigalupi’s zombie book that he wrote for his wife’s class (makes me adore him even more), and I got to geek out on other authors.
 And That Guy got his picture taken with Jonathan Maberry afterwards.
I’m still trying to figure out how to turn my google doc of my presentation notes into something that will play nice with blogger- if I can’t figure it out by Friday, then I’ll just cut and paste. My presentation with Peter Coyl and David Levithan went well- the best takeaway was to be the best to your library, and don’t cater to the censors.

And I took home two suitcases full of books and ARCs which I’ve yet to unpack, and I got to meet people I only talk to on twitter, and I met some wonderful new friends, so it was all good.

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Book Review: Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi

“It might be kind of funny, if the cows weren’t trying to eat you . . . “

It’s easy to dismiss zombie books, and I see it happen often.  Yes, zombie books have – by definition – some type of zombie in them.  But zombie books are most often a layered reading experience, there is subtext and nuance.  And Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi is no different.

The apocalypse begins on a day like any other day.  Rabi, Miguel and Joe are having baseball practice when a horrible smell, much worse than normal, explodes out of the town’s meatpacking plant.  Soon, a zombie is trying to eat them.  They are trying to let the town know but there are a lot of forces working against them, because some people want to keep the secret hidden, people with money and power.  And if there is anything worse than a zombie, it is a person with money and power who will go to any length to protect their secrets.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown has zombies and baseball, that is true (and fun).  But it is also a book about bullying, racism, corporate power, and factory farming.  Bacigalupi manages to weave all these themes into the books without bogging it down and still entertaining readers.  When I closed this book I was both entertained and so very grateful that an author had managed to present these important topics to younger readers in a way that may plant a seed and get them thinking about very relevant issues.

Diversity

Rabi is Indian (real Indian, not Native American he informs his friends) and Miguel is Mexican-American.  So our main cast of characters manages to embrace diversity and talk realistically about the issues facing them.  Miguel has already lost some family members to deportation and it is a very realistic threat that hangs over him throughout the book.  Bacigalupi manages to get kids thinking about diversity and racism without hitting them over the head with the issue.  In comparison, I felt that Darren Shan was trying to accomplish the same things with Zom-B but he had a much more heavy-handed approach that often derailed the narrative.  It helps that Rabi and Miguel are both characters that you end up routing for, they make some real sacrifices and difficult choices to help others, even those that have hurt them in the past.

Corporate Power and Corruption

In a time when we are seeing the effects of lobbyists and the full ramifications of corporations are people while our government is threatening to shut down because certain individuals are trying to force their will on others, it was very interesting to see the subtle discussion of corporate power and greed in ZBB.  This is an important topic to introduce to young readers and get them thinking about if we want to make sure we are raising a new generation of critical thinkers who will stand up for Democracy and the least of these.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not an anvil over the head type of discussion.  There is simply a very well depicted character that is slick and slimy; he is able to use his powers of persuasion effectively for a while on our heroes until they begin to see the seedy underside of who he is and what he is doing.  And then the gloves come off.  This was a very fascinating and well written part of the story.

Factory Farming

From GMOs to factory farming, there is a lot of discussion happening in our culture regarding how we produce, market and distribute our food.  It’s not a topic that many young readers are thinking about, but it should be if we want to raise informed consumers.  Gacigalupi manages to take the issues to an extreme – it is the factory farming practices that this plant uses that creates the zombies – in order to get you thinking about the issue.  Infects by Sean Beaudoin does the same thing, but it is definitely for a more mature audience.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown is a fantastic read.  It is entertaining for zombie fans, but manages to get to the meat of some current cultural issues in the subtext.  See what I did there – meat.  Get it? Oh, never mind.  You can read it for fun or use it as a sounding board to start fleshing out some relevant and timely issues.  Flesh out.  Hehe.  See, I did it again.  As a bonus, there are zombie cows! This is a great book for all types of readers, including reluctant ones: There is sports, zombies, tense life or death situations (the zombie attack at the baseball game is epic). Sometimes funny, often icky, always fun, Zombie Baseball Beatdown manages to be two books in one without failing at either level.  Definitely recommended.

Themes: Bullying, Activism, Racism, Corporate Power and Corruption, Food Industry.  Published September 2013 by Little, Brown.  ISBN: 978-0-316-22974-6.