I watched Young @ Heart in early December. While raving about it the morning after, a voice in my head said to zip it until I could put together a rational thought. I think I'm ready.

Young @ Heart is essentially the biography and recent history of a chorus of senior citizens. Established in 1982 in Northampton, Massachusetts, all the original members (none are still with us) lived in a senior center. Nowadays the chorus members are in a wide variety of living situations--some in their own homes, alone or with spouses, some in retirement homes or apartments. The choir's music, chosen by their artistic director, Bob Cilman, is not what one might expect--"I Wanna Be Sedated" by The Ramones, for example. Their struggles with "Yes We Can" by Allen Touissant and "I Feel Good" by James Brown are epic, and finally mastered, but, man, they were close ones. Considering the average age of the group members, syncopated vocal rhythms really are the least of their concerns. As a coworker said, "Fix You" by Coldplay takes on a whole new meaning when you see and hear it sung solo by an 80-year-old so weakened by congestive heart failure that he must sit, oxygen canister beside him. And it is perfection.

It is still so difficult to put my feelings about this movie into words. They make it sound trite and "feel good," and that demeans it, somehow. These are real people, forming friendships, rehearsing, traveling and performing together, fighting battles with illness which we see won and lost, and grieving together. They are as different from each other as you and I, but they have that common thread of age. There are moments of pure hilarity, absolute frustration, terrible sorrow, and sheer joy.

These folks master performances that would be difficult for any age, but they're all over than 65, some well past that mark. I can't seem to get a good walk in, but I'll be the first in line to buy tickets if Young @ Heart comes to Portland. Maybe I'll even hoof it to the Max station.

Learn more about the chorus at

Every year in the late fall, youth librarian geeks throughout the U.S. start making predictions as to what will win the various youth book awards.  The three best-known youth literary awards in the United States are the Caldecott, the Newbery and the Printz, and all are awarded by divisions of the American Library Association at the midwinter meeting in January.

Several years ago, I got to serve on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee.  It was a great, although exhausting, experience.  I read all of at least 150 books (and a number of these twice), plus bits of 50 or so more books (all while working full time).  My committee and I were fortunate in that 2003 was a fabulous year for teen books.  We nominated titles, talked non-stop about books, eliminated some titles, and talked some more.  Our meetings were impassioned but respectful, and we ultimately came up with a winner and four honor books.

Many libraries host mock award workshops that involve reading, discussing and voting on possible winners. Over the last few years, Multnomah County Library, in conjunction with the Oregon Young Adult Network has hosted a Mock Printz Workshop. Librarians and teens read ten books in advance and come prepared to discuss the titles based on the Printz Award's criteria.  We get together in small groups to talk about the books, and then the voting begins. It's a great way to become familiar with new books for teens and to discuss what makes a good young adult book. This year's discussion will feature the following eleven books:

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Paper Towns by John Green
The Last Exit to Normal by Michael B. Harmon
My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart
The Missing Girl by Norma Fox Mazer
Madapple by Christina Meldrum
Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson
Black Box by Julie Schumacher
Skim by Mariko Tamaki

Want to participate in geekishness? Find out who won on the morning of January 26 by checking the live webcast of the press conference on the Association for Library Services to Children's Website. And may the best book win!

For those of us who have ever fallen for the wrong man, Alice Hoffman's latest book assures us that we are in plentiful, if not necessarily good, company. There are many women in The Third Angel- so many that I had a bit of trouble at first keeping track - and their stories are told in interconnected, almost novella-like pieces.

At least three of these women have fallen for, or are with, men who are neither right nor good for them. Madeleine gets involved with her sister's fiance (big mistake), Frieda is attracted to a drug-addled singer (why?), and Bryn is still desperately in love with her wildly attractive and Irish-American (sigh), but criminal ex-husband although she is engaged to another man who is dull, dull, dull by comparison. Bad boys - ya gotta love 'em, and yet, I didn't really like them in this book.

I didn't see the attraction for either the men (well, okay, Michael the Irish-American was dishy and interesting and seemed to maybe truly love Bryn) or the women. I didn't really like anyone, nor did I have much sympathy for them, although I found their stories somewhat interesting and sorting out of all of the relationships was a bit amusing. I never really got the whole third angel bit - was it Teddy Healy? Call me dense, but then explain it to me please  I did enjoy the hope that came at the end of each piece, because, as any of us whose heart has been bruised by the wrong guy will tell you, there are few happy endings. 

For a fun book on getting over an ex-boyfriend (it will make you laugh while you're crying), check out The Ex-Boyfriend Book: A Zodiac Guide to Your Former Flames by Rowan Davis.  Sign by sign, dysfunction by dysfunction, you'll learn what you'll miss, what you won't miss, why you are so much better off without him, and, if you so foolishly decide you really want him back, how to get the job done.  But really, why bother?  There's probably another wrong man for you right around the corner!

Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table by Sara Roahen

Until recently, what I didn't know about gumbo was pretty much everything. I'd happily eat it if someone else made it, but I'm rarely that lucky. I had no clue about the religious fervor some people feel when it comes to okra in or okra out. And what the heck is filé? Dang, I didn't even know the Hank Williams song.

Now Roahen has pulled me into her world of the amazing food of New Orleans--is it street food? It can be, but is not always. She's made me want to visit every gumbo shack she mentions. And I want a Sno-Bliz from Hansen's if it's hot out--but can I stand the summer steambath that is New Orelans? Doubtful. I want Sazerac as my drink. What is Sazerac? I barely know, I barely care, but I want it. I want to eat boiled crawfish. I want red gravy. I want oysters during the high season. And I want to eat in a culinary speakeasy.

There are heartbreaking stories of businesses wiped out with Katrina, some resurrected afterward, but some lost forever, along with their owners.

This is on my "Best of 2008" list. In fact, I might need to buy it, and I hardly ever do that, being as I work for the library and all.