Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mixed Vegetables, Vol. 1 by Ayumi Komura--Embedding 101

Bibliography: Komura, A. (2008). Mixed vegetables (Vol. 1). (S. V. W. Lucianovic, Trans.). San Francisco, CA: Shojo Beat. (Original work published 2005).

Summary: Hanayu Ashitaba is the daughter of the celebrated Patisserie Ashitaba, but all she wants to do is be a sushi chef. Hayato Hyuga is the son of the prestigious Sushi Hyuga, and all he wants to do is be a pastry chef! It’s love and leftovers in the Oikawa High School Cooking Department as these star-crossed gourmands do their best to reach their cuisine dreams!

Hanayu knows that it will break her parents’ hearts if she defects from the bakery to become a sushi chef. But if she marries into a sushi family, they’ll have to understand her decision. Now she just has to get Hayato Hyuga interested in her, and what better way than to wow him with her cooking skills?!

Can Hanayu create the recipe for happiness (Shojo Beat)?

Tool: Embedding 101

I hope everyone is enjoying these last dog days of summer before the real work begins. As a special treat (literally, since this post is food-themed), I want to offer some helpful hints on embedding so that you are able to utilize these Web 2.0 tools to their full, shareable potential. Recognizing and using HTML embed code is probably old hat to many readers; however, some people may be confused as to how share their creations--YouTube videos, Flickr photos, Google Maps, MP3 files, Word documents, PowerPoints, etc. The list is endless. As an example, I found "Sushi Go Round" (see below), which the game makers generously allowed users to share on their own blogs and websites. It is both quick and addicting, and I highly recommend it...especially right now before school starts, and access to gaming sites is restricted by your district's policy.

And now for the how-to in three easy steps:

1. With most Web 2.0 tools, there will be an option you can click on labeled "Share" (or even simply "Embed"). Sharing, after all, is what makes Web 2.0 so extraordinary. In many cases, such as the "Sushi Go Round" game, you will be able to share not only your own work but others' products as well. (This feature depends on their pre-determined user settings. For example, they may have not released their Flickr images under the Creative Commons license, in which case you shouldn't use them.) The tool will then provide you with the embed code. It will look something like this:

Image courtesy of Tom Thomas' Web Tracker: A glitter free blog about Myspace

A complete embed code will look something like this:

2. Copy and paste the provided HTML code into your own blog or site. It's as simple as that! HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the publishing language of the Internet, and your site will recognize it and convert it automatically to your desired video/image/animated project/etc. Note, however, that some blog providers, such as WordPress, do not allow Flash or JavaScript embeds (which is why I chose Blogger for my needs).

3. If you wish to embed a project that is not originally web-based, such as a file from Microsoft Office, there are many sites that will convert your uploaded files into publishable material and provide you with the HTML code. Examples that I recommend are Scribd for Word documents, SlideShare for PowerPoint presentations, and Zoho Sheet for Excel spreadsheets. (Note: Zoho Sheet is still a beta site, meaning that it is still being tested.) There are similar sites that create embed code for audio files-- MixPod is the easiest to use and provides the most versatile player designs.

Got the hang of using embed code? Still tempted by "Sushi Go Round?" Go on. Treat yourself.

Review: School library media specialists will sometimes hesitate when
confronted with manga. This particular format of graphic novel is complex, with several different genres—action-cenered shonon (boy's manga), romance-centered shojo (girl's manga), seinen (manga for adults), redilsu komikku (women's manga), kodomo (children's manga), and hentai (erotic manga)--and from each genre sprout many different offshoots. For example, shonen-ai, or the lightly homoerotic "boy love," is a form of shojo meant to appeal to teenage girls, while yaoi is “boy love” on a more graphic, hentai level. Navigating through this terminology may be intimidating, but since manga is so popular, ensuring that patrons have access to [age-appropriate] titles is a librarian's responsibility.

Mixed Vegetables, for example is shojo (The name of the publisher might have given that one away!). It is a cute, relatively non-sexualized romance between a girl and a boy that would appeal to high school students while still being very appropriate for middle school readers. Hanayu is a very modern, likeable heroine who, of course, wants to get the boy...but only so that she can advance her career! Naturally, Hayato has some surprises of his own, and watching the two characters attempt to establish their respective careers while sidestepping around their emotions and playing mind games with each other makes for a quick, fun read. Girls of all ages (including twenty-somethings like me!) will appreciate that Hanayu refuses to give up her dreams to get the guy but instead incorporates him into her plans.

Why I was drawn to Mixed Vegetables, however, is that it is an example of yet another subset of manga: the whimsically named “mangia manga,” or food-themed manga. I love to eat, and I love to read, and a graphic novel focused on food seemed especially intriguing. While readers shouldn’t expect any recipes from Komura, she does provide a lot of interesting asides and trivia about Japanese cooking techniques and eating habits. For example, the first dish Hanayu shows off with (much to the chagrin of her instructor) is an ikizukuri platter, which is a sushi tradition of preparing sashimi while the fish is still alive. The customer selects their fish, and the sashimi chef fillets and guts it, serving it to the customer with the heart still beating. Would that American sushi chefs be so bold with their presentation!

Mixed Vegetables is a great addition to any secondary school library’s graphic novel collection. If you have a manga club at your school, this book would be a great pairing with a candy sushi-making activity. My mom tried it with her middle school students, and it was a great success. There are many easy-to-follow recipes online: the “nigiri” below, for example, is made from Rice Krispie treats, Swedish Fish, and Fruit-by-the-Foot. Almost as delicious as the real thing! Enjoy! Grades 7+.

Image courtesy of Flickr: bloody marty mix

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