Monday, January 26, 2009

Recently Read:
The Door of No Return by Sara Mussi

The Door of No Return is a fast-paced, fast-talking mystery/thriller based on a really interesting premise. What if, over 200 years ago, the British government had signed a no-slavery treaty with an African prince, and then reneged on the deal? Would the Crown be liable for "breach of contract?" How far would they go to keep the double-cross secret?

This is the danger newly orphaned sixteen-year-old Zac Baxter finds himself in. His beloved grandfather has been obsessed with the idea that their family is descended from an African prince and the rightful owners of a massive hidden treasure. Now Pops has just been murdered in the street, muttering something about a map. Zac is placed with a fabulous, loving white foster family, then inexplicably moved to a group home miles away. Social workers, police, school, all seem to work against him, and there are only two people he can trust -- Raphael, the attorney son of his Pops' old crony Fidelio, and Ashley, a new mate from the group home. And one of them is destined to betray him.

Sentenced to community volunteer service in Ghana, Zac vows to solve the mystery of his ancestors and the dirty secrets hidden in Cape Coast Castle, where thousands of Africans went through the Door of No Return, over the seas into slavery in the Americas.

This is an an enjoyable read, and I love the idea. Cape Coast Castle is a real place, a huge fortress on a cliff that was the African headquarters of the British slave trade for over 150 years, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Zac is a hip British teen, courageous and connected to others, and continually making wisecracks to us, his reading audience. I love the character of Ashley, who is smart, goofy and loyal, and manages to find a rhyme for just about everything ("got your back, Zac," "you're the man, Stan," "Get the truth, Ruth!").

If Zac's story captures your imagination, you can find out about the real Cape Coast Castle and its infamous role in history in another The Door of No Return: The History of Cape Coast Castle and the Atlantic Slave Trade by William St. Clair.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Presidential Reading List

Regardless of our individual politics, one thing about new President Barack Obama that's a real treat for all librarians is that he is a writer and a READER, and he makes no secret that books have profoundly influenced his personal growth and political understandings. Monday's New York Times ran a story on Obama's reading life that sums up what teachers and librarians hope for everyone, and why we work so hard to encourage all young people to become lifelong readers:
... throughout his life he has turned to books as a way of acquiring insights and information from others -- as a means of breaking out of the bubble of self-hood and, more recently, the bubble of power and fame.
Recent articles and blog posts have called for more male reading role models for boys. Back in 2006, the READ@Skokie Public Library poster series featured then-Senator Obama (the poster is copyright-protected, so you'll have to view it on Flickr instead of right here). Guess we're getting what we asked for! (in a good way :-)

Read Like President Barack H. Obama
(from the Paideia Library collection)
and the President's own books:

Here's to Four Years of Reading!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Outside the Library Window

The whole north wall of the vaulted library Great Room is clear glass windows, looking out across Oakdale Park to Ponce de Leon. The view in spring and fall, when the flowering trees are in bloom or autumn leaves are blazing, is especially awesome. Winter is a good time to notice and appreciate the shape and forms of the gigantic oak trees in the park.

Today, a junior high teacher and I were in the office brainstorming an upcoming research project. From way across the library, I caught sight of a man walking in a tree! Instantly distracted, the teacher and I dashed to the window and watched as this arborist, belayed from a much higher branch, strolled out on a limb, whipped out a handsaw, and cut off the end of the branch he was standing on. Cool.

Learning in the library can happen in so many differnt ways.

Monday, January 12, 2009

We've Got You Backed Up!

Such a simple thing, I don't know why I didn't think of it before.

Last week I completed a project that's been on the "to do" list for quite a while -- I re-routed and tidied all the computer cords and cables at the Library's main computer center. The routing is simpler and more logical (I think), and all the cords have been tagged with their computer's number, to make troubleshooting easier.

The best part is the addition of surge protector and battery backup units for all 8 workstations. Now, instead of losing everything when the power blips (as it inevitably does during spring thunderstorms), students will have time to save their files and quit after the warning "lights out" flash. It feels pretty bad to have 8 distressed students at the computers, and not a thing I can do to help. Who knew buying time could be so cheap and easy?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Oh Frabjous Day!

Calloo! Callay! I finally got this poem!

Have you ever thought you knew something, but what you really knew was about the something? All these years, I've known all about "Jabberwocky", and the nonsense words, and all that. But (I'm a little embarrassed to admit) I don't think I've ever really read it or had any idea that it might have a story to it at all. Until yesterday, with Kelly Fineman's post about teaching poetry to kids, and this YouTube clip.

And to think that galumphing is one of my favorite words. Sometimes all it takes is a little Muppet show.

Oh frabjous day! Calloo! Callay! Lifelong learning rocks!