Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Few Book Giving Ideas for Teens and Adults

Our elementary librarian creates annual gift-giving guides for elementary-aged readers, but I get stumped.  There are so many terrific books every year, and reading is so personal.  How to create a single list that's manageable and that can actually be written in a day??  Personal roadblocks aside, this year I'm going to throw out a few book-giving ideas -- recently published titles that I liked a lot (reading is personal, remember :-) and that might hit the spot with different readers.   An online reader's consultation of sorts.  Here goes . . .     (links go to Paideia Library catalog records)

If your reader likes
video games, puzzles, science fiction, or action conspiracies 
(or was young in the 1980s):

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

The year is 2044, the real world is a mess and the safest place to be is in the OASIS, a vast virtual universe (or "shared synthetic environment") created by the late visionary geek genius James Halliday. Halliday's last message revealed an "Easter egg," a secret message deeply hidden in the OASIS.  The first person to find the Easter egg will inherit Halliday's entire massive fortune, including the OASIS itself.  Overweight, lone teenager Wade Watts by chance finds the first key, and suddenly the world, including a murderous mercenary corporation, races to solve Halliday's puzzle.  May the best player (well versed in classic arcade games, lines from John Hughes movies, and Dungeons & Dragons trivia) survive.

Readalikes: Little Brother (2010) by Cory Doctorow; Circuit of Heaven (1999) by Dennis Danvers
~ ~

If your reader likes
complex graphic novels, mermaids, or brooding fantasy:
Sailor Twain, or, The Mermaid in the Hudson
by Mark Siegel.

 A lonely, middle-aged riverboat captain rescues, then falls in love with a mermaid, while remaining faithful to a wife back home.  The well-liked French riverboat owner suddenly disappears, while his reprobate brother embarks on a manic mission to court seven lovers at once.  And a reclusive best-selling author decides to make a public debut, shattering all assumptions about his true identity.  Love, humanity, identity and wholeness collide with mythology and an ancient curse as the Mermaid of the Hudson's plan ensnares them all.

More complex graphic novels: Homeland Directive by Robert Venditti, or  Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan (2008)
~ ~

If your reader likes
high fantasy, dragons, medieval settings, mysteries, or romance:

Seraphina  by Rachel Hartman

Forty years ago, dragons and humankind signed a peace treaty.  Dragons, in human form, now live among men in Goredd, but as second-class citizens; peace has not brought them equality.  Seraphina, outwardly the gifted new assistant court composer, hides her secret self from the world, for half-dragons, though believed to be impossible,  are also illegal and outlawed as an abomination.  As the anniversary of the treaty approaches, anti-dragon factions are agitating, the heir to the throne is found murdered ( dragon-style -- his head was bitten off), and Seraphina becomes involved in royal intrigue through her student Princess Glisselda, and Selda's bethrothed, the compassionate, intelligent and very attractive Prince Kiggs.  If dragons do rise up and return to war, where does that leave Seraphina?

Other unexpected fantasy novels:  The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson; Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.
~ ~

If your reader likes
psychology, business, self-improvement or is an introvert (or in a relationship with one):

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking
by Susan Cain.

Oh, how I loved this book, because it's about me (and approximately a third to half of the Western world).  Do you often look forward to staying in on Friday and Saturday nights to re-energize after a week at work or school?  Would you rather say nothing than fight (or talk over folks) to get a word in edgewise?  Do you have a horror of collaborative group work, preferring to work on projects on your own?  You might just be an introvert.  Cain's argument is that by idealizing the Extrovert (energetic, quick decision-making, talk-then-think) personality, American culture misses out on the leadership and creative potential of the non-talking, thoughtful and deliberate Introverts in school, business and government.  Introverts can become outgoing and assertive when involved in an area in which they are passionately interested, and as leaders are likely to foster and nurture talent rather than insist on the limelight for themselves.  Are you an Introvert married to an Extrovert, or an outgoing parent with a quiet child?  She also has much to say about negotiating successful relationships with a person of the opposite personality type (be it parental, romantic or business).

Related non-fiction: Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, and Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative  by Austin Kleon.
~ ~

For lovers of straight-up narrative non-fiction (truth that reads like a story):

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: 
Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity  by Katherine Boo.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist documents the struggle for survival in a Bombay slum.  I have not yet gotten to this book -- it's been checked out by one of the library's most dedicated and voracious customers, who reports back that it's fabulous (but very sad).  It's also on any number of "Best Books of 2012" lists including the New York Times', so I'm confident in recommending it.

Right now I am reading  The Black Count, a biography of the original Alex Dumas, the mixed-race son of a white French aristocrat and a black Carribbean slave.  Dumas received a gentleman's education in France, and rose through the military ranks to become a successful Revolutionary general, only to fall afoul of Napoleon, be imprisoned and die young. What's fascinating, aside from the amazing success of a black man in white aristocratic France, is that this Alex Dumas was the father of Alexandre Dumas, author of such swashbuckling tales as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.
~ ~

And if your reader likes contemporary, modern fiction:

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk  by Ben Fountain

An Iraq War novel that's not about the war at all.  Enduring their 15 minutes of fame after being broadcast on CNN during a firefight with the enemy, the 8 surviving members of Bravo Squad are stateside starring in a government-sponsored dog-and-pony show, otherwise known as a "Victory Tour."  The absurdity culminates on Thanksgiving Day, with the squad's participation (behind a booty-shaking Beyoncé and Destiny's Child) in the Dallas Cowboys halftime show.  In real time, the entire book happens in one day, following the actions and thoughts of 19-year-old Billy, older and wiser in one year as a soldier than the kid who chose the army over jail.  Nina leven, wore on terrRr, eye-Rack, currj, acks of sack-rih-fice, dih-mock-cruh-see, ire way of life --  congratulatory gushing of wealthy football patrons and jingoistic fans who celebrate and encourage Billy, Bravo and the war from their comfortable distance.  Famous or not, Bravo's victory is shorty and tomorrow (the true meaning of Black Friday??) their 15 minutes is over and it's back to war.

And if you are a reader fascinated by recommended and "best of the year" lists, check out these  compiled 'best books' lists from the EarlyWord blog.  Separated into Adult fiction, Adult non-fiction and Children's best books, the Excel spreadsheets list books included on 16 influential consumer and library lists, including National Book Award and New York Times lists, and which books appear on which lists (and the overlap).

What was your favorite book of 2012?  Any 2013 releases you're anxiously awaiting??

Monday, December 10, 2012

Local Geography and Native American Cultures:
An Outline

Note:  This is an interactive outline I use to introduce steps and sources for writing a 9th grade World Civilizations essay assignment.  The 5th & 6th period classes are starting their assignment today.
 ~ ~ ~

Paul's World Civilizations 
Two-Page Essay Research Project

Native Peoples of North America

From the textbook: in each of the ten culture areas, "people adapted to geographic conditions that influenced their ways of life."

Assignment:   Research, describe and explain (in a two-page essay) the cultural characteristics of a tribe-nation and how these characteristics have been created, shaped and or/influenced by the environment and geography.

Use at least 3 different sources (at least 1 print source, such as a book or magazine article)

Citation styles:

!!!!   Tip -- Use NoodleBib to create a correct bibliography and to take notes.

Finding Books - Use the Paideia Library Catalog or your public library catalog.

Finding Magazine Articles - Use ProQuest, Sirs or JSTOR

Finding Websites -

All these links and more (such as links to local college library catalogs) are on the
Paideia Library Start Page

~ ~ ~

Tips on How to Write a Two-Page (aka "5 Paragraph") Essay

Anna's Explanation

Think of your paper as a court case on a TV show.   The police have collected the evidence (the information you've gathered in your research). You are the attorney presenting the case to the jury (in this case, your teacher).  

You present the plea, (your thesis statement) in your introduction -- "The culture of the XYZ people was shaped by the (desert, woodland, coastal, high plains, whatever) environment they lived in.  These three or four aspects of their culture (main foods, festivals, religion, style of dress, style of housing, style of tribal government, nomadic or agricultural habits, etc etc) are some of the ways the local environment influenced their culture."  

In each middle paragraph, you give evidence to support how a different cultural aspect is unique to your tribe because of where they lived.  Stick to one aspect per paragraph.  Here's where you are proving your case to the jury.  Each source is a witness, the information you find is their evidence.

Your conclusion is the attorney's summation, the closing argument, where you wrap it all up for the jury. Remind them of your thesis, explain why it matters and how you've proved it.

Explanation of the 'Argumentative' Essay from Purdue University's Online Writing Lab

Outline with Example Paper  from Glendale Community College in Arizona

History Paper Writing Tips from the Writing Center at Emory University

Emory Writing Center on organizing your essay:

1). Write your essay as if it were going to be read by someone who knew less about the subject than you do.

 2). Your first paragraph must have a clear thesis statement which explicitly states your argument. Explain here both what the thesis of your essay is and how you will substantiate it.

3). Make sure that every subsequent paragraph expands and clarifies the thesis stated in your introductory paragraph. Support your generalizations with specific historical evidence.

 4). All essays must have a clear organizing principle. Effective ways to organize them include (a) chronological organization, (b thematic organization, (c) organization by geographical region (d) organization by social group, etc. Whichever organizational principle you choose, use references to dates and time periods to structure and clarify your arguments.

 5). In your concluding paragraph, briefly recapitulate your argument and then indicate its wider historical significance.

~ Quiz ~

What's the Most Valuable Resource in the Library?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Whale of a Tale, At Last

I've read The Scarlet Letter. I've read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  I've even read War and Peace (in translation, of course).  But I have never made it through Moby Dick.  Yes, dear reader, at the time I put down Herman Mellville's leviathan American novel in college, Ishmael had yet to put foot on the whaling ship Pequod.  If you are in the same (metaphorical) boat, take heart.  Moby Dick, or, The Whale, is also "the great unread American novel"-- we are not alone.

The Big Read
A recently launched, star-studded project from the UK's Plymouth University aims to change our ways. Two years in the making, the Moby-Dick Big Read is a brand-new audiobook version of the 135-chapter novel; a new chapter is released daily as a downloadable mp3 (on the Big Read website or through iTunes). Dr. Philip Hoare, artist in residence at Plymouth University’s Marine Institute and coordinator of the project, said: “Moby-Dick is a novel that everyone has heard of but very few people have read. This is a way of introducing it to a new audience and is something people can pick up as and when they choose – it is completely suited to the digital age.”

So who is reading to us?  Perhaps the biggest name is British Prime Minister David Cameron, who reads Chapter 30, but there are also Tilda Swinton (Chapter 1),  Benedict Cumberbatch (the latest BBC Sherlock Holmes, Ch. 58), Simon Callow (Ch. 9) and American author Nathaniel Philbrick (Why Read Moby Dick?, In the Heart of the Sea, and Revenge of the Whale, Ch. 14) plus 130 more, including a fisherman, a vicar and a 12-year-old boy!

Why Read Moby Dick? 
This is the huge question asked and answered in Nathaniel Philbrick's short book of the same title, newly arrived in the Paideia Library.  In 4-5 page chapters, Philbrick gives us background on Melville, his family and youthful experiences, influences on the writing of Moby Dick, information on Nantucket and the 19th century whaling industry, and argues that though not "a page turner, the book is a repository not only of American history and culture but also of the essentials of Western literature." I'm intrigued.  And a context and guide to this novel is only going to help make sense of what I mostly know only through modern culture snippets (Ahab symbolizes the mad pursuit of an end regardless of 'collateral damage,' right?  And who in 21st century America hasn't heard of Starbuck(s)?)

A Great Course
Anyone wanting to delve even more deeply into the heart of Moby Dick can listen to the 4 audio lectures by Prof. Arnold Weinstein on the Classics of American Literature Great Courses series in the library's audiobook collection. Each of the 30 minute lectures focuses on a different aspect of the novel, from "The Making of Moby Dick" to "The Tragedy of Perspective."

My Progress So Far . . . 
I'm so glad you asked :-)   In a thrilling turn of events (I've now listened up through Ch. 26), Ishmael and Queequeg are on the Pequod and out in the open sea!  Nobody ever told me that Ishmael was funny. Who knew? They have yet to meet crazy Captain Ahab -- that's coming up in the next couple of chapters. My listening over over Thanksgiving break will include Chapter 30, "The Pipe," the Prime Minister's chapter (and a very short chapter indeed, at just under 2 minutes).

More (and Less)
Apparently the Moby Dick virus is pretty darn contagious -- by November 11 the project had logged over a million listeners.  A writer in Glasgow called Eva Stalker has a blog with weekly updates on each chapter release, including brief information on each reader.  If you're curious about the story behind the story, follow her at

And if this is all still just too much, just this month, brothers Jack and Holman Wang released Cozy Classics Moby Dick.  I kid you not -- Moby Dick in 12 words and 12 cozy illustrations.  Now that's minimalist!

Have you read Moby Dick?  Or have you always meant to?  Either way, I do recommend trying out this podcast release of the novel.  If you do, let me know what you think!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sometimes Later Is Better Than Sooner

As a school librarian, I work with students of all maturity, interest and reading ability levels, and sometimes it's hard to find "just right" reading that really fits the total student.  Sometimes it's the socially precocious upper elementary kid who's chomping at the bit for the edgy fiction in the high school library; sometimes it's the young JH or HS student with well-meaning parents who are pushing "the classics" to the exclusion of the kid's true interests.  Also, I find that sometimes students will recommend adult books to their friends because they were read and enjoyed in literature class, not realizing that so much of the meaning they got was derived from class discussions with other students and adults. For a long time, elementary librarian Natalie Bernstein even had a list of "what not to read" to elementary students.  Mom & Dad, To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, and Huckleberry Finn can wait.  Really.

In reading Nathaniel Philbrick's Why Read Moby Dick?, I came across an example and a quote that I just had to share.  In the spring of 1849 at the ripe old age of 30, Herman Melville first discovered Shakespeare.  He gloried in the entire 7-volume large print set of Shakespeare's plays, and found much inspiration for Moby Dick in the Bard's tormented characters and involved plots. Philbrick writes:
"Melville's example demonstrates the wisdom of waiting to read the classics. Coming to a great book on your own after having accumulated essential life experience can make all the difference." pg. 61

Amen, Brother Philbrick. Amen.

"Call me Ishmael . . ."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Souls Day

John and Sydney's class came to the library today for a holiday presentation and book talk.  At first we scheduled for Halloween, with the obvious scary book talk and viewing of an animated short of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell Tale Heart, but we later moved the date to November 1. Scary seems passe' by that point, but the class had already seen my first alternate idea, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

This coming weekend Paideia's Latino Parents Association is sponsoring the annual Day of the Dead celebration, with traditional Mexican food and music, and displays of altars created by various school groups.  So today's theme was  Dia de Los Muertos.

We started with the wonderful 1929 Disney animated short, The Skeleton Dance, and all the books I talked were in some way related to El Dia,  spirits, souls and the afterlife, or Mexico/Mexican-Americans.  Students in both groups checked out books at the end of the period -- almost half of the books presented were taken!  A successful and fun day.

Book checked out included:

All That Remains
Anna Dressed in Blood
The Afterlife
The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall
A Certain Slant of Light

Other books in the talk included Corpses, Coffins and Crypts: A History of Burial; Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife; A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver The Graveyard Book; and David v. God.

Enjoy Disney's first entry in a series of 75 Silly Symphony cartoons, The Skeleton Dance. If the embed video doesn't show, click on the title above to watch directly from YouTube.

Do you celebrate All Saints' Day or El Dia de Los Muertos?  Share your traditions in the comments.

Friday, October 5, 2012

You Can't Read This Book!

On display in the Junior High Commons this week --

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (new feature film released just last week!)
2. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by James Steig (the police are drawn as pigs)
3. TTYL series by Lauren Myracle (TTYL, TTFN, and L8R, G8R)
4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
5. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
6. Twilight by Stephanie Myer

Have you read any dangerous books this week?   The QR codes link to each book's entry in the Paideia Library catalog.  Come check them out!

Friday, September 14, 2012

On Collection Building

Every library has a formal collection policy, and the Paideia Library is no different.  The entire policy is online, but to paraphrase, we collect books, videos, audio books, and electronic resources to support the information needs of students (school as well as non-school learning) and the teaching and life-long learning needs of teachers.  I'm pretty sure that it's very similar, if not almost identical to the collection policies of many other school libraries in Atlanta.

Any useful and used library reflects the personality and interests of its community, and is also shaped by the personality of the collection builders, and their understanding of the community.  Most libraries' circulation computers beep or bomp, but ours make a unique sound to indicate a successful transaction -- I call it the "Go-ahead Goat."  There's also a sheep for "Oh, shoot, something didn't work right," and a crowing rooster to call attention to a pop-up message on the screen.   I thought it was funny.

One little bonus from the post-summer pileup of returned library books is that it creates a mini-snapshot of our collection all in one place.  This fall begins my 20th year as Paideia's junior high and high school librarian, and on the one hand, it's kind of cool that I've personally purchased a majority of the 15,000+ books and videos in the collection.  On the other hand, 20 years is kind of scary!  As I check in each book, swiping barcodes one at a time (and waiting for the goat to signal the go-ahead), I marvel not only at the range of the collection, but also the range of our community, and I think about when and why the book was added to the library.  Some of the titles that have just come back from the summer are:
  • Rocket Boys, a memoir by NASA engineer Homer Hickam.  I bought this for the library when it was published in 1998.  It was pretty easy to "sell" after it was made into the movie October Sky.  Did you know that "October Sky" is an anagram of "Rocket Boys"?  Cool, huh?
  • It's a Boy! Understanding Your Son's Development from Birth Through Age 18 - This is a book from our PRF (professional, aka "parent/teacher") collection.   Paideia brought in author Michael Thompson several years ago for an all-levels faculty development session.  We have a really good collection of books "for grownups, about kids," and this book was Thompson's third in a series specifically about boys' development. Of course we had to add it as soon as it came out.
  • Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence, a collection of short stories about gay and lesbian teens, all written by well-known writers for young adults.  Wow, another early purchase (from 1994), and it's still fantastic.  One thing that most likely distinguishes Paideia's libraries from many other school libraries is the number of GLBT-themed materials for young people, from novels to histories to DVD documentaries.  This reflects our community and our curriculum (a GLBT history course is often taught in high school short term).  It also always reminds me of a senior student who was really interested in understanding the gay and lesbian experience while she was in junior high. Over the course of a couple of years, she read every single GLBT novel we had.  I added lots in this genre to keep up with her!
  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amigurumi, added just last year to the handcraft & art section.  This one makes me happy because it was checked out by a junior high friend who decided to teach herself to crochet over the summer.  I showed her a few tips on getting started, and she took off, crocheting little critters all summer long and posting them to a blog she created to show them off.  Her first amigurumi was a lavender hamster, from the pattern pictured on the cover of the book.

Now that we're back into the swing of the academic year, I'm remembering why and when we added all those books and DVDs on Ancient Persia, Ancient Greece, the Salem Witch Trials.  It's all part of the life cycle of a school community.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

We're Back!

"The true knowledge is not in the things, which are few, but in finding the connections between the things. There are many connections, Professor Wasserman. More than you know."
So says Archos, the powerful artificial intelligence that, in short time, will control all the world's machines and launch the New War against humankind, in Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse, which I finished last night.  This quote jumped out at me at the beginning of the new school year -- above all, I hope to guide students toward skill in making connections between separate bits of the known, between the known and the speculated, and between and among things only as-yet imagined.  It's the skill that makes learning fun!

And the books are coming back . . .   A reminder that all summer checkouts are due by August 31 (next Friday).  It's such a wonderful period in the spring when family after family takes home a big stack of reading for the summer, but it's also kind of neat to see them all come back in the fall, having been read and enjoyed by one or more readers.  In the first few weeks of school, the books come home to roost and rest, ready to be read and enjoyed in this new turn of the school year wheel.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Free books for iPad and Kindle

Below are a few public domain books that look interesting, recently converted to ebook formats and available to download for free from Project Gutenberg.  The first one could be a Kindle beach read -- it's been compared to Peyton Place!
  • Published in 1839 as Darwin's "Journal and Remarks", and also known as Darwin's Journal of Researches, this is his account of the second exploratory voyage of his ship the HMS Beagle, from 1831-1836. A vivid and exciting travel memoir as well as a detailed scientific field journal covering biology, geology, and anthropology, Darwin's notes include comments illustrating his changing views at a time when he was developing his theory of evolution by natural selection
  • Published in 6 volumes, from 1776-1789, "the work covers the history of the Roman Empire, Europe, and the Catholic Church from 98 to 1590 and discusses the decline of the Roman Empire in the East and West. Because of its relative objectivity and heavy use of primary sources, at the time, its methodology became a model for later historians. This led to Gibbon being called the first "modern historian of ancient Rome."

Friday, June 1, 2012

School's Out --
Let the Reading Begin!

For the last couple of weeks, it's been busier after school than during the school day.  Why?  This is when both elementary and the junior high/high school libraries have been checking out books and audio books, on parent accounts, with a late August due date. From mid-May through the end of school, we welcome and encourage the Paideia community to come stock up on reading and listening for the long summer break.  Elementary students come in with their parents to select and check out, while older students can come in on their own (with a note from the parents.  Since we make them responsible for several hundred dollars of books, it seems only fair to get an ok in writing).

Believe it or not, it's really exciting to have so many parents and students flood the library for their summer reading options!   When we first started the summer checkout program, it was mostly elementary parents taking advantage of it, but now, as those first summer reading customers have gotten older, more and more junior high and high school students anxiously await the arrival of their summer reading lists and the day we open for summer checkouts.  As of this morning, the last day of school, I am thrilled to note that there are at least 700 books and audiobooks checked out to 42 high school and junior high families, and they're still coming.  Yay!

It's not common for school libraries to allow books to go out for the entire summer, for reasonable reasons.  It works for Paideia because we want to do all we can to promote reading over the break, and we have a small and known community with a vested interest in the library.  We are not open for academics in the summer, and what are the books going to do while we're closed?  Books need a vacation too, and, thanks to summer checkouts, our books have been to Italy and Norway, and all over the USA as well.

Every spring, Natalie and I revise and add to our Summer Reading lists, which are more like annotated 'readers advisory' guides than anything else.  Paideia's summer reading requirement?  "Read 5 (elementary), 6 (jh) or 4 (high school) books" and you can pick from any of the hundreds in the list, or any others that appeal to you.  Now, if you're in 10th grade, you're probably not going to get away with reading 4 Magic Tree House books, but we almost always find that kids go to their own level and interests.  We just want kids to read, and for that purpose, and quantity is as good as, or better than, 'quality'.  We want summer reading to be FUN! 

All three of the Paideia summer reading lists are available online as PDF downloads.

So find a title that sounds good, head to your nearest public library (first) or indie bookstore, and put up the Do Not Disturb sign while you disappear into the pages.  Maybe you'll feel like Julian Smith if you're interrupted?

Click here if the video doesn't load.

Have a fabulous summer!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Free eBooks for iPad & Kindle:
An Every-So-Often Roundup

In the interest of helping the community discover free books of value (as opposed to some of the appallingly poorly written free books on, I'm collecting and annotating links to Project Gutenberg links that have some sort of popular historical or literary value.  I'll try to post them on a more or less weekly basis.

As I've noted before, a major drawback to the Project Gutenberg resources is that there's no summary or even tagging of the books they've digitized; there's no easy way to investigate a book through the site before deciding to download it. This is my value-added contribution to readers; may you discover something new and wonderful to read (and the choices be ever in your favor).

This week's possibilities:

  • Humorous yet sympathetic, this perceptive social novel of an orphan's sudden rise to wealth is generally regarded as a masterpiece, and was the author's own favorite work. First published in 1905.
  • The Cuthbert siblings asked to adopt a boy orphan, to help out on their rural Canadian farm, but instead they got lively, red-headed Anne Shirley. This 1908 classic children's novel has inspired several sequels and numerous TV and film adaptations.
  • Seminal short novel of the early 20th century, about a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, who wakes one day to find himself transformed into a monstrous insect-like creature. Originally published in German in 1915, this is a 2003 translation by David Wyllie.

    A 1902 horror story, in which the paw of a dead monkey is a talisman that grants its possessor three wishes, but the wishes come with an enormous price for interfering with fate.

    Otto of the Silver Hand is a children's novel about the Dark Ages. It was first published in 1888 by Charles Scribner's Sons. The novel was one of the first written for young readers that went beyond the chivalric ideals of the time period, and centers around Otto, the son of a German warlord whose mother dies soon after giving birth to him. He is raised in a monastery until he is thirteen, at which point he returns to live with his father in their ancestral castle.

    Zane Grey's best-known novel, originally published in 1912, that played a significant role in shaping the formula of the popular Western genre. In it, ranch heiress Jane Withersteen resists pressure to mary a church elder, and defends her right to associate with those outside her religion.

    This 1921 comic novel was adapted from a series of short stories orginally published in The Strand magazine. It tells the story of impoverished, embarrassment-prone Drone Archibald "Archie" Moffam (pronounced "Moom"), and his difficult relationship with art-collecting, hotel-owning millionaire father-in-law Daniel Brewster, father of Archie's new bride Lucille. Archie's attempts to ingratiate himself with Brewster only get him further into trouble.

    Check out all of my annotated free ebook listings in PiLibrarian's Diigo bookmarks.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

21st Century Gutenberg Revolution:
Free eBooks for iPad & Kindle

If I gave in to frustration, I'd be totally bald from pulling out my hair over the ebook dilemma.  The best delivery systems either don't have the titles I want to offer or cost way too much for our little school, or both.  We are "evolving" on this issue, but for now progress is stalled.

When I first got my iPad and began to explore ebooks, I scoffed at friends who were all about free ebook downloads.  "They're all ancient," I thought, "who wants to read that?"  Yes, a librarian who was being a dumbhead about the classics. Gosh, sometimes I am so dense.  In any case, I'm now getting a daily list of all the books in the public domain that have been added to the Project Gutenberg electronic book collection, and you know, there really is some good stuff there!

"Public Domain" is a legal concept -- under United States law, creators (or assignees) automatically own the right to decide what happens to their creative works as long as they live, and the right extends to the creator's estate for 75 more years.  After that, unless an extension has been granted, that creative work goes into the public domain -- it is owned by the people.

Project Gutenberg began in the 1980s as a labor of love by a man named Michael Hart.  Since the beginning, PG volunteers have hand-typed and proof-read thousands of public domain texts, in many languages.  The first PG electronic books were computer only, but now almost every title is available in Kindle, Nook, iPad and other e-reader compatible formats.  Some even include full color illustrations!

Below is just a tiny sample of the public domain books you can download for free from Project Gutenberg.   The annotations are mine (a drawback to the project is that there's no synopsis or other description for any of the titles, so using a few research skills, and Wikipedia, does come in handy).  The PG catalog also includes audiobooks (both human-read and computer-read), and if you'd like to practice reading in  Yiddish, Norwegian, Tagalog, or any of 60+ other written languages, PG has ebooks for you too.

  • A collection of essays, published in 1917, by American music writer and critic James Huneker. Included are essays "In Praise of Unicorns," on George Sand, James Joyce, Henry James, Brahms, Wagner, Cezanne, and "The Great American Novel."
  • Frank V. Webster was a pseudonym controlled by the Stratemeyer Syndicate (publisher of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books). This pseudonym was used on books for boys from the early 1900s through the 1930s. Two Boy Gold Miners was published in 1909.
  • Tom Swift and His Motorcycle; or, Fun and Adventure on the Road  by Victor Appleton. 
    The first book (1910)  in a long-running series from the Stratemeyer Syndicate.  Tom is a teenage genius inventor, modeled after such real-life inventors such as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, whose adventures have inspired young people from Issac Asimove to Steve Wozniak.  As with so many older books, readers should be aware that ethnic and racial depictions can follow negative stereotypes, and parents may want to be prepared to discuss changes in society since then.
  • Anton Felix Schindler was an associate, secretary, and early biographer of Ludwig van Beethoven. His "Life of Beethoven," first published in 1840, had a great deal of influence on later Beethoven biography. He claimed to have been Beethoven's best friend.
  • 1910 horror story by Algernon Blackwood, one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories in the history of the genre.   In the Canadian wilderness, a hunting party separates to track moose, and one member is abducted by the Wendigo of legend (a malevlolent canibalistic monster, possibly created when a person ate human flesh).
  • The Man in Black by Stanley John Weyman
    Written by an author much celebrated in his time, and later by modern author Graham Greene, The Man in Black is a short and spellbinding Cinderella tale with a monkey, a cruel, crafty-eyed showman and the evil of the man in black, a charlatan and wizard. This is a tale of corruption, abuse of the innocent and the complete destruction of evil by good. One of the most imaginative and clever works by Weyman, it is a magnificent tale.

If you have an eReader, but aren't quite sure how to go about downloading from Project Gutenberg (or for that matter, from your Atlanta area public library), zap me a message, come on by the library and we'll try to get you set up.  It's one of those tricky things that, once you know how, it's not so hard, but a helping hand is really really useful in getting started.

Are you planning to read any classics over the sumer?  On paper, or "pad?" 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

More Poetry, Year-Round

We have bid National Poetry Month adieu for another year.  Today is May Day, a rite of spring, and also the first day of Mystery Month.

But poetry is not far away.  As noted earlier,  I am crazy about podcasts and Open University-type courses.  There are a couple of new university-level Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs, if ever there was a goofy acronym) in the mix this spring -- Coursera and Udacity.  As with most of the other MOOCs (like MIT and Yale), a majority of the classes are tech and science related, but Coursera is offering several Humanities classes too!

In September 2012, The University of Pennsylvania, through Coursera, is offering a 10 week class in Modern and Contemporary Poetry, taught by Penn professor Al Filreis.  The course is described as videotaped seminar-style, collaborative close readings of poetry from Dickinson and Whitman to poets of the early 21st century, with online discussion forums and occasional quizzes or short essays.

Professor Filreis is also the host of a regular podcast, Poem Talk, sponsored by The Poetry Foundation.  Each podcast is a close reading of a poem, led by Filreis, with roundtable discussion featuring a rotating groups of contemporary poets.  If you are interested in the online class, check out a couple of the podcasts, as the descriptions are very similar and you can see ahead of time if this approach works for you.

As always, an investigation into one source turns up so many other sources previously unimagined. Who knew there were so many other podcasts and online resources for studying poetry??  A short list would include

  • Restoration and 18th Century Poetry, a survey of currently unfashionable poetry, from Brandeis professor William Flesch.  Available as a collection of downloadable podcasts.
  • PBS NewsHour Poetry series -- short podcasts (under 10 mins each) that couple profiles of contemporary poets with reports on poetry news and trends. (NewsHour poetry website)

Another of the Coursera humanities courses that caught my eye is a survey of World Music, which starts in July?  Have you ever taken an online academic course?  Was it a good experience?   Your comments on online learning are welcome!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pocket Poems are Popping Up

Here at Paideia, National Poetry Month turns out to be Paideia Poetry 3 Weeks, since our spring break is always the first week of April. Now we're halfway through this year's annual poetry celebration, and the poems are popping up around campus. Teachers were asked to suggest their favorite poems, and these "poems-in-a-pocket" are appearing in various buildings up and down South Ponce de Leon.

Under the flap could be anything, from a classic of the Brit Lit canon,

to contemporary short and snappy.

But the coolest of all is the most recent poem in this collection. Congratulations, Abby!!

Truly, this month's library display hit it right on the nailhead . . .

Yep, that's right!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Linking & Thinking: A Week of Brain Fodder (weekly)

A weekly collection of annotated links to blog posts, articles and websites about information, school and teaching.


Posted from Diigo.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Linking & Thinking: A Week of Brain Fodder (3/25/2012)

A weekly collection of annotated links to blog posts, articles and websites about information, school and teaching.


  • Hard science to back up what we've know all along -- the brain can learn emotions, sensitivity and experience from reading, not just living. In tests watching which areas of the brain become active when reading about different things, scientists found that there's no neurological difference between and action and reading about an actionl -- the same parts of the brain go to work. AND, when reading metaphor or evocative description -- a description of a skunky smell activates the smelling regions of the brain as well as the image regions. Reading DOES

  • A better title might be "In Defense of Books" --
    "Books can bridge that gap between very general and very scholarly that is difficult to find in a journal article. They often cover a broad subject in smaller chunks (i.e., chapters), and can provide a good model for narrowing a topic into one that’s manageable for a short research assignments. Books can also help students exercise the muscles that they need for better internet and database searching as they mine chapter titles and the index for keywords."

  • There is so much freely available that was impossible to access only a few years ago, and a motivated student CAN put together a high quality education w/o formal college (or really even high school). The sticking point is, and always has been, motivation -- and that's something no college or university can provide, open online or otherwise.

  • Wow. Arizona has banned Mexican-American studies, including YA novel Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Peña, in high schools. Imagine banning Asian American studies in California, or African American studies here in Atlanta. How can they do this and get away with it?

  • Yup -- more of the same thing. It's not time to jump into ebook yet, largely because I don't think we can really supply what I believe (though I could be wrong) our Paideia readers want.

Posted from Diigo.