Monday, December 30, 2013

Reading Club Updates

High School Reading Club - The January book is Beautiful Ruins  by Jess Walter (also available in the ebook collection).  The meeting will be after school on Thursday, January 9 (the first Thursday of short term).

Junior High Reading Club - January book is Every Day  by David Levithan.   We usually meet on the 3rd Monday of each month, but since the 20th is MLK, Jr day, we'll meet on Monday, January13 instead (the 2nd Monday of January).

The December JH club book was Legend, a dystopian thriller by Marie Lu.  We discussed the book, watched a couple of video interviews with the author, and played a trivia game on people, places and events in the book.  Two winners went home with the 2nd and 3rd books in the trilogy, Prodigy and Champion.
The trilogy is available in a single volume in the ebook collection.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Year End Reading (and Giving) Recommendations

The fall Long Term is almost ended, and on tomorrow afternoon (at precisely 3:10 pm) we begin December break, oh blessed break!  Some folks will have a giving and getting holiday, some folks will have birthdays, and some folks will simply rejoice in the extra time to hit the library, home bookshelf or bookstore for some winter reading.  So, for your consideration, I offer this second annual list of "Books You Might Like to Give or Read," with teen and teen parent readers in mind.

All titles are in print and available at your local independent bookstore (Little Shop of Stories is ours) or online.  Title links go to more info in our Surpass Safari library catalog. If you'd like to borrow one or more for December break reading, come on in!


If your reader likes
contemporary fiction, the Internet, books, or ancient and mysterious societies:

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Book Shop  by Robin Sloan
(also in audiobook on CD and downloadable audiobook)

A favorite of the high school reading club (and New York Times readers), Mr. Penumbra is just plain old fun reading that also raises some big questions.  When an unemployed 20-something graphic designer (of the Google generation) takes a job in a old-fashioned bookstore with some decidedly odd customers and a whole off-limits section, curiosity trumps the rules and the power of the microchip solves centuries-old puzzles.  Will men or machines decipher the key to everything?

Mystery for book lovers: The Shadow of the Wind  by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  A boy becomes the protector and patron of The Shadow of the Wind, a book from the Cemetery of Lost Books. As an adult he searches for the truth about the book's author and the mysterious man who is destroying all existing copies.  Zafon has written more novels about the Cemetery of Lost Books, but I haven't read any of them (yet).

For obsessive book lovers: Fangirl  by Rainbow Rowell.  Cath's entire world revolves around loving the Simon Snow series, but now that they are in college, twin sister Wren has moved on.  Can Cath grow up and move on too, if it means leaving safety and Simon Snow behind? 

Fun for book lovers: The Eyre Affair  by Jasper Fforde.  In the first Thursday Next novel, an evildoer has kidnapped Jane Eyre from her novel, and without a narrator, there's not much of a story.   Thursday's division of Literary Crimes is on the case, and about to change literary history.

~ ~

If your reader likes
romance, historical-ish fiction, or magical realism, religious mythology:

The Golem and the Jinni  by Helene Wecker
(also available in the ebook collection)

Two mythological beings, a masterless golem, made of European earth and an enchained jinni, a creature of desert and fire, become unlikely friends in exile. Struggling to make their way in 1899 New York, Chava and Ahmad try to fit in with their immigrant neighbors while masking their true selves.

More romance: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.  A sweet, painful and funny exploration of two "star-crossed misfits" finding first love. 

Magical realism: Snow in August by Pete Hamill.  A golem protects an Irish Catholic boy and a solitary rabbi from anti-Semitic toughs in 1947 Brooklyn; ebook also available.


If your reader likes
police/detective novels, stories of redemption, or stories about dogs (who don't die at the end!)

Suspect  by Robert Crais.

Maggie is an traumatized ex-Marine on the verge of washing out of her K9 training. Scott James is a wounded cop for whom the K9 unit is a last chance to stay with the force.  Both struggle with PTSD and physical damage, the German Shepherd from a sniper attack in Afghanistan, the cop from an unexpected midnight shootout that left his partner dead.  Scott chooses Maggie to be his partner, and everything, including their futures, hinges on their ability to heal while digging into the mystery of that fatal shootout.  Also available in the ebook collection

Historical mystery: Leaving Everything Most Loved  by Jacqueline Winspear.  In 1933 London, WWI nurse, psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs looks into the murder of a beautiful Indian immigrant.  Rich in the history of Europe between the Wars, this is the 10th in the compassionate and well-crafted Maisie Dobbs series.  Also available in the ebook collection

Murder mystery/thriller: I Hunt Killers  by Barry Lyga.  Small-town Jazz helps the police solve a series of murders that echo the style of his imprisoned father, the country's most notorious serial killer.  Also in the ebook collection.


If your reader likes
medieval-ish fantasy & romance, no-nonsense heroines, or assassin nuns (!)

A Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

The convent of Saint Mortain isn't your ordinary medieval Breton nunnery. After teenaged Ismae, a child of the God of Death, becomes a novice as escape from a brutal arranged marriage, the nuns train her in the arts of lethal poison and feminine wiles.  As a skilled assassin, Ismae is sent as a spy to the high court of Brittany, to protect and kill anyone who threatens the young Duchess, even if it's the gallant Duval, who has stolen Ismae's heart.  Dark Triumph is next. Both also available in the ebook collection.

More romantic fantasy: Days of Blood and Starlight  by Laini Taylor.  The battle between chimera and seraphim continues. Monster-apprentice Kairu, who loved and was betrayed by the angel Akiva, creates an army of revenants to combat Jael, the cruel emperor of the angels, before he succeeds in invading the human world.

Absurdly funny alternate history fantasy: The Woman Who Died A Lot  by Jasper Fforde.  In the continuing adventures of literary detective Thursday Next, an angry god threatens to smite all of downtown Swindon before young Tuesday perfects the Anti-Smite Shield, and the evil Jack Schitt has something up his sleeve besides a series of worthless stolen medieval manuscripts.


If your reader likes
psychology, neurology, marketing, the mysteries of human behaviour :

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business  by Charles Duhigg

Why are habits so hard to break?  How do marketers create and exploit habits to sell products?  NY Times business reporter Duhigg's book explores the neurological pathways created by repetitions of a cue--> routine--> reward loop that creates a craving for the reward, and how keeping same cue & reward, but changing the routine in between, can transform bad habits into good ones.  Using examples from Febreeze to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and gold medalist Michael Phelps, The Power of Habit makes ingrained behaviours really easy to understand, and a bit easier to change.

Natural history/meditation:  The Forest Unseen  by David George Haskell (also in the ebook collection).  Each journal entry in this year-long observation of a small patch of mountain forest (to be specific, Shakerag Hollow in my hometown of Sewanee, Tennessee) is part observation, part natural history lesson, and part meditation on the meaning of life.   The Forest Unseen has won numerous accolades, including nonfiction finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and 2013 Best Book Award from the National Academies of Science. Haskell is biology and environment professor at the University of the South in Sewanee.


If your reader likes
graphic novels, bizarre superpowers, continuing series, or oddball mysteries:

Chew  by John Layman and Rob Guillory

Special detective Tony Chu's superpower is cibopathy -- he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats, which makes him stick to vegetables most of the time.  In the Special Crimes division of the FDA, the job requires a nibble of a murder victim every now and then, which is pretty gross but also solves the crime. The individual comics have been collected and published in 7 paperback volumes (to date). Volume 1 is  Taster's Choice.

Graphic novel with a paranormal twist: Mind the Gap by Jim McCann.  Young, rich, beautiful, and lying in a coma after being attacked in a Tube station, Elle Peterssen's spirit detaches from her body. Trapped between life and death, Elle tries to find out who was behind her attack, and why.  The first story arc is collected in paperback Volumes 1-3, and the series continues.

Humor:  Tina's Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary  by Keshni Kashyap.  Sophomore Tina Malhotra captures the cliques and ironies of her tony private school, and the foibles of her upper class intellectual Indian American family, through a year-long "existential diary" addressed to one J.P. Sartre.

Historical Fiction:  Boxers and Saints  by Gene Luen Yang.  In separate volumes, Yang shows the intersecting lives of Little Bao, who joins the violent uprising against interfering Christian missionaries, and of Vibiana, an unwanted fourth child, who has found a home with the Christians and inspiration in Saint Joan.

What books would you like to give or receive this winter?  Enjoy your December break to the fullest, and leave your recommendations in the comments.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gifts of the Season

Being of the Christian cultural persuasion, my family celebrates Christmas as our winter holiday, and at some point in December we do a special Christmas-related event together.  One year it was the Nutcracker at the Fox, another ice skating and hot cocoa, another year we saw the Alliance Theatre's A Christmas Carol.  Last weekend we went to see Theatrical Outfit's Gifts of the Magi, at the Balzer Theatre at Herren's.  The play is based on two stories by O. Henry, the obvious "The Gift of the
Magi" and another woven in for comic relief, "The Cop and the Anthem." Ever clueless, I didn't even realize it was a musical until long after tickets were purchased, and wow -- 'twas a truly magical performance.  Go see it (it's showing through December 22)!  I am partial to baritones, and a handsome baritone with charisma (Kevin Harry as narrator Willy) is even better.

Last year during Advent, I read a picture book version of "The Gift of the Magi" to the teens after dinner, unknowingly (but fortunately) setting the stage for a better appreciation of the Theatrical Outfit production.  There are many adaptations of O. Henry's story, and we have several in our libraries.  The one we read (first in the list) was borrowed from the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library, and is set in fairly contemporary Appalachia.
and of course the original story in the un-illustrated collection The Gift of the Magi and Other Stories and downloadable as a free ebook or audiobook at Project Gutenberg (the original free ebook organization).

Other Christmas-y offerings in the library range from literary to Latino.
  • Christmas Books  by Charles Dickens (includes "A Christmas Carol" and others) or download the Gutenberg ebook
  • Breakfast at Tiffanys  by Truman Capote.  Includes "A Christmas Memory," Capote's recollection of making Christmas fruitcakes, "for President Roosevelt,"  with a favorite older cousin. The elementary library has it as a picture book.
  • Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances  by YA favorites John Green, Lauren Myracle and Maureen Johnson.  Intertwining short stories about high school couples at Christmas. Also in our ebook collection.
  • The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nussbaum. Did you know the Puritans outlawed the holiday??  In 1659, Christmas was a boisterous drunken celebrations.  Nussbaum's book explores the history of Christmas from Saturnalian excesses to today's festivity of domesticity and consumerian.

Listen to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas' story A Child's Christmas in Wales on CD, read by Thomas himself (oh, that musical Welsh accent), plus a video adaptation and an illustrated children's book.

and a very very special offering:

Peace, Love and Wonder: Songs of Christmas  a gorgeous professional release by Kate Murray, Paideia's very own, fabulously talented chorus teacher.  You can buy it on iTunes or listen on Spotify!

Come to the library and check out a gift soon.  What are your favorite Christmas/Solstice traditions or memories?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Library R&R

 Of course, in this realm it's Reading & Research, not rest & relaxation (though the reading part can do both for some folks).


Yesterday I met with Rachel's 7th graders for a class on using ProQuest, SIRS and other subscription databases for research on their Race, Class & Gender (RCG) project.  They are looking for information that sheds light on how RCG issues intersect with and affect food security & insecurity, HeadStart/early childhood education, and immigration.

The students are very interested in their topics and we covered a lot of ground.  We looked at the similarities in ProQuest and SIRS, and at the major differences (ProQuest is a collection of newspaper & magazine articles, while SIRS is a curated collection of similar articles, but only ones that relate to one or more of  300-ish social issues identified by the editors).  These kids are all using iPads, so they're pretty savvy with the mechanics of the apps and navigation -- it's cool that they will be able to save PDFs of the articles they find in one of the pdf notetaking apps we use (GoodReader and Noteabilty) and build their research collections right on their iPads.  We may have another session to go deeper into using NoodleBib for pulling notes together from various sources and then creating outlines and written documents from the information.

An idea that Rachel and I emphasized is that research is a process, not a single activity, toward becoming knowledgeable about a topic.  A couple of analogies to personal research seemed to click with the students: 
  •  for those who participate in Fantasy Sports leagues: "Did you know everything you needed to know about your team and your players when you first started? How did you learn?  Was it quick?  Or did you read and talk about them, then try it out, then read and talk some more?  That's research!"
  • or, "if you're into, say, Justin Bieber.  Did you know his favorite color, or his mom's name, right away? Did you find out everything from one place?  Did it take some time? That's research!"
 This class of 7th graders is very fortunate to have Rachel involving them in research that is both meaningful and requires learning skills that will be incredibly useful for the rest of their lives. 


Earlier in the week I got to do my favorite kind of  "travelling road show," going over to the junior high to booktalk great reading to Jennifer and Tony's 7th graders.  Tony's also a great colleague, with regular invitations to go visit for a YA reading "show & tell" extravaganza!  What a great class.

The books I took and talked were grouped into themes.  The links go to the book descriptions in our Surpass Safari catalog.  Books checked out by students at the end of class are marked with an asterisk.

* Chew, Vol. 1  by John Layman
* My Own Worst Frenemy  by Kimberly Reid
* Mind the Gap, Vol. 1  by Jim McCann
* Time Stops for No Mouse  by Michael Hoyeye
Suspect  by Robert Crais

 * The Forest of Hands and Teeth  by Carrie Ryan
* The Monstrumologist  by Rick Yancey
Bonechiller  by Graham McNamee
Lord Loss  by Darren Shan

Between Here and Whatever Comes Next
(is there a limbo? and what happens when you're there?)
* The Afterlife  by Gary Soto
* Elsewhere  by Gabrielle Zevin
Everlost  by Neal Shusterman
Once Dead, Twice Shy  by Kim Harrison

* Amy & Roger's Epic Detour  by Morgan Matson
Eleanor & Park  by Rainbow Rowell
Indigo Summer  by Monica McKayhan
M or F?  by Lisa Papademitrou and Chris Tebbits
Ash  by Malinda Lo

(National Book Award nominees that didn't win)
* Boxers & Saints (2 vols.)  by Gene Luen Yang
* Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - The World's Most Dangerous Weapon  by Steve Sheinkin
The Summer Prince  by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire & Its Legacy  by Albert Marrin
Picture Me Gone  by Meg Rosoff
Far Far Away  by Tom McNeal

What books would you include in these themes? Are you a holiday book giver?  Please share your suggestions in the comments.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Zombocalypse Now!
well, actually, really only just Thursday afternoon

Info and Links for High School Reading Club, November 14

World War Z  by Max Brooks

Max Brooks is the son of Mel Brooks and Ann Bancroft. He is also the author of  The Zombie Survival Guide.   WWZ is a sequel of sorts to the survival guide.

Max Brooks' website.

(ps -- he was only kidding)


Zombie Pandemic -- CDC's Zombocalypse Preparedness Graphic Novel!!
  • Follow Todd, Julie, and their dog Max as a strange new disease begins spreading, turning ordinary people into zombies. Stick around to the end for a surprising twist that will drive home the importance of being prepared for any emergency.

Max Brooks talks about the history and types of zombies
and how to survive in the event of a zombie pandemic.

World War Z official movie trailer - nothing like the book, stars Brad Pitt

Everything Wrong with World War Z In 6 Minutes or Less - by CinemaSins

Music & culture references 

Iron Maiden - The Trooper (Charge of the Light Brigade) - Battle of Yonkers
Redgum - I Was Only Nineteen (Vietnam, mentioned twice by 2 different characters) -
The Smiths - How Soon Is Now - creepy documentary soundtrack
Free to Be You and Me Babies & song (soldiers act out skit & sing) -
Johnny Clegg - Asimbonanga - ("have you seen him?" 2nd interview with T. Sean Collins)

Short film - Alice Jacobs is Dead

More Zombies in the Library

Discussion --
We talked about the role of women, how some people seemed to have gone crazy (the feral girl, Redeker/Xolelwa Azania, the downed female aviator who may or may not have communicated with someone in the bush who saved her).
Some were let down by the lack of a huge narrative arc (conflict, crisis, resolution) while others liked piecing together the action from the separate interviews. 
Some were frustrated by the fact that we never know exactly what happened to the boy in China to start the pandemic -- we talked about the parallels with the spread of H1N1/swine flu in 2009, the exact origins of which we can only guess.
We jumped off of some of the questions in this blog post.

Next Time
We're reading Beautiful Ruins  by Jess Walter.   Meeting will be on Thursday, January 9.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Guard Your Online Info with a Strong Password

Earlier this fall I mentioned that I'd spent part of the summer reading all the detective/mystery novels by Michael Connelly. One of the novels, The Scarecrow (borrowed from the DeKalb Public Library's ebook collection), features a very, very bad guy who is also a computer security expert.   I was alarmed at how easily this bad guy was able to break into various characters' email and bank accounts, destroying their finances and careers by altering and deleting vital information.   My passwords have been reasonably ok, but since The Scarecrow, I've been going through and upgrading all my passwords, starting with email, and anything that has financial information involved (bank, PayPal,, mortgage company, iTunes, etc etc).

 AARGH!! How can anybody come up with strong, unique passwords for every single dad-blamed website (because, of course, you have to have a username and password for EVERYTHING, from PiBites to updating your directory information, all on different platforms with different accounts.)

Fortunately, Gwyneth Jones, The Daring Librarian, has come up with a nifty comic tutorial encapsulating all the sage advice on creating unique, strong AND rememberable* passwords for all your sites.  In a nutshell:
  • 1. Make your password at least 12 characters long.
  • 2. Make it complex -- use a phrase (not just a dictionary word) with special characters,
    numbers and both upper and lower case letters
  • 3. Add to your main passphrase characters that make it unique for each site (for instance, the
  • first three letters of the site name, backwards) so you have to remember only one complicated phrase, and the site reminds you of the rest.
Can you guess the passphrase in this post's title? It's  f0rP3+3sS@k#!  (for petes sake!).  Vowels are from the number line, spaces are brackets }, and the "t" was replaced by a plus sign.  It looks completely random, but you and I know the secret to remembering it.

The complete tutorial is in the graphic below, and you can download a higher-resolution printing copy of the file from Gwyneth's Flickr site. Post it on your office bulletin board or next to the computer  -- but f0r}P3+3]sS@k#! don't write your passphrase on it!

Of course, you also have to figure out all the zillion sites where you've had to set up accounts over the years, but I can't help you with that.

Check out the rest of The Daring Librarian's 10 Super Geeky Tips for the New Year on her blog.

Are you using lame passwords?  Do you have any additional password tips?  Share in the comments!

* "memorable" is for dates and fabulous novels. "Rememberable" -- able to be remembered -- is a much better for this purpose :-)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Horror

It's to be expected that creepy things tend to show up around the last week of October, and I've had a few creep-outs this week.   In order --

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War  by Max Brooks.   Truth is, I'm enjoying this book so much more than I thought I would.  I have never gotten the zombie craze -- they're just so gross, and I went off horror in about 1990.  It might actually have been Night of the Living Dead that did me in. Ugh.  But -- as an "oral history," in World War Z, I can be assured that at least none of the people I'm reading about will be eaten by zombies (because they're being interviewed, I already know they've survived! I am bracing myself for something horrible to come, though). Plus, I enjoy the puzzle-quality of creating a continuous narrative out of the separate experiences of many many individuals.  I'm looking forward to the reading club discussion in a couple of weeks.

Next, while looking around for a short scary film to show for Halloween, I came across Alice Jacobs is Dead: A Love Story,  a 21-minute film about Ben Jacobs, the celebrated scientist who created a cure for the Z-virus, and how he manages to use his life-saving serum to destroy all he'd worked to save.  I watched it yesterday -- I confess to covering my eyes at the "extra zombie gore!" part, but I heard every bit -- and am haunted by it.    How far should science pursue an answer? What exactly is living death?  At what point does love move from selfless to selfish? Watch the trailer on YouTube. You can borrow the DVD from the library (if you dare . . .)

No Halloween is complete without a heaping helping of Edgar Allan Poe, and today was the day I came across this video rap version of Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum.  It's catchy, creepy, and the visuals prod the imagination just enough.

Another slowly creepy short film is The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow, an exploration of a single photograph hiding a terrible deed. As the camera begins to investigate the photo, it reveals a tapestry of secrets hidden in the details, and a tale of murder, kidnapping and sacrifice captured in a haunting moment.  Eeek!

Shiver. I think I'll go watch something charming and happy to take the creep off.  Happy Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thumbs Up for Mr. Penumbra:
October Reading Club Meeting

The High School reading club met in the library last Friday to discuss Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookshop, the 2013 Alex Award novel from Twitter "media inventor" Robin Sloan, which all attendees really enjoyed.  This post originally went up as a way to display info about the book during the meeting -- I've added commentary about the reading club discussion and what the various bits and pieces mean.

Some background on the author

Author Robin Sloan writes about himself on his website:
I grew up near Detroit and went to school at Michigan State, where I studied economics and co-founded a literary magazine called Oats. Between 2002 and 2012, I worked at Poynter, Current TV, and Twitter, and at all those places, my job had something to do with figuring out the future of media.

I’m the author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which started as a short story right here and is now a full-length novel from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

I believe that stories told primarily (but not exclusively) with words are among the most durable things a person can produce, and I’m trying my best to write a few that might make it through to the year 2112. If you read one and pass it along to someone else, you’re participating in that project—so, thank you!


We watched part of this talk (embedded below) by Robin Sloan, starting at about 4 mins 24 secs, and going to about 10:05.  In this part he talks about how he gathers ideas, his approach to writing, and the philosophies of "lightness:" of inspiration, of motion, of digital, and the lightness of AND.

After the clip, we looked for expressions of these lightnesses in the book --
  • the initial inspiration for the short story, which later became a novel, sprang from a Tweet -- "thanks to Rachel Leow for a tweet on November 15, 2008: “just misread ‘24hr bookdrop’ as ‘24hr bookshop’. the disappointment is beyond words.”
  • Sloan's Latin motto, Solvitur Ambulando, "it is solved by walking" connects to the Unbroken Spine's motto Festina Lente, "make haste slowly"
  • digital is everywhere in the book, from Google to Skype, to FaceTime to digital scanners and on and on.  In addition to the online short story, Sloan has also penned a Kindle Single short novella, Ajax Penumbra 1969.  This backstory of a seller of ancient books is only available as a digital download, but the cover of the physical book glows in the dark!  It's just not the same on an electronic reader . . .
  • and of course, the whole book is about the "Lightness of And."  Digital and paper, the past and the future, people and machines, art and engineering. And . . .

Why We Should Leave Our Fingerprints For the Future 
-- Robin Sloan (DoLectures, January 2013)


Even though Clay Jannon is the narrator and presumably the central character of the novel, he took up very little of our conversation.  Mr. Penumbra is the star of the story, and Mat, Kat, Neel and a few other characters are more vibrant and attention-catching than Clay.  Penumbra means "almost a shadow,"  and we talked about how Mr. Penumbra is a bridge between the old ways and the new. Clay is also a bridge, between Mat's art and Ashley's perfection,  between not-exactly-a-feminist Neel and women's art, between Mr. Penumbra and the digital future. Most importantly, he's an ordinary everyday guy who's the  catalyst for amazing events and discoveries.


A couple of renditions of the symbol of the Unbroken Spine.


There is no pub in New York called the Dolphin and Anchor (though there ought to be), but the real Aldus Manutius used an emblem of a dolphin wrapped around an anchor, and the motto Festina Lente, as his printer's mark.  Aha! someone in the group said -- dolphins are speedy and anchors slow you down.


What's the relationship between a modern day CV (a scholar's Curriculum Vitae) and the codex vitae written by Unbroken Spine scholars?  What's a codex?


The one thing I'm kicking myself for is not realizing soon enough the possibility that Robin Sloan might do a Skype visit with the club.  He says right on his website that he loves that opportunity.  Drat and double drat!  Perhaps we can have a special "encore" meeting with the author???


Stay tuned for the next reading club selection.  We're choosing among Beautiful Ruins, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, World War Z, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Chick(en) Lit in the Library

Last weekend's Library Donation Sale was set up in the Art Lobby, and one of our walls was a show of tissue paper collage hens by an elementary art class.  Being a chicken-lover myself, I enjoyed being in 'hen hall' for a couple of days.

Of course, this made me think of our Urban Farm program at school, and the many resources we have in the library to support that learning program.  We have pretty much everything you need to know to start a farmette, including several books (and a video) on raising chickens.  

Titles include:

Foreman, Patricia L. City Chicks: Keeping Microflocks of Laying Hens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-Recyclers and Local Food Suppliers (how's that for an enthusiastic title??)

Kilarski, Barbara. Keep Chickens: Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs and other Small Spaces.

Weaver, Sue.  Chickens: Tending a Small Scale Flock for Pleasure and Profit.

and a DVD:

Fred's Fine Fowl.  Regarding Chickens (171 mins.)

Do you have chickens, or wish you did?  Recommend any other great resources in the comments!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Creating Powerful PSAs

For Magnus' Biology 2 class

A PSA ("Public Service Announcement") is a "message in the public interest disseminated by the media without charge."  In other words, it's an advertisement with information for the general public, run for free on TV, radio, billboards or magazines.

What the definition doesn't say is that a PSA has to be:
  • short
  • powerful
  • important

Do you recognize any of these images?

They're some of the most famous PSAs of the last century.

How about this recent radio PSA from the CDC -

Tips for creating a great Public Service Announcement ---
  • Know your GOAL - to get people to take a specific action (stop littering, wash hands, stop texting while driving)
  • Talk about RESULTS - a beautiful countryside, not getting bird flu, not causing a car crash)
  • Use informal EVERYDAY LANGUAGE (not lit writing or police speak)
  • Make it PERSONAL
  • Stick to ONE MESSAGE
  • Remember that SOUNDS CREATE PICTURES.  If you use sound effects or music, it must make the right picture in the listener or viewer's mind.
  • Keep it SHORT.  30 seconds is very common. 
  • IDENTIFY the sponsoring organization. 


How to Create the Perfect Public Service Announcement (Center for Digital Education)

How to Write a Public Service Announcement (pdf, from Kansas Association of Broadcasters)

Public Service Announcements (Wikipedia article)

Distracted Driving video PSAs (The Hill)

Sound Effects clips

Sound Bible (wav & mp3 files)
FreeSound (wav files)
Big Sound Bank (wav, aiff, mp3s; a French site)
FreeSFX (mp3s)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

fREADom to Read in the Junior High

In recognition of national Banned Books Week, fabulous junior high teacher Sydney Cleland organized and MCed a great community time program on Friday morning.   With an introduction on the recent history of challenged and banned books (ALA has a great timeline called "30 Years of Liberating Literature"), we talked about the difference between a book 'challenge' and a book actually being 'banned' (Banned Books just sounds so much better, but it's not nearly as common as the number of annual challenges), how librarians and libraries have a professional responsibility to protect their patrons' First Amendment right to free speech, and how 'even at Paideia!" we have a policy and a procedure to follow in case somebody challenges a book one of our libraries (yes, Virginia, it happens even at Paideia).

The stars of the show, though, were members of the junior high debate team (coached by Greg and Uri).  Pairs of debaters argued for and against book banning in general, and then for and against specific, often-challenged books, including the Harry Potter series, To Kill a Mockingbird and Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. 

You can't see it very well in the photo, but the caption is


At the end of the program, I handed out bookmarks.

Want to read a banned book??  There are so many to choose from  in the Paideia Library.  Be a rebel -- read a banned book! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reading Club Kicks Off New Year

An ancient society meets Google
in the quest for immortality.
As announced in Monday Morning Meeting today, the high school reading club will meet for the first time this school year on Friday, October 11.  We chose Friday because a) nobody has to run right home to do homework for the next day, and b) it's the least likely day for a team practice.

We're reading the highly lauded Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, an Alex Award winner, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction, and a Best Book of the Year by several major media outlets, including NPR (review here).

The novel is available in paperback & ebook versions, the Paideia Library owns  hardback, book-on-CD and downloadable audiobook copies, and we'll also have a few extra paperbacks to loan.

After school (probably 3:15 pm), Friday, October 11, in the 'old elementary library.'  There will be snacks!

E-mail or come see me in the library, or talk to Clare U. (10th grade) or Julia C. (9th grade) for more info.  See you there.

Have you read it already? What did you think??

Friday, September 20, 2013

The 'New and Improved' National Book Awards

Dang!  There's nothing better than an awards shortlist to make a librarian feel out of touch.  As news reports have noted, the National Book Awards have revamped their announcement process to be like more high profile awards, like Britain's Booker Prize, and released a 'long list' of Young People's Literature nominees on Monday (to be followed by a 'short list' in a couple of months, and the winner in late winter).  This rationed approach has already had its desired effect on at least one person (me), because I've just become aware of four YA titles I'd never heard of before. 

About half of the titles on the longlist seem to be for a middle and upper-elementary readers, while half feel more like "Young Adult" (ages 12-18-ish) .  I'm looking forward to reading the five YA titles, promoting them to students, and hoping one of them becomes the 2013 National Book Award winner.

So here's the complete longlist for 2013 "Young People's Literature" (with my annotations):

Kathi Appelt. The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp.    
   By a Newbery honoree, and it sounds intriguing. Sort of like a humorous Beasts of the Southern Wild, in the Delta swamps, with Yetis and other mythical creatures.  Maybe more appealing to younger Paideia readers -- will have to check it out.

Kate DiCamillo.  Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. 
    I know about this author -- she wrote Tale of Despereaux.   A girl and a poetry writing flying superhero squirrel.  Cute, but maybe for more for the Despereaux audience (grades 3-7).

Lisa Graff. A Tangle of Knots.
   Oh dear, totally never heard of this one.  The description sounds totally charming: an 11-year-old orphan, individual stories intertwined into one mystery-to-be-revealed, but again, on the "Rather Young People" side, not quite teenager-ish YA.

Alaya Dawn Johnson.  The Summer Prince.   (NPR review)
Ok, this one sounds like actual YA.  The faerie legend of the exalted and doomed Summer King, set in future dystopian Brazil.   I only heard of it Monday, when Greg ordered it for his junior high classroom (thanks Greg!), but can think of at least 3 other YA novels with a similar inspiration.  Will get for the library, and maybe even do a booktalk on the theme.


Cynthia Kadohata.  The Thing About Luck.
 I know Cindy Kadohata, first as the Newbery award-winning author of Kira-Kira and second as a fellow adoptive mom (her son Sammy was adopted from Kazakhstan).  From the description (Japanese-American children spending summer with grandparents in rural America), I'm thinking that this will find its readership in the elementary library rather than here.

David Levithan. Two Boys Kissing.  (Los Angeles Times review)
All of Levithan's books (Boy Meets Boy, Will Grayson Will Grayson, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and others) are read here, and this one, with its serious themes of love and loss, will be read as well.  An ex-couple participate in a kissing marathon for a Guiness World Record, a protest against a hate-crime committeed against another gay friend, narrated by ghosts of the AIDS generation. A no-brainer purchase, and a real prize contender. 

Tom McNeal. Far Far Away.  (Horn Book review) 
According to Booklist, this is "a masterful story of outcasts, the power of faith, and the triumph of good over evil."  Alrighty then, count me in.  I generally prefer good to triumph over evil, especially when it's the ghost of Jacob Grimm and two teenagers from the village of Never Better, against bitter vengeance in the form of delicious Prince Cakes (made with real village children), and so do many of our faithful readers.

Meg Rosoff.  Picture Me Gone.   (first chapter and author interview in The Guardian) 
Rosoff is universally acclaimed, but her books are not widely read at Paideia.  They are unpredictable, and each is very different from the other (no series writer is she). This one centers around the mystery of her father's missing friend, but is really about Mira's relationship with her father, and the secrets adults keep.  I will probably read this from the public library (I'm sharing my professional secrets here!) before deciding whether to buy it for Paideia.

Anne Ursu. The Real Boy.
  As a sequel to Breadcrumbs, a fast-circulating title in the elementary library, I know already to leave this one to Natalie for consideration.  I'm sure she'll get it -- sounds charming.

Gene Luen Yang.  Boxers & Saints(LA Times review/interview) 
Gene Yang is a staple around here -- his American Born Chinese has been a reading bowl selection, and is sometimes read in Junior High lit classes.  I got to read a preview of this new 2-volume historical fiction /graphic novel last spring -- the two volumes tell parallel stories of young characters involved in opposing sides of China's violent Boxer Rebellion -- and it's a winner.  For sure we'll have this one in our collection, and I'll booktalk it frequently.

The longlists for poetry, non-fiction and fiction, as well as lifetime and first time author awards have also been announced.  Find all that info at the NBF website.

Check out annotations and links for all 10 longlisted Young People's titles at The Daily Beast.   Which sounds most intriguing to you?