Friday, April 30, 2010

Libraries in the News

Here are some highlights from the American Library Association newsletter that comes out each Wednesday. Happy reading...

Opt out of Facebook’s instant personalization
Riva Richmond writes: “In late April, Facebook introduced the ‘open graph,’ a giant expansion of the ‘social graph’ concept on which Facebook is built. In the open graph, Facebook sees us as connected not just to our friends on Facebook, but to myriad things all over the web. Now, if you click a Like button or make a comment, know that you are authorizing Facebook to publish it on your Facebook profile and in your friends’ news feeds. Here are the instructions on how to reverse this.” Jeremiah Owyang analyzes Facebook’s announcement and points out opportunities, threats, and what no one tells you; and Alex Iskold discusses the privacy implications for users and publishers....
New York Times: Gadgetwise, Apr. 25; Web Strategy, Apr. 21; ReadWriteWeb, Apr. 23

book cover of Fun House graphic novel
Libraries fight graphic novel challenges
Brigid Alverson writes: “At the recent Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, a librarian from Jessamine County, Kentucky, spoke firsthand about dealing with calls for censorship in his library, and Deborah Caldwell-Stone from the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom discussed how to handle challenges to graphic novels at a panel titled ‘Burn It, Hide It, Misshelve It, Steal It, Ban It! Dealing with Graphic Novel Censorship in Your Library.’”...
Publishers Weekly, Apr. 26

automated book sorter at New York Public Library
NYPL’s mighty sorting machine
A gigantic new $2.3-million automated book sorter—believed to be the largest of its kind—housed in a renovated warehouse in Long Island City, Queens, has eliminated much of the book-sorting drudgery at the New York Public Library since it was turned on in February. Now, when a library visitor anywhere in the system requests a book located at another branch, the automated sorter does the work of routing it. Here’s how it works. Watch the video (2:10)....
New York Times, Apr. 21

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Fall of Giants

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett book cover

These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as, in a saga of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, Fall of Giants moves seamlessly from Washington to St. Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty. As always with Ken Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. It is destined to be a new classic.

In future volumes of The Century Trilogy, subsequent generations of the same families will travel through the great events of the rest of the twentieth century, changing themselves-and the century itself. With passion and the hand of a master, Follett brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again.

This title will be released on September 28, 2010.

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your link here.

~ Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine ~

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Libraries in the News

Here are some highlights from the American Library Association newsletter that comes out each Wednesday. Happy reading...

Neil Gaiman author photoAn evening with Neil Gaiman
Newbery-winning author Neil Gaiman spoke to more than 700 library lovers and fans as part of an online event during National Library Week. Watch the two-part video to learn more on Gaiman’s thoughts on libraries and librarians, from the time he was a child in England to coming to America and becoming involved in intellectual freedom issues....
@ your library, Apr. 16

George Washington’s missing library books
More than 200 years ago, the nation’s first president borrowed two volumes from the New York Society Library and never returned them. On October 5, 1789, George Washington checked out Emer de Vattel’s The Law of Nations and volume 12 of the British House of Commons Debates. Washington spent his first year as President in New York City at a mansion that was located near Pearl and Dover Streets (now under the Brooklyn Bridge), only a short carriage ride from the library, which was then in Federal Hall at 23 Wall Street. He moved to Philadelphia in 1790, perhaps taking the books with him....
New York Daily News, Apr. 17

Bone Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith book coverBone of contention
After Ramona DeLay’s son Hardy brought home a copy of the fourth book in Jeff Smith’s Bone graphic novel series, the Apple Valley, Minnesota, resident and Southview Elementary parent filed a request March 15 for the school district to reconsider having the materials available in the library. She objected to the book’s portrayal of gambling, alcohol and tobacco use, and “sexual situations between characters.” A school reconsideration committee met April 20....
Sun Newspapers (Eden Prairie, Minn.), Apr. 15; St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press, Apr. 20

Hilary Caws-Elwitt
Another librarian on Jeopardy
Hilary Caws-Elwitt, systems librarian at the Susquehanna County (Pa.) Historical Society and Free Library Association, will appear on the game show Jeopardy! April 22. Caws-Elwitt taped the appearance in early February, and while she isn’t allowed to reveal the game’s outcome, “It was quite dramatic, and almost everything I wanted to happen did happen,” she said....
Susquehanna County Library, Apr. 15

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dead End Gene Pool by Wendy Burden

Dead End Gene Pool by Wendy Burden book cover nonfiction memoir
Dead End Gene Pool
by Wendy Burden
Gotham (April 1, 2010)
288 pages
Received book from TLC Book Tours

Summary in a Sentence:

The great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt offers an insider's view of growing up in an old-money family rich with dysfunction.

My Thoughts:

Author Burden takes what is in reality a sad family situation full of neglect and lacking any sort of parental direction, and spins it into a funny tale reminiscent of Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris. The cover of this book is definitely what reeled me in, and Burden hits the ground running with jokes about her flatulent grandmother and her jet-setting absentee mother.

Although the book definitely has its witty moments, the jokes and the incessant effort to make a bad situation funny become tiresome after awhile. I also wonder at the accuracy of certain parts of the memoir. Nobody I know remembers this much about their childhood! I think I was hoping for more of the Vanderbilt family backstory, not just how messed up Burden's parents and grandparents were. Certain stories in the memoir that were supposed to make me chuckle simply made me cringe or shake my head. Needless to say, this one fell flat for me. If you want a truly funny memoir, check out Burroughs instead.

You might also like:
Other reviewers on the tour:

Monday, April 19th: Life in Pink
Tuesday, April 20th: Bibliophile by the Sea
Wednesday, April 21st: A Sea of Books
Thursday, April 22nd: Simply Stacie
Friday, April 23rd: A Bookshelf Monstrosity
Monday, April 26th: Luxury Reading
Wednesday, April 28th: Book’N Around
Thursday, April 29th: Chaotic Compendiums
Friday, April 30th: Rundpinne
Monday, May 3rd: One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books
Wednesday, May 5th: Book Club Classics!
Friday, May 7th: The Brain Lair
Monday, May 10th: The Serpentine Library
Tuesday, May 11th: Books Are Like Candy Corn
Monday, May 17th: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Tuesday, May 18th: Starting Fresh
Tuesday, May 18th: Books on the Brain: Reading Series Discussion

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wading Through My Wishlist

Recent additions to the Great Monstrosity that is my wishlist....

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
(Found at Book Nut)

Gaiman assumes the role of narrator for his latest book, offering an intimate reading that steals one's attention almost immediately and keeps the listener involved throughout. As the story is based in the United Kingdom, Gaiman is a quintessential raconteur for the tale, with his charming Scottish brogue instilling life and spirit into the central character of Richard Mayhew. Pitch perfect, with clear pronunciation, Gaiman invites listeners into his living room for a fireside chat, offering a private and personal experience that transcends the limitations of traditional narration. The author knows his story through and through, capturing the desired emotion and audience reaction in each and every scene. His characters are unique, with diverse personalities and narrative approaches, and Gaiman offers a variety of dialects and tones. The reading sounds more like a private conversation among friends with Gaiman providing the convincing and likable performance the writing deserves.

The Birth House: A Novel by Ami McKay
(Found at Maw Books)

When Dr. Gilbert Thomas, self-proclaimed expert in hygienic, pain-free childbirth, opens a practice in a Nova Scotia coastal village during the World War I years, it sets the stage for a classic conflict between long-held traditions and modern medicine. Seventeen-year-old Dora Rare, the only Rare daughter within five generations, improves her lot in life by becoming the apprentice of Marie Babineau, the independent but caring Acadian midwife who helped bring several generations of Scots Bay residents into the world. The women of the village (not to mention their husbands) grow bitterly divided when Dr. Thomas calls the health and safety of expectant mothers into question. His vengeful actions toward Dora herself--a young woman looking for guidance with her own love life--turn particularly personal as well. McKay has fashioned what she terms a "literary scrapbook," reproducing and re-creating historical news clippings, advertisements, and letters within the text.

Looking for Bapu by Anjali Banerjee
(Found at A Striped Armchair)

When his grandfather Bapu suffers a stroke, eight-year-old Anu runs for help, but his grandfather dies in the hospital. Grief-stricken, Anu remembers Bapu's daily Hindu rituals and shared moments, and he continues to see Bapu in dreams and visions. As these fade, Anu tries to reconnect with Bapu through a variety of imaginative strategies, including a hilarious attempt to become a sadhu or holy man. His friendships with classmate Unger and neighbor Izzy also add humorous elements that lighten the tone and move the plot. But there are more serious moments as well. Set in Seattle shortly after 9/11, Anu's narrative records incidents of prejudice, as when one emergency worker refers to him as "a little Islam." With episodes that ring true to a boy's perspective, Banerjee's novel provides discussable issues and multicultural insights as well as humor and emotion.  

What do you say, readers? Sound good/bad? Have you read any of these?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

All Things Kid Lit: The Circulatory Story

Picture Book Pick of the Week:

The Circulatory Story
by Mary K. Corcoran
illustrated by Jef Czekaj

Your hardworking heart started beating eight months before you were born and continues to beat about one hundred thousand times a day. “By the time you’re seventy years old, it will have beaten about 2.5 billion times.” Find out the story behind each beat on a journey through the body’s circulatory system.

    Children's Literacy in the News:

    Washington Post
    April 06, 2010

    After a decade-long dry spell, after skulking around tag sales for out-of-print originals, the faithful are being rewarded. On Thursday, Scholastic Books released "The Summer Before," a prequel to the Baby-Sitters Club series outlining how each girl's cruddy summer led her to join the club.

    Publishers Weekly
    April 09, 2010

    On launch day last Saturday, Apple sold more than 300,000 iPads—and users downloaded more than one million apps and more than 250,000 ebooks from the iBookstore. Parents immediately started snapping up picture book apps from Apple's online store. In fact, children's stories held six of the top 10 paid iPad book-app sales spots as of press time.

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Books By Theme: British Crime Fiction

    Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes was a confirmed bachelor. However, Laurie R. King has created a “fictitious” wife for Holmes’s later years, the intrepid Mary Russell, who, at an early age, becomes an informal student of Holmes and later his independent and scholarly spouse. Together, the two sleuths sharpen their considerable deductive powers through conversation and battles of intellect. There are currently six novels in the series, starting with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.

    Jane Austen herself “stars” as a sleuth in Stephanie Barron’s sprightly series that re-creates well-structured plots and social intrigue set in English country houses—the hallmark of Austen’s fiction. The debut, Jane And The Unpleasantness At Scargrave Manor, finds Miss Austen using her acute powers of observation as a natural tool for detecting the crime beneath genteel Regency fa├žades.

    The Bow Street Runners, founded by novelist and magistrate Henry Fielding (of Tom Jones fame), could be considered the first professional constables and were the precursors to Scotland Yard. Fielding’s blind brother John took over as chief magistrate at London’s Bow Street Court in 1754. Sir John’s fictional—and eponymous—counterpart is at the heart of Bruce Alexander’s rousing 18th-century historical series, launched by the aptly titled Blind Justice.

    Victorian England’s attitudes and mores, as well as London’s dark shadows, are well depicted in Anne Perry’s two Victorian detective series. The first, featuring Inspector Thomas Pitt and his wife, Charlotte, debuted with The Cater Street Hangman. The second series, with police detective and later private investigator William Monk, is set in the London of a few decades earlier, with the initial volume being The Face Of A Stranger.

    Embodying the Victorian woman explorer is Elizabeth Peters’s intrepid Egyptologist and amateur sleuth Amelia Peabody. Starting with Crocodile In The Sandbank, in which Amelia travels to Egypt where she meets and marries archaeologist Radcliffe Emerson, ancient and contemporary crimes traverse the more than a dozen books in the series, as do such geopolitical realities as colonial wars and international espionage.   

    ~ For more themed book lists, check out Listless by One Librarian's Book Reviews and Listed by Once Upon a Bookshelf ~

    ~ All summaries from Library Journal ~

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    The Monstrosity Gazette: A weekly smattering of all things literary...

    "An ordinary man can...surround himself with two thousand books...and thenceforward have at least one place in the world in which it is possible to be happy."
    -Augustine Birrell

    Today in Literary History...

    On this day in 1931, Dorothy Parker stepped down as drama critic for The New Yorker, so ending the "Reign of Terror" she endured while reviewing plays, and that others endured while being reviewed by her. Parker was a drama critic for only a half-dozen years in a 50-year career, but her Broadway days brought her first fame and occasioned some of her most memorable lines.

    For more literary history, visit Today in Literature.

    Book on my Radar this week:

    In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise
    By George Prochnik
    Hardcover, 352 pages

    Summary in a Sentence:

    Investigates how modern society came to be so loud, explores what silence has to offer, and discusses the benefits of pursuing quiet.

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Matilda by Roald Dahl

    Matilda by Roald Dahl book cover
    by Roald Dahl
    Puffin, 1988
    240 pages
    Children's Fantasy

    Summary in a Sentence:

    Matilda applies her untapped mental powers to rid the school of the evil, child-hating headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, and restore her nice teacher, Miss Honey, to financial security.

     My Thoughts:

    "I'm wondering what to read next." Matilda said. "I've finished all the children's books."

    Confession: This is probably my sixth or seventh reading of Matilda, but it's my first reread as an adult, and I still love it as much as I did as a child. Oh, Matilda, how I love thee!

    I had forgotten how much Quentin Blake's illustrations make the book. Although Dahl's descriptions of the formidable Ms. Trunchbull's administration and the Wormwoods' laudable parenting skills are hilarious, my favorite part of the book is most definitely the first few chapters. I had forgotten how sarcastic and biting Dahl can be. He didn't write down to children in his books. He didn't sugar coat or whitewash the ideas in his books.

    I love Matilda's story. The daughter of dimwitted and self-centered parents, 4 year old Matilda wanders into the village library and promptly teaches herself to read, soon working through all the children's books, then moving on to Dickens and Kipling. The public library and the librarian have a front and center role in the opening chapters of the book as Matilda develops a deep love of literature.

    Although Matilda's genius goes ignored by her parents, Miss Honey, her kindergarten teacher, soon recognizes Matilda's intellectual abilities and her need for a supportive force in her life. Matilda's untapped mental abilities soon manifest themselves in some interesting special powers that she first tries out on her father, then on the school's headmaster, Miss Trunchbull.

    This book is quirky, funny, top notch storytelling. 

    P.S. I stumbled across Dahl's awesomely wonderful website, complete with games, book descriptions, and a very dangerous-to-your-wallet store.

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    Waiting on Wednesday: Faithful Place

    This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

    book cover of Faithful Place by Tana French

    An Irish undercover cop delves into his working-class past. When Frank Mackey left Faithful Place more than 20 years ago, he never imagined returning. Of course, he thought he'd be leaving with his childhood sweetheart Rosie Daly. When Rosie failed to show up at their meeting spot that fateful night, Frank was broken-hearted but decided to go it alone. He's moved on and hasn't looked back--until he receives an urgent call from his sister Jackie, demanding that he return to his childhood home. She's got the one thing in the world that could make him come back: information about Rosie, whose suitcase has been found in a vacant house. This new intelligence throws mysterious shadows on Frank's theories about Rosie's fate. Suddenly, what was once buried history starts coming to light, and Frank isn't quite prepared for the twists his life begins to take.
    This title will be released on July 13, 2010.

    What are you waiting on this week? Leave your link here.

    ~Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine~

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    All Things Kid Lit: Big Red Lollipop

    Picture Book Pick of the Week:

    Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan book cover

    Big Red Lollipop
    by Rukhsana Khan
    illustrated by Sophie Blackall

    Rubina is excited to be invited to her first birthday party—until her mother insists that she bring her younger sister Sana, too. “They don’t do that here! They’ll laugh at me!” Rubina begs and pleads, to no avail. What will it take for her mother—and Sana—to see things her way?

    You Might Also Like:

    Links of Interest:

    New York Times
    April 02, 2010

    It took a surprisingly long time for bad parents to show up in children's books. Did you ever notice how few there are, compared with, say, the self-centered and murderous parents in Greek mythology or the Bible? In American literature, children's and adult books didn't sharply diverge as categories until the 20th century, so it's not clear whether we should even include that mean, kidnapping drunk, Pap Finn.

    School Library Journal
    April 02, 2010

    For teachers and students looking to spice up their verse, has tagged a variety of sites and activities in honor of National Poetry Month this April. "In the past everyone has done their own thing," says author and poet Irene Latham, who is spearheading the effort to let educators and kids know about the new site. "This year we want to share together, and we hope the whole world will come."

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    Books By Theme: My favorite poets...

    In honor of National Poetry Month, I thought I'd share some of my favorite poets' best lines (in my humble opinion)...

    Fondly I ponder You all:
    without you I couldn't have managed
    even my weakest of lines.
    - from "A Thanksgiving"

    yours is the light by which my spirit's born:
    yours is the darkness of my soul's return
    -you are my sun,my moon,and all my stars

    There is so much silence between the words,
    you say. You say, The sensed absence
    of God and the sensed presence
    amount to much the same thing,
    only in reverse.
    You say, I have too much white clothing.
    You start to hum.
    Several hundred years ago
    this could have been mysticism
    or heresy. It isn't now.
    Outside there are sirens.
    Someone's been run over.
    The century grinds on.
    -from "In the secular night"

    ...the portait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just
    you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
    I look
    at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in 
    the world...
    -from "Having a Coke with you"

    Who are your favorite poets?

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    The Monstrosity Gazette: A weekly smattering of all things literary...

    Quote of the Week

    Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest. 

    —Lady Bird Johnson

    Today in Literary History...

    On this day in 1928 Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, as Marguerite Johnson. Angelou has said that her remarkable and varied life -- prostitute, dancer, actor, writer, activist, educator, academic -- has been made possible by a "remedy of hope" made from reading, courage, and "insouciance."

    For more literary history, visit Today in Literature.

    Bookish Photo Love:

    Book on my Radar:

    Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine
    By Scott Korb
    Hardcover, 256 pages

    Summary in a Sentence: 

    A generally historical, fun look at life during the time of Jesus.

    ~ Check out this interview with Scott Korb on Diana Joseph's blog.

    Saturday, April 3, 2010

    Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

    Jane Eyre
    by Charlotte Bronte
    Smith, Elder, & Co. (October 16, 1847)
    532 pages

    Summary in a Sentence: 

    Jane, a plain and penniless orphan in nineteenth-century England, accepts employment as a governess at Thornfield Hall and soon finds herself in love with her melancholy employer, Mr. Edward Rochester, a man with a terrible secret.

    My Thoughts: 

    This isn't my first rodeo with Jane and Mr. Rochester. I first read Jane Eyre in college as part of a Victorian Literature seminar. And yes, that class was AWESOME. Instead of a conventional review, I'd like to touch on a few topics of interest.

    Physiognomy and Phrenology:

    "I noticed her; I am a judge of physiognomy, and in hers I see all the faults of her class."

    Physiognomy was a popular method of character assessment in the 18th and 19th centuries using complicated charts which included measuring the width and height of the forehead and observing the way a person walked to determine certain attributes.

    "He lifted up the sable waves of hair which lay horizontally over his brow, and showed a solid enough mass of intellectual organs, but an abrupt deficiency where the suave sign of benevolence should have risen."

    Phrenology was a common means of character analysis at the time of Jane Eyre's publication. Developed by F. J. Gall, the practice is based on the assumption that certain traits or characteristics can be located on various points of the skull. Thus the 'organ of veneration' and such that is often mentioned in the novel.

    Feminist, What-What?

    "Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex."
    This excerpt speaks to the Victorian ideals that stifled so many women in Bronte's time. Throughout the novel, Jane is constantly striving to overcome oppression and to gain equality, first from Mr. Brocklehurst, then Mr. Rochester, and St. John Rivers. Each of these men prefer to keep Jane in a submissive position, but Jane must remove herself from under the control of each, and returns to Rochester only when their relationship can be that of two equal minds.

    Now, for an important query: Which movie adaptation should I watch first??

    ~ Read for Our Mutual Read, Women Unbound, All About the Brontes, and Take Another Chance Challenges ~

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Wading Through My Wishlist

    Recent additions to the Great Monstrosity that is my wishlist....

     Children's Literature: A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter by Seth Lerer
    (Found at Rebecca Reads)

    The erudite Lerer, whose Inventing English was enthusiastically reviewed in these pages, has now undertaken an ambitious, one-volume history of children’s literature. He begins in classical antiquity and ends with the salutary likes of Weetzie Bat (1989) and the Time Warp Trio, giving particular attention along the way—he being a philologist—to the language of literature, whether critical or narrative. Lerer does an extraordinary job of expanding our understanding of individual titles by richly contextualizing them in the world of their creation and stimulates readers’ imaginations by some surprising juxtapositions (Darwin and Dr. Seuss!). Though the book’s principal audience will be an academic one, general readers will find much of interest here as well.

    Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West by Ethan Rarick

    In late October 1846, the last wagon train of that year's westward migration stopped overnight before resuming its arduous climb over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, unaware that a fearsome storm was gathering force. After months of grueling travel, the 81 men, women and children would be trapped for a brutal winter with little food and only primitive shelter. The conclusion is known: by spring of the next year, the Donner Party was synonymous with the most harrowing extremes of human survival. But until now, the full story of what happened--and what it tells us about human nature and about America's westward expansion--remained shrouded in myth. A fast-paced, heart-wrenching, clear-eyed narrative history, Desperate Passage casts new light on one of America's most horrific encounters between the dream of a better life and the harsh realities such dreams so often must confront.

    Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres by Ruth Brandon
    (Found at book-a-rama)

    In nineteenth-century England, girls were most commonly educated by governesses; the system was also a way of absorbing the country’s "huge pool of spinsters." (The 1851 census found that thirty per cent of women above the age of twenty were single.) For upper- and middle-class women forced to earn a living, it represented one of the only respectable employments, and often a dreaded inevitability: after succumbing to the profession, in 1820, Claire Clairmont, the cosmopolitan stepsister of Mary Shelley and the mother of Byron’s child, wrote in her journal, "Think of thyself as a stranger and traveller on the earth, to whom none of the many affairs of this world belong." This exploration of the lives of six governesses is as entertaining as the contemporary works of fiction such lives inspired ("Jane Eyre" chief among them), and although the bulk of the primary source material is not new, Brandon displays a keen understanding of a complex educational system that kept its subjects ignorant even while purporting to enlighten.

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