Monday, May 31, 2010

Books by Theme: Loners

Karen Karper became a nun at the age of 17. Where God Begins to Be picks up her story three decades later, when she moves to the Appalachian woodlands to become a hermit. Her new life revolves around carrying water, stacking firewood, and performing other tasks of survival. Karper’s perseverance is rewarded with increased creativity and spiritual wholeness.

Surely no book is more associated with solitude than Henry David Thoreau’s Walden; Or, Life in the Woods. Thoreau, who valued voluntary simplicity as it afforded him time for study and contemplation, built a simple cabin on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s land and lived there experimentally from 1845 to 1847. Although he “never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude,” he was no hermit and by book’s end becomes a sojourner in civilization once again.

Alix Kates Shulman’s midlife memoir, Drinking the Rain delightfully traces her transformation from stressed-out city person to beachcomber/wild foods connoisseur. A prolific scribbler, she retreats to a small family cabin on the coast of Maine intending to write. There she begins to lose her desire for such busyness and re-creates herself over in rich, simple solitude.

Dog: a Short Novel by Michelle Herman features J.T. (Jill) Rosen, a college professor and poet who in midlife has given up all social contact. When J.T. adopts a dog she names Phil, she manages to avoid meeting other dog owners by walking the dog at midnight. Yes, J.T. is both cynical and neurotic, but her relationship with Phil reveals the deep love that even the most solitary soul can feel for another living creature.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

5 Minute Factoids: Florence Nightingale

Today is the birthday of Florence Nightingale, English nurse, writer and statistician. She came to prominence during the Crimean War for her pioneering work in nursing, and was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night to tend injured soldiers. Nightingale laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment, in 1860, of her nursing school at St Thomas's Hospital in London, the first secular nursing school in the world. The Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses was named in her honour, and the annual International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on her birthday. (Wikipedia)

  • In 1851 she rejected the marriage proposal of politician and poet Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton, against her mother's wishes. Convinced that marriage would interfere with her ability to follow her calling to nursing, Nightingale continued to reject his proposal.
  • She made a comprehensive statistical study of sanitation in Indian rural life and was the leading figure in the introduction of improved medical care and public health service in India.
  • She was named after her birthplace- Florence, Italy.
Want to read more on Nightingale?  Check out this book...

by Gillian Gill
Random House, 2005
592 pages

From Bookmarks magazine:

"Although one of many existing biographies, Nightingales is one of the first to thoroughly examine the relationship between her public and private life. Besides vividly evoking Austenesque mores, Gill creates full-blooded characters, from a sickly sister to a dilettante father."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

All Things Kid Lit: The Quiet Book

book cover of Quiet Book by Deborah UnderwoodPicture Book Pick of the Week:

The Quiet Book
by Deborah Underwood
illustrated by Renata Liwska
Grades PreK-K

First one awake quiet.
Don’t scare the robin quiet.
Others telling secrets quiet. Bedtime kiss quiet. 
Morning to nightfall, how many types of quiet can you find in one day?
 From Booklist (February 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 12)
Silence is the story in these simple scenarios, featuring young animal characters, that show suspense, eloquence, and surprise in what looks like emptiness. The tense scenes between characters balance quiet before a big noise: at the top of a roller coaster; before a concert starts; right before someone yells, “Surprise!” Then there is the magical transformation of a silent snowfall and the comfort of a bedtime kiss. The digitally colored pencil illustrations show a cast of young animals––bear, rabbit, porcupine, owl, and more––and some of the illustrations may be a bit muted for young preschoolers. But children will enjoy talking about the feelings that are shown, and every page tells a different story. The most moving scenes leave space for imagining. “Best friends don’t need to talk,” for example, is illustrated with a blissful scene of togetherness that children will relate to their own lives.

You might also like:  

Friday, May 7, 2010


In case you don't remember my post from January (yeah, right), I've been student teaching all semester. It's been the most rewarding and one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I've learned so much about what it takes to be a great media specialist.

Today was my last day, and a little first grader walked up to me after the lesson, took my hands in hers, looked up at me and said, "I am a big fan of you."

What in the world is better than that?

Libraries in the News

I’ve never read The Chocolate War, but complaining about nudity in a novel that contains no pictures is like complaining about there being too much sound in a sandwich.”

—Amelie Gillette, writing about ALA’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books list, where The Chocolate War ranked 10th in 2009, “Parents Still Hate The Catcher in the Rye,The Onion A.V. Club, Apr. 15.

book cover of Last Child by John Hart
2010 Edgar Award winners
The Mystery Writers of America announced the winners of their prestigious Edgar Awards for the best crime and mystery writing at a banquet in New York City on April 29. Edgars went to John Hart for The Last Child and Stefanie Pintoff, whose In the Shadow of Gotham won best first novel by an American author. Dave Cullen took the prize for best fact crime for Columbine, his account of the 1999 shootings at that Colorado high school....
New York Times, May 2

Forever in Blue book cover
Fond du Lac again
A Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, school district committee has been called together to hear another citizen complaint involving a library book. The reconsideration committee will meet May 13 to consider parent Ann Wentworth’s request to remove the book Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares from the library at Theisen Middle School. Wentworth is objecting to several books she feels contain inappropriate content that are available to middle school students....
Appleton (Wis.) Post-Crescent, May 5

dress made of library card catalog
Catalog cards on the catwalk
Amber Gibbs, interlibrary loan librarian at the University of South Carolina’s Thomas Cooper Library, won top prize April 23 at the Runaway Runway recycled fashion show with a dress made entirely of cards from the library’s card catalog. The dress was modeled by Aime Dillard (right), ILL assistant and SLIS student. Watch the video (Amber and Aime are at 3:12). The show is sponsored by the Columbia Museum of Art. The USC libraries are saying goodbye to their card catalog with a yearlong series of events called “It’s All in the Cards.”...
University of South Carolina Libraries, May 3; Columbia The State, Apr. 24

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Houdini Box by Brian Selznick

Houdini Box by Brian Selznick book cover
The Houdini Box
by Brian Selznick
Knopf, 1991 (Reissued in 2008)
74 pages

Summary in a Sentence:

A chance encounter with Harry Houdini leaves a small boy in possession of a mysterious box--one that might hold the secrets to the greatest magic tricks ever performed.


If you've never read anything written or illustrated by Brian Selznick, please go remedy this immediately! I'm even providing a link to his website so you can see his complete bibliography. Go. Now.

I've long been fascinated with magicians of the early 1900s, and I love Selznick's work, so reading this book was so exciting for me. The story focuses on Victor, a little boy who is obsessed with Houdini and magic escapes. After a few failed attempts of holding his breath in the bathtub and walking through walls, Victor finally meets Houdini in the train station and asks the famous magician how he does it. Selznick's pencil illustrations are amazingly rich in detail and suit the book's subject perfectly. He also includes extensive endnotes that include photographs, sketches, and information about Selznick's research.

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Other Reviews:

Young Readers | Through the Looking Glass

Monday, May 3, 2010

Books by Theme: Mothers, Graphically Speaking

In honor of Mother's Day coming up soon, here are some graphic novels featuring mommies!

Coraline by Neil Gaiman graphic novel cover
by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell

Coraline has two mothers: a real-life person who’s sometimes distant and preoccupied and a creepy smother-mother with button eyes who lives in the other side of the brick wall that sometimes isn’t there. Will Coraline save her real mother or stay with this indulgent imposter forever?

American Widow by Alissa Torres graphic novel book cover
American Widow
by Alissa Torres (text) & Sungyoon Choi (illus.)

Widowed after her husband died in the World Trade Center attacks, pregnant Alissa Torres must face delivery and motherhood when sucked into the chaotic 9/11 relief machine.

Can of Worms
by Catherine Doherty

Adoptee Catherine searches for her birth mother, wordless panels in a clean-line style showing the author’s quest interspersed with more realistically drawn court records, clippings, notes, and letters.

Wire Mothers by Jim Ottaviano graphic novel book cover
Wire Mothers
by Jim Ottaviani & Dylan Meconis

In the 1950s, misguided behavioral scientists warned mothers about the "dangers" of hugging and holding children. But Harry Harlow knew better, and his famous experiments showing that monkeys preferred cuddly cloth "mother" figures over wire versions proved his case with chilling finality. Mothers DID know best.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

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

book love
Quote of the Week

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. 
—Charles W. Eliot

Today in Literary History...

On this day in 1594, Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew was entered in the Stationers' Register. Much of the main plot seems to come from a 1550 popular ballad called "Here Begynneth a Merry Jest of a Shrewde and Curste Wyfe, Lapped in Morrelles Skin, for her Good Behaviour." By the endeth, this contribution to the shrew-taming canon was merry from only one perspective. . . .

For more literary history, visit Today in Literature.

Book I'm Eyeing This Week:

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin
by Josh Berk
Hardcover: Feb 2010
256 pages

Summary in a Sentence:
When Will Halpin transfers from his all-deaf school into a mainstream Pennsylvania high school, he faces discrimination and bullying, but still manages to solve a mystery surrounding the death of a popular football player in his class. 

Read the Reviews:

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wading Through My Wishlist

Wish List logo

A sneak peak at what has been recently added to my great monstrosity of a wishlist...

book cover of Eyes of Willie McGee by Alex Heard
The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow South
by Alex Heard
(Found at Booklust)

An iconic criminal case—a black man sentenced to death for raping a white woman in Mississippi in 1945—exposes the roiling tensions of the early civil rights era in this provocative study. McGee's prosecution garnered international protests—he was championed by the Communist Party and defended by a young lawyer named Bella Abzug, while luminaries from William Faulkner to Albert Einstein spoke out for him—but journalist Heard finds the saga rife with enigmas. The case against McGee, hinging on a possibly coerced confession, was weak and the legal proceedings marred by racial bias and intimidation. But Heard contends that McGee's story—that he and the victim, Willette Hawkins, were having an affair—is equally shaky. The author's extensive research delves into the documentation of the case, the public debate surrounding it, and the recollections of McGee and Hawkins's family members.

book cover of Unnameables by Ellen Booraem The Unnameables by Ellen Booraem
(Found at Fyrefly's Book Blog)

The people of the island Island are an insatiably strict lot. Everything must have a use, and their names must match that use: cows are called Greater Horned Milk Creatures, seabirds are nameless because they are useless, Prudence Carpenter gets renamed Prudence Learned when she becomes a teacher, and so on. Medford Runyuin has trouble fitting in, being that he was shipwrecked on the island as a baby and has no useful name, though he was taken in by the Carvers. In secret, he whittles beautiful carvings out of wood, an abomination in the eyes of usefulness that could get him exiled. Then, a strange goat-man creature arrives, befriends Medford, and in a flurry of chaos upsets the neat order of things. If the execution doesn’t quite match up to the highly imaginative premise of the story—Booraem’s renamed world is a little rough around the edges—readers will still come away knowing that artistry and beauty are by no means useless.

book cover of Book of Flying by Keith Miller
The Book of Flying by Keith Miller
(Found at The Zen Leaf)

Pico is the librarian in his city by the sea: a humble, gentle man, a collector of books, a guardian and caretaker of the stories that are his breath and his life. One fateful day, he falls in love with Sisi, a beautiful, winged girl who cannot truly love a wingless creature like him. So Pico sets off to find Morning Town, where legend says he will find the Book of Flying and get his wings. On the way he has fabulous adventures and meets astonishing people, each of whom provides a gateway to learning something important about himself. Perhaps his most important discovery is that he is the hero of his own story. A beautiful and haunting modern fable that reads like exquisite poetry, Miller's first novel is a coming-of-age story cloaked in the language of myth in which Pico, as his humanity matures and expands to encompass those who are like and those who are unlike him, initially represents and eventually becomes the reader.
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