Monthly Archives: October 2012

Calarco’s First-Ever Book Tasting

Yes, I already know what you’re thinking.

No, students did not eat the pie that was found in that one book during the mold removal. Come on people – that’s not even sanitary.

Yesterday, Ms. Davis’ Writing Semester class visited the library to eat brownies, cookies and the words of contemporary titles. They spent the class period exploring the library’s newer fiction and non-fiction books, and jotting down impressions on note cards in order to find books worthy of review.

Yes, review.

Next semester, readers, you will get a break from the dictatorship of book reviews that myself and Librarian Gette have carefully cultivated. We have agreed to loosen our iron fist grip and host the book reviews of Ms. Davis’ students.

Please look forward to future reviews from our very own students, but for now enjoy the impressions and responses of Ms. Davis’ Writing Semester course to our first-ever Book Tasting event.

Angus MacMullen:

My strategy for finding potentially interesting books consisted of reading through the list of recent additions until something catches my attention.  The first that stood out to me was Bicycling Science by David Wilson.  It seemed like such a random, mundane topic upon first glance, which made me instantly curious to see exactly what this book was about.  Unfortunately the book was checked out and overdue.  (apparently someone was so intrigued by the science of bicycles that he could not bring himself to return the book).

The second book that I looked for was Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson.  It describes the early history of the computer, both Turing’s and others’ conceptual ideas as well as the early applications of them, a topic that seemed interesting to me.  Unfortunately, this book also caught the eye of another classmate.  Perhaps I’ll have a look at it when he’s done.

The third book I found was Selected Poetry of Ogden Nash.  Apparently it’s not a very picky selection; the book is almost 700 pages.  I picked this book out simply because I knew that it would be funny.  Ogden’s obtuse use/misuse/abuse of the English language is amusing and often intriguing.  His style is unique; who else would invent a “Miss Goringe” simply to make that terrible forced rhyme?  I will enjoy flipping through this book, whether or not I choose it for the book review assignment later this year.

Chris Cahill:

I think the book tasting today definitely let me see a different side of the library. I’m in the library (for what feels like) 24/7 but I usually go for research. I really understood today the sheer volume of fiction and nonfiction books we are lucky to have! Also, thank you for the book reviews, I checked out two books and plan on reading both.

David Baumann:

I really enjoyed the “book tasting” assignment. We don’t usually get a chance to select any book we want to read for class, making it harder to always read something you find interesting. I think this session helped everyone better understand what kind of books they like to read. All the librarians were also extremely accommodating when you asked them for a recommendation.

Haley Gorman:

I had a great time in the library with Ms. Davis’ English class yesterday. I found some great books that I can’t wait to start and I’m glad to have found a John Green fan.

Jessica Larkin-Wells:

Thanks for helping us out in the library yesterday! I thought the book tasting was a good idea. I mostly browsed the cart of new books, and then looked downstairs at the new nonfiction section by the stairs. My biggest problem was choosing only one book to read, so I ended up checking out three. One is a nonfiction book about creativity, and the other two are novels. Usually I try to finish whatever books I start, but I might not finish all three, especially before the term ends. This project will be a good opportunity to read for pleasure during the school year.

Sasha Possick:

Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson was nominated for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. He is famous for his novel Tree of Smoke. This seems to be a great novel and I am looking forward to reading more of it.

Bennett Amador

The book tasting was beneficial it gives us students a chance to glance at interesting fiction books we wouldn’t otherwise see because were constantly focused on scholarly novels and nonfiction.

Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who is not really signing off because this blog is the product of student work…so those students are signing off)

Shipping Up To Thompson

We’ve been back in our beloved library for a couple weeks now, and it is so good to be home. Surrounded by books, with access to our desks and our files and our workroom, able to catalog books and shush people (there is no shushing Heath), Ms. Barrows and I have been feeling good. Happy. Comfortable.

Restless.

See, we’d gotten used to the Vagabond Librarian lifestyle: fitting the library on a table, exploring a new space, seeing different people, having the Cafe right there…

And so we decided to go on the road. 67 books and our 12 JSchool Kindles made the trip up with us from Baldwin to Thompson last Thursday (with help from Security. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Earl!) where we would ply our wares to the Junior School during their precious 15 minute break. The plan was to have a ton of books out to choose from, and then download books to the Kindles by request. To highlight some titles, we prepared six book talks to stun and amaze. We’d then be ready to check out so many copies of these wonderful books to an eager and cheering crowd.

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley

-Robert Burns (Ed: N0 typos, just Scottish)

That didn’t happen. Not because there weren’t eager crowds (the cheering was a little too much to hope for), but because students were SO eager to look at and check out books that we only had time to specifically plug one book. That three students then asked for. Hooray! The rest of the time was spent answering questions and checking out materials.

Thompson South Atrium, Thursday, Oct. 18, 12:15 pm
photo credit: wvs via photopincc

Although it was a little overwhelming, we had a great time, we hope the students did too, and we can’t wait to go back. See you in Thompson before the Thanksgiving Break!

-Signing off, Kit Gette (who can now type in a wifi password at the speed of light)

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

(This book review is about 12 years overdue)

Let’s set the record straight: this blog post is a review of the booknot the recently released film. However, a comparison review of the film will be written and published in the extremely near future.

So, let’s get started.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky received mixed reviews when it was first published in 1999 (check out the old Kirkus Review and Publisher’s Weekly reviews to get a feel for the arguments). Some dubbed the main character, Charlie, a Holden Caulfield rip-off, others felt Perks was simplistic but engaging for younger readers, and still others identified Charlie and his friends as memorable characters. Regardless, enough readers rooted for Perks in 1999…and now it is here to stay.

Maybe its because the novel is rife with early 90’s music and cultural references, but I save a soft spot for Perks.

The book is a collection of letters that “Charlie” writes anonymously to an unknown older student at the same high school. In the first letter Charlie reveals that he must enter high school following the suicide of his best (and only) friend. Fortunately, Charlie’s isolation does not last forever: enter best friends (and step-siblings) Patrick and Sam. Patrick is the former “popular” currently “less popular since coming-out” guy, while Sam is the unattainable but damaged object of Charlie’s love. The letters follow Charlie through adventures (sometimes disastrous misadventures) with his new friends, as well as his internal struggles with anxiety, depression and a deeply buried secret.

Why did this book become a phenomenon that has lasted for over 12 years? I don’t think its necessarily the plot or the concept of the story, but the characters and Charlie’s plainly written and absolutely honest narrative.

I disagree with the assumption that Perks is easily liked by teenagers. I think many people dislike this book, and rightfully so. They don’t relate to Charlie or his friends, and they don’t enjoy the unconventional narrative or writing style. Despite this, I remember falling hook, line and sinker for the book the first time I read Perks, and I have since recommended it to countless individuals. Just as I am recommending it to you readers. Give it a try: I’m interested to hear what you think. Even if you disagree with your neighborhood librarian.

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who sometimes pauses to read the simpler narratives in life)

Book Review: Wonder, by R. J. Palacio

Have any of you read Voices in the Park, by Anthony Browne? It’s a picture book about a day in the park told four times, each by a different person. The art, font, and story change based on the storyteller. It’s a great example of how different perspectives can color a situation.

Wonder doesn’t go to that extreme, but your sympathies might alter along with the shifts in perspective. The book begins with August “Auggie” Pullman, a 10-year-old who has never been to school – first for medical reasons, and then for, well, his face.

August Pullman does not have a normal face. And the decision to go to school is not easy. And not everyone he meets is….open-minded. But some are. And they make it worth it.

I wasn’t convinced that I actually liked the book at first, but the characters – particularly Auggie’s friends – grew on me.

And it’s fun following the thread of music through the book.

Read if you like: Star Wars, David Bowie, Halloween, books told from multiple perspectives, kindness.

Avoid if you don’t like: Kids learning to be sarcastic, improper capitalization, space oddities, Our Town.

-Signing off, Kit Gette (who can offer no explanation)

New Graphic Novels on the Kindle Fires!

Hello comic fans (and the rest of you, too)!

Today we added ten new titles to the Kindle Fires’ growing graphic novels collection. They are:

Batman: Year One – Frank Miller’s reimagining of Batman’s origin, though I would argue the real draw of the story is the tough-as-nails Jim Gordon. Year One was a definite influence on Christopher Nolan’s films, particularly Batman Begins.

A Contract With God – Will Eisner’s collection of four stories centered on a tenement in 1930’s Bronx. It is one of the earliest graphic novels.

Daytripper – a series of vignettes that move forwards and backwards through the life of an obituary writer, with one thing in common – he always dies at the end. A book about life, mortality, and the choices people make.

And then we have 7 more volumes of Neil Gaiman’s classic series, The Sandman, which follows Dream, one of the Endless, a group of seven beings that are the personifications of abstract powers. The series is full of literary and historical references (as well as pretty art). The new volumes are:

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes – chronicling the Dream Lord’s imprisonment and escape.

The Sandman: The Doll’s House – a tale filled with monsters both inhuman and all too human.

The Sandman: Dream Country – a collection of four stories including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the only comic to ever win the World Fantasy Award for short fiction.

The Sandman: A Game of You – revisits a character from A Doll’s House as she explores her childhood dream world.

The Sandman: Fables and Reflections – another collection of four stories.

The Sandman: Brief Lives – follows Delirium as she searches for her lost brother with the aid of a reluctant Dream.

The Sandman: World’s End – has strangers swapping stories in an inn where they’ve all taken shelter from an odd storm.

Which means we now have The Sandman, volumes 1-8 on the Kindle Fires. For readers new to the story, I would suggest skipping the first volume (Preludes and Nocturnes). While it is technically the start of the series, I find it rather different from the other volumes, and not the best introduction to the comics. Try Dream Country or Season of Mists.

Happy reading!

Here’s an example and explanation of the Panel View that Dr. Cox raved about. Demonstration starts at 1:08:

-Signing off, Kit Gette (who wants to be Jim Gordon when he grows up)

Every Day is Halloween: Dr. Cox Guest Blog

(Ed: Despite our joy at being back in the library, we must remember that there are others still under siege by the demon mold. Today’s post is courtesy of  one of the Wandering Scientists, Dr. Kellie “The Law” Cox.)

So I’m a nerd. A big ol’ I-like-all-things-techy-geeky-sciencey nerd. And I want to let you know that my final step into total Nerd Immersion was just accomplished, thanks to the ridiculously awesome folk at the library:

I am now a Graphic Novel fan.

And not just the, “yeah, I know of Watchmen” level, but full-blown cracked-out fan.

This is all Mr. Gette’s fault. The library has this amazing supply of Kindle Fires, right? And he was looking for a selection of graphic novels to install. I was especially intrigued by the novel Long Halloween because I love me some Batman…. but I wasn’t ever really into graphic novels. This was always a source of crippling guilt – how could I NOT enjoy graphic novels? Surely my Nerd Card will be revoked. But I could never get into the flow of moving from pane-to-pane, trying to follow dialogue while also maintaining a tenuous visual connection with the artwork; opening up a comic book was like being hit in the face by a painting.

And then Kindle Fire rolls into my life.

Oh.
My.
God.

The electronic version of a graphic novel is like your own personal movie, bright and mesmerizing, complete with this ridiculous ~whooshing~ motion as you progress from scene to scene. No longer were my neurons confused and distracted by how to progress down the page – now I was able to completely immerse myself in the story and jaw-dropping artwork! The novel Long Halloween was aaaaaamazing and supplemented my Batman mythology well beyond what watching the movies could provide. And boy, it sure was purdy. I don’t know the artists that illustrate these novels (Ed: Batman: The Long Halloween was drawn by Tim Sale), but they rock my world with their ability to convey motion and story within a single, static pane.

Since then, Mr. Gette and Ms. Barrows have worked to fuel my addiction to the world of electronic graphic novels. My total immersion into Nerdom is complete.

And I couldn’t be happier.

(Ed: Thanks Dr. Cox! And we’ll be happy to keep enabling you suggesting new books.)

Vagabond Librarians No More: The Triumphant Return

School Days Closed: 9 (not counting Yom Kippur and Class Trips)

Blog Posts Posted: 10

Laptops Checked Out: Billions

Incorrect Print Jobs: 17 Trees

Textbooks “misplaced”: …we would prefer not getting into that

Science Faculty Sightings: Pleasantly frequent

Hokey Jokes About Books: …we certainly haven’t heard THOSE before

Tears Shed Upon Return: several, and a significant one from Jenny Barrows when she slammed her hand in a laptop cart door

Books Lost to Mold: 0

Books Lost to Pie: 1 (?)

Pie, Pi (Ha, Pun)

photo credit: djwtwo via photopin cc

Let’s elaborate on the last statistic. Yesterday, we returned to the library to find a solitary book cocooned in plastic wrap furtively stashed  in a corner of the upstairs reference desk. We approached with caution – what untold moldy horrors could lurk within? Librarian Prendergast bravely picked up the unknown element, and then a disembodied voice floated up from below,

Beware…BEWARE! That book contains a piece of pie…which actually looked like it was quite delicious at one point. Seriously, who does that – ruins a piece of pie by putting it in a book?! Anyway, beware…BEWARE!

Thanks, Anthony from maintenance. And by the way, great disembodied voice. Really, quite impressive.

As an aside, pie does not make a good bookmark. Pie is intended to be enjoyed by people, not pages. Yes, sometimes you have to eat your words. But please, not ones borrowed from the library.

…Oh, were you looking for actual information? From librarians? Try scheduling an individual appointment here.

-Signing off, Jenny (Apple Pie) Barrows and Kit (Blueberry Pie) Gette (no really, bring us pie)

Vagabond Librarians Day Last: Scary Stories to Tell IN THE LIBRARY

(Ed: In honor of the imminent end of our own scary story Attack of the Mold! we present this discussion of a frightfully frequently banned book)

Warning: Creepy images ahead!

The Scary Stories series, written by Alvin Schwartz, has been creeping out kids with its spooky stories since 1981; which officially makes it older than me. The books are a collection of creepy urban legends that often end violently. But the real draw of the books is the grotesque illustrations by Stephen Gammell).

scary-stories-to-tell-in-the-dark-3

Isn’t she a pretty lady?

The books took the top spot on the ALA’s list of the most frequently challenged books from 1990-1999, and seventh place on the list of most challenged books 2000-2009.

In 1990, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” was challenged in the Livonia, MI schools because the poems were thought to frighten first grade children. Written by Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell, “Scary Stories” was followed by “More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and “Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones.” All three titles have been challenged due to objections about the content and illustrations for children. (ALA’s amazing Banned Books Timeline)

Miriam Downey, a retired librarian, faced a parent challenging Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark in her elementary school library.

The superintendent came to me again, took me into the back room of the library and tried to reason with me. He told me that there were thousands of books in my library; why would I risk my career over one book. I told him that this was a book that could face down a challenge because of its provenance, and that I was willing to defend it. (The Cyberlibrarian Reads)

Recently, Scary Stories celebrated their 30th anniversary. The publisher chose to mark the milestone by putting out a new edition – with new illustrations by Brett Helquist (who you may know as the guy who did the art for A Series of Unfortunate Events).

Remember our friend from before?

scary-stories-to-tell-in-the-dark-3

Yeah, her. Well, now she looks like this:

scary-stories-new-art

And you have to wonder how much the publisher was influenced by the series’ frequent bannings – due in part to the weird, wonderful, and horrifying illustrations.

To end, here’s a video of a librarian reading The Viper from Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark:

-Signing off, Mr. Gette (who needs to go check out what that scratching noise is by the window)

Vagabond Librarians Day 7 (Kind of Day 8): Banned Books Retaliate

This week is the American Library Association’s (ALA) Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community – librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types – in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. (ALA-BBW)

As you have all probably noticed, the books of Calarco Library recently banned us. Perhaps, they are retaliating in honor of their brethren who have suffered mightily throughout years of challenges, burnings and bannings. Or maybe not, but still, a fantastic and morally upstanding theory.

Banned Books Week is celebrating the freedom to read from September 30 – October 6 this year. The annual event highlights not only the rising problem of censorship, but also the fun fact that many popular books (and books that you read for English class) have been banned or challenged before. Huff Post Books generated an interactive infographic demonstrating the 10 most challenged books of 2011 (and why they were challenged). See screen shot example below.

Screen Capture – Huff Post Books Infographic

Courtesy of Huff Post Books

Raise your hand if you have read The Hunger Gamesexactly.

You may be asking yourself, “What is the difference between a banned and challenged book?” You may not be asking yourself at all, but DON’T WORRY, I asked for you.

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection. (ALA)

Below are some challenged and banned books alongside the reasons why they were challenged/banned (all information from the ALA BBW Timeline):

  • SlaughterHouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut: “The Island Trees (NY) School District School Board removed the books in 1976 because they were ‘anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and just plain filthy.'”
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee: “Published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird ranks among the true classics of modern American literature and explores complex themes of justice and compassion. It has also faced significant controversy due to its consideration of challenging issues such as rape and racial inequality.”
  • The Giver – Lois Lowry: “In 2003, The Giver was challenged as suggested reading for eighth-grade students in Blue Springs, MO, where parents called the book ‘lewd’ and ‘twisted’ and pleaded for it to be tossed out of the district…Lowry’s novel for young readers has frequently attracted objections due to its ‘mature themes’ including suicide, sexuality, and euthanasia. The Giver received the Newbery Medal in 1994.”

Interestingly, books that are often banned are 1. some of the best and most innovative works published, 2. filled with themes of freedom of information, acceptance, equality and etc., and 3. riddled with social commentary.

Irony, much?

Lastly, let’s highlight a frequently challenged book that is also being widely released in theaters this weekend (finally!): The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

n 2009, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower was challenged on the Wyoming, OH high school district’s suggested reading list and restricted to juniors and seniors at the William Byrd and Hidden Valley high schools in Roanoke, VA. In a complaint that grew to include scores of young adult titles and attracted significant media attention, it was also challenged at the West Bend, WI Community Memorial Library as being “obscene or child pornography.” The library board ultimately voted to retain the book, “without removing, relocating, labeling, or otherwise restricting access.” Published in 1999, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” contains references to drug use, homosexuality, and suicide, and has drawn comparisons to “Catcher in the Rye” as an iconic novel of adolescent alienation.

Since all of us who raised our hands are considered to be full of wild-eyed ideas (according to those who challenge The Hunger Games), we might try doing nice things for Banned Books Week in the hopes that the Calarco Library books will quell their righteous protest. So…read a banned book! Visit your public library and check out a banned book (and support any events that may be happening this week)! And of course…come visit the Calarco Library and check out one of our fabulous Kindles or Kindle Fires. I promise, they are riddled with banned and challenged books.

Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who has always and will always love banned books more than any others)

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines

I’m not sure if I really liked An Abundance of Katherines. I am sure that I am sad that I am unsure.

At this point in my mission to read every book written by John Green, I am pretty sold that he is a good author. Not just good at producing kind of acceptable books for teenagers, but good in the broad spectrum of good. Not necessarily Dickens or anything, but FAR superior to anything Stephenie Meyer has ever written or will ever write. Ever.

Moving on.

An Abundance of Katherines is about a boy who was dumped by a girl named Katherine. Two things make this boy different from other boys who have been dumped by girls: 1. He is a child prodigy (or was, since he is technically 18 in the book’s present day) and 2. He has dated and been dumped by 19 Katherines. Rather than wallow in being dumped for the 19th time by the 19th girl named Katherine…he redefines wallow and exceeds all measures of pathetic. Luckily, like most slightly unlikable, self-involved protagonists, Colin has a best friend (Hassan) who drags him out of the house for a pre-college road trip. (Technically the road trip is only pre-college for Colin because Hassan refuses to attend college, ever). One antic leads to another and the two end up in Gutshot, Tennessee, the final resting place of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. There, they stay with Lindsey Lee Wells and her mother Hollis, the owners of a tampon string company that basically employs and sustains the town.

Colin devotes his summer to developing a theorem that predicts the arch of relationships: specifically who will dump who and when. Thinking this theorem is the only thing that can transform him from child prodigy to adult genius, Colin unreasonably puts all of his eggs in one basket. Or tampon strings in one box. Anyway. The major theme that develops is: “not all absolute truths are absolute,” or something similar to that. Colin’s certainties are not as rock solid as Green leads you to believe in the novels start, nor are anyone else’s.

This book has all the fantastic elements that make up a Green book: insecure protagonist, humorous best friend, likable but “lost” leading lady, slightly preposterous circumstances, and a mildly unrealistic dialogue for teenagers. However, I just didn’t fall for it the way I did for Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska. Maybe I’m an idiot (very likely). Or, maybe I’m on to something. When the main character is as pitiful as Colin, it is difficult to really care if he grows up or not. I think I would have liked the book much more if Lindsey Lee Wells’ personal growth was more central, or further developed.

In conclusion: I’m sorry for the mildly negative book review. However, rule #1 about reading is: never EVER buy in to someone else’s opinion. Read Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, and discover your own opinions.

Review by emerging John Green fan girl/nerd fighter Jenny Barrows