Category Archives: Literacy

The Feast of Books


 photo credit: EVRT Studio via photopin cc

Now that we have your attention…

Here Ye, Here Ye! Come one, come all to the Calarco Library Feast of Books! Whether ye be a Sevie or Senior, stranger or familiar face, we welcome you to join us for the first annual Feast of Books! Dine on Green and Mitchell, Asher and Johnson (Denis, not Ben), Funke, Pullman and so much more…including cookies. Take, indulge, and photograph for a chance to be featured on this very awesome blog! Please, fellow book feast-ers, read the details below.


 photo credit: Mrs Magic via photopin cc

Feast of Books

Junior School: Thursday, November 15th during Free Period in Thompson South Atrium

Upper School: Friday, November 16th All Day in the Library (Upper Level)

What: Books, Cookies, Calarco Library, and YOU

Why: So you can take a book (or Kindle) on Thanksgiving Break

Photo Contest

Submit a photo of you and your book (or Kindle!) enjoying the glories of Thanksgiving break for a chance to win an Amazon gift card AND be featured on this infinitely awesome blog.
-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who sincerely hopes no gets too excited and accidentally ingests book pages)

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)

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)

Vagabond Librarians Day 3: You Know What Else We Miss? Super Powers.

^^(alteration of statement made by Joss Whedon, creator of awesomeness)^^

Batman: The Long Halloween. Scott Pilgrim. Watchmen. Fun Home. Owly. Sandman: Season of Mist.

Yes. You heard me. I listed a bunch of graphic novels and italicized them. I promise, it was harder than it appears.

Why was it harder, might you ask? Well, because the Vagabond Librarians have officially started adding graphic novels to the 6 Vagabond Library Kindle Fires. This is a difficult task for the following reasons: 1. We have to sort through dozens of lists claiming to be  “The Most Accurate List Ever of Awesome Graphic Novels,” 2. We have to resist reading the beautifully displayed graphic novels all day, and 3. We really have to stop patting ourselves on the backs (shout out to Mr. Kit Gette for being the driving force behind this initiative).

So, here’s a fun scenario:

  • Awesome Student: Hi, Vagabond Librarian. I am really interested in reading graphic novels on Kindle Fires for two reasons: 1. I hear the display is excellent and 2. Since you and your cohorts are extremely talented selectors of books, I am confident that the graphic novels on the Kindle Fires are great reads.
  • Vagabond Librarian:  That is great to hear, Awesome Student. I will absolutely assist you in checking out a Kindle Fire and learning the panel view feature.
  • Awesome Student: Thank you, Vagabond Librarian. By the way, you and your cohorts should really pat yourselves on the backs for this great initiative.

Don’t you want to be that awesome student?! Visit the Vagabond Library and fulfill your dreams.

In other Vagabond Library news: 2 students seeking quiet hid in the Dining Hall to study, and Dr. Kellie Cox is “The Law”.

I will leave you with this inspirational quote:


This is the back of the book.
What do you think you’re doing?
Who do you think you are?
Go to the other end of the book and start at page 1.
Your mother and I are very disappointed in you.

Reading your new graphic novel: some options

OPTION 1: Follow the balloons from left to right and top to bottom, then move on to the next panel, the way you learned it at that sissy school of yours.

OPTION 2: Read each balloon in whatever order appeals to you most. Freestyle! It’s your book now! Don’t let the man tell you which direction to read!

WARNING: for entertainment use only. Do not attempt to learn anything from this page. (O’Malley, v. 4)

Signing off: Jenny Barrows (who had to fight 7 evil ex-librarians to get this gig)

How to Pick a Good Book…

…or at least how to do more than close your eyes and select at random.

So many books, so little time!

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

What makes a book a good book? Of course, the entire process of making that decision is inherently subjective. Let’s present a hypothetical: you (the reader) are a fan of the comprehensive genre “horror”. Some of your favorite movies are Dawn of the DeadThe Shining and The Omen. You not only watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but you read the Buffy comic books written and published by Joss Whedon. You have also read many of the classic “horror” books—DraculaFrankensteinInterview with the VampireThe Shining (again), The Tell-Tale HeartThe Haunting of Hill House—your list is diverse and substantial. But now you want to read something new, whether there is an upcoming vacation or all of your college applications have been submitted, you have decided that you deserve a good book.

Will you like Twilight?

Is this for you?

photo credit: hollowcrown_ via photopin cc

The answers are wide-ranging and inexact, and the logic behind the answer could be debated, but that is not the point. The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate how even a well-read individual with a predisposition to a particular genre could be misguided in a reading choice.

photo credit: lyk3_0n3_tym3 via photopin cc

We are not all so lucky to be biased towards any particular genre, and many of us muddle even deeper through the Land of Lost Readers. This is a general roadmap, not an exact GPS-generated directional route that can help you choose a good book. Hold fast to this guide during your initial ventures, or even more conveniently, download the WordPress app to your iPhone for easy access to the information presented below.

Tip #1: The Calarco Library LibGuides

Our reading-based LibGuides are a good place to get started. Check out the What’s New in the Library guide for the list of all fiction and non-fiction books that are new to the library. The Kindle LibGuide includes a list of titles loaded on our Kindles along with links to a motley collection of book awards lists. This latter point leads to Tip #2…

Tip #2: Book Award Lists

Each award has its own parameters and stipulations, but most “major” awards serve as reliable starting points. Here are the links to some of the most popular awards:

Tip #3: Blogs

Blogs are becoming regular pit stops for readers seeking book selection advice, and it goes without saying that we think you should use this one as a resource. Although the quantity of reader advisory blogs may initially seem overwhelming, you can develop your personal list of “go to” blogs by exploring several and visiting them regularly. Here are a few to get you started:

Tip #4: Review Sources

There are almost as many book review sources as there are blogs about books. Rather than list dozens of premier book review sources, I am only going to mention two: Kirkus Review and The New York Times, bedrocks in the intimidating world of formal book reviews.


Social networking for books—who wouldn’t want to explore this resource? When you sign up with GoodReads, you choose if you want to link your GoodReads profile to Facebook and Twitter. Linking can help find more friends on GoodReads, but it is not necessary. The avenues to finding a good book are varied—add friends to see their latest reads, rate books in order to get recommendations (must rate a minimum of 20), and find books to add to your shelves. The default bookshelves are Read, Currently Reading, and To Read. You can also add more shelves that are organized to fit your particular needs. Is there an app? Of course, but only for iPhones.

Calmly pick a book amidst the whirlwind of choices

photo credit: Casey David via photopin cc

Tip #6: Yourself

This tip should be obvious, but it is oftentimes elusive. Trust your instincts—sometimes a book grabbed at random off of a library or bookstore shelf (whether physically or on a tablet device) proves an excellent read. Pay attention to your “inner reader,” and listen to the people whose reading opinions you value. Sometimes the best resources for opinions are not found in critical reviews or auto-generated book recommendations, but amongst those whom you see everyday.

Walk through the fog with a friend, and you will find your way

 photo credit: Casey David via photopin cc