Tag Archives: Kindles

Why Kindles? A Guide for J Schoolers


photo credit: Tina Franklin, mis ebooks

Whenever we visit Thompson with armfuls of books, hordes of candy, and a dash of moxie, we librarians are also often spotted waving around bags of kindles. Why are we so determined to convince J Schoolers of a library kindle’s worth?

It’s simple, really.

Library Kindles: A Story

For their size, kindles pack a punch. They’re basically a portable library. All kindles have access to over 800 (mostly fictional) books. Eight hundred!! Browsing the huge variety of books, J Schoolers will notice duplicates of actual books in the Calarco library, as well as authors and titles exclusive to the kindles. More importantly, we librarians will purchase and download books on-demand. Put plainly – the options are endless!

So, Who Should Use Kindles?

Traveling over the break? If you try to pack multiple books in your suitcase in preparation for vacation (*hangs head in shame while raising hand*), library kindles are perfect for you! Imagine it – over 800 books at your fingertips, all on a small device that fits in your hand. Library kindles are basically a real-life version of Hermione’s undetectable extension charm-enhanced bag in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Not traveling over the break? Not to worry! You too could still benefit from a library kindle.

  • Do your parents ever get stressed out by the “to read” pile on your nightstand?
  • Do you struggle when deciding what book to pack for a sleepover?
  • Do you ever bring a book to read while waiting for an appointment (doctor? Haircut? dentist?) and finish the book early, leaving you in a vortex of boredom while you wait for your name to be called?
  • Do you simply struggle to see over the armful of books you carry around during your day-to-day life?

If you identify with any of the above scenarios, library kindles might just be your match made in reading heaven.

When you visit the Pop-up Library on Thursday, March 9, consider checking out a kindle. Keep an eye out for the big red “Readbox”, and make sure to let a librarian know if you want a specific book. Happy kindle reading!

Who is Sarah Dessen?

Sarah Dessen is an author who kicks some serious teen-lit tookus. She has been around since the early 2000’s and she has written a lot of stories – eleven, to be exact. The Calarco Library has six Sarah Dessen books on Kindle, and three are reviewed below.

Along for the RideAlongForRide_FINAL.indd

[This was the first book I read by Dessen. During the winter, I go to a bookstore or the library to hog a chair and read on a weekend afternoon. I wanted something fast and NOT representative of the freezing cold, so I chose Along for the Ride]. High achieving, insomniac Auden would (grudgingly) rather spend her senior summer with her Dad and his new family than help her feminist mother host parties for her multitude of graduate students. Auden’s days are filled with a distracted novelist-father, an overwhelmed step-mom, a job at a clothing boutique her own mother openly mocks, and an always crying baby sister. Then Auden meets Eli, a fellow insomniac, and she discovers the carefree life she always avoided. But Eli has his own secrets and his own reasons he never sleeps.

dessen 2Just Listen

[This was the last book I read by Dessen. I was on a roll by this point]. Annabel Greene has a secret. It is the reason her friends dropped her and she has to eat lunch alone, sitting against a wall with the other students who have no one to eat lunch with. Annabel can’t imagine talking to her family, not when her mom is grieving her own mother and her older sister has an eating disorder. She certainly can’t imagine telling anyone that she wants to quit modeling. The last person she expects to share anything with is Owen – the music-obsessed, truth-telling guy who is well known for violence and sitting alone against the wall during lunch. Can his policy of “Don’t judge, just listen” help Annabel face what happened to make her another loner sitting against the wall?

dessen 3The Truth About Forever

Macy witnessed her father’s unexpected death – something she is forced to face every time one of his peculiar packages arrives at the doorstep. If she’s learned one thing, it is better to be safe than sorry. She is a high achiever, but her higher achieving boyfriend, Jason, is away at “Brain Camp”. The summer is shaping up to be lonely and boring – one filled with SAT prep and working at the library.* Macy even has to keep helping out at her mom’s open house events, which couldn’t get any worse…until she ends up helping the Wish Catering Crew and getting a job. Besides happy chaos and new friends, Wish also brings Wes, an artist who followed an unconventional path. Will new friendships and the ongoing game of “Truth” she plays with Wes help Macy face her grief and choose her own path?

The Final Verdict

Although Sarah Dessen’s books feature a love story of some kind, they never ignore other important relationships and life obstacles. All of Dessen’s books deal with family, friendships, academics, communication, and honesty without ever feeling like an after school special. The stories move quickly, and it is easy to care about the characters. The books can feel formulaic and a bit predictable after a while, but it actually adds a level of comfort to the stories. Bonus: they usually take place in a beach/seaside town, so they are fun to read when it is cold and miserable outside.

Read if you like: summer, realistic fiction, honesty, and smart girls

Avoid if you dislike: predictable endings, love stories, and teen-lit

-Signing off, Ms. Barrows (who is definitely going to read Goblin Emperor after reading Mr. Gette’s review)


*Libraries aren’t boring or lonely! There are books! (she shouts while shaking her fist)

My Summer Reading – The Outcome

I also posted a list of what I was hoping to read over the summer vacation. I was less ambitious than Mr. Gette, so I only chose 12 Calarco Library-owned books (I read other books that were separate from the list).

Here’s the recap:

Summer Reading Recap

Here is a ranking of books I read this summer:

5 Stars

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Why did it take me so long to read this book?! A must read in the modern-novel genre.

Feed by M.T. Anderson. I originally rated this as a 3 star book, but as time passed, the book creeped into my list of all-time favorites. Published in 2000, this satirical YA book can also be read as a cautionary tale. Read it in one sitting.

4 Stars

The Bees by Laline Paull. Allegories everywhere. Reading about a beehive society from the point of view of a bee was exactly as interesting as I expected.

3 Stars

Last Night at the Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind by Gavin Edwards. Even though the writing was mediocre at times, the story was enormously interesting. An excellent biography for any 90’s child (or 90’s fanatic)

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Be still my heart, Rainbow Rowell. A good story that can easily be read in a day or two.

2 Stars

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I didn’t get anything out of this book, but I will give it 2 stars. The writing was technically excellent and other reviewers swear by this book. Although Mr. Gette and I missed the boat on this one, maybe others will love the Southern Reach Trilogy.

1 Star


So there it is. Although I read other books on my non-Calarco list, I was definitely hoping to read more than 6 off of this list. Want to share what you read? Want to disagree with my commentary? Leave us a comment below!

-Signing off, Ms. Barrows (who had to re-read The Magicians, is now reading The Magician King, and is super excited to read the recently released conclusion The Magician’s Land)

My Summer Nightstand Pile of Books in Review

For better, or for worse, I will share what I read this summer with the Hopkins community. Due to my faulty memory, I must rely on my Goodreads “read” list and other trusty clues…such as my overdue notice from Mr. Gette.

Assuming I marked books “read” in Goodreads as I actually completed them, this is also more or less the order in which I completed my summer reading from mid-June through August. There is rational behind [nearly] every reading choice. Even the terrible one, which is the first.

*deep, yogi breathing*

Here we go:

1. Inferno, by Dan Brown

Yes I jumped at the opportunity to read the new Dan Brown book. Yes it was terrible. Yes it was a waste of my time. I read it on my very first beach trip of the summer (which is only a kind-of excuse). He should have quit when he was ahead-ish . Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself – the Calarco Library has a copy!.

2. The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood

For those of you who love dystopia (*raises hand*), the roles of women in dystopian worlds (*waves hand in circles*), trilogies (*jumps up and down in chair*), overlapping plots (*waves both hands furiously in an air traffic controller fashion*), and mad scientists and the impact of their genius/craziness (*abandons all decorum and shouts ME!*), you MUST read Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy. Between kindles and books, the Calarco Library has a copy/version of all three installments – Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam (coming soon). If you want to read more about Atwood, the MaddAddam trilogy, and her other works, check out the articles/posts that were published by Bookriot.com on Margaret Atwood Day.

3. The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain

I am a member of what I can confidently dub The World’s Best Book Club. We skipped a meeting mid-summer and instead read two books for our meeting in September. As you read further down the list, you will probably quickly identify the second assigned book. McLain’s historical fiction novel reveals the 1920’s Paris ex-pat/literary/art scene through the eyes of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley. McLain was staunchly loyal to archival materials and correspondence between Ernest and Hadley, as well as their communications with their friends and associates. I love this book because the historical accuracy is rewarding – I spent an entire layover in 1920’s Paris instead of Chicago-O’Hare. Hadley’s voice is sometimes lost and overwhelmed amidst her husband’s – which is sometimes frustrating, but also revealing of how Hadley may have felt while married to Ernest. A worthwhile check-out from Calarco for anyone who is fascinated by Paris, the 1920’s, and/or Hemingway.

4. Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray

Premise – genius. Plot – hilarious. Characters – unbelievable but likeable. Messages RE: social issues – commendable. Writing and overall grade – eh. Reading Beauty Queens made me realize why some books that are widely considered Young Adult (YA) Fiction are major flops for me. Overwriting. Bray’s multi-narrative story would be great if she would just stop writing so many damn internal monologues for the characters. I found myself skimming several “pages” (kindle version) of the story because, “I got the point, Libba. I understand what that character feels, thinks, wants for breakfast, etc.” I think the writing was playful and interesting, but Bray could take it down a couple notches and stop assuming that teenagers (or anyone) cannot possibly understand her characters unless she explains every last thing about them.

5. The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

I still have no idea if I like this book – honestly. I cared about the story, about Wolitzer’s incredible interwoven exploration of why some achieve greatness and some reside in mediocracy. And then she of course asks you, “Wait, who is an interesting? What and who is mediocre?” I also appreciated the realistic portrayal of lifelong friendships – things change and people definitely do not stay the same, and often the “nevers” happen and the “always” fades into the background. Did I care for the characters? Ehhh….but worth the hype and definitely enjoyable for anyone who enjoys reading about the late 1970s/80s and New York City.

6. Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer

Of course I read this book in high school for American Lit – as did anyone who went to public high school in the late 1990’s or early 2000s (and maybe they still do). For those who don’t know the story of Chris McCandless or the writing of Jon Krakauer, read it. For those who have read Wild before, read it again. For those who think McCandless was an arrogant, naive kid, read this article published by The New Yorker a few days ago. This was the best book I read this summer, and in fact all year. Sometimes it pays to re-read.

7. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily M. Danforth

Bray, take a leaf out of Danforth’s book – this is YA fiction that is compelling without being over-written. Danforth takes the common YA “orphan” storyline and combines it with the less-common (but thankfully increasingly prevalent) “wait, am I gay?” character. What makes this more than a writing formula is Cameron Post herself. In the hands of a less-talented author, Cameron could have come to be nothing more than a character representative of the audience Danforth is trying to reach. But Danforth’s Cameron is real. This is only enhanced by Danforth’s choice to place the story in the midwest and creating circumstances that allow the reader to view the Ex-Gay movement through the believable lens of Cameron’s perspective.

8. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson

Again and again I make the mistake (or awesome choice?) of reading Bill Bryson in public, where I receive cautionary looks and complaints regarding my roaring laughter. For anyone who has read Bryson, you won’t be surprised to learn that he is not an ace hiker. You will be regaled with tales of his misadventures along the Appalachian trail (with his sidekick/buddy Katz) and simultaneously steeped in the history of American wildlife and national parks. A great choice if you are experimenting with your first summer of hiking (*bows head and shyly raises hand*).

9. A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway

The second installment of my summer book club series and also a “check” on the literary classics list. Overall assessment – I could have skipped the entire book excepting the story of Hemingway’s cross-country automobile trip with Fitzgerald. A drunk, a drunk who doesn’t think he’s a drunk, hypochondria, a broken convertible top that just possibly can’t be fixed (Zelda), bad weather, bath thermometers – if it was made into a 21st century comedy film starring Zach Galifianakis, it would get a favorable review.

10. Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami (or The Beatles?)

Hi, have you met Haruki Murakami? Because you should – you really should. Whether you are introduced through Kafka on Shore, 1Q84, or this very book, you should get around to meeting him. Narrator Toru Watanabe is in love with a girl who does not love him, and he must struggle between living in the very real world of 1960s Tokyo and lingering in the shadows of Naoko’s unstable unreality. A+ for scoffing the protest movements as shallow and hypocritical, and an A++ for prose, characters, musical references, and deciding to become a writer during a baseball game in the 1980’s, Haruki Murakami.

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (whose reading habits will be in the toilet until Breaking Bad ends)

Bookmobile in Review and Spring Break

KG: It’s 1:30 on Friday afternoon, which means there’s only 2 hours left until Spring Break.

JB: It’s actually 2:49 on Friday afternoon, which means Librarians Barrows and Gette ignored the task of writing this post for over an hour. Now, Librarian Gette is teaching the likes of Health 9 and Librarian Barrows must author these meager words solo.

Yesterday’s Junior School Bookmobile saw success unlike any other Bookmobile, ever.* Students jostled aggressively, vying for an opportunity to check out a coveted Kindle/Kindle Fire or even a, dare I say, book. We enlisted Mr. Saunders for crowd control, and immediately lost him to the crowd. Last time we librarians spotted Mr. Saunders, he was grabbing sought-after books and Kindles by the armful, laughing maniacally all the way to the Breakthrough Office.**

Thank you JSchool for your toleration and participation.

To students near and far:

Read. Amidst elaborate (or totally un-elaborate) travels, missed episodes of The Walking Dead, post-term paper sleep, read. Whether badly written chick-lit, James Joyce, John Green, narrative non-fiction, The Economist, or Shel Silverstein, read as if books were rare and expensive and difficult to locate. Read as if Gutenberg was still kickin’ and the printing press was still in its infancy. Read as if the Chinese hadn’t developed printing even earlier. Read as if an impending invasion of your country threatened (and subsequently destroyed) all physical manifestations of collected knowledge. Read as if free K-12 education was not a right, but a privilege.

Read stuff and get excited about it.

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (public service announcement courtesy of being surrounded by ALL the books ALL the time)

*Slightly exaggerated

**True or untrue? You decide.

Junior School Spring Break Book Mobile

Dear Junior School,

In celebration of our impending Spring Break (so close, yet so far), we neighborhood librarians invite you to…

Spring Break Bookmobile

Thursday, March 14th, 12:10 pm

Thompson South Atrium

Come visit us in the atrium where you can view this episode’s selection of books, kindles and clay tablets. In the interest of time, we will be organizing materials into broad/vague categories that may or may not be helpful to interested parties. They aren’t really rules, more like guidelines. And we probably won’t be following them too closely, so be bold and ask for help and reading suggestions. Bring your friends, teachers, adviser, imaginary pets, and etc. The more the merrier!

Junior School Winter Break Bookmobile

Happy 2 days before break!

Dear Junior School,

First of all: a huge thank you to those of you who took the time to fill out our survey. We’ve gotten some great responses, and have enjoyed hearing about what you like to read and would like to see at our next bookmobile. Speaking of which…

Winter Break Book Mobile

Tuesday, December 18th, 12:10 pm
Thompson South Atrium

We’ll be there with bells on,* plenty of print books, and 18 new books on the Kindles based on your requests and recommendations!

Some of those titles are:

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And, as a preview of some of the books we’ll be bringing and highlighting:

princess diariesThe Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot (Funny)
While Anne Hathaway is adorable in the first book-to-film adaptation, please do not judge the book by the film. While I can’t speak for the rest of the series (10 in all), this book is smart and hilarious. Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo (Mia for short) discovers that she’s not just an awkward girl living with her artist mom in NYC, she is also the princess of Genovia (fake country, I checked) and heir to the throne. Her grandmere shows up and makes her take princess lessons, all while she is busy being a flat-chested, 5’9 freshman. Cabot tends to make pop culture references throughout, many of which are now dated, however they are charming and nostalgic. And, hopefully still vaguely familiar to new readers of this SUPER FUNNY BOOK.
-Ms. Barrows

Professor and the Madman

The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester (Non-fiction)
The madman is a Hopkins Alum. ‘Nuff said.
-Mr. Gette

Octavian Nothing The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Pox Party by M.T. Anderson (Historical Fiction)
This story is set in pre-revolutionary Boston and Octavian, son of a captured African princess, is it’s hero. He’s the subject of a series of mostly nice experiments by scientists and philosophers of the fictional Novanglian College of Lucidity who provide Octavian with an education “equal to any of the princes in Europe,” and treat him in a way that makes him believe he is a free member of a utopian society. But that all changes as the revolutionary unrest increases, and Octavian is subjected to horrifying experiments that make him understand that he is anything but free. Historical fiction at its best.
-Mrs. Prendergast

We’ll also be bringing up more mysteries, as they and fantasy were the runaway favorites when we asked what type of books you most liked to read. So stop by on Tuesday, and pick up a book to take with you on break!

*probably no bells

-Signing off, Kit Gette (who has WAY TOO MUCH to read over the next two weeks…)

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.


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)

Vagabond Librarians Day 5: Who IS The Boss?

Jenny Barrows here to bring you the latest edition of the Moldy, ahem, Vagabond Library.

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As you can see, the view from “my desk” is rather unusual for Heath Commons. Currently, Librarian Gette is co-teaching with Teacher Ford over the din of students congregating, pianos playing (by aforementioned students), and maintenance preparing for a speaker tonight. How is this possible, you may ask? Well, it is possible because we embrace the advice of Tony Danza. Yes, the Tony Danza

Last week, I saw Tony Danza speak in a Madison, CT middle school auditorium. FYI, Tony Danza is not the washed up type (nor will he ever be the washed up type) who can only speak in middle school auditoriums. He was brought to Madison by the very awesome RJ Julia Independent Booksellers. Rather than holding the event at RJ Julia, Tony D spoke in the auditorium so more people could attend. And by the way, it was a packed house.

Also, if you don’t know who Tony Danza is. Click the above link or view the photo below.

photo credit: émiliep via photopin cc

But I digress.

After being fired from his last “big shot celebrity job”, Danza decided to fulfill a long-abandoned dream and become a teacher. He taught for a year at  Northeast High – Philadelphia’s largest high school with 3,600 students. Not entirely ready to shed the habits of stardom, he wrote a book about the experience: I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had. Despite being a former prize fighter and big shot celebrity, Danza got knocked down in a few rounds of teacher v. students (and Danza v. other teachers). Despite the roller coaster, Danza’s mantra remained: make the best of a bad situation.

The Calarco Library is not in a bad situation (read about some libraries that are), more of a “less than ideal” situation. Are we crying about it? Please. It takes far more to break the Vagabond Librarians (and no we did not choke up when we took our last look at the books for 2 entire weeks…that never happened). In the spirit of Tony Danza, we are making the best of our situation. Librarian Gette is fantastically conveying the secret intricacies of research, while Teacher Ford and the AC1 students enthusiastically adapt to the less-than-perfect classroom environment.

How has Hopkins made the most of a situation? Lets review.

  • Student patience regarding printing has at least doubled, if not tripled.
  • Teachers host the Vagabond librarians in classrooms for research lessons, and even bake us snacks! (The last part is not true, but maybe words written will become true?)
  • Students come to the Vagabond Library with incredibly original jokes such as, “Oh man, look at all the books!” And while we guffaw initially, we trump expectations and students end up leaving with one of our fabulous Kindles hugged close to their chests (or shoved into a backpack. We’re realists.).

Tony Danza is a wise man, and his advice should be cherished. I mean c’mon, he is the boss.

Signing off, Jenny Barrows (the biggest Tony Danza fan girl ever)

Vagabond Librarians Day 2: ebook Boogaloo

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a mold spore.
-T.S. Eliot (paraphrased)

Oh, you expected Ms. Barrow’s jolly platitudes? Ah. Right.

(clears throat)

Hello and welcome to Day 2 of the Vagabond Librarians! Strangely, it is almost business as usual here, with textbooks and laptops flying out the lack of doors. There is no Quiet Floor (and very little quiet), but there’s still a lot of studying going on.

Yesterday Ms. Barrows talked about how a library is more than its space or its books. I certainly agree, and I also wanted to talk about how we still have plenty of good old-fashioned library books available to borrow and read – just maybe not in the format you’re most familiar with.

As you may know, the library has 18 Kindles available, with an archive of over 200 books. What you probably don’t know is we have 12 brand new Kindles, especially intended for Junior School borrowers. We’ve also purchased over 50 new Kindle books, now available on said Kindles. And while they may be tagged JSchool, I think the books will be appealing to a wide range of readers.

Titles include: The Maze Runner, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, The Hobbit, DivergentGraceling, EnclaveThe Wee Free Men, Black Hole SunLeviathan, and Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. 

And – as always – if there’s anything you’d like to read on the Kindles, let us know and we’ll see what we can do! So come on in and read something.

Non-Library Moments In Heath Today You May Have Missed: Triple Trio singing “And So It Goes”  to Ms. Calderone in the Bookstore,  someone playing “Call Me Maybe” and “Payphone” on the piano in the Weismann Room. There are definite benefits to being more centrally located.

 -Signing off, Kit Gette (who dares disturb the universe)

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