23 June 2008

What we can learn from city directories

I can not imagine having this job as seen in a old city directory. A patron pointed it out to me.

This summer's reading

This summer I am helping to evaluate which books to recommend for reading discussions, so I am reading more general fiction than fantasy. I will try to read some YA or children's fantasy to keep up my fantasy quota!
Image from:

04 June 2008

What's on My Desk July 2008

Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. Adult nonfiction. DONE. MOPS book discussion.
Yes. This is as funny as I had heard that it was. The author also throws in a number statistics and his opinions on the National Park Service, different states of the union, and more. I should have read this two years ago before I went to Gaitlinburg and saw the Appalachian trail there. The above photo is from my collection.

Journey to the End of the Millennium by A. B. Yehoshuah. Adult fiction. DONE
Not the 1999/2000 millennium, but the 999/1000 A. D. millennium!
This was a tough book to read because it had no dialog at all. Even when a person gave a speech, the speech was summarized and we were told what it was about. The author concentrates on describing the smells and sounds of the time, rather than exactly what was said.
This book was unlike other books I have read in subject matter as well. It discusses the cultural, religious, and ethnic differences between the European Jews and the African Jews , with reference to the Ashkenazi and Sephardi groups. It also focuses on the relationships between the Jews, Muslims, and Christians with foreshadowing that the Christians were becoming more intolerant as the millennium approached.
The plot focuses on the difference between the African Jews (and Muslims) who practiced polygamy and the European Jews who thought it was outrageous.
Random House Treasury Favorite Love Poems, 2nd Edition. Adult nonfiction. DID NOT READ after browsing the poems. When they say favorite what they mean is "favourite", pre - 20th century, mostly British poems which all use obscure language. Words like "lusteth", "thine", and "befallen" are used. I don't see giving this to a teen or adult who wants to woo a lover, unless that lover is an English professor! I did recognize one pleasant one from my high school English class, but the rest are simply too old.
Patrons are better off with the Valentine's Day issue of Ideals magazine. Some of its poems are obscure, but most are accessible. Another idea is lyrics from the folk 1960's era on to modern, 2008 songs. Some of these would be good poems to recite to your love. Maybe a nice Motown love song...
Harold and the Purple Crayon: Harold Finds a Friend by Liza Baker, Carin Greenberg Baker, and Kevin Murawski. Children's fiction. DONE.
I checked this out because I saw a Harold show on HBO that featured Harold's dog, Lilac. Ah, the sweet friendship between a child and his dog! Harold may meet other dogs, but none compares to his good friend, Lilac. I think Lilac may be a sheepdog or afghan hound. Some libraries don't have this new series of Harold books since they are not by the original author, but I think they are worth buying.
Umbrella by Taro Yashima. Children's fiction. DONE. Caldecott Honor Book.
This was an okay book about a girl who wants to use her umbrella. I had a problem reading it aloud, however, because the sound that the rain made was:
bon polo
bon polo
ponpolo ponpolo
bolo bolo ponpolo
boto boto ponpolo
and some variations on this. If you are going to read this aloud, I recommend practicing quite a bit beforehand so you don't end up tongue-tied!
It seems a bit dated (published in 1958) with the use of the words "nursery-school" instead of "day care" or "pre-school", but otherwise it is a nice book that has multicultural appeal (Japanese American girl in New York city) with a universal theme. What kid doesn't like an umbrella and splashing in puddles with boots?
Sanctified Trial : the Diary of Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain, a Confederate Woman in East Tennessee by Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain and John N. Fain. Adult Nonfiction. DONE.
This book was certainly a departure from most of the other books I have read on the Civil War. Mrs. Fain (a distant collateral line relative of mine by marriage), wife of a Confederate General, felt that the war was caused by God being angry about the way that slave owners were treating their slaves. In her eyes, one of the worst sins was the mingling of the races by masters with slave women. She did feel that slaves were inferior heathens that had to be converted to Christianity and led by whites. This is certainly not a politically correct viewpoint for today, but she was a typical woman of her time and place.
History of the Slovaks of Cleveland and Lakewood by Jan Pankuch, translated from the Slovak by Rasto Gallo. Adult Nonfiction. DONE (Actually I skim-read it).
This book was first published in Slovak in 1930 and was only recently translated into English (2001). I did not know about the great friction between the Magyars/Hungarians and the Slovaks that started in the old world and continued in the new. The Slovaks felt that the Magyars were trying to take over their churches and subjugate their businesses, even in Ohio. The author's family was Lutheran, and for my research I am more interested in the Slovak Catholic families, but many historical aspects apply to both groups. I recently visited Holy Family Church in Cleveland and saw the church where my grandparents were wed, in an historically Slovak neighborhood. Now the neighborhood it is partially black, partially Hispanic, and partially white. The neighborhood has seen better times, but was never wealthy or prosperous. The railroad tracks repeatedly cross the neighborhood and this is where the jobs were 75 years ago in Cleveland - on the railroad and in the factories that made goods to export on these rails.
Slave Dancer by Paula Fox. Young Adult Fiction. DONE. Winner of the Newbery Award in about 1974. Reading Grade Level listed in the book is 5.9.
This is a truly gruesome book. Even though it won the Newbery Award, if I were a teacher, I would be reluctant to have my students read this in my class. I understand that the slavery trade was horrible and the conditions were nasty, but children do need to be somewhat sheltered in what they read, at least in a classroom setting. Jessie, a boy of about 12, is kidnapped an put to work on a slave vessel as a fifer in 1840. It is his job to make sure the slaves get some exercise so at the end of the voyage their muscles will still be useful.
From the very beginning Jessie is opposed to his job. This is understandable since he was kidnapped, but they never say why he is already opposed to slavery. He isn't a Quaker or from an abolitionist family or anything. He didn't have much experience with it in the past, as a poor boy. Certainly, as the book progresses, we understand why many people would be opposed to the treatment of the Africans. The author does a good job in conveying the misery of the slave existence and it is historically accurate. My guess is that it won the Newbery Award because of the political climate in 1974. It is a fine book and it would probably be well that adults (most likely English, History or Education students) have the visceral experience of reading this. In a classroom setting, however, it would have to be very carefully handled.
Seven Wild Sisters by Charles de Lint and Charles Vess. Adult Fiction (although it is short enough and clean enough to be considered YA or children's fiction: 152 pages).
I read the sequel (Medicine Road) to this novella first (not a recommended course, but painless in this case, see January's blog entry). This book focused on the second sister, Sarah Jane, while the sequel focused on twin sisters Bess and Laurel. I suppose there is room to have a few more books, since only 3 of th 7 sisters have been featured so far.
De Lint is a great story teller and although his tales are original, you would swear that they were written "once upon a time" ago, the way he weaves ancient legends and tales into his fairy stories. I think this author is underappreciated and I hope that more people find his stories.
Harold and the Purple Crayon: The Giant Garden by Valerie Garfield, Don Gillies, and Kevin Murawski. Children's Fiction. DONE.
This is another sweet and imaginative story in the Harold series that has been resurrected since HBO started its cartoon series.
Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron and Matt Phelan. Children's Fiction. Newbery Medal Winner. http://www.ala.org/ala/alsc/awardsscholarships/literaryawds/newberymedal/newberyhonors/newberymedal.cfm
Lucky is a great character, right up there with Ramona and Sheila the Great and Laura Ingalls. She has spunk. She has brains. She has a dog named HMS Beagle so that she will have a companion in her scientific endeavors. She has je ne sais quoi! This is a quick and easy read, set in modern desert California and I highly recommend it to girls and women. It might be a harder sell to boy and men, although Lucky's best friend and annoying-clinger-on-younger friend are both boys.

What's on My Desk June 2008

  • Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. Adult fiction. DONE. This book starts off kind of slow then BAM! Now we know what will tie the loose characters together: a school shooting. We know all along who did it, but the book tells WHY and we wait to find out the outcome of the trial.

  • Cheating at Canasta by William Trevor. READ HALF, THEN STOPPED. Adult fiction.
    I started reading this and had to stop to look at the author biography, then resume reading. I quickly suspected that the author was not American. It uses a number of English and Irish words, like the Irish word for policeman. His short stories read like the dialog (or dialogue in England-type English) of a play. My guess is that I would like his books as audiobooks better than as print.
    I read about half of this book. Some of the stories were better than others. The title story - Cheating at Canasta was my favorite and worth reading. I just couldn't get into this book.
  • Barbie Fairytopia Magic of the Rainbow, a Barbie Board Book. DONE. Children's fiction.
    We had a hard time following this book. There were too many characters for a simple cardboard book. I think it assumes you have already seen the Barbie movie and bought the Barbie dolls and know the characters. I wasn't sure which one was Elina and which was her friend and who was the bad lady. I will be putting myself on hold for this video at the library now out of curiosity. Great literature this is not.
  • So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger. READ HALF, THEN STOPPED. Adult fiction. I had heard good things about his first book, Peace Like a River, so I thought this might be a good one to read. The author very conceitedly had the main character also be a writer writing a second novel. That is not very interesting, and I couldn't get into the story of a middle aged guy running away to Mexico with his outlaw buddy. The description sounded good, but the reality is that everyone I talked to who read the first book was disappointed in this second novel.
  • Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. Children's Fiction. DONE.
    I love this book! I don't know why I don't already own this except that my copy that I had as a child must have fallen apart. This was popular in its day, but now I had to get this through interlibrary loan. Thank you to the Raymond Library, Raymond, Ohio.
    This book is the antithesis of sensible zoning. In part, because of this book I now have an aqua colored house and a purple colored car that the mechanic has dubbed "Barney". One of our neighbors asked if our aqua color was the final coat of paint then was disappointed when it was, and a drive-by commentator yelled "I hate your house"!
    The plot is that there was a "neat street" where all the houses were the same until one day a seagull dropped a can of orange paint on a house. One neighbor, then many decide that they like their houses personalized, not cookie cutter. They really go all out to show that
    "My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams".
    If you love this book then you should read the poem "Warning" by Jenny Joseph, which is also known by its first line:
    When I am an old woman I shall wear purple.
    Then read "If I Had My Life to Live Over(I would pick more daisies)" by Nadine Stair.

  • Amelia Bedelia and the Cat by Herman Parish and Lynn Sweat. Children's Fiction. DONE. Herman Parish is Peggy Parish's nephew.
    This is a pleasant book, with dear Amelia the housekeeper misunderstanding people's idioms. The audience I read it to did not understand the idioms, either, but did not care. They liked the pictures and the kitten.
  • Bear on the Motorcycle by Reiner Zimnik. Children's Fiction. DONE. As you can guess, it is about a bear who rides a motorcycle. This is an oldie but goodie.
  • Laughing without an Accent by Firoozeh Dumas. Adult nonfiction. DONE.
    Her first book was rather endearing. This follows up and supplements information from the book Funny in Farsi. It isn't quite as good as the original, but still has her charming take on life as a first generation American. She does have a number of opinions on books and libraries which I will quote here when I get a chance.
page 43: Firoozeh discovers the public libary and is amazed at the idea of being able to borrow all the books she wants. In Iran she owned three books and in America their family only bought one book - the Guinness Book of World Records, 1972. I found this particularly amusing since I remember owning the 1976 edition and looking through it for years and years until it finally fell apart.
page 88: "And now I was in college, which were definitely supposed to be the best years of life, and here I sat, on a Saturday night, sneaking a bag of chips in the library".
page 159: Her uncle is never without a book and looked up words in the dictionary whenever he came across ones he didn't know.
p 184: "I stayed in the room happily rereading Love in the Time of Cholera".
p 209. Advice to graduating students. Rule # 5. "Always have a book to read". If you are without one, you can always read a train schedule or Sky Mall.
  • Holly Hobbie's Through the Year Book by Holly Hobbie. Children's fiction/nonfiction. DONE. This book blends Holly Hobbie's lovely American Greetings characters with little poems. I saw that my library had purchased some Holly Hobbie videos and was reminded of this character. This book was published in 1978 and she used sepia tones throughout, so all the illustrations are muffled. The current videos use full color, however. Someone remarked right away that today's Holly Hobbie does not wear a dress, but feminine clothing. This is a far cry from the calico and patchwork Holly Hobbie of the 1970's. Both are cute and well received by girls and their mothers. Although this book seems old fashioned, it is old fashioned in a good way and still enjoyable like Highlights magazine.
P. S. American Greetings is an Ohio company - out of Cleveland. So, if you are an Ohio librarian and considering getting rid of the old Holly Hobbie books, please consider keeping these sweet books. I think they are finding a new audience.
http://www.americangreetings.com/ Also the home of Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake.
P. P. S. The new Holly Hobbie is advertised as the "old" Holly Hobbie's great granddaughter with the same name.
  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. Children's Fiction. DONE. Winner of the Caldecott Medal. One of my coworkers who is a mother of 5 and a former children's librarian told me to read this. It is a classic tale of wishing for something, then regretting getting it. I liked it well enough, but it isn't my favorite story. I also watched the Scholastic video version of this book being narrated. That was pretty good, too. (This is the man who brought us Shrek in another book).
  • Why Things Don't Work: Train by David West. Children's Fiction. DONE. This is another fine book in the series. I like the perky grandmother who fixes trains while wearing a green bodysuit and having her hair up in a gray bun.
  • Generation T 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt by Megan Nicolay. Adult Nonfiction. DONE. I am not into crafts, but these look pretty simple. Many require no sewing at all - just scissors and tying. The ones that use lacing are particularly attractive and the key word to the success of this book is AFFORDABLE. Most American teenagers and college students could make these for less than $5.00 using Goodwill t-shirts. I will show this to my Goth library aide who frequently safety pins her clothing. I may be inspired to cut up something to wear to our local Renaissance festival as a pirate-type outfit. http://www.generation-t.com/
  • Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu. Adult fiction. DONE. We are considering if we should make this our One Library, One Book selection for 2009. The Seattle Public Library chose this for their book this year, but I would not recommend this to all audiences. It is a slow, thoughtful book about an African immigrant. I have not known many African immigrants in my life, but I am sure that most of them are not this broody. There is only one "action" scene, and that is when the main character remembers a violent episode from his childhood. http://www.spl.org/default.asp?pageID=audience_current_seattlereads

page 39: The main character talks about a present he received - a book and that he checked out a paperback novel from the library.

page 89: Naomi "had raided the local library for all it was worth". Then the author lists a number of long books.

page 191: Stephanos gives his mother a book of Emily Dickinson's poetry for Christmas.

  • Timbuktu by Paul Auster. Adult Fiction. I was looking for another good dog book, so I thought I would try this one. IN PROGRESS.
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon - Opposites by Jodi Huelin and Kevin Murawski. Children's Fiction. DONE. Adorable Harold demonstrates some opposites by his drawings. Effective.
  • Early Bird by Richard Scarry. Children's Fiction. DONE. I am guessing that this came before his Busy Town series since there is a worm that looks like Lowly, but has a different name. This book shows Scarry's distinct style and appeal. This is a good early reader.
  • Toot and Puddle by Holly Hobbie. Children's fiction. DONE. This is a take on the country-mouse/city-mouse where one pig stays home and one travels. We see the advantages of travel and of home. The words are okay, but we can tell that Holly Hobbie is known more for her illustrations.