Monday, September 27, 2010

In Honor of Banned Books Week 2010

In Honor of Banned Books Week 2010, I have decided to dedicate this entry to the topic of scary stories and folklore. Specifically, two authors that I really love who have written unique books in this field, one of whom has been on the top ten Banned Books list compiled by the ALA for several recent (and not so recent) years. These two authors are Alvin Schwartz and Daniel Cohen.

Alvin Schwartz has written many collections, including the often challenged Scary Stories collection as well as other collections on folklore, such as Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat. The Scary Stories are a three-volume set that includes Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and More Tales to Chill Your Bones. In the Dewey Decimal System, these stories are usually in the 398 range and let me tell you, this was a very popular section and these stories were almost always checked out. Not only are they unique and scary, but there are also some that are funny and strange. The illustrations do even more to scare you, and some stories are so short that it leaves you wondering, "What happened?" But that is part of what makes some of these stories so good. Probably the most terrifying for me is one titled "Harold." I won't go into detail and spoil the story for those who have not read it, but, well, you'll see when you read it.

When I first obtained the collection (I was so lucky and got a boxed set for only $7 dollars) I sat in my living room reading it the entire afternoon, and as the sun began to set and I advanced through the books, I did begin to feel chills and, I'll admit, I began to get scared. These stories are definitely worth checking out, not only because they are so unique in content and illustration, but because Alvin Schwartz really did a lot of work in compiling these stories. These stories were the #1 most challenged books for the 1990-2000 decade, and are still challenged today.

Daniel Cohen is also a folklore/horror writer, and also writes books on other subjects such as science. When I was in elementary school, I checked out a book by Daniel Cohen titled The Headless Roommate and Other Tales of Terror, and it scared me so much! The stories were so good, and I really wanted that book. Some of the stories in The Headless Roommate are ones we have maybe heard before, such as "The Babysitter" and "The Hook." Cohen's writing is not only interesting but also suspenseful, and the illustrations add to the suspense, partly because they are very realistic.

Some of the stories in the book I had never heard before, and have never heard since, so I felt that I really had to get a copy of the book before it became even more hard-to-find. Sadly they don't sell it regularly at stores anymore, but you can find it used usually on websites such as Barnes and Noble, eBay, or Amazon. (eBay has one right now that's $150, because the person putting it up for auction says it is a first edition 1980 copy). I actually recently bought a copy from eBay for a little less than $7 and although the seller wrote it was in "Acceptable" condition, I would definitely call the condition of the book "Good" at least. It is in really good condition, and I feel so lucky to have gotten it for that price.

While researching Daniel Cohen, I found that he has a book called Curses, Hexes, and Spells. Part of the book discusses legendary curses in certain families, including royal families. I LOVE reading about royal families, so I have been searching for the book since, and am hoping to be able to either find it at a library or find it online. Curses, Hexes, and Spells was the 73rd most challened book for 1990-2000.

Source for the image of The Headless Roommate.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

British Library adds Greek Manuscripts Online

British Library posts Greek manuscripts to Web

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Writer Raphael G. Satter, Associated Press Writer – Sun Sep 26, 7:21 pm ET
LONDON – One of the world's most important caches of Greek manuscripts is going online, part of a growing number of ancient documents to hit the Web in recent years.

The British Library said Monday that it was making more than a quarter of its 1,000 volume-strong collection of handwritten Greek texts available online free of charge, something curators there hope will be a boon to historians, biblical scholars and students of classical Greece alike.

Although the manuscripts — highlights of which include a famous collection of Aesopic fables discovered on Mount Athos in 1844 — have long been available to scholars who made the trip to the British Library's reading rooms, curator Scot McKendrick said their posting to the web was opening antiquity to the entire world.

McKendrick said that London could be an expensive place to spend time poring over the Greek texts' tiny, faded script or picking through hundreds of pages of parchment.

"Not every scholar can afford to come here weeks and months on end," he said. The big attraction of browsing the texts online "is the ability to do it at your own desk whenever you wish to do it — and do it for free as well."

Although millions of books have been made available online in recent years — notably through Google Books' mass scanning program — ancient texts have taken much longer to emerge from the archives.

They don't suffer from the copyright issues complicating efforts to post contemporary works to the Web, but their fragility makes them tough to handle. They have to be carefully cracked open and photographed one page at a time, a process the British Library said typically costs about 1 pound ($1.50) per page.

The library has moved aggressively to put large swathes of its collection online, from 19th-century newspapers to the jewels of its collection — The Lindisfarne Gospels, a selection of Leonardo da Vinci's sketches and the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest surviving complete copy of the Christian Bible.

The library's Greek manuscript project was funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which supports Greek-related initiatives in arts and culture.

Another batch of about 250 documents are due to be published online in 2012.



The British Library:

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation:


This is extremely exciting! I can't wait to take a look at these documents. While I would love to visit the British Library one day, for the time being I am so glad they are making so much available online. I would love to be able to handle some of these documents. It is like holding history in your hands.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Boris | God Went to Beauty School

For my Juvenile Literature course last year, I had the pleasure of reading numerous books that did not feel like assigned reading at all. One of those books, Boris, by Cynthia Rylant, poetically tells the story of her gray cat Boris who has a lot of love and a lot of personality. The story is told from Cynthia's perspective and not only describes Boris and his way of life, but also life in general. Take, for example, this passage:

And then last cage,
last cage,
there you were, Boris.
With your gray sister.
And you stood up
and stretched
and purred
and promised, promised
you would be good
if I took her, too,
because she had
kept you alive
all those days and days and days.
Three months in a cage,
Boris, with your sister,
living in the moment
with only your memories
of leaves and rooftops
and warm brown mice.
I promise, you said,
and I believed you,
and I took home
two cats - one more
than I wanted, and
a boy at that -
but you promised,
and I knew.

There is actually another paragraph that I really loved in Boris, but sadly I don't have the book with me at the moment, so I'll have to update this post when I either check it out of the library again or buy it. Boris is an extremely beautiful book into the personality of a cat, into love, and into life, and I highly recommend it. It is beautiful to read this book and to laugh with it.

Well, imagine my surprise when I found another poetry book by Cynthia Rylant at the library - and shelved in the wrong place, with the poetry, but catalogued as a juvenile fiction book? That misplaced book was very lucky for me. The night I found it I spent it reading God Went to Beauty School and I loved it just as much as I loved Boris. I found something in that book that held the answer to a question that I (and probably many people) have had. See if you know what it is, from this excerpt:

He never meant to.
He liked dogs, He'd
liked them ever since He was a kid,
but He didn't think
He had time for a dog now.
He was always working
and dogs needed so much attention.
God didn't know if He
could take being needed
by one more thing.
But He saw this dog
out by the tracks
and it was hungry
and cold
and lonely
and God realized
He'd made that dog
somehow He was responsible
though He knew logically
that He had only set the
world on its course.
He couldn't be blamed
for everything.
But He saw this dog
and He felt bad
so He took it on home
and named it Ernie
and now God
has somebody
keeping His feet warm at night.

I especially loved this part because, well, I love dogs. There are so many insightful verses in this book, and it is truly uplifting, heartwarming, and enjoyable (and very funny too - Cynthia Rylant has a very good way of inserting funny parts into her writing). If you can, I really recommend you check these books out of your library. They won't take too long to read, but in the end, you will want to reread them and prolong the reading experience with these books, I'm sure.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Edgar Allan Poe

January 19, 2010 marked the 201st anniversary of the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe. The mystery visitor that visits Poe's grave had apparently not visited the grave to leave the customary tributes (a bottle and three roses).

Some of the stories by Poe that I have thoroughly enjoyed (and highly recommend) include The Masque of the Red Death, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Murders in the Rue Morgue. The Black Cat was very sad for me.

There is a book titled "The Big Book of Horrors: 21 Tales to Make You Tremble" that includes horror stories by authors such as Poe (the inside is even signed by 'E.A. Poe'), and Charles Dickens.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Many have, by now, undoubtedly heard of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Now the author of the former has penned Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I've always been a fan of vampires; when I was a little girl in elementary school I dressed up as a vampire for Halloween, complete with cape and fangs. I loved the 2004 movie, Van Helsing, and the character of Mina Harker in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And there is much to admire in Abraham Lincoln.

So the two together should form the following equation: Lincoln + Vampire Hunter = Awesome. I have yet to read the book and I will probably have to purchase it from the store, but there is a review of the book that states that the book has a lot of fact about Lincoln's life embedded into it, mixed with, of course, fiction. It will be interesting to see what parts of Lincoln's life were included faithfully in the book. There is even talk of a movie about this book which Tim Burton is interested in directing. I wonder what Lincoln would have said if he knew that, more than one hundred years after he lived, he would be possibly heading to the movie theatre screen as a vampire hunter?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Funny Letters from Famous People

I stumbled across Funny Letters from Famous People at the library while helping to weed the collection of nonfiction. It is a book with a large number of letters from well known persons, letters which contain many funny moments. I thought I would post a few examples of the wonderful comedy in this book.

Abraham Lincoln, in response to a request for a "sentiment and an autograph:"
Dear Madam: When you ask from a stranger that which is of interest only to yourself, always enclose a stamp. There's your sentiment, and here's your autograph. A. Lincoln

George Bernard Shaw, to Winston Churchill, inviting him to his play's opening night:
Have reserved two tickets for my first night. Come and bring a friend, if you have one.

Churchill's reply:
Impossible to come first night. Will come second night, if you have one.

Mark Twain to William Dean Howells:
In 1907, Twain sent a letter to the N.Y. Times and signed it on behalf of his friend, William Dean Howells, considered a leading man of letters in America at that time. He sent a copy of the letter to Howells with this note:
Howells, it is an outrage the way the govment is acting so I sent this complaint to the N.Y. Times with your name signed because it would have more weight. Mark.

Charles Dickens has several funny letters in this book. Here is one:
Dickens wrote this letter to John Bennett, the owner of a clock repair shop:

Gad's Hill Place
Higham by Rochester, Kent
Monday night
Fourteenth September, 1863
My Dear Sir:
Since my hall clock was sent to your establishment to be cleaned it has gone (as indeed it always has) perfectly well, but has struck the hours with great reluctance, and after enduring internal agonies of a most distressing nature, it has now ceased striking altogether. Though a happy release for the clock, this is not convenient to the household. If you can send down any confidential person with whom the clock can confer, I think it may have something on its works that it would be glad to make a clean breast of.
Faithfully yours,
Charles Dickens

Saturday, September 18, 2010

First Bookless College Library

University Of Texas Opens First Bookless College Library

September 17, 2010

While more colleges are reducing the amount of print volumes in their libraries, including Stanford University, the University of Texas at San Antonio is "the nation's first completely bookless library on a college or university campus", reported the school in a recent press release.

UTSA officials opened the Applied Engineering and Technology (AET) Library last week and unlike any other college library, its collection of books is only available electronically. Its growing catalogue currently includes 425,000 e-books and 18,000 e-journals that students have access to from anywhere on- or off-campus, reported Library Journal. The 80-person capacity library is a contemporary space that includes furnished study areas, ten desktop computers, five LCD screens that students can use for projects or to view news and information, a printer and a scanner. Skilled science and engineering librarians are also available during library hours to assist students and faculty.

According to the press release, the trend to move college library book collections online began in October 2000, when Kansas State University opened the Fiedler Engineering Library. Since then many more libraries, especially science and engineering ones, have followed suit, reported Inside Higher Ed. Because of the trend, more and more schools are reimagining the physical space of libraries. While there may be fewer books, the library is still a shared space for studying and socializing, said Krisellen Maloney, dean of libraries at San Antonio. "That's how libraries have always been. When people come to the library with books, they're not necessarily using the books. They're also there for the services...," she explained. As a result, UTSA noted in its press release that the new library has a series of group study niches and rooms to encourage teamwork, communication and problem solving. "In this library, we encourage collaboration. This is the beginning of [the students'] training as professional engineers and scientists," said Maloney.

According to Library Journal, the transition to the new bookless library has been smooth. UTSA had a "soft" opening in May, which allowed students to use the library over the summer. Since its initial opening, an average of 1,000 students per week have physically visited; statistics on offsite users have not yet been collected. Furthermore, the press release added that students like the fact that books are more accessible since many students can simultaneously view the same volume. Library staff is also more available now that they do not have circulate and reshelf books.

The eLibrary is not the end, however. UTSA plans to take its bookless library even further--in the next few months, school officials plan to provide pre-loaded eReader devices, including the Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle, for students to check out and take home.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book overdue 35 years

WINONA, Minn. – Librarians at Winona Public Library were thrilled this week when someone returned a book that had been checked out some 35 years ago. The book is called "Small Voices: A Grownup's Treasury of Selections from the Diaries, Journals and Notebooks of Young Children." It's a collection of journal entries that prominent public figures had written as children. Someone left it in the library's drop-box as part of the its Amnesty Week for overdue books.

Reference librarian Robin DeVries said she's thrilled to get it back.

Records suggest it was checked out in the early 1970s. But because the circulation system has since changed, it's not clear who last checked it out.

The Winona Daily News said the overdue fine would have been more than $1,400.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cataloging Dickens

Fiction was not always given subject headings when cataloged. In the 1960s, children's fiction began to have headings so children could find fiction books as well as nonfiction in their searches. Adults soon wanted this feature to be added to their books as well.

"If a young patron wants to learn something about spiders, Charlotte's Web might
be a good choice, especially if reading a difficult nonfiction book without
pictures is the sole alternative. More mature readers can learn something about
British colonial rule in India by reading Kipling; Dickens reveals much about
social conditions in ninteteenth-century England, even though they are works of

Standard Cataloging for School and Public Libraries, Intner & Weihs, 4th edition.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Paper versus Kindle

I haven't tried the Kindle, but personally, I think I'm with the yellow dog on this one!