Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Great Christmas Books

Christmas is one of my most favorite times of the year, and I wanted to share a few picture books that I have come to love along with traditional classics such as The Night Before Christmas.

The first, Where Teddy Bears Come From, by Mark Burgess and Russell Ayto, is a beautiful story about a little wolf who wants a teddy bear, but doesn't know where they come from. He travels through the forest asking three little pigs and a little girl and her grandmother, but no one knows, until he bumps into a kind old man with a white beard who has the answer.

The second book, Stick Man, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, is about a Stick Man with three stick children and his Stick Lady Love, who all live together in the Family Tree. While out for a run one day, Stick Man is taken far from his family, until he helps a kind old man with a white beard come down a chimney after he gets stuck. Stick Man helps the kind old man deliver gifts, and in return is given a gift of his own.

I really love how these two stories both involve a character who does not know that they have just bumped into Santa Claus, and that because of their kindness and help towards Santa Claus, they get a gift themselves in return. I think these two would be good for a Christmas storytime because of this similarity.

The third book, Santa's New Suit by Laura Rader, is a really fun read that could be combined with another fun Christmas book such as Merry Christmas Splat by Rob Scotton. Santa Claus finds that all his suits are old and dirty and torn and red, and goes out to buy a new suit. The problem is that while he loves his new suit, no one else seems to, and children even have trouble recognizing him. Mrs. Claus helps him go back to his traditional suit in the end without even saying a word. The fun voice bubbles in this book make it really fun to read, and it is fun to see Santa Claus's humor in this book.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Neil Gaiman on The Simpsons

This Sunday, fantasy writer Neil Gaiman will be the latest celebrity to make a guest appearance on The Simpsons. He is perhaps best known for writing the comic book "The Sandman," the compilation of which was one of the only graphic novels ever to appear on the New York Times Best Seller list and Entertainment Weekly's "100 Best Reads." He also wrote "Coraline," an endearing and cautionary novella that was turned into an animated film.

Gaiman wrote about the episode on Facebook, stating, "the script called for a bad American accent. I’m still not sure I hit the Dick Van Dyke doing Cockney levels that were called for."

The Simpsons is often rich with literary references, with episodes titled "The Bart of Darkness" and "Much Apu About Nothing." Author cameos are more rare, but have included Stephen King, JK Rowling, John Updike, Thomas Pynchon and fellow graphic novelist, Alan Moore, of "Watchmen" fame.

Here's a synopsis of the episode, titled 'The Book Job,' according to FOX:
“Lisa becomes disheartened when she learns the shocking truth behind the ‘tween lit’ industry and her beloved fantasy novel characters. But Homer decides to cash in on the craze and forms a team to group-write the next ‘tween lit’ hit, with the king of fantasy, Neil Gaiman (guest-voicing as himself), lending his expertise to the effort. After catching the eye of a slick industry publisher (guest-voice Andy Garcia) at the Springfield Book Fair, the team gets an advanced copy of their work and discovers that the corporate lit business is a bigger operation than they imagined.”

Source: The Huffington Post
See also: An interview from The Deadbolt

Friday, November 4, 2011

CIA's 'ninja librarians' track revolts through Twitter and Facebook

McLEAN, Va. (AP) — In an anonymous industrial park, CIA analysts who jokingly call themselves the "ninja librarians" are mining the mass of information people publish about themselves overseas, tracking everything from common public opinion to revolutions.

The group's effort gives the White House a daily snapshot of the world built from tweets, newspaper articles and Facebook updates.

The agency's Open Source Center sometimes looks at 5 million tweets a day. The analysts are also checking out TV news channels, local radio stations, Internet chat rooms — anything overseas that people can access and contribute to openly.

The Associated Press got an apparently unprecedented view of the center's operations, including a tour of the main facility. The AP agreed not to reveal its exact location and to withhold the identities of some who work there because much of the center's work is secret.

From Arabic to Mandarin, from an angry tweet to a thoughtful blog, the analysts gather the information, often in a native tongue. They cross-reference it with a local newspaper or a clandestinely intercepted phone conversation. From there, they build a picture sought by the highest levels at the White House. There might be a real-time peek, for example, at the mood of a region after the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, or perhaps a prediction of which Mideast nation seems ripe for revolt.

Yes, they saw the uprising in Egypt coming; they just didn't know exactly when revolution might hit, says the center's director, Doug Naquin.

The center already had "predicted that social media in places like Egypt could be a game-changer and a threat to the regime," he said in an interview.

The CIA facility was set up in response to a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission, its first priority to focus on counterterrorism and counterproliferation. Its predecessor organization had its staff heavily cut in the 1990s — something the CIA's management has vowed to keep from happening again, with new budget reductions looming across the national security spectrum.

The center's several hundred analysts — the actual number is classified — track a broad range of subjects, including Chinese Internet access and the mood on the street in Pakistan.

While most analysts are based in Virginia, they also are scattered throughout U.S. embassies worldwide to get a step closer to their subjects.

The center's analysis ends up in President Barack Obama's daily intelligence briefing in one form or another almost every day. The material is often used to answer questions Obama poses to his inner circle of intelligence advisers when they give him the morning rundown of threats and trouble spots.

"The OSC's focus is overseas, collecting against foreign intelligence issues," said CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood. "Looking at social media outlets overseas is just a small part of what this skilled organization does," she said. "There is no effort to collect on Americans."

The most successful open source analysts, Naquin said, are something like the heroine of the crime novel "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," a quirky, irreverent computer hacker who "knows how to find stuff other people don't know exists."

An analyst with a master's degree in library science and multiple languages, especially one who grew up speaking another language, makes "a powerful open source officer," Naquin said.

The center had started focusing on social media after watching the Twitter-sphere rock the Iranian regime during the Green Revolution of 2009, when thousands protested the results of the elections that kept Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power. "Farsi was the third largest presence in social media blogs at the time on the Web," Naquin said.

After bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in May, the CIA followed Twitter to give the White House a snapshot of world public opinion.

Since tweets can't necessarily be pegged to a geographic location, the analysts broke down reaction by language. The result: The majority of Urdu tweets, the language of Pakistan, and Chinese tweets, were negative. China is a close ally of Pakistan's. Officials in Pakistan protested the raid as an affront to their nation's sovereignty, a sore point that continues to complicate U.S.-Pakistani relations.

When President Obama gave his speech addressing Mideast issues a few weeks after the raid, the tweet response over the next 24 hours came in negative from Turkey, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, the Persian Gulf and Israel, too. Tweets from speakers of Arabic and Turkic contended that Obama favored Israel, while Hebrew tweets denounced the speech as pro-Arab.

In the following days, major news media came to the same conclusion, as did analysis by the covert side of U.S. intelligence based on intercepts and human intelligence gathered in the region.

The center is also in the process of comparing its social media results with the track record of polling organizations, trying to see which produces more accurate results, Naquin said.

"We do what we can to caveat that we may be getting an overrepresentation of the urban elite," said Naquin, acknowledging that only a small slice of the population in many areas being monitored has access to computers and Internet. But he points out that access to social media sites via cellphones is growing in such areas as Africa, meaning a "wider portion of the population than you might expect is sounding off and holding forth than it might appear if you count the Internet hookups in a given country."

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become a key resource for following a fast-moving crisis such as the riots that raged across Bangkok in April and May of last year, the center's deputy director said. The AP agreed not to identify him because he sometimes still works undercover in foreign countries.

As director, Naquin is identified publicly by the agency although the location of the center is kept secret to deter attacks, whether physical or electronic.

Naquin says the next generation of social media will probably be closed-loop, subscriber-only cellphone networks, like the ones the Taliban uses to send messages among hundreds of followers at a time in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those networks can be penetrated only by technical eavesdropping by branches of U.S. intelligence, such as the National Security Agency — but Naquin predicts his covert colleagues will find a way to adapt, as the enemy does.
[Source] | Associated Press |

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Books for Halloween

A quick post to suggest some really good titles for Halloween.

For younger children (and older children as well, as I personally enjoy this book myself), I really recommend The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches by Alice Low. This is a really good friendship and confidence book, with a lot of fun Halloween images. A great book I discovered this year is Vampire Boy's Goodnight by Lisa Brown. This book has some especially wonderful references to classic monsters and the legend of Dracula. I would also recommend Moonlight: the Halloween Cat by Cynthia Rylant, especially for its wonderful, calming tone.

For older readers I would like to recommend (again) the Scary Stories collection by Alvin Schwartz and any of Daniel Cohen's stories, especially The Headless Roommate and Other Tales of Terror. There are a few others I think are really good reads, including Scary Stories, illustrated by Barry Moser, and Tales for the Midnight Hour by J. B. Stamper. There is a story in Tales for the Midnight Hour that I find particularly chilling titled The Attic. Definitely do not read it alone at night when everyone else is asleep, especially if you have an attic.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Picture Book of the Month: Bark, George

The picture book of the month for August is Bark, George by Jules Feiffer. I used this book for a bilingual story time and it is very easily translated to Spanish. I first came across this book while I was a shelving assistant and it was used during a story time at the library where I worked. I thought it was such a funny book, and the children did too. I love how George's mother takes him to the veterinarian, and I especially love the expressions his mother makes, along with the different colors used in the pages.

There is some repetition in the book and there are different animals that make different sounds that children can repeat, which makes the book a lot of fun. What will especially put a smile on the faces of children (and adults) reading this is the ending. If you have not read this book, please do, you will not regret it and will find yourself laughing at the ending.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Borders Succumbs to Digital Era in Books


Borders Group Inc.'s imminent demise marks the first major casualty of the digital era in buying and reading books. But the store closings also will mean fewer opportunities for shoppers to wander the book aisles, a loss that will affect publishers as well as competitors and authors.

The bookseller is expected to ask a bankruptcy judge Thursday to approve plans to start liquidating as soon as Friday. By the end of September, the remaining 399 stores of the second-largest U.S. bookstore chain will be shut down for good.

The closures will make Barnes & Noble the only national bookstore chain in the U.S., leaving some Americans to drive long distances to find the largest collections of new bestsellers or wile away the hours among the stacks. Publishers, meantime, are losing one of their biggest customers as they struggle with declining demand for physical books.

Borders filed for bankruptcy protection in February and continued to bleed cash as it raced, unsuccessfully, to find a buyer.

Its failure will hasten the dramatic changes under way in how consumers buy and read books. Tom and Louis Borders started the company 40 years ago in Ann Arbor, Mich. by stocking rich assortments of books that rivals couldn't match. Now, many consumers prefer having books delivered to their doorsteps or downloading them to electronic devices by touching a screen. Inc., the nation's dominant online bookseller by sales, is driving those changes that felled Borders. Apple Inc. and Google Inc., too, have started selling books.

Underscoring Borders's inability to adapt, the company handed its Internet operations to Amazon about a decade ago and didn't relaunch its own website until 2008. Then, too late, it relied on a Canadian company for an electronic-book reader.

Publishers, already grappling with seismic shifts in their business, including the demand for e-books, now are trying to gauge how many fewer books they should print, both in terms of physical copies and the number of new titles.

"There will be fewer titles on display," said the head of one large publishing house. "We're going to have to make a lot of different assumptions."

Writers, too, have lost a place to promote their works through talks and signings. The author Kristina Laferne Roberts, who uses the pseudonym Zane and also operates Stebor Books, a publishing joint venture with CBS Corp.'s Atria Books, said Borders was particularly open to African-American writers. "Many of my own signings were at Borders, as were signings of a lot of my authors," she said. "We're going to have to find alternative ways to market books."

Borders's failure disappointed many. "I felt we were on the right track," said George Jones, who served as Borders's chief executive from mid-2006 to January 2009. Mr. Jones said he inherited about $750 million in debt, and that financial markets had turned south when he tried to refinance.

After Borders unsuccessfully put itself up for sale in March 2008, his hopes of creating a proprietary e-reader to match Amazon's Kindle fizzled. "I would have loved to have had the money to develop something like Barnes & Noble's Nook, but our company was up for sale, and nobody would partner with us."

Barnes & Noble, weighing a buyout offer from Liberty Media Corp., also faces challenges but could attract Borders's customers. "It's not unrealistic to think that they'll capture $600 million to $1.1 billion in sales," said Edward Latessa, portfolio manager for Aria Partner, a Boston-based investment firm that owns a large stake in Barnes & Noble.

At Borders's flagship store in Ann Arbor this week, customers expressed dismay at the chain's closing but weren't surprised. Joel Zaretsky, a 73-year-old painter from Woodstock, N.Y., was curled up in the store's front window, wearing a tie-dyed shirt, cargo shorts and sandals. His glasses perched on the end of his nose, which was buried in a magazine devoted to Photoshop.

Mr. Zaretsky said he had been coming to the store s every summer for the city's art festival. "I don't like it," he said of the chain's fate. "This is a case of Internet outsourcing," he added, before admitting that he, too, bought books online.

Yuching Lin, a 20-year-old college junior, said she sees little reason to buy a book in a bookstore when shopping online is more convenient. "It's like an old kitchen in here," she said while chatting with a friend at a table in the store. Barnes & Noble "is classier," she added.

For several weeks, Borders looked like it might survive. Jahm Najafi, a vice chairman of the Phoenix Suns who runs private-equity firm Najafi Cos., had agreed last month to buy it. But Mr. Najafi's agreement didn't preclude him from later liquidating the chain. That didn't fly with creditors, who felt they could get paid more by liquidators. Borders reluctantly consented to a deal with liquidators after discussions with Mr. Najafi collapsed last week amid concerns about support from landlords and publishers.

Over the past weekend, others, including Birmingham, Ala.-based chain Books-A-Million Inc., contacted Borders's financial adviser, Jefferies & Co., about possible bids. A bidding deadline passed Sunday without an offer to save Borders.

"We gave it everything we had, but ultimately we lost," said Borders Group President Mike Edwards.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Jane Austen Manuscript sells for $1.6 Million

Secret bidder nabs Jane Austen manuscript for $1.6 million
By Liz Goodwin | The Lookout

An unfinished, handwritten manuscript penned by Jane Austen has just sold for more than three times its expected price at a Sotheby's auction, fetching a whopping $1.6 million from an unknown buyer over the telephone.

Entitled The Watsons, it is the only handwritten Austen manuscript still in private hands. No original manuscripts exist of her six finished works, making The Watsons all the more unique and valuable to Austen fans.

Associate Professor of English at Manhattanville College Juliette Wells tells The Lookout that it's "fascinating" the manuscript sold for so much more money than Sotheby's predicted.

"Anyone can go on the web and look at the facsimiles that just sold for 1.6 million dollars," she adds. "So why would you pay unless you thought owning them would bring you closer to Jane Austen in some way?" (Check out the manuscript online here.)

Austen has a very devoted following, and this book is the "most precious Jane Austen relic that's come up to auction in our lifetime," Wells says. Dozens of fan fiction spin-offs, movie adaptations and even, of course, a zombie-infused take on Pride and Prejudice have sprouted up in Austen's honor, nearly two hundred years after the writer's death.

The marked-up draft affords a rare glimpse into Austen's writing process, Wells adds. The 68-page manuscript is made up of booklets that Austen created herself by folding her writing paper in half.

The Guardian writes that the famous author began the novel in 1804, when she had just had one manuscript rejected and another spiked by a publisher. Some speculate that she never finished The Watsons because its story hit too close to home: the novel's heroine is worried her ill clergyman father will die and leave the family penniless, which happened to Austen in real life only one year later.

Even though she wrote the book during a difficult time, it shows off Austen's trademark wit. The critic Margaret Drabble called it "a tantalizing, delightful and highly accomplished fragment, which must surely have proved the equal of her other six novels, had she finished it," according to Reuters.

It's unknown whether the Austen devotee who won the bidding war will make the manuscript publicly available or keep it private.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Picture Book of the Month: John, Paul, George & Ben

In honor of Independence Day, I have selected John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith as this month's picture book. The book tells the stories of John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson with wonderful illustrations and wit to match. The book describes these five Founding Fathers and how they got their reputations. This is a wonderful book to share with young children and it can also be enjoyed equally by adults. Indeed, I read this book multiple times and each time found something new to laugh at. As a bonus, the book has extras such as facts on the Founding Fathers at the end. You can view a large image of the beautiful cover on the author's website.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Picture Book of the Month: T is for Terrible

This month's picture book is T is for Terrible by Peter McCarty. This book is breathtaking, it is such a sweet book, a book that has a soul. I loved this book ever since I first laid eyes on it. The colors are lovely and, in the words of my niece, the book makes one feel "calm" and it seems as if it is going to rain, as if there is a cloudy, calm feeling all throughtout the book.

The dinosaur in the book, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, is a good-hearted dinosaur who realizes that he is known to be a "terrible lizard." He ponders what it would be like to be different, and why he is not different. The book has just enough wording and the illustrations are perfect. At one point there are no words, but no words are needed. The feeling that this book evokes is absolutely amazing. I highly recommend this book. It will cause you to feel, to cry a little bit for the dinosaur. That is how powerful the words and the pictures in this book are.

If you don't have it in your library, get it now! If you don't have it in your house, also get it now! What are you waiting for? Get it now!!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Elegy for Librarians

Elegy for librarians: After all the budget cutting's done, who'll be around to help us ask the sharper questions?

If librarians seem distracted these days, you can't blame them. They're worried that they'll lose jobs. As cities, counties, public schools and universities all grapple with recessionary budget cuts, libraries look like low-hanging fruit. In this iEverything age, the thinking goes, books are musty relics. And without books, who needs librarians?

The truth is that we've never needed them more. Every day in this city, librarians do important jobs not strictly related to library science.

They teach senior citizens to use e-mail and show job seekers how to fill out on-line forms. They help middle-schoolers with math homework and urge high-schoolers not to trust everything they read on Wikipedia. They reserve rooms for community meetings. They set up displays. They arrange reading series. They keep cranky microfiche readers running. They read aloud to toddlers.

But as valuable as all those things are, what we need most right now is for librarians to do their core jobs: to serve as information professionals, a job that's harder now than ever before.

The infoverse has exploded. Data still comes in book form — and also in a bazillion other forms as well: among them, databases, online journals, architectural plans, maps, photos, microprints, CDs, DVDs, podcasts, posters, manuscripts, Tweets, musical scores, scripts, magazines, software and web sites.

Librarians make it possible to navigate wilderness.

They do the brute-force work of organization: bar-coding new acquisitions; putting books back on the right shelves; scanning and digitizing paper holdings; entering items into databases, where a search can reveal them.

Handed a difficult question, a good librarian happily hacks through the data jungle, sorting the good info from the bad, and procuring exactly the answer you wanted.

But great librarians do something even better: They help you ask a sharper question, then find the answer you didn't know you needed.

Maybe printed books will largely disappear in the next decade. But even so, we'll still need libraries - because we'll need librarians.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bilingual Resources for Children

Through my searches I've found a few really good bilingual resources.

The Utah State Library has some really nice bilingual story time scripts available on their website. And the Lititz Public Library has a really good powerpoint titled Bilingual Storytime for Beginners.

Last but certainly not least, I came across a wonderful blog titled El Perro en la Luna (The Dog on the Moon) that has the most wonderful reviews of Spanish Children's books. I've never come across a website quite like this one, and I highly recommend it. Most of the books I have never come across but look very interesting, and some I have heard of and loved (like Little Beauty by Anthony Browne, known in Spanish as Cosita Linda). I highly recommend this blog and will be visiting it often.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Picture Book of the Month: It's a Book

Lately I've become a big fan of the work of Lane Smith, in particular of two picture books by Smith: John, Paul, George, & Ben (2006) and It's a Book (2010). The picture book for this month is It's a Book, a clever and witty story about a monkey, a mouse, and a jackass who are sitting together while going about their business. The monkey and the mouse are occupied with a book, while the jackass is busy typing away on his computer.

He constantly bugs the monkey, asking him whether his book can "text, blog, scroll, wi-fi, or tweet." The book is simply charming, the ending is unexpected, and all the small details are very nice to notice (such as the types of fonts used for each of the characters). This book is a must to check out, and if you become a fan of it, which I'm sure you will, keep a look out for It's a Little Book, coming out this October.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Uncommon Reader

One day while shelving books, I spotted a small thin red book and I grabbed it. It was titled The Uncommon Reader and written by Alan Bennett. I thought the cover looked very nice - it features a silhouette of a woman reading a book with a crown on her head - a silhouette of the Queen of England. She is reading very politely too, with her pinky held slightly away from the rest of her fingers.

The plot does center around the Queen of England. She one day stumbles upon a mobile library and borrows a book out of politeness. That sets off an appreciation and newfound love for reading, one that is not too welcome by other members of the staff, including the Queen's private secretary. Her love of reading grows but not everyone appreciates it, but she does manage to get across to some people, including the public. Towards the end of the story, the Queen realizes that reading will only take her so far - it is time for her to take the next step - to write.

It was at this point that I realized that the Queen's problem is my problem. There are so many books that I have that I want to read, more now that I just went to the annual book sale we go to. At the same time, I want to write, to write a book, a story, but because I spend so much time reading, I sometimes don't have time. I think I should follow the Queen's example and spend a bit more time writing now that I actually do have the time.

At the end of the story, the Queen announces her idea to write, and many of her staff and previous prime ministers are against it; the prime minister at the current time is worried that her book will reveal things (probably about him and others) that will be embarrassing to him, so he reminds the Queen that she must abdicate to write the book she is thinking about writing. She then asks them all, "Why do you think you are all here?" And like that, the story ends.

I really enjoyed this story. The writing was nice and calming and witty in many places. I loved the theme of reading and I love history, such as British History, so reading a story about The Queen was interesting to me. Something else I loved about the book was that Charles Dickens was mentioned at least three times. There were a few minor things that I didn't find too funny, but for the most part the book was a lovely read.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Zombie in the Library

The man wears dark sunglasses.

Adam recognizes him. It is the same man from his mother's favorite movie.

It is the Librarian.

- Return to the Library of Doom: Zombie in the Library, Michael Dahl and Bradford Kendall

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Neil Gaiman on Librarians

- Neil Gaiman
Librarians are the coolest people out there doing the hardest job out there on the frontlines. And every time I get to encounter or work with librarians, I'm always impressed by their sheer awesomeness.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Picture Book of the Month: Love, Splat

This is actually the Picture Book of the Month for February, but I am a little late in posting.

For the month of February, I was planning to select picture books related to Valentine's Day to read during story hours. While searching the catalog I came across Love, Splat by Rob Scotton, and found that this was one of several books about a cat named Splat. Something about the book made me feel that it would be perfect; when I was able to look through it I found it to be both wonderfully written and illustrated. The details in the illustrations are lovely, and one of the really nice things about the book is that the illustrations and the white background and the words all go really well together.

One of the things I have found is that children are very attentive to details. They will catch things that adults don't, and they really appreciate those details. With this book, the children would most often comment on little details such as Splat sitting on his bench with Kitten, and especially how their tails curl together to make a heart on the back of the book. They also note that Spike is very mean to Splat and sympathise with Splat for the way Spike treats him. Overall, this is a very good book to read and will be enjoyable for all age groups.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Matilda and her use of Libraries, Part 5

From then on, every morning, as soon as her mother went to Bingo, Matilda walked the ten blocks to the library and devoured one book after another. When she finished all the children's books she started wondering around in search of something else. Mrs. Phelps, the librarian, who had been watching her with fascination for the last few weeks offered Matilda some valuable library information. "Did you know you could have your very own library card? Then you could take books home and you wouldn't have to walk here everyday. You could take as many as you like." "That would be wonderful." So, Matilda's strong young mind continued to grow; nurtured by all those authors who'd sent their books out into the world. Like ships onto the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: "you are not alone."

- Matilda, Matilda, 1996

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Picture Book of the Month: Unlovable

I've decided to feature at least one picture book per month starting today. I come across so many adorable, fun, interesting, sweet, and incredible picture books, and I think it would be a great idea to share a few and perhaps spread the love and appreciation for these books.

The first book to be inaugurated into this montly featurette is Unlovable by Dan Yaccarino. I first came across this book while I was working as a Shelving Assistant during graduate school. I shelved books in the whole library, and one day while I was in the children's picture book section, I was towards the end of the picture books when I looked down and saw the spine of a book, and it read "UNLOVABLE." I could not resist such a clever and intriguing title. I pulled the book out and knew right when I looked at it that I'd have to check it out that moment. I did not regret it, and to be honest, this would be the Picture Book of the Month every month if it were up to me.

Unlovable tells the story of Alfred the pug, who thinks that he is unlovable because the other animals in and outside of his home tell him so. One day, a new neighbor moves in and they have a dog named Rex. In order to get Rex to like him, Alfred tells a small lie. After all, Rex is on the other side of the fence and will never know, right? The words and pictures in this book complement each other perfectly. One of the things I enjoy about this book is staring at the pictures and catching all of the details placed in each page by the author, who is also the illustrator. This is one of my favorite books and I bought my own copy because of how much I love it. When I have read it to children, it has had a very positive effect, and they really enjoy it. This would be a really good book to read on any occasion, especially when the theme is dogs and/or friendship.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Libraries and Souls

To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul.

- Cicero

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Edgar Allan Poe!

Last year was the first year that the mystery visitor to Edgar Allan Poe's grave did not visit to leave the traditional gifts. Sadly, today marked the second year that the tradition has not occurred. Nonetheless, it is a good day to celebrate Poe and his writings, many of which have kept me up at night.

Edgar Allan Poe's cognac-carrying admirer fails to materialize again

How appropriate for the creator of the mystery novel.

The shadowy visitor who left roses and a half-full bottle of cognac at Edgar Allan Poe's Baltimore grave on the writer's birthday, every year for 60 years, has failed to appear for the second year in a row. And no one knows why.

The tradition began on January 19, 1949, according to the Edgar Allan Poe Society. The last visitation came two years ago, on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Poe, the author of such dark classics as "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Telltale Heart," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and the poem "The Raven."

Jeff Jerome, curator of the Edgar Allan Poe House and unofficial head of the annual vigil, waited in the dark and cold overnight before declaring it over at 5:45 a.m. Wednesday, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Jerome took as many media calls as he could handle Wednesday morning, then went to bed.

"This is Jeff Jerome. I can't talk to you. I've been up for 25 hours straight, I'm exhausted and I need sleep," his voice mail at the Edgar Allan Poe House says.

Before he went to bed, Jerome told the Sun he's just about done with waiting for Poe's secret admirer.

"I will be here in 2012, but that will be it," he said. "If he's a no-show, I will officially pronounce the tradition dead."

The identity and motivation of the "Poe Toaster" has always been a mystery, as is the reason for the ritual's apparent end.

As crowds for the annual stakeout at Westminster Burying Ground have grown, the Toaster may be finding it harder to go in and out unnoticed. Perhaps the stealthy Poe admirer simply decided it was time to stop.

Or perhaps he died under mysterious circumstances. (Cue scary music.)

"It is a great, kind of unique Baltimore story and tradition. Baltimore is full of those quirky and unique traditions," said Sara Hisamoto, director of public relations for Visit Baltimore.

"It's always sad to see a tradition go away, but knowing Baltimore, we'll come up with some other kind of quirky celebration to take its place."

Toaster or no Toaster, the Poe society will still hold a birthday party this weekend at Westminster Hall.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Need Libraries?

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Censoring Huckleberry Finn

By now many have already become aware of the new edition of Huckleberry Finn that will be replacing two words from the original text. The author of the text, a Mark Twain scholar, has argued that he is doing this to make the book more accessible to younger children in schools, and that some teachers and librarians have noted that they cannot teach the book because of those words. One can assume that parents or other people have complained about the words in the book.

This is censorship. The problem with this is that it is replacing two very powerful words, which is going to affect the impact that the book has, especially on younger readers. This is the way people spoke in Mark Twain's time, he is trying to send a message of how harsh life was and how people spoke and were spoken to during his time. By using different words, people's perception of the times will be affected. Children might come to think that "hey, it really wasn't that bad, I don't know what the big deal is" or something similar. Changing these words is like changing history. Even if a person reads the original work later on, if they have already read the edited version, it will lessen the impact that it would have had had they read the original work to begin with.

We cannot just go into books (or into history) and edit, especially edit in parts where they have the most impact, where their message is strongest. What if I were to say, hey, the realities of slavery are just too offensive or too harsh for some people to hear, so when I discuss it I will just say "workers" instead of "slaves." It is not the same, and it never will be.

Some of the best arguments I have heard are as follows:

It would be best if children were left alone to read the original work on their own when they are ready, than to have them read this edited version that will not have the same impact.

And, when did we allow this to happen? That teachers and librarians cannot teach a book because of opposition, even when that book holds historical and literary significance?

History can be good and it can be hard. But we cannot just edit the harsh parts and have people, especially young readers who are developing their view of the world, believe that it was not that bad. Sometimes it was, and that is something we all need to know, especially because it will affect the present and the future.