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.