Saturday, May 29, 2010

An Itch to Stitch Makes Linus Blanket

Our Tuesday stitching group, An Itch to Stitch, worked together to create a blanket for Project Linus. Project Linus volunteers, known as “blanketeers,” provide new, handmade, washable blankets to be given as gifts to seriously ill and traumatized children, ages 0-18. The members of An Itch to Stitch each knitted or crocheted a square for our blanket, featured in the picture with some of the group members. The blanket has been donated to the project.

Special thanks to local green cleaners, Hangers Cleaners, for cleaning the blanket before donation.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Online Book Group for Summer?

We've had a request to have an online book group again this summer. We would be reading between June & August. Below you'll find a list of suggested titles with short descriptions. We have tried to include titles based on availability in the library catalog & length. If any of them sound interesting to you, please vote in the sidebar! Voting will end June 5th.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
290 pages
Winding up her book tour promoting her collection of lighthearted wartime newspaper columns, Juliet Ashton casts about for a more serious project. Opportunity comes in the form of a letter she receives from Mr. Dawsey Adams, who happens to possess a book that Julia once owned. Adams is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—no ordinary book club. Rather, it was formed as a ruse and became a way for people to get together without raising the suspicions of Guernsey's Nazi occupiers. Written in the form of letters (a lost art), this novel by an aunt-and-niece team has loads of charm, especially as long as Juliet is still in London corresponding with the society members.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray
496 pages
Libba Bray's latest offering is an unforgettable, nearly indefinable fantasy adventure, as immense and sprawling as Cervantes' Don Quixote, on which it's based. Here the hero is Cameron, a 16-year-old C-plus-average slacker who likens himself to "driftwood," but he suddenly becomes the center of attention after he is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of mad cow disease. In the hospital, he meets Dulcie, an alluring angel clad in fishnet stockings and combat boots, who presents him with a heroic quest to rescue the planet from an otherworldly, evil force. Guided by random signs and accompanied by a teen dwarf named Gonzo, Cameron sets off on a wild road trip across the U.S. to save the world, and perhaps his own life.

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
320 pages
An all-night convenience store's regular customers include zombies and a beautiful woman who drives a car full of ghost dogs. Some middle-aged guys in a basement playing cards call up one of those phone lines and listen to a little-girl's voice tell about how one of them is being haunted by many versions, at different ages, of his ex-wife. A guy just out of prison crashes a teenagers' drinking party and drives off with the hostess' six-year-old brother (it's not what you think, or doesn't seem to be). A middle-class family moves from Manhattan to a suburban house; almost immediately, parts of the house and things that they moved into it become haunted; well, at least there are all those rabbits on guard, maybe, on the lawn. Each of these stories is much stranger than it sounds. You'd like to know what happens after they end but aren't sure about what happened in them.

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
272 pages
Swedish author Holmqvist's chilling, stunning debut novel is set at the Second Reserve Bank for Biological Material, where men and women of a certain age without families or jobs deemed "valuable" by the government are sent to participate in experiments and donate organs to more essential members of society. Writer Dorrit Weger, who lives in a small house with her beloved dog, Jock, has just turned 50—and has been marked as dispensable. When she arrives at the Unit, she is surprised to find it a pleasant, clean, lovely place, complete with a restaurant, a gym, and a garden resembling a Monet painting. Dorrit gradually becomes resigned to her fate and participates in several harmless experiments while enjoying the Unit community and her close friendships with several other residents, many of whom are also artists and writers. Holmqvist's fluid, mesmerizing novel offers unnerving commentary on the way society devalues artistic creation while elevating procreation, and speculation on what it would be like if that was taken to an extreme.

The World to Come by Dara Horn
336 pages
An actual art heist inspired this fictional tale of former child prodigy and television quiz-show writer Benjamin Ziskind, who steals a Chagall sketch from a New York museum during a singles cocktail hour--he's convinced the painting, titled Over Vitebsk, belongs to his family. The provenance of the piece is revealed layer by layer in Horn's spellbinding second novel, which takes readers from a 1920s Soviet orphanage (at which the real-life Chagall taught art to young Jewish boys) to the battlefields of Vietnam, where Benjamin's father lost one of his legs. With the help of his twin sister, Sara, a talented painter, Benjamin hopes to outsmart the comely museum representative who's pegged him for the crime. A compelling collage of history, mystery, theology, and scripture, The World to Come is a narrative tour de force crackling with conundrums and dark truths.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
352 pages
Paralleling his own experiences growing up in the Dominican Republic and New Jersey, Díaz has choreographed a family saga at once sanguinary and sexy that confronts the horrific brutality at loose during the reign of the dictator Trujillo. Díaz's besieged characters look to the supernatural for explanations and hope, from fukú, the curse unleashed when Europeans arrived on Hispaniola, to the forces dramatized in the works of science fiction and fantasy so beloved by the chubby ghetto nerd Oscar Wao, the brilliantly realized boy of conscience at the center of this whirlwind tale. Writing in a combustible mix of slang and lyricism, Díaz loops back and forth in time and place, generating sly and lascivious humor in counterpoint to tyranny and sorrow. And his characters—Oscar, the hopeless romantic; Lola, his no-nonsense sister; their heartbroken mother; and the irresistible homeboy narrator—cling to life with the magical strength of superheroes, yet how vibrantly human they are.

Blood on the Wood by Gillian Linscott
320 pages
Intrepid British suffragette Nell Bray has her hands full when she accepts what seems to be a straightforward assignment. A wealthy benefactor has bequeathed a valuable French painting to the suffragettes, and Nell must claim it and bring it back to London. She heads for the Venn estate in the Cotswolds, which turns out to be a kind of socialist summer camp. After she obtains the painting and takes it to Christies for auction, however, she learns that it is a copy recently commissioned by the bereaved widower. Then, when he refuses to part with the original, Nell decides to break into the house and switch paintings. Doing so lands her in the middle of a murder investigation. Readers will soak up fascinating detail about the Fabians, the Scipians, and the Arts and Crafts Movement while following the action in this delightful romp through England at the turn of the century.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
192 pages
Ged was the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, but once he was called Sparrowhawk, a reckless youth, hungry for power and knowledge, who tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wondering About Alice

I have never been a fan of Lewis Carroll's oeuvre. OK, "The Jabberwocky" is a fun read. But Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has always put me off. Maybe it was the the fact that I find the original illustrations by John Tenniel disturbing, maybe it was the story that I just wasn't getting. However, with the new Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland film coming out on DVD in June, I am gearing up to suffer through it, because I love Tim Burton.

I have to admit that my first attempt to ready myself for Alice was not successful, but I went at it somewhat backwards by watching Alice Through the Looking Glass. Silly me, I didn't realize this was from a different story! I was simply taken with the cast, which features some of my favorite English actors-Kate Beckinsale, Ian Holm, Penelope Wilton, Siân Phillips, Geoffrey Palmer, Steve Coogan, Greg Wise, Ian Richardson. However, I found the movie both tedious & incomprehensible. I just don't care about Alice, I thought.

However, I had a breakthrough this weekend with Alice, subtitled "A Look into Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & at the Curious Relationship between Alice Liddell & Lewis Carroll". This is also a DVD, 80 minutes about everything Alice (& charmingly including footage from the 1903 fragment and the 1915 film of Alice in Wonderland). There is footage of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, aged 80, visiting New York City for the first time with her son Caryl during the centennial celebrations of Lewis Carroll's birth. There are archival photos by Carroll of Alice & many of his other 'child-friends', of which Alice was neither the first or the last; background information about Carroll (a.k.a. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), including his interests in mathematics, logic, & subverting the traditional Victorian moral tale for children, all of which show up in his books; & an explanation of Carroll's place in the Victorian canon & how the Alice phenomenon came about (& continues today). Also, everyone knows Alice Liddell was the inspiration for Alice, but did you know that Carroll based the White Rabbit on himself & that the Red Queen may be based on the Liddells' governess?

Hopefully, this background material which I found so eye-opening will make sitting through Alice in Wonderland much more pleasurable. The cast is even better than Alice Through the Looking Glass, anyway.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Set your sights on summer!

Summer reading is on the way again--we kick off on June 4 through the system, and on June 5, Cherry Hills will start off with a Beachless Beach Party, to celebrate this year's water-based theme, Make a Splash!

The children's program asks kids to set their own reading goals, while the adults and teens will count hours, but it's never a bad idea to set the goal--can you read an hour a day? Can you read that long book you've been meaning to get to?

Some of the ideas kids have had so far are great--they'll read a boxed set series that Grandma gave them, work their way through a shelf in their homes, read to younger siblings... you name it.

For myself, I'm going to get to know the Cherry Hills children's collection better by reading one book from each shelving section in children's fiction. To keep myself honest here, I'm going to be keeping my own blog of reviews, Barbara's Book Splash, starting in June.

Oh, but I'm a children's librarian--I'm expected to get all atwitter (or all aBlogspot, I guess) over Summer Reading... why should other adults do it?

Well, for one thing, just for the fun of it. It's a grand game to challenge yourself to do something you don't normally do, and you're likely to discover some good reads in the process.

But what other reasons are there?

Probably, the most important for parents, in particular, is that modeling behavior is a huge predictor of imitation in children. You want your children to like reading? Let them see that you like reading, that you find it worth your time to curl up with a book and just enjoy it. Not because you have to, not because it's useful, not because it's "good for you," but because, of all the things out there to do, reading is one of the ones worth your free time. That's a powerful message. To this day, I recall one of the most pleasant days of my childhood--it was pouring outside, and my mother and I curled up at either end of the couch and read our books from lunchtime until it was dark and we both realized it was probably time for dinner. Reading was such a part of life that it never occurred to me that it was something one "had" to do.

But there are other reasons.

Carving out time to read is carving out time for yourself, away from the phone, the constant tug of texting and IMing and e-mailing, away from the mundane. Everyone needs that from time to time, and books are an amiable companion for it.

You never know when you'll find something new to pique your interest--sometimes, the paths to learning things are indirect. Read a novel, pick up a note of side interest to the author, follow it through some non-fiction and articles, and the next thing you know, you have a new passion. Not a bad way to spend an evening, as Professor Keating of Dead Poets Society would say.


Are you going to dip your toes in the ocean of books this summer? Dive in and swim in the cool, refreshing words? Come up with better water-based metaphors we can use for this program?

What's your reading goal for summer 2010?

Monday, May 10, 2010

"The Iliad", Boring Tale or a Magnificent Adventure Story?

After a recent viewing of the adventure movie Troy, I found myself wanting to know more about this epic story. While I knew that The Iliad was a daunting read and quite long, I was lucky to find the above translation by Robert Fagles and before long I became completely immersed in this marvelous adaptation. Fagles did an amazing job of taking this classic piece of literature and making it easy to read. The poem is not about the entire ten-year struggle between the Greeks and the Trojans, but only concerns itself with what happened in the last year and the events leading up to the famous scene with the Trojan horse being brought into the walled city of Troy. It took about five weeks to reach the final chapter, but I was determined to take my time. I am still in awe of how this famous classic has survived these thousands of years, and wonder what Homer would think of his work still being around in the 21st century, challenging readers and scholars alike. The library has other translations by W. H. D. Rouse, Robert Fitzgerald, Richard Lattimore, and Stanley Lomardo. This last translation by Lombardo is a truly different look at Homer's work, done in a more contempory style. While some purists have criticized it, others found it to be a rousing tale as evidenced by this 1997 review by the New York Times.

The library also has several books about Troy, the newest one in the collection is The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War by Caroline Alexander. A few older titles are The Songs on Bronze: The Greek Myths Made Real by Nigel Spivey and Lost and Found: The 9,000 Treasures of Troy by Heinrich Schliemann. There are also several historical novels including Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell, which is the first book in a series that includes Shield of Thunder and Fall of Kings . The library also has a Teaching Company DVD set, The Iliad of Homer, with lectures by Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver. Younger readers can also delve into the world of Troy and ancient Greece with Goddess of Yesterday by Caroline Cooney, Troy by Adele Garas, and an Iliad novel, retold by Ian Strachan, with illustrations by Victor Ambrus.

Of course, now I found myself wanting to read more about the ancient world and how we got to where we are today and that could take a long time. But the library's 8-week Summer Reading program is just around the corner (begins June 4th) and I've been looking for a reading goal...this could be it!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What if Everyone on Twitter Read One Book?

If you are on Twitter, consider joining the One World, One Twitter Book Club! They started reading on May 5th. The idea is similar to The Big Read program that Albuquerque participates in during October.

'Last year Edinburgh residents tackled Arthur Conan Doyle's dinosaur adventure The Lost World, last month Dubliners were taking a collective look at The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Brighton's readers are currently engrossed in Ian Fleming's James Bond novel From Russia with Love. Now a new project is hoping to take the "one book, one city" initiative a step further, and get the whole world reading the same novel.' -from The Guardian article

The book that the book club is reading is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Read about it on Gaiman's blog.

For instructions & a discussion scheduule, be sure to check out Wired magazine's article.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Social Knitworking (& Crochetworking!)

"Ravelry is a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, project and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration. The content here is all user- driven; we as a community make the site what it is. Ravelry is a great place for you to keep notes about your projects, see what other people are making, find the perfect pattern and connect with people who love to play with yarn from all over the world in our forums."-from

If you are a knitter or crocheter, you must check out Ravelry, a free site made especially for knitters and crocheters. Create an account & you'll be reading the newsletter "where my stitches at? This Week in Ravelry" in no time. You'll have a notebook where you can: list yarns in your stash; projects you're working on; queue up projects you soon hope to be working on; search patterns on the site & save in a favorites folder; blog; meet friends & join groups; get your questions answered in the forums; & more!

For instance, my groups on Ravelry include Anglophiles, Learn Crochet, & New Mexico Knitters. Recently I posted on the forums, looking for a pattern for an Elsa Schiaparelli hat, & had quite useful responses by the next day. & my Ravelry use has been intermittent at best-one of my co-workers has used it to keep track of needle sizes & see the finished projects of a pattern to see if it'll look good or not, as well.

If you prefer to socialize in person, the library system has several drop-in stitch groups, including Cherry Hills Library's own An Itch to Stitch, which meets Tuesdays from 10 AM to noon. If you want to work on your stitching projects together with like-minded folks, asking questions and sharing experiences, this group is for you! All ages & skill levels are welcome! This month our display case will feature handmade crafts by members of the group.

2010 Edgar Award Winners Announced!

Here's a couple of winners of this year's Edgar Awards that you can find in the library catalog:

Best Novel-The Last Child by John Hart

Best First Novel by an American Author-In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff

Named for Edgar Allan Poe, the Edgar Awards are awarded annually by the Mystery Writers of America, for distinguished work in the mystery genre. For more winners, visit The Edgar website.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Literary Treats

I love to read about food. I check out cookbooks ravenously, & have a copious collection of recipes that have caught my fancy (though I am less likely to actually cook than I am to drool over the pictures). As a sideline to my cookbook hobby, I like to read books by food writers, from restaurant critics to celebrity chefs, about their lives in & out of the kitchen. Some of these are biographies, some memoirs, some memoirs with recipes, & a couple are cookbooks with memoirs on the side.

No list would be complete without Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Bourdain is, of course, the star of No Reservations, the food travel show. Then there's the ubiquitous Gordon Ramsay, who has written Roasting in Hell's Kitchen: Temper Tantrums, F Words, and the Pursuit of Perfection; Sandra Lee, whose memoir is called Made from Scratch ; New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table; & Marcella Hazan's Amarcord: Marcella Remembers. Bloggers will also have their say-I really enjoyed Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life, & there's also Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen by Clotilde Dusoulier & The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond.

Finally, consider: My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals: Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes , edited by Melanie Dunea; How I Learned to Cook: Culinary Educations from the World's Greatest Chefs, edited by Kimberly Witherspoon and Peter Meehan; Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone, edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler; What We Eat When We Eat Alone by Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin; & A Chef's Story: 27 Chefs Talk about What Got Them into the Kitchen, edited by Dorothy Hamilton and Patric Kuh, for more lip-smacking entertainment.

Searching with the keywords "food anecdotes", "cookery history", or "cooks biography" will bring up more selections in the same vein. Or, just check out any book by Julia Child or M F. K. Fisher-always a winner. Frances Mayes & Peter Mayle are also recommended.

This post was inspired by an article on the Guardian website called "A Taste for Chefs' Memoirs".