Monday, February 28, 2011

The Big Show

The Oscars-whether you watched them or could care less, they're a hot topic this time of year! I prefer the old-school glamor of early to middle 20th century Hollywood myself, so in honor of last night's celebrity glitzfest, abcreads celebrates movie stars! Here's some of the latest actor biographies in our catalog:

Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford by Donald Spoto

Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe ; edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment

Hollywood Hellraisers: The Wild Lives and Fast Times of Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson by Robert Sellers

Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashner, Nancy Schoenberger

American Prince: A Memoir by Tony Curtis

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis by Ed Sikov

Brass Diva: The Life and Legends of Ethel Merman by Caryl Flinn

Ava Gardner: "Love is Nothing" by Lee Server

Here's a couple of Academy Award related titles you might enjoy:

Made for Each Other: Fashion and the Academy Awards by Bronwyn Cosgrave

The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards by Steve Pond

I enjoyed these film critics' take on last night's ceremony:

& finally, tomorrow, March 1st: Catch Alan Arkin at Readings on the Rio Grande! The Oscar-winning co-star of Little Miss Sunshine Alan Arkin presents his memoir, An Improvised Life, a reflection on what the theater has taught him about both craft and life. At the KiMo Theater, 7 p.m. Free tickets available at BookWorks.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Celebrate National Crochet Month!

Since March is National Crochet Month, why not try your hand at crochet? Easy to learn, fast to do, and versatile, this craft has its origins in the 19th century. It lends itself well to airy summer items, lacy scarfs and shawls, blankets, 3-D toys and hats, and much more!

The library system has plenty of helpful books on crochet. Some beginner titles include Crocheting for Dummies and The Happy Hooker: Stitch 'n Bitch Crochet. The “One Skein” books contain some very pretty crochet patterns. A new addition to our collection is Crochet Master Class which goes over different methods such as Hairpin and Broomstick lace. We also have some DVDs on crocheting. And if visual aids are your thing, you can also find many tutorials on YouTube.

A growing trend in crochet and a source of modern, beautiful patterns are Japanese crochet books. The books can be on the pricey side,but there are two sites with free Japanese patterns available - Pierrot and Clover. Pierrot has some patterns translated into English. Crochet charts are universal, however, which makes it easier to read foreign patterns, and there is a great translated help guide on

There are also lots of free crochet patterns available at Pictured here is "birds of a feather" You can search for patterns based on popularity and difficulty. There is also a group called “Learn Crochet” which can help with any questions you may have.

And If you decide to try your hand at crochet, there are lots of craft group get togethers in the library system, where you can share your work.

Written by Tracy, a Cherry Hills Library staff member & talented crochet artist.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Quick Trip to...

As the winter weather comes & goes, all I can think about is taking a trip far away. However, until I accrue more vacation time, I'll just be reading about faraway places. With that in mind, I have been checking out the site Bibliotravel ("for books that take you away").

Right on their home page, they have a booklist called "A Quick Trip to Berlin", which recommends Bad Company by Jack Higgins, Berlin Game by Len Deighton, Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, & Body of Lies by David Ignatius. All thrillers, which is good, but curled up by the heater I think I would like to read about somewhere warmer than Berlin. Likewise, Bibliotravel's featured city is Ottawa (which has, perhaps surprisingly, 98 books set there), which is also too far north for my needs. Time to explore...

I can search by "author" (but it seems like I really have to know who I'm looking for), or by "title" (again, kind of specific, but at least the place the novel is set is indicated). However, if I search by "place", I can choose "The Caribbean", but I then I would have to have a country in mind-although there is a section called "Caribbean (as a whole)". If I choose "Oceania" (where it is currently summer!), limiting to Sydney, Australia, I could read Blue Latitudes or In a Sunburned Country. Getting warmer now...

If I try a different search, by "genre", I can choose between categories such as children's, fantasy, photography, memoir or biography, travelogue, mystery...the list goes on. A quick dip into "memoir or biography" reveals that titles are listed with "year written" & "places". I might check out The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam...but, on second thought, maybe fiction is what I'm after.

In the "mystery" section, I see local author Pari Noskin Taichert gets a about Gumbo Limbo? It's set in Key West. "Like most mysteries, Gumbo Limbo uses many details about a specific place, in this case Key West, to tell the story; we learn a lot about the area due to different chases, shenanigans, scrapes, and escapes," Bibliotravel explains. But the main character sounds kind of seedy. Maybe not a mystery after all.

I've got a winner! From the "novels" section, I bring up Admiring Silence by Abdulrazak Gurnah. The author's first book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize; it's set in Zanzibar & London; it was reviewed favorably by Kirkus, Library Journal, & Publishers Weekly (I can see these reviews from the library catalog!).

It's not exactly light reading ("poignantly evokes the cultural limbo of many emigres"), but I think I will enjoy it. You can visit Bibliotravel to find books set all over the world, too! Let me know what you found!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tilting At Windmills: Storytelling

"The storyteller can only make sounds on the air, after all. The writer only makes squiggles on a page. But the reader and listener SEES."
-Rafe Martin
"Me and Harry Potter"

Once upon a time, I had a problem.

I'd begun a storytime program of going around the world with books, and we had a stop in Spain. I knew that it wasn't possible to share stories of Spain without introducing the marvelous Don Quixote de la Mancha--it would be like making a paella without rice--but even the simplest book was dense with text. While I'm not averse to sharing books with upper level vocabulary (that is, after all, how we learn vocabulary!), the fact was, no book was short enough to maintain the interest of the preschoolers who would be watching me sit there reading, no matter how animated I kept my voice.

I knew the solution was simple: I would have to tell the story.

As a lifelong fan of storytellers, the prospect was both attractive and terrifying. I knew how great it was to just listen to a story, but after years of listening to people like Rafe Martin and the incomparable Brother Blue, the prospect seemed... daunting. After all, they'd spent their lives working on this. They knew stories by heart and just got up and said, "Oh, I think I'll tell this one today," and they told it in a way that kept listeners riveted to their words. I was just a children's librarian who, only a year earlier, had been afraid to do a storytime at all.

Still, that had worked out and I did not, as I saw it, have a choice. Spain required Don Quixote, and Don Quixote required telling. I read and re-read Eric Kimmel's re-telling of the windmill episode obsessively, tried to go through and make notes, but when storytime came, my hands were sweating and my pulse was racing. I absently picked up a wooden dowel (leftover from summer crafts) and started fiddling with it while I awaited my terrible fate.

I got through a nonfiction book, and Leah Komaiko's "Aunt Elaine does the dance from Spain," and then it was time. I said, "This is a very famous story from Spain, about a man named Señor Quexada, who read a lot of books, and one day decided to become... DON QUIXOTE DE LA MANCHA!" As soon as this introduction came out, like Don Quixote, I was on the plains, telling stories. My wooden dowel became a sword and...

I have to share something: It is never not fun to tilt at windmills. All that time you remember as a child pretending to be an astronaut or a cowboy or the Bionic Woman or Luke Skywalker was exactly as entrancing as you remember it, and storytelling lets you get that back again. It's not scary--it's exhilarating!

But why do it? Does it contribute to a child's literacy? What earthly good does it do?

Like any language play, storytelling will improve literacy simply by fostering a love of words. More specifically, traditional storytelling, which doesn't rely on visual cues (I had my dowel, but that was abstract, and the tale could have been told without it), helps build children's attention spans, teaches them to create their own mental pictures. These are skills that matter immensely in reading comprehension.

Storytelling is also, as Kate Houston Mitchoff writes, a vibrantly interactive experience. Children aren't being talked at, but talked to. The stories can reshape themselves with the listeners, become new every time.

But the most important reason remains the simplest: it is a great way to spend time with kids. It's fun, and it's energetic, and it's all about you interacting with them.

There are three basic types of storytelling. The one I jumped into with Don Quixote is literary storytelling--using texts created by an author at a particular point in time. One of the stricter forms, it means learning specific events, and sometimes specific words or chants. You do have to stick with the authorial structure to some extent, but you don't need to memorize it word for word.

A second form of storytelling is working in the oral tradition from beginning to end. Sure, there are plenty of printed versions of "Cinderella" or "St. George and the Dragon" or "Pecos Bill," but they all come from stories that are out in the ether. Read as many as you can. You'll see that different tellers tell them differently. There isn't a right or wrong Cinderella--just a few hundred different versions. Take your pick, or mix and match, or make up your own new one. For whatever reason, these stories also tend to be printed at more complex lengths than are good for group storytelling, but there's no reason to deprive a four-year-old of St. George just because the book you found takes half an hour to read aloud.

On the flip side, many such stories are often encapsulated in very small summaries--a paragraph saying, "St. Martha tamed the Tarasque and brought it back to town, but the villagers killed it anyway, then named the town after it." These, you can take and expand. How did Martha tame the beast? And why? What made the villagers feel so guilty that they re-named their village Tarascon?

The last major category for storytelling is personal stories. Ugh--those "When I was your age..." stories? Don't underestimate! Before Mr. Martin or Brother Blue, I was entranced by my grandmother, a great personal storyteller. I asked avidly for stories of her childhood--trips to her grandfather's farm where she played with his dog Sheppie (who could count cows), her gullible and somewhat dim cousin Margaret, the boy she punched for trying to kiss her after he gave her a peanut doll (apparently a hot item among elementary schoolers in the '20s). When the new owners of her grandfather's farm let us go tromping around, I don't think I could have been more excited by a surprise trip to Narnia.

Adults tend to underestimate their children's interest in the idea that they themselves were once children, who played with friends and did silly things. Go ahead! Tell them about the time you dressed up the cat, or got in trouble for skateboarding over Aunt Jane's prize petunias. Share the secret of the backyard club you made with the neighbors... and invite your children to make their own!

So... where do you start?

Anywhere you like! If you're worried about story structure, start with a literary tale--it's done for you. If you're scared of learning all the parts, go for a personal story--you already know it, because it's yours. If you want something that's stood the test of generations, go ahead and tell a traditional tale--not for nothing are they remembered for centuries.

If you'd like, you could check out books on storytelling, or read articles available in the library databases. And you can always check the J398.2 section for the world's best folk and fairy tales. Storytelling may be oral, but it's bookish, too!

And when you're ready, as the sneaker ads say, just do it.

Five Tips for Storytelling:
5. Learn the story, not a script. It's not a play. Don't sweat the small stuff. Cinderella went to the ball and met the prince. You can make up the dialogue when she gets there, and no one will be the wiser.
4. Find places for the listeners to participate. Ask questions. Make up a rhyme. Get them up and moving around, pretending to be crowd of villagers or a band of knights.
3. Pick stories you love. If you don't love it, neither will your listeners.
2. Don't panic. Forgot something? Don't sweat it. Just go for, "Meanwhile, back at the ranch..." or something along that line. You want to try to keep things in the order you remember, but it's not a computer program, and it won't be thrown off by slightly wonky lines. Just get on that horse and keep going.
1. Have fun! Really. Do it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Contest for Teens!

Hey Teens! This summer we are turning Cherry Hills Library into Cherrytopia and we need you! Cherrytopians, help us design

· A flag (Scholastic has a template you could use)

· A Cherrytopian national costume (For some examples of folk costume, click here)

· Currency (For a list of world currencies, click here)

· The words to a national anthem (Visit

Submit your entries to the Cherry Hills Library Information Desk, Cherry Hills TAB on Facebook, or by Thursday, February 24th. If you need ideas, check out How to Build Your Own Country by Valerie Wyatt.

Winning designs will receive a Borders gift card!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We Love Libraries!

February is Library Lovers' Month & libraries have certainly been in the news! In England, where 400 branches have been threatened with closure, there were protests nationwide for Save Our Libraries Day on February 5th, featuring sshh-ins, author appearances, mass checkouts (protesters joined in a chorus of "shhh" then cheered for their library, before taking out the maximum 15 books each on their tickets – the theory being that you cannot close down a library while most books are on loan [The Guardian]), & fun events (storytimes & read-ins).

Threatened library closures in Somerset inspired Michael Eavis, Maggie Gee, Kate Mosse and Big Issue founder John Bird to join with local residents and the national Save Our Libraries campaign to produce a short film, sending a message to Somerset county council leader Ken Maddock, agitating for their survival. [The Guardian] (I like the girl with the sign "Hands off our books, you crooks!")

The good news for England's libraries is that the library protests have caused some county councils to rethink cuts (The Guardian).

For information about library cuts in the U.S., you only have to Google the term "save our libraries", & you'll find a plethora of individual sites-"Save Ohio Libraries", "Please sign up to help in this campaign to save Evanston's branch libraries", "Pennyslvania Save Our Libraries"-in addition to this nation-wide site: Also check out ALA's page Save Libraries in Your State.

Here's a creative response to library funding cuts: "Dine Out for the Library". Here in Albuquerque, we mostly rely on your (highly appreciated) donations of time & materials. Our newest ventures in that direction are our partnership with Bookworks that allows you to purchase high demand titles at their store (at a 20% discount) to donate to the library system & our partnership with LibraryBIN (buy downloadable audiobooks and/or ebooks and support your library in a single step)!

Author Scott Turow on libraries, from the Huffington Post.

For other reasons to celebrate libraries, here's a list of upcoming Library & Literary Celebrations from Friends of Libraries U.S.A., including Read Across America & Teen Tech Week.

Also check out the Save Our Libraries song!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Beyond Ordinary Valentine's Day

A card, chocolate, flowers,'s been done. Not to me, but a million times over to luckier folks than myself on Valentine's Day. How about something a little different? It's a bit late to be planning, but you still might be able to squeeze in to these events:

- Valentine's Enrichment at the Zoo
-Adult Night at Explora
-Music Night for Valentines at the St. James Tearoom
-Choco-mania at Jennifer James 101
-Romeo and Juliet: a SHAKESPEARE in CINEMA Valentine's Day Screening at the KiMo
-Punch Drunk Love-Happy Valentine's Day from the Guild Cinema!
-Celebrate Valen'ZINES' Day (FREE Zine Reading & Making Event) at Cellar Door Gifts & Gallery
-Partner Yoga at Hot Yoga Downtown
-According to United Blood Services New Mexico, blood donors are needed!

&, of course, your local library has an ample selection of love poetry. Or, if you're not so inclined, have you read the Quirkyalone book? It's "a manifesto for uncompromising romantics", & if you look closely you might spot a local library paraprofessional featured inside (in a very small picture)!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Science Corner

Recommended science reads by Steve, a staff member from Erna Fergusson Library.

Gravity from the Ground Up by Bernard Schutz -- Nontechnical but deep and clear.

Entropy Demystified by Arieh Ben-Naim -- Most simple and clear explanation of a concept that often trips people up. And it's a somewhat novel take on the subject.

The Symbolic Species by Terrence Deacon -- Inspired by a child's question--"Why don't animals have simple languages?" A deep and erudite inquiry into the nature of linquistic symbolism and why animals don't get it, covering linguistic, neurological, evolutionary, developmental and computer approaches to the problem. But very accessible.

These first few books are about how the nature of the mind relates to quantum theory, both in the sense that you can't disentangle the observer's role in bringing into being what he observes (the measurement problem), but also in the other direction, how what the mind does can't be reduced to any purely classical computation, and must involve some of the strange properties of a quantum computation.

Quantum Evolution by Johnjoe McFadden is about evolution, but interestingly he invokes the same quantum Zeno effect to address the origin of life problem. McFadden is a molecular geneticist, not a physicist, but he comes up with a lot of interesting physical insights, and he knows exactly where to find deep biological mysteries even in something as "simple" as how a finger moves. He gives an eloquent critique of current theories of how life originated. We are at square one clueless about how life could have originated from non-life, and once again classical thermodynamics and chemistry are inadequate, and only some odd quantum phenomena like molecules going into a superposition of a gazillion possiblilities and then snapping back into a single reality seems capable of maybe finding the needle in the haystack. Very speculative, and very worth considering.

The Black Hole War by Leonard Susskind is about the subject of a bet the author made with Stephen Hawking about whether information is lost when it goes down a black hole (he said no, Hawking said yes). Eventually he won the debate, but the explanation is really out there, deep in string theory. This is the kind of book that describes things to laymen more to amaze us than with any hope we can understand, but it's very good for amazement purposes.

The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin is a critique of the way physics is being done--basically he doesn't like the way people's careers are shaped by pressure to conform to the latest band wagon, in this case string theory, and the stifling effect it has on possible innovation. He has his own very interesting ideas about what physics should look like.

Three Roads to Quantum Gravity by Lee Smolin describes his own very interesting idea about what Quantum Gravity should look like, contrasted with string theory and one other road.

Faster Than the Speed of Light by Joao Magueijo is an autobiographical account by one of those non-conformist students who pits himself against the establishment to get consideration for the idea that in the early universe the speed of light might have been faster and allowed distant regions to come into equilibrium without any need for the conventional dogma of cosmic inflation. Whether he's right or wrong it's good to consider such things, not to mention that his personal adventures and conflicts are tremendously fun to read about.

QED by Richard Feynman is a classical layman's account of quantum field theory, which he helped invent. Most popular accounts resort to analogies and descriptions that don't let you get really close to the subject, but QED uses diagrams and words that tell you what the equations mean, like a translation from another language into English, in a fundamental sense equivalent to what the equations are saying.

The Road to Reality by Roger Penrose is another one like QED. It's a big fat book, and covers a lot of ground. It's the one you'd want if you could only have one book on a desert island. It's about the essential features of very deep math described in diagrams and words and applied to state-of-the-art mysteries of modern physics. It's not a textbook, there are no special prerequisites, but it is mathematical, and there are optional problems you can work if you want to improve your understanding. I'm going to spend the rest of my life studying it.

Programming the Universe by Seth Lloyd, "designer of the first feasible quantum computer," here considers how the universe itself is like a quantum computer.

About Time by Paul Davies looks at all the different ways time enters our models of reality, full of wonderful questions about the nature of time.

On evolution, everything by Richard Dawkins is good-- The Ancestor's Tale for its scope covering a path through the whole history of life, and The Greatest Show on Earth which makes the case for evolution point by point.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Images of Devotion

Retablos, from "retablo", which is literally translated "behind the altar," are small, multi-paneled oil paintings on wood depicting Christ, the Virgin Mary, or any one of the multitude of Catholic saints. Ex-votos, from the Latin "from a vow," are paintings on tin or canvas offered as thanks to particular saints who have helped an individual in a specific way.
~from The Daily Book of Art

Did you know that New Mexico State University has the largest public collection of retablos in the U.S.? To visit their collection online, click here.

Also check out Mexican Retablos, a unique website dedicated to retablo art, ex-votos, Mexican folk, Spanish colonial and more; Peruvian Folk Art Retablos; Ex-Votos from Mexico; Everyday Miracles: Ex-Votos Anatomy; & Milagre Ex-votos from Northeast Brazil for more examples of these arts.

To view the library sysyem's holdings on retablos, do a keyword search using the word retablo(s); or a subject heading search under Altarpieces.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Books for Boys & the Not-So-Faint-of-Heart

We have toyed with the idea of having a "gross-out" storytime featuring flatulence, eating bugs, & snide irreverence. Those books are out there, but somehow we never seem to get the storytime going. Here's a list, recommended by staff, of the best reads for those kids (aged about 5-10) who are not afraid of straightforward language, nerdy humor, & weirdness.

The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos
Shrek! by William Steig
Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle
The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket
Beetle McGrady Eats Bugs by Megan McDonald
It's a Book by Lane Smith

Children's Fiction
The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg Heffley's Journal by Jeff Kinney
What Buttosaur is That? by Andy Griffiths

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What Kind of Mother are You?

Love her or hate her, Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is big in the news right now. (For a taste, read Chua's WSJ essay here.) But because it's so controversial, there are many other opinions out there fighting to be heard! Consider:

For more books like Amy Chua's, check the catalog under the subject headings Mothers and daughters -- United States & Mothers -- United States -- Biography. Also consider looking under the subject heading Parenting.

Friday, February 4, 2011

¡Olé Flamenco!

Got a child who loves song, music, & dance? When I was a kid, it was all ballet & tap lessons,but not anymore! Look no farther than ¡Olé Flamenco!, a photo-essay by local author George Ancona, for a young person's guide to everything flamenco. Ancona's book "demonstrates that the art form is alive today in Spain ... and in New Mexico. In fact, the book opens and concludes with a focus on the young flamenco dancer Janira Cordova, who is a member of the Santa Fe dance company Flamenco's Next Generation," says David Steinberg in the Albuquerque Journal. George Ancona is a photographer & children's book author whose photographs have been featured in over one hundred books, two thirds of which he has also written.

Santa Fe author Ancona will discuss and sign his newest children's book at Bookworks on Saturday, February 5th, at 3 PM.

To find out more about flamenco (for all ages), visit the library catalog.

Included in Ancona's book are New Mexico's own Eva Encinias Sandoval, founder of the National Institute of Flamenco, and guitarist Joaquin Gallegos. To learn more about The National Institute of Flamenco, visit the website.

The Flamenco School documentary trailer:

Check out Flamenco class at the NIFNM!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Surface Tension by Christine Kling

For our first book review in the Oceans 11 reading challenge, here's a few words from library patron & friend of abcreads Susan:

This exciting story starts with a Mayday call, and the action never lets up. Seychelle Sullivan owns and operates a salvage boat she inherited from her father. She lives in a bungalow on Fort Lauderdale's New River, and works on Florida's Intracoastal Waterway. When Seychelle hears a Mayday over the radio, she races to beat her competitors to rescue the multimillion-dollar yacht Top Ten, captained by her ex-lover Neal. Seychelle finds a dead body on the boat, no sign of Neal. Florida police prefer to pin the murder on Seychelle rather than figure out what really happened, while thugs from the criminal underworld assume she is hiding Neal, and try to intimidate her into revealing Neal's location. Seychelle's brother, co-owner of the boat, wants her to sell it to redeem his debts, so he sabotages her business. Seychelle is warned by many to stop investigating the murder, and her friends are endangered. She must avoid the police, who want to arrest her, as well as the criminals who want to kill her, to solve the mystery. Seychelle is a likable protagonist with a refreshingly different occupation for an amateur sleuth.

Surface Tension is the first book of Seychelle Sullivan mystery series.