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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week this year is taking place the week of September 26 through October 3. The full title of the week is Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read! I prefer the second half of the title since it accents the positive whereas the first half may lead one to believe that banning books is an acceptable solution to a controversy over a book's subject matter. A better solution to a problem with a book's content is to read it and discuss it with others.

The American Library Association maintains, on its website, lists of the most frequently challenged books. In 2008 there were 513 reported challenges. Not surprisingly, most of the books on the list are children's or young adult titles. The number 1 challenged book for the decade 1990-1999 was Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and others in the "Scary Stories" series by Alvin Schwartz [J 398.2 SCH]. Yes, this is the same book that almost every fourth grader in the U.S. reads at Halloween time! It's certainly shivery (but not at all scary if you compare it to what kids SEE on tv on a daily basis) and is often quite funny. Here are a few lines from a story called "The Big Toe"
A boy was digging at the edge of the garden when he saw a big toe. He tried to pick it up, but it was stuck to something. So he gave it a good hard jerk, and it came off in his hand. Then he heard something groan and scamper away.
The boy took the toe into the kitchen and showed it to his mother. "It looks nice and plump," she said. "I'll put it in the soup, and we'll have it for supper."

The stories in the book aren't original to Alvin Schwartz, they're from collections of American folklore. Schwartz tells the reader in his introduction, "Telling scary stories is something people have done for thousands of years, for most of us like being scared in that way. Since there isn't any danger, we think it is fun."

Adult books have their share of challenges, too. There's a list of "Banned and Challenged Classics" that was compiled using the Radcliffe Publishing Course's list of "Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century." Of the "top ten" books, the first nine have been challenged at least once, with several having had multiple challenges. How many of these have you read?

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald [F FIT]
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger [F SAL]
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck [F STE]
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee [F LEE]
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker [F WAL]
6. Ulysses by James Joyce [F JOY]
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison [F MOR]
8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding [F GOL]
9. 1984 by George Orwell [F ORW]

Celebrate freedom--read a banned book!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Posting about the national park system yesterday, I got to thinking that the parks would be a good thing to add to a "bucket list" of things to do before one passes on.

Bucket List is the title of a film starring Jack Nicolson and Morgan Freeman [DVD BUC]. I don't know if the term originated with the movie, but people have been making up lists of things to do before they die for probably as long as there has been paper and pencil!

There are a number of books that contain, as part of the title, "before You Die." We have a few including, 1,001 Movies You Must See before You Die [791.43 ONE], 1,000 Places to See before You Die by Patricia Schultz [910.202 SCH], and Fanatic: Ten Things All Sports Fans Should Do before They Die by Jim Gorant [796 GOR].

I don't know how we missed it, but 1001 Books You Must Read before You Die is not on our shelves. I'll have to remedy that with our next order. Check our shelves next month to see if it has been added.

Some "before you die" titles I think we'll pass on: 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, 101 Places to Have Sex before You Die, 101 Things to Buy Before You Die, and 101 Things to Do in Tennessee before You Up and Die.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Our National Parks

Jupiter Terrace, Yellowstone National Park, 1905

The National Parks, a new film series by Ken Burns, began last night on local PBS stations. I hope you'll get a chance to watch. (If you miss it on tv, we will be ordering the DVD when it is released next month.)

How about traveling to a few of those gorgeous locations? Go by book! We have travel guides, and books of photos, galore! Look for one of these the next time you visit us:

Chambers, S. Allen. National Landmarks, America's Treasures: The National Park Foundation's Complete Guide to National Historic Landmarks. [973 CHA]

Guide to the National Park Areas, Eastern States. [917.3 GUI 2002]

Hamilton, John. Grand Canyon National Park. [J 979.132 HAM]

Monkman, Jerry. Discover Acadia. [917.4145 MON]

Walker, Tom. Denali Journal: A Thoughtful Look at Wildlife in Alaska's Majestic National Park. [508.798 WAL]

If you can't travel there in person, you can still send a postcard to your friends via email, courtesy of PBS.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Poetry Friday--Invictus

On our shelves is a volume called Committed to Memory: 100 Best Poems to Memorize, edited by John Hollander [821.008 COM]. It has poems that date from Biblical times to the second half of the 20th century.

As I was browsing, I came across a incredibly familiar poem by William Ernest Henley. Who is William Ernest Henley? I asked myself.

Henley was a survivor, I found out. He endured a vicious illness--tuberculosis of the bones--that left him crippled. His hospital ordeal inspired his most famous poem, "Invictus."

Henley was also a writer and an editor who worked with the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson and Rudyard Kipling, and yet, Henley has been virtually forgotten.

Here's the Henley poem that got me wondering about the unknown man behind the well known words:

Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
    Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

I bet you've heard lines from this one poem repeated many times--now you know where they came from!

The Poetry Friday Round-Up is hosted by Susan Taylor Brown.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No Email!

We were without email from Saturday to Wednesday. Do you have any idea how stressful that is for a librarian? Yes, we librarians are still dependent on email--most of us don't conduct library business via tweet.

Nesmith staff all needed to head out to the shelves for one of these titles:

Lasater, Judith. Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times. [613.7 LAS]

Walker, C. Eugene. Learn to Relax: Proven Techniques for Reducing Stress, Tension, and Anxiety--and Promoting Peak Performance. [155.9 WAL]

Walsh, Peter. Enough Already!: Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You. [646.7 WAL]

I suppose that one of the best ways to relieve stress is to laugh. Anger Management [DVD ANG] starring Adam Sandler, might have been a good choice this week!

When we "late adapters" finally get around to tweeting, we can get up to speed by reading Deborah Micek's Twitter Revolution: How Social Media and Mobile Marketing is Changing the Way We Do Business & Market Online [658.872 MIC]. With any luck, the rest of the world won't have already moved on to the next big thing in social media!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Shopping for a Calendar?

Before you know it, the holidays will be here and you'll need to get a 2010 calendar. Why not purchase one from the Rollinsford Public Library? Their Friends of the Library group is raising funds by selling a "Rollinsford Library Lovers Bare It All for Books" calendar. If you're interested, they have set up a blog documenting their calendar-making process.

A tastefully presented "semi-nude" calendar was also the subject of a British film, Calendar Girls [DVD CAL].
Twelve prim and proper members of a ladies' club in a small British village raise money for a leukemia research charity buy posing nude for calendar photos.
The film features two esteemed actresses Helen Mirren and Julie Waters.

Where would we be without our calendars--paper or electronic? The history of the calendar is found in The Dance of Time: The Origins of the Calendar: A Miscellany of History and Myth, Religion and Astronomy, Festivals and Feast Days by Michael Judge [529.3 JUD] for those who are interested in the marking of time.


I was browsing Facebook and came across a group called "Chickens at the White House!." The group was organized to petition the President to introduce a flock of heirloom chickens to the White House. The petitioners include The Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities and other individuals and groups, one of which is Yellow House Farm from Barrington, NH.

Many years ago, I did some research on Abraham Lincoln's son, Tad, and his White House turkey, so I was intrigued by the idea of chickens at the White House. Personally, I think it is a great idea!

Of course, we have many books here at the library on chickens. Some are about raising your own--see A Guide to Raising Chickens: Care, Feeding, Facilities by Gail Damerow [636.5 DAM], others are strictly fun--Bitter With Baggage Seeks Same: The Life and Times of Some Chickens by Sloane Tanen [817 TAN], and some are just plain scary--The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu by Mike Davis [636.5 DAV].

Don't forget to check out the Nesmith Library's Facebook page!

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm Back!

Yes, I'm back from my week in the mountains. I read more than I expected to! These are the books I finished reading and liked.

Eisdorfer, Erica. The Wet Nurse's Tale. [F EIS] This novel was reminiscent of the picaresque novels of the 18th century such as Tom Jones by Henry Fielding [F FIE], except that the main character is a woman. Complete with addresses to "Dear Reader," the book is fun, informative, and different.

Leininger, Bruce. Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot. [133.901 LEI] This was absolutely fascinating! If you don't believe in incarnation, this may make you change your mind!

Mazetti, Katarina. Benny & Shrimp. [F MAZ] I liked this one for a number of reasons: 1. One of the two main characters is a librarian--what's not to like about that? 2. It's a love story with quirky characters. 3. It is short. I love short books. The chapters are only a few pages long and they alternate between the two main characters. 4. It takes place in an exotic location--Sweden. I've never been to Sweden, so in my book that makes it exotic!

I also finished reading Shanghai Girls by Lisa See [F SEE]. I know a lot of people like it, but it didn't do much for me. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it a 6. The ending leaves room for a sequel, so I expect we may see one in the next year or so.

I've heard good things about Little Bee by Chris Cleave [F CLE], so that'll be my next book.

So, what has everyone else been reading?

Monday, September 14, 2009

See You Next Week!

I'm heading off to the far, far, northern section of New Hampshire where wireless service can only be found over the border in Canada. This will be my only post until next week.

Since my trip is purely for pleasure, I'm bringing a stack of books, although what usually happens is, out of a stack of five, I may ACTUALLY READ, one. Here are a few of the titles in my bag:

Barbery, Muriel. The Elegance of the Hedgehog. [F BAR]
Rene, a secretly cultured concierge at an elegant apartment building in the middle of Paris, meets Paloma, an intelligent twelve-year-old who behaves like a mediocre pre-teen until a wealthy Japanese man arrives at the building, causing Paloma and Rene to recognize each other's secrets.

Grahame-Smith, Seth. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance-- Now With Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem. [F GRA]
A mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton--and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy.

Leininger, Bruce. Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot. [133.901 LEI]
This is the story of James Leininger, who—-a little more than two weeks after his second birthday—-began having blood-curdling nightmares that just would not stop. When James began screaming out recurring phrases like, "Plane on fire! Little man can't get out!" the Leiningers finally admitted that they truly had to take notice.

When details of planes and war tragedies no two-year-old boy could know continued—-even in stark daylight—-Bruce and Andrea Leininger began to realize that this was an incredible situation.

Mazetti, Katarina. Benny & Shrimp. [F MAZ]
Why is it so impossible to get a relationship between two middle-aged misfits to work? The answer lies in the story of Shrimp, a young widowed librarian with a sharp intellect and a home so tidy that her jam jars are in alphabetical order; Benny, a gentle, overworked milk farmer who fears becoming the village?s Old Bachelor; and an unlikely love that should not be as complicated as it seems. Reminiscent of the works of Carol Shields, this quirky, humorous, beautifully told novel breathes new life into the age-old conundrum that is love.

Merullo, Roland. Breakfast With Buddha. [F MER]
When his sister tricks him into taking her guru on a trip to their childhood home, Otto Ringling, a confirmed skeptic, is not amused. Six days on the road with an enigmatic holy man who answers every question with a riddle is not what he'd planned. But in an effort to westernize his passenger—and amuse himself—he decides to show the monk some "American fun" along the way.
See you next week!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Poetry Friday--Winter Morning Walks

I've mentioned former U.S. Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser, several times before, including this past June.

We recently added another Kooser book to our collection, Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison [811.54 KOO].

Kooser explains the postcards in the Preface. He describes a low period in his life when he was recovering from cancer and had lost his interest in poetry over the summer and fall of 1998
One morning in November, following my walk, I surprised myself by trying my hand at a poem. Soon I was writing every day.

Several years before, my friend Jim Harrision and I had carried on a correspondence in haiku. As a variation on this, I began pasting my morning poems on postcards and sending them to Jim...

So, as you can imagine, the one hundred poems are all short, each is dated and usually begins with a short comment on the weather. Here's "January 4"
Four below zero.

My wife took an apple to work
this morning, hurriedly picking it
up and out of a plastic bag
on the kitchen counter, and though
she has been gone an hour,
the open bag still holds in a swirl
the graceful turn of her wrist,
a fountain lifting. And now I can see
that the air by the closet door
keeps the bell-like hollow she made
spinning into her winter coast
while pushing her apple through a sleeve
and back out into the ordinary.

A ordinary domestic scene looked at in a extra-ordinary way!

One of the poems is only two lines long, many are four or five lines. All are acute observations shared with a good friend, and luckily, with us, too!

Today's Poetry Friday Round-Up is found at Wild Rose Reader.

Photo by bookgrl

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Places That Matter

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is running a "This Place Matters" photo contest. It runs until September 15, so if you have a picture of a place that matters to you, one that should be preserved, consider sending it in.

What places matter to New Hampshire citizens? The Danville Meetinghouse is one:
The colonial meetinghouse in Danville, NH (1755), is an example of a typical 18th century meetinghouse. The Colonial Meetinghouse Project (www.colonialmeetinghouses.org) is dedicated to raising awareness of New England’s few remaining meetinghouses.
The Salem Meetinghouse is another.

Is there a place in Windham that is historically significant? Then it's up to you to put it on the map!

If you're interested in historic preservation and restoration, take a look at Howard Mansfield's The Same Ax, Twice: Restoration and Renewal in a Throw-Away Age [973 MAN]. He explores how the restoration process actually restores more than a particular building or object, it also restores the human spirit!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I heard a report on the BBC about a woman in Sudan who was fined for wearing "trousers." Yes, in the 21st century, women in some parts of the world still can't wear pants!

It was a short century and a half ago that women in the United States couldn't wear pants either. We've come a long way, baby! Women's rights advocates led the charge and a woman named Amelia Bloomer had the courage to wear a garment that now bears her name, "bloomers."

We have two children's books that tell the story of Amelia Jenks Bloomer. One is a picture book titled, You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer: A Very Improper Story by Shana Corey [JP COR], and the other is Amelia Bloomer: A Photo-Illustrated Biography by Mary J. Lickteig [J B BLO].

It was a long time after Amelia Bloomer that women wearing pants became acceptable. It started during World War II, for the most part, when women went to work in the defense factories. It was well into the late 1960s before pants were worn in situations other than for work or sports. So, looking back on it, the long way we've come, is only relatively recent!

Just for laughs, listen to this recording of a popular song from 1910, "In the Land Where the Women Wear the Trousers."

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Save the Words

It used to be that you could "Save the Children," or "Save the Whales." Now, you have the opportunity to "Save the Words." These are words that have dropped from common usage and may, as a result, be dropped from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). (We have the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles on our Reference shelves. The "shorter" version is 3750 pages long!)

I've joined the "Save the Words" movement and have adopted the word, "pigritude." By adopting the word, I have promised to use it. So, here goes: Finally cured of her pigritude she will now do all her blog postings in advance.

Visit the Save the Words site and sign up to adopt a word or two.

And, if you'd like to learn more about the OED, you'll want to start with The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester [423 WIN].

Pigritude = laziness

Monday, September 07, 2009

Happy Labor Day!

The Library is closed today to give the staff the opportunity to enjoy Labor Day! Since you can't come down to the library, I'll simply share a few online sites with you:

"Facts for Features" press release on Labor Day from the U.S. Census Bureau.

"The History of Labor Day" from the U.S. Department of Labor.

"Why Do We Get Labor Day Off?" from Slate.

Have a great day!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Poetry Friday--Karla Kuskin

Karla Kuskin may not be a name as familiar as Jack Prelutsky or Shel Silverstein, but it should be. Karla Kuskin passed away recently at the age of 77. She was a prolific children's writer and illustrator, and poetry was her forte. On our children's room shelves we have 11 books written and/or illustrated by Kuskin, including a personal favorite, So, What's It Like to Be a Cat? [JP KUS], illustrated by Betsy Lewin, in which a child interviews a cat and is answered as you'd expect to be answered by a cat. Here's an example, the boy says,

We know you live with people.

The cat answers,

Ah yes...a few.

Do you like them? Do they like you?

With my catlike dignity
it never has occurred to me
to wonder what they think of me

A volume of Karla Kuskin's collected poems is called Moon, Have You Met My Mother? [J 811.54 KUS] and is the perfect introduction to Kuskin. Sit with a child and read a poem such as this one (both she and I have a thing for cats):
Cats take naps
from dawn to dawn.
They nap on anything they're on,
a pillow
antique chair
or lawn.
And when their need to nap is gone,
they stretch
and yawn
and look around for something else
it might be nice
to nap upon.

Doesn't it make you smile!

Check out the Poetry Friday Round-Up taking place at Crossover.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Good-bye Incandescents

On Tuesday, a ban on incandescent light bulbs went into effect in the European Union. It seems unlikely that we'll have a ban here any time soon, but, we should seriously consider changing to compact fluorescent bulbs sooner than late. If you're not convinced, perhaps you should check out the October issue of Consumer Reports [MAG CON]. An article in the "Cut Your Energy Bills" issue, states, "Our tests confirm that CFLs use far less energy and last longer than regular incandescent bulbs. That can save you about $56 over the life of each CFL." Go around your house and count the number of light fixtures you have and figure out how much you can save!

NPR's All Things Considered recently had an interview with an editor at Consumer Reports on the topic of CFLs. You can read/listen to it here.

For a short history of the light bulb, look for The Light Bulb by John R. Matthews [J 621.326 MAT].

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the incandescent lightbulb, had he been alive today, would probably have been on the forefront of research and development. That's the kind of guy he was!

"Waste is worse than loss. The time is coming when every person who lays claim to ability will keep the question of waste before him constantly. The scope of thrift is limitless." Thomas A. Edison

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Presidential Reading

The Obama family has returned to Washington after its vacation on Martha's Vineyard. I can't imagine, what with time out to speak at Senator Kennedy's funeral, that the president was able to make much of a dent in his vacation reading.

Here's his list:

Friedman, Thomas L. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--And How It Can Renew America. [320.58 FRI]

Haruf, Kent. Plainsong. [F HAR]

McCullough, David G. John Adams. [B ADA]

Pelecanos, George P. The Way Home. [F PEL]

Price, Richard. Lush Life. [F PRI]

As you can see, we own all of the titles, so come down and borrow one or more and you can compare book notes with President Obama the next time he invites over to his house!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

An Important Date in History

On September 1, 1939, Germany, under the leadership of Adolph Hitler, crossed the border and invaded Poland. The action is considered the start of the war in Europe, which, by 1941, came to include the world, and is known as World War II. To read a summary of the events of September 1, 70 years ago, check out the BBC's "On This Day."

Poland is often forgotten in the details of World War II, but it too suffered greatly under the Nazis. [A personal note, several of my grandfather's siblings who remained in Poland after he emigrated, were never heard from after the war. No one knows their fate.]

You may wish to borrow some of our films that deal with the German occupation of Poland including The Pianist [DVD PIA], Defiance [DVD DEF], The Devil's Arithmetic [DVD DEV], and To Be Or Not to Be [DVD TO]. We also have many books, both fiction and nonfiction, that deal with the subject.