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Friday, October 30, 2009

Poetry Friday--Maxine Kumin

Maxine Kumin is another of our state's accomplished poets. Kumin won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973, and was the U.S. Poet Laureate 1981-1982. She currently lives in a farmhouse in Warner and continues to write masterfully of everyday things.

The following is from "The Excrement Poem." Excrement is one of those everyday things that not many poets over the age of 9 would even consider tackling

It is done by us all, as God disposes, from
the least cast of worm to what must have been
in the case of the brontosaur, say, spoor
of considerable heft, something awesome.

We eat, we evacuate, survivors that we are.
I think these things each morning with shovel
and rake, drawing the risen brown buns
toward me, fresh from the horse oven, as it were,

or culling the alfalfa-green ones, expelled
in a state of ooze, through the sawdust bed
to take a serviceable form, as putty does,
so as to lift out entire from the stall.

Photo by smallritual

Read the rest of the poem in Maxine Kumin: Selected Poems, 1960-1990 [811.54 KUM], or click here.

Visit Biblio File for this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's Coming Soon...

Just two more days 'til Halloween! I found this quote in an blog post by John DeVore to be particularly apropos for the season:
A vampire is a monster, who looks, acts, and talks like a man. Who is passionate, romantic, and tortured. To surrender to this character is to play with fire. The vampire, in many ways, is the prototype of the bad boy. Women love bad boys--they’re exciting, and the chance to change him, to break him like a horse, must be an irresistible challenge.
I think there's some truth to this statement--a girl just loves a challenge. How else can you explain the plethora (don't you love that word?) of vampire books and movies that have flooded the market and fueled demand for more? Many of the vampire series are written for young adult girls--an age group that is particularly impressionable. But, that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of adult vampire stories. Some of the series are rather humorous and have female vampires rather than the "bad boy" vampire. Here are a few of the adult series:

"Anita Blake Vampire Hunter" by Laurell K. Hamilton [F HAM].

"Vampyricon" by Douglas Clegg [SF CLE].

"Sookie Stackhouse" by Charlaine Harris [F HAR].

"Love at Stakes" by Kerrelyn Sparks [F SPA].

"The Black Dagger Brotherhood" by J.R. Ward [F WAR].

Of course, Anne Rice is the original vampire story writer, but she has moved away from vampires and has recently written a book about angels, Angel Time [F RIC]. You can find a Good Morning America interview with Rice here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Cuban Missile Crisis

Back in 1962, during mid to late October, the incident known as the Cuban Missile Crisis took place.

This is a description from the jacket copy of The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis [973.922 KEN]:
October 1962: the United States and the Soviet Union stood eyeball to eyeball, each brandishing enough nuclear weapons to obliterate each other's civilization. It was one of the most dangerous moments in world history. Day by day, for two weeks, an executive committee formed around elements of President Kennedy's National Security Council debated what to do, twice coming to the brink of attacking Soviet military units in Cuba...
The Kennedy Tapes provides the reader with insight into the thought and deliberative processes that went into the decisions that were made by the U.S. government.

High Noon in the Cold War: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Cuban Missile Crisis [327.47 FRA] written by Max Frankel, a journalist who covered the incident, briefly chronicles the events of October 1962.

It was a fascinating time--one worth reading about!

Photo courtesy marcelebrate.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Giant Creepy Crawlies-

Halloween is coming with its ghosts and goblins, but, I don't find the thought of ghosts half as scary as I do the thoughts of some recently discovered creatures like the golden orb-weaver spider from South Africa. The female of the species is described as "about the size of a standard CD."

A giant stick insect, called Chan's megastick, was found in Borneo. It was reported to be 22" long.

If you really want to be creeped out, view the photos on The Biggest Bugs on Earth website.

Photo by Garelvirat

We have some giant-sized books on insects and spiders in our reference section [R 595.7] to satisfy anyone's need to look at creepy crawlies. If you want to learn more about the amazing role of insects in maintaining an ecological balance in the world, look for What Good are Bugs?: Insects in the Web of Life by Gilbert Waldbauer [595.717 WAL]. Or, you can get plenty of information about spiders' and other insects' use of defense mechanisms--one of the reasons we find these animals so creepy--in Secret Weapons: Defenses of Insects, Spiders, Scorpions, and Other Many-Legged Creatures by Thomas Eisner [595.7147 EIS].

Monday, October 26, 2009

Amelia Earhart Flies Again

...in a new movie starring Hilary Swank called Amelia.

The film is based upon several books, one of which is East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart by Susan Butler [B EAR]. The reviews range from laudatory from The Hollywood Reporter to almost completely negative from Variety
To say that "Amelia" never gets off the ground would be an understatement; it barely makes it out of the hangar.
Earhart is covered by many books in our adult and children's biography sections. One particularly interesting book is Letters from Amelia 1901-1937 by Jean L. Backus [B EAR]. The author weaves many of Earhart's letters through a narrative of the flyer's life. The reader learns a lot about Amelia and the family pressures upon her, as well as the pressures of being a woman pilot.

This from is a surprising letter that Amelia gave to George Palmer Putnam on the morning of their wedding, February 7, 1931, :
You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which means so much to me. I feel the move just now as foolish as anything I could do. I know there may be compensations, have no heart to look ahead.
And yet, Amelia did go ahead and marry George. She continued in her work and went on to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic the following year.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Poetry Friday--Tea Party Today

In our children's room we have a themed book of poetry called Tea Party Today: Poems to Sip and Savor by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Karen Dugan [J 811 SPI]. This is the perfect time of year for a tea party with your favorite little girl or boy. Tea, and cookies hot from the oven, make for a warm and cozy afternoon now that October's chill is in the air.

You may put sugar
In your tea
Or milk
Or honey from the bees
You may prefer
A lemon squeeze
Or choose to use
None of these.
Just don't put in
Your fingers
Spinelli pairs each of her little poems with "Teatime tips" such as this one that goes with the poem above, "Other things that are fun to add to your tea: a thin slice of orange, a spoonful of preserves, a splash of apple juice, a sprig or mint."

If you're serious about your tea, we have many, many tea titles on our shelves. Come browse through a few of these and have an afternoon of tea, and poetry!

Manchester, Carole. French Tea: The Pleasures of the Table. [394.15 MAN]

O'Connor, Sharon. Afternoon Tea Serenade: Recipes from Famous Tea Room: Classical Chamber Music. [641.53 OCO] Note: this title comes with a CD of tea party appropriate music!

Smith, Michael. The Afternoon Tea Book. [641.53 SMI]

Stuckey, Maggie. Country Tea Parties. [641.53 STU]

Big A little a hosts the Poetry Friday Round-Up this week.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women is the name of both a documentary film, and a book that is due out next week. The book, written by Harriet Reisen, is on order and should be ready to borrow in a few weeks.

The film will be broadcast on PBS's American Masters on December 29, but if you're willing to travel down to Concord, MA, there is a special showing next Friday, October 30, at Orchard House, the Alcott family home. Even if you don't go to the showing, I'd highly recommend you visiting Orchard House. If you've ever read Little Women [F ALC], or seen one of the filmed versions, you'll want to see the setting that inspired the work. Orchard House makes for a pleasant day-trip destination, too, while you're there plan to visit some of the unique little shops and restaurants in Concord.

Until the new book arrives, you can read about Alcott in Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father by John Matteson [B ALC] or in American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and enry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work by Susan Cheever [810.99 CHE].

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Presentation is Everything!

Where food is concerned, a little decorative element can make all the difference.

Your kids don't want to eat healthy foods? Cut them into fantastic shapes and see what happens. This idea is fully realized in FamilyFun Super Snacks: 125 Quick Snacks That Are Fun to Make and to Eat [641.539 FAM].

Want to make a birthday memorable? A stunning cake will do the trick. Sweet Celebrations: The Art of Decorating Beautiful Cakes by Sylvia Weinstock [641.8653 WEI] will show you how to achieve birthday cake magic.

Need to impress your friends? Invite them to a coffee klatch where the coffee itself is decorated! Check out this website for show-stopping ideas.

Come down to see what else our collection has to offer!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

National Day on Writing

The United States Senate has passed a resolution designating today as the "National Day on Writing, " which
celebrates the foundational place of writing in the personal, professional, and civic lives of Americans.
No one can deny that writing is an important part of every American's life. We write emails, Facebook postings on our walls, recipes for our favorite foods. At work we send memos, write procedures, answer queries. As citizens we petition our representatives in Congress and write letters to the editors of newspapers.
National Day on Writing provides an opportunity for individuals across the United States to share and exhibit their written works through the National Gallery of Writing.
Why not share some of your writing at the National Gallery of Writing? Almost every kind of writing is welcomed.

If you want to brush up on your writing skills, or find inspiration for starting to write, look for some of these books the next time you visit:

Bell, Arthur A. NTC's Business Writer's Handbook: Business Communication from A to Z. [808 BEL]

Brohaugh, William. Write Tight: How to Keep Your Prose Sharp, Focused, and Concise. [808 BRO]

DeSalvo, Louise. Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives. [808 DES]

Fletcher, Ralph. Breathing In, Breathing Out: Keeping a Writer's Notebook. [808 FLE]

Gerard, Philip. Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life. [808 GER]

Stilman, Anne. Grammatically Correct: The Writer's Essential Guide to Punctuation, Spelling, Style, Usage, and Grammar. [808 STI]

Women on Writing: From Inspiration to Publication; a Collection of How-To/Inspirational Articles and Essays Written by Women on the Subject of Writing. [808 WOM]

Monday, October 19, 2009

A New Da Vinci?

It's amazing to me that works of Leonardo Da Vinci are still being uncovered, but that's just what happened recently.

Da Vinci will continue to be a subject of interest for years to come, despite the fact that he lived 500 years ago, and that relatively few of his works remain. He is the inspiration for many works of fiction, though, most notably Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code [F BRO]. We have several others on our shelves that may be of interest:

Essex, Karen. Leonardo's Swans. [F ESS]

Grey, Christopher Peter. Leonardo's Shadow: Or, My Astonishing Life As Leonardo da Vinci's Servant. [YA GRE]

Konigsburg, E.L. The Second Mrs. Giaconda. [LP KON]

There is also a mystery in which da Vinci is the detective! Look for George Herman's Tears of the Madonna [MYS HER].

Friday, October 16, 2009

Poetry Friday--Evidence

Mary Oliver's latest collection is called Evidence [811.54 OLI], it is her 19th book of poetry. Let me list a few of the subjects of her poems: mockingbirds, swans, sparrows, wolves, a river, the moon, grass, water, violets, etc. Oliver's deep respect for the natural world is evident throughout, yet she also deals with human concerns such as a trip to Mexico, the loss of loved ones, and poetry.

Some might find these poems sentimental or trifling, but many of them speak to me. Perhaps because I'm getting older? Taking less for granted? Becoming more aware of how human beings are driven by greed? Realizing how little I've accomplished? All of the above? If I keep on, I'll be weeping over the D I got on my geometry mid-term in high school! How about I simply share a favorite poem?

If James Wright
could put in his book of poems
a blank page

dedicated to "the Horse David
Who Ate One of My Poems," I am ready
to follow him along

the sweet path he cut
through the dryness
and suggest that you sit now

very quietly
in some lovely wild place, and listen
to the silence.

And I say that this, too,
is a poem.
Laura Salas is hosting the Poetry Friday Round-Up for this week. Stop by!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's Coming...

Yes, Halloween is just around the corner. I was reminded of this fact by the sign at exit 2, off 93, that advertised the ScreeemFest going on at Canobie Lake Park each weekend through the end of the month. The tagline is "Where fear meets fun." The website alone is creepy enough for me with its bugs running willy-nilly across the page! There is, supposedly, a Pumpkin Palace designed for little kids, so you can take the whole family. Anyone attending in costume, will be turned away, so there won't be the ghoulish wise-guy in the crowd to scare your kids.

So, now that you've been reminded of the upcoming holiday, you may want to start thinking about costumes, decorations, and Halloween treats. We have many books covering pumpkin decorating and other fun ideas. Better Homes and Gardens' Halloween Fun: 101 Ideas to Get in the Spirit [394.2646 HAL] is one of the more colorful and inviting books on the shelf. I love the simple decorating idea of using glitter glue to make sparkly swirl designs on a pumpkin--it would make a wonderful centerpiece at a little girl's Halloween princess party! And don't worry, there's plenty for the boys, too, like the "Cheesy Goblin Head" snack, or the "Eerie Luminarias."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blue Funkitude

Sometimes you get yourself in a blue funk and you just have to wallow in deeply depressing music or books. AbeBooks.com, my favorite online used book site, has created a list they call "Bleak Books--the Top 10 Most Depressing Books." We have all of the titles in our Fiction section.

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

3. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

4. 1984 by George Orwell

5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

7. Night by Elie Wiesel

8. On the Beach by Nevil Shute

9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

10. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
If you're looking for a list of most depressing songs, do a Google search, you'll find hundreds. Don't laugh, but my favorite most depressing song is from the film Toy Story 2 [J DVD TOY], "When She Loved Me" by Sarah McLachlan.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Can History be Rewritten?

The grandson of Joseph Stalin seems to think so, he's in court suing a Russian newspaper for stating that Joseph Stalin personally ordered the deaths of Soviet citizens.

It appears that there is a growing movement to rehabilitate Stalin's image. Whether or not it succeeds, remains to be seen.

To learn more about Joseph Stalin, you can borrow Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore [947.084 MON].
From the New York Times review by Richard Pipes:

"Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar," by the British journalist and novelist Simon Sebag Montefiore, reverses this approach: it pays minimal attention to Stalin's politics and concentrates on the man and his immediate associates. This was made possible by the author's access to previously secret private documents, including Stalin's notes and messages, as well as by interviews with the surviving offspring of his closest companions. In addition, Montefiore has made an exhaustive study of the published literature. The result is the first intimate portrait of a man who had more lives on his conscience than Hitler and yet, according to opinion polls, is regarded by Russians even today as a giant, the fourth greatest human being in world history.
The The New York Times has also collected many online resources about Stalin here.

If you don't want to devote the rest of the year to Stalin (the book above is 785 pages) then perhaps you would like to borrow Stalin a docudrama originally aired on HBO [VIDEO STA].

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day

The library is closed today for the federal holiday, Columbus Day.

Of course we are all familiar, by now, with the mythology surrounding Columbus (see Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen [973 LOE]). A scholarly look at the real story of Columbus's encounters, can be found in Columbus's Outpost among the TaĆ­nos: Spain and America at La Isabela, 1493-1498 by Kathleen A. Deagan [972.93 DEA].

Enjoy the day!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Poetry Friday--Leaf by Leaf

Leaf by Leaf: Autumn Poems selected by Barbara Rogasky [J 811.008 LEA] is an absolute treat! The accompanying photos by Marc Tauss are bright, moody, glowing, evocative in black and white, and color. A nice variety.

Some of the poems are old chestnuts such as "September" by Helen Hunt Jackson. Many are parts of longer poems, such as this from "October" by May Swenson:

Knuckles of the rain
on the roof,
chuckles into the drain-
pipe, spatters on
the leaves that litter
the grass...
(Read the complete poem here.)

And a few of the poems are completely unexpected, such as a haiku, "lady in grey" by Arnold Vermeeren:
broadly smiling
a lady in grey cycles
against the wind
(Read more of Vermeeren's haiku here.)

Make sure you pick up this picture book of poems on your next visit!

Today's Poetry Friday Round-Up is being held at Picture Book of the Day.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


A farmer in Bangladesh killed 83,450 rats in a drive to rid the country of the crop-destroying rodents; he won a prize from the government. This farmer presented 83,450 tails as proof of his feat! (I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a little nauseous at this moment.)

We have lots of books about rats here at the Library. Most are children's books since animals are popular characters. Look for Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien, which is a Newbery Award winner [J OBR], or The Mystery of the Burmese Bandicoot by Judy Cox [J MYS COX].

In the adult section, too, we have rat fiction including Skirt and the Fiddle, a novel by Tristan Egolf [F EGO] which is a story about love and killing rats, and The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett [SF PRA].

A film from the 1960s, starring George Segal, is King Rat [DVD KIN]. The catalog describes it thusly,
An American World War II POW in a brutal Japanese prison camp in Singapore seeks dominance over both captive and captors using human courage, his understanding of human weaknesses, and willingness to exploit every opportunity to enlarge his power.
What the description fails to mention is that the "opportunity" is providing a form of protein, if you know what I mean.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


The other day I awoke from a very strange and disturbing dream. I found myself amongst some relics that had been recovered from the sea. Part of it was the bow of a pirate ship which was constructed of human skulls and bones.

You might want to suggest therapy, but let me tell you what I've been doing lately--watching all the seasons of the tv program Bones [DVD BON]. I'm now on season 4 and by my estimate I've seen over a million skulls so far. It's no wonder I'm seeing skulls in my dreams! Where the pirates come in is anyone's guess.

Bones is based upon the novels and personal experience of Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist. Reichs has written a dozen books about her forensic anthropologist character, Temperance Brennan. Her latest book, currently on the bestsellers list, is 206 Bones [F REI, also LP REI].

Monday, October 05, 2009

Information Literacy Awareness Month

For Immediate Release October 1, 2009

- - - - - - -

Every day, we are inundated with vast amounts of information. A 24-hour news cycle and thousands of global television and radio networks, coupled with an immense array of online resources, have challenged our long-held perceptions of information management. Rather than merely possessing data, we must also learn the skills necessary to acquire, collate, and evaluate information for any situation. This new type of literacy also requires competency with communication technologies, including computers and mobile devices that can help in our day-to-day decision making. National Information Literacy Awareness Month highlights the need for all Americans to be adept in the skills necessary to effectively navigate the Information Age.

Though we may know how to find the information we need, we must also know how to evaluate it. Over the past decade, we have seen a crisis of authenticity emerge. We now live in a world where anyone can publish an opinion or perspective, whether true or not, and have that opinion amplified within the information marketplace. At the same time, Americans have unprecedented access to the diverse and independent sources of information, as well as institutions such as libraries and universities, that can help separate truth from fiction and signal from noise.

Our Nation's educators and institutions of learning must be aware of -- and adjust to -- these new realities. In addition to the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, it is equally important that our students are given the tools required to take advantage of the information available to them. The ability to seek, find, and decipher information can be applied to countless life decisions, whether financial, medical, educational, or technical.

This month, we dedicate ourselves to increasing information literacy awareness so that all citizens understand its vital importance. An informed and educated citizenry is essential to the functioning of our modern democratic society, and I encourage educational and community institutions across the country to help Americans find and evaluate the information they seek, in all its forms.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2009 as National Information Literacy Awareness Month. I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the important role information plays in our daily lives, and appreciate the need for a greater understanding of its impact.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.


The library is the perfect place to find information on your, assistance in finding information if you need it, and tools for evaluating information.

We have books such as What Is the Impact of Cyberlife? [YA 302.231 WHA] and The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture by Andrew Keen [303.4833 KEE].

Exquisite Corpse for Kids!

The Library of Congress is posting an "Exquisite Corpse" story, on its Read.gov website. Here's a description:
About the Exquisite Corpse Adventure

Ever heard of an Exquisite Corpse? It's not what you might think. An Exquisite Corpse is an old game in which people write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold it over to conceal part of it and pass it on to the next player to do the same. The game ends when someone finishes the story, which is then read aloud.

Our "Exquisite Corpse Adventure" works this way: Jon Scieszka, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, has written the first episode, which is "pieced together out of so many parts that it is not possible to describe them all here, so go ahead and just start reading!" He has passed it on to a cast of celebrated writers and illustrators, who must eventually bring the story to an end.

Every two weeks, there will be a new episode and a new illustration. The story will conclude a year from now.
At the recent National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., Scieszka, and author Kate DeCamillo, were interviewed by NPR. Listen here.

Jon Scieszka is the author of a gazillion books for kids, many of which we have on our shelves. He is perhaps most famous for The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs [JP SCI] and The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales [JP SCI]. His series of time travel books, "The Time Warp Trio," are favorites of elementary school boys. To learn why Scieszka is the person he is, don't miss his autobiography written for kids, Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka [J B SCI].

Read The Exquisite Corpse Adventure here.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Poetry Friday--William Carlos Williams

Photo by LoDLarsen

William Carlos Williams--everyone has heard of him. Everyone is familiar with either "The Red Wheelbarrow" or "This Is Just To Say," since they are taught often to students in elementary school and on up.

But, if you're like me, you probably don't know much more than those two poems and his name. To learn more about Williams, check out the bio at the Poetry Foundation site.

Williams even has a symposium named in his honor, the William Carlos Williams Poetry Symposium. Quite coincidentally, I found that this year's symposium is being held, starting today! So, if you find yourself near Rutherford, New Jersey this weekend, check it out!

If you want to read more of Williams' work, we have Selected Poems by William Carlos Williams in our collection [811 WIL]. It was in this volume that I found a simple, descriptive poem, which appeals to the cat person in me:

As the cat
climbed over
the top of

the jamcloset
first the right

then the hind
stepped down

into the pit of
the empty

Now why do I like this simple poem, aside from its subject is a cat? Because of the way it is laid out--it reflects the way a cat moves--slowly and hesitantly.

You might ask, Why would a cat step into an empty flowerpot? To quote Shakespeare, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, then are dreamt of in your philosophy." Cats ALWAYS have their reasons! Williams gets it.

Poetry Friday's Round-Up is at Crossover.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Last week I wrote about chickens and now, today, I'm writing about them again. There was an article in the New York Times about children's illustrator Jan Brett, and her home in the Berkshires that includes housing for her hens and roosters. You should really check out the slideshow that comes with the article to see the opulent digs her feathered friends occupy!

Jan Brett has long been a favorite in our children's room, and her love of chickens can be seen in Daisy Comes Home [JP BRE]. "Look over the garden wall and you will see the six happiest hens in China..." the book begins.

Bookmark image courtesy Jan Brett

The gingerbread baby in Gingerbread Friends [JP BRE] escapes from the fox on the back of a white-crested black Polish rooster.

Look for more chicken-related books to come from Ms. Brett now that she has fallen in love with poultry!