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Weekly Shhhout-Out

Roaming librarians file dispatches from the world of information.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Curious Places

The Red Sands Maunsell sea fort in the Thames estuary, off the north coast of Kent by Russss on Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons License

One of the joys of reading a book is to be able to travel anywhere in time and space inside of your mind. By extension, the library is the best TARDIS ever--full of books and electronic resources with facts about history geography and space, as well as stories that can take you back in time and beyond this universe.

Want a map of a historical time period? Visit the “historical” tab of our Maps LibGuide. You can find roadmaps on that same LibGuide, or information on how you can make your own maps. From our links to the Gale Virtual Reference Library, you can go to the Encyclopedia of Food and Culture or the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World or books about travel in other countries, and much more.

Weird Maryland cover

There are many travel books in our libraries but, because of my penchant for the strange, one of my favorites is Weird  Maryland: Your Travel Guide to Maryland’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. If you don’t know about the Goat Man, you will after you read that book. If the book is checked out, however, after you’ve put your hold on it, go look at a fun website, Roadside America. There you’ll find links to the weirdest tourist attractions across the United States, from the World’s Largest Office Chair to the Miracle Horny Toad of Eastland Texas. If you want to find giant lumberjacks and Dinosaurs, this is the place for you. You can search by state, or by themes such as "Pet Cemetery" or "Big Fruit". They will even point you to hotels near these marvelous sites.

If your tastes are focused on neon lights however, you might want to visit The 10 Most Important examples of Neon Signage and watch the videos.


You may enjoy perusing the copies of National Geoographic in your local library, but pull a seat up to one of our public access computers and look at their website. There you can not only find the beautiful photos you have come to expect, but also stunning videos of places and people around the world. Check out the daily news features, too. Of course. If you want something a little more obtuse, navigate to Atlas Obscura. On that site you can read articles on such things as figurative coffins in Ghana, explore an attractive index of unusual places, or click for a random selection and find yourself in The Boiling Lake or The Heidelberg Thingstatte, a Nazi edifice built on a sacred mountain site used by various German cults. This website sponsors local events if you want to join up with other fans in real time and space.

One of my interests is abandoned places—crumbling inner-city houses, mental institutions fallen into disrepair, graffiti-splattered warehouses by the side of railway tracks. I used to think this was something peculiar to me, brought on by my early childhood surrounded by bombsites left over from World War II, but no, there are fans all over the Internet creating websites, blogs, tumblr pages, and indexes such as those on Web Urbanist and The Huffington Post. Dereliction seems to be a great inspiration to photographers, producing some stunning photographs on pages such as 25 Bone-Chilling Photos of Abandoned Places, 10 Creepy, Beautiful Modern Ruins, and 30+ of the Most Beautiful Abandoned Places and Modern Ruins I’ve Ever Seen. A website called Abandoned Places, created by an amateur urban explorer, takes things one step further by leading the participant on archeological journeys, sometimes as if one is a traveler in the future. It’s a surreal combination of reality and fantasy within an innovative framework of links.

But if you prefer to stick closer to home, there are abandoned places in Maryland also. Maybe I'll run into you at one of those some day.

Inside the Glenn Dale Hospital, Maryland. By Firsttoscore on Wikimedia Commons. Released to Public Domain.

AnnetteAnnette K.

CATEGORIES: Annette K. , Architecture , Abandones Places , Photography , History , Geography , Travel , Maryland
POSTED: 9:30:00 AM |

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A House Divided

A House Divided:  American Civil War History Resources for Kids

The Storm Before AtlantaAfrican-American Soldiers in the Civil War

This month marks the 150th Anniversary of the U.S. Civil War engagement the Second Battle of Bull Run or, as the Conferderates called it, the Second Battle of Manassas.  Many lives were lost during the battle and the resulting Confederate victory gave confidence to the Conferderates to go on the offensive.  The offensive lead to the Conferderate Army marching into Maryland and Pennsylvania.  The result was the Battle of Antietam (the bloodiest single-day battle in American history) and, the following year, the Battle of Gettysburg, a major turning point in the war. There's nothing like a personal visit to these national parks (Manassas, Antietam,and Gettysburg) to learn about history right where it happened.

I've been interested in the U.S. Civil War for many years because it is such an intriguing chapter in American history.  It was a war that pitted a nation against itself, a war that divided families and friends, and it was a war about ending slavery.  Of course the 150th Anniversary is a great way to get kids interested in the Civil War.  I've found many engrossing books (both fiction and nonfiction) and easy-to-use databases that can give kids a good glimpse into the human struggles that went on during this war both on the battlefield and on the homefront.

There are many absorbing children's historical fiction stories.  Bull Run is a novel that describes the first major battle of the Civil War.  Besides fighting on land, the war was also fought at sea which is central to the story Iron Thunder:  The Battle Between the Monitor & the Merrimac.  As the war dragged on for years it affected homefronts like the one protrayed in Across Five Aprils.  A great story for younger readers, based on true events, is From Slave to Soldier.  For older kids The Storm Before Atlanta focuses on an alliance that is formed between a Union drummer boy, a young Confederate soldier, and a runaway slave. 

There are also many nonfiction books to engage kids.  Two Miserable Presidents:  Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the Civil War not only provides insight on the lives of Union President Lincoln and Confederate President Davis, but also has general information about Civil War presented in a fun way with cartoons, illustrations, maps, and diagrams.  Along those same lines kids will enjoy You Wouldn't Want to be a Nurse During the American Civil War!:  A Job That's Not for the Squemish.  Women played important wartime roles.  Two great titles are Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent:  How Daring Slave and Free Blacks Spied for the Union During the Civil War and Nurse, Soldier, Spy:  The Story of Sara Edmonds, A Civil War HeroAfrican-American Soliders in the Civil War is a good look at the bravery of these men and their struggles both on and off the battlefield.

Teens should check out this Civil War page from Teensite.  It has excellent book suggestions, area civil war sites & events, informational websites, and more.

MCPL has authoritative, easy-to-use databases such as History in Context - U.S., History Reference Center, and the Oxford African American Studies Center.  Be sure to also check out 150 Years Ago This Week - Maryland in the Civil War.

During this conflict Abraham Lincoln gave his famous speech known as the Gettysburg Address. In that speech he expressed his hope "that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Two Miserable PresidentsYou Wouldn't Want to Be A Nurse During the American Civil War

CATEGORIES: Susan M. , Children's Books , History , Teens
POSTED: 2:28:00 PM |

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Clash of Kings Over a Game of Thrones

Clash of Kings book cover Game of Thrones book cover

Has the end of the second season of Game of Thrones, based on the book A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin, left you with a void like me?  The show is based on his series Song of Fire and Ice.  I've read both A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings and agree that George R. R. Martin is the American Tolkien.  While the story overall would probably be categorized as fantasy it is much more.  The series is set in a medival King Arthur-esqe type landscape of kings, queens, knights, and dragons. It is a realm once united by seven kingdoms that crumbles as various factions vie to be the King or the Queen.  It's an epic tale of love, family, ambition, honor, murder, greed, and sacrifice.  There are characters you love and characters you love to hate. Which makes me think of other fantasy books with kings & queens, and maybe a dragon or two, I've enjoyed over the years which might help while away the time until next season.

Children's Fantasy Series

Prydain Chronicles: Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper to a prophetic pig, sets out on a hazardous mission to save Prydain from the forces of evil.

Chronicles of Narnia: An adventure story about kids who enter the magical world of Narnia, a land of talking animals and mythical creatures.

Septimus Heap:  After learning that she is the Princess, Jenna is whisked from her home and carried toward safety by the Extraordinary Wizard, pursued by agents of those who killed her mother ten years earlier.

The Underland Chronicles: When Gregor and his sister are pulled into a strange underground world, they trigger an epic battle involving men, bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders while on a quest foretold by ancient prophecy.

The Blue Sword: Harry Crewe, a Homelander orphan girl who becomes heir to the Blue Sword that no woman has wielded since the Lady Aerin herself bore it into battle. (Prequel) The Hero and the Crown.

Young Adult Fantasy Series

Inheritance Cycle: In Aagaesia, a fifteen-year-old boy of unknown lineage called Eragon finds a mysterious stone that weaves his life into an intricate tapestry of destiny, magic, and power, peopled with dragons, elves, and monsters.

Adult Fantasy Series

Lord of the Rings: A hobbit named Frodo Baggins is given a ring of unspeakable evil.  He and his companions, including hobbits, a dwarf, an elf, and a human, go on a quest to destroy the one ring.

Historical Fiction Books & History Databases

If you are looking for historical fiction books with British battles for the throne you can try some of Shakespeare's history plays or books like Philippa Gregory's (author of The Other Boleyn Girl) The Tudor or the Cousins' War series.

If you have a more informational historical bent about kings & queens who vied for the throne you can try our History in Context-World or History Reference Center databases.

If You Like Game of Thrones....

I wanted to find some books I haven't read that are like the Game of Thrones so I used the NoveList Plus database to search for Game of Thrones and then selected Title Read-alikes, Author Read-alikes, and Series Read-alikes.  I found some good suggestions like the Wind Through the Keyhole, Phantom, Robert Jordan, J. Gregory Keyes, the Acacia Trilogy, and the Alchymist's Legacy.

As King Henry IV says in Shakespeare's play Henry IV Part II: "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."

Henry IV Part II 

Susan M.

CATEGORIES: Fantasy , History , Children's Books , Susan M.
POSTED: 10:44:00 AM |

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Three Dragons for the Year of the Dragon

I've always been fond of dragons and always been fond of elegant drawings. With the year of the dragon just beginning, I found three beautiful drawings of dragons to share with you.  Click on the pictures to see them enlarged.  These three are Ottoman Empire dragons from The age of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent by Esin Atil.




To find more information and stories about dragons, click here on dragons.

To find fiction and non-fiction about the Ottoman empire, you can click here on Ottoman Empire.




To find books on how to draw dragons for yourself, particularly for younger readers, click here on drawing dragons.

For more on the year of the dragon and books and stories on dragons and the Chinese zodiac, click on Chinese zodiac.




CATEGORIES: Nell M. , Art , Fantasy , History
POSTED: 12:02:00 AM |

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Demonstrators Who Came to Stay

Wall Street collageThe recent Occupy Wall Street movement has brought scores of demonstrators into New York City and other cities throughout the country. The United States has a long tradition of protest marches, demonstrations and parades.  Who can forget the BostProtestors in front of the White House.on Tea Party? Most demonstrations are staged in a finite period; organizers chose an afternoon or evening for the rally. When the rally is over, the crowd disperses and the participants go home.  However, since at least the late 1800's when Coxey's Army arrived in Washington, some protestor's have come to stay. Economic issues are often the main the focus of these protests. 

Cover to THe Bonus ArmyCoxey's Army came to Washington, DC from all over the country to ask for financial relief for the thousands suffering during the Panic of 1893. In 1932, the Bonus Marchers or Bonus Army moved into Washington creating shanty towns or Hoovervilles to shelter their protesters.  This group was seeking financial relief from the government, too.  The Bonus Marchers were World War I Veterans.  These veterans wanted the bonuses they had been promised. If you want to know more about the Bonus Marchers, you can listen to a National Public Radio Soundprint broadcast, or read the book, The Bonus Army: an American Epic by Eric Dickson. The tradition continued, when in 1968, The Reverend Ralph Abernathy led the Poor People's March on Washington.  Many of the marchers lived for a time in Resurrection City. You can read original articles written at the time of any of these demonstrations by accessing the Historical Newspapers DatabCover Image, 33 Revolutions Per Minutease.

Chants and music were a large part of these marches, too. According to the Hoover Archives, the Bonus Marchers chanted,

Mellon pulled the whistle.

Hoover Rang the Bell.

Wall Street gave the Signal 

 And the Country went to Hell.

The protest song tradition is described in 33 Revolutions Per Minute: a History of Protest Songs, from Billie Holiday to Green Day by Dorian Lynskey . A good companion for this book is the The Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries. The resource has a genre called, " Protest and Struggle." There are albums and tracks to download or play.

Montgomery County Public Libraries offers many historical fiction titles set in these time Cover image: Potato: A Tale from the Great Depressionperiods. Some titles include, for adults  the John Steinbeck classic, the Grapes of Wrath and The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. Titles for school age children include Christopher Paul Curtis's award winning novel, Bud, Not Buddy or Rebecca, a Maryland Farm Girl by Diane Leatherman. Karen Hesse's Newbery Award winning free verse novel, Out of the Dust is a children's title adult and older children may wish to share. The picture book, Potato: a Tale from the Great Depression by Kate Lied, provides a way to explain economic depressions to younger children. To find other titles, search using the terms "fiction and depressions."

I Barbara M.

CATEGORIES: Barbara M. , History , Music
POSTED: 11:02:00 AM |

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mom, Dad - Where shall we go this weekend?

Fall comes around, the weather is great and festivals abound, why not catch a weekend trip or amusement?Baby dancing with toy animals
If you need ideas, you could try the Maryland Calendar .

On the first Saturday of October, Germantown will celebrate it’s  Octoberfest!

Take the Children to Glen Echo Park to see the Tales of Beatrix Potter by The Puppet Company.
A great puppet show, and of course, you know the tiny books for young children:


Cover: The Tale of Peter Rabbit

But did you know that Miss Potter has herself become a literary character? You may enjoy Susan Wittig Albert’s charming mysteries set in the English Lake District in the early twentieth century. In our Catalog...

Whether the draw is Halloween, a Fall festival or the aviation museum, there will be something to hold your interest on October 29th. How about a day at Flight Fest? The College Park Aviation Museum wants you to wear your costume and enjoy a day of fall-themed activities in College Park
But first, why don't you read "Take Off!" to the youngest members of the family? Just to get in the mood, you know.Take off by Ryan Ann Hunter




Or how about a quick jaunt up to Baltimore? The B&O railroad museum has an exhibit all year about the Civil War; The War Came by Train.  But first read 'All Aboard!' by Susan Kuklin for the kids. 
Or maybe you’d like to brush up with 'Civil War: A Visual History, yourself.
And we have lots of resources online at our  US History in Context database.

Wherever you go, enjoy yourself!

Jan D.

CATEGORIES: Seasons , History , Jan D.
POSTED: 10:03:00 AM |

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Come On Out to the Country!

I recently found myself temporarily transplanted to the farm fields of western Montgomery County. While this causes me to grumble about the more frequent emptying of my gas tank (and my wallet), I found that there are many good things to be had out here. Of course, the best part just might be a visit to one of your up-county library branches, like Poolesville or Damascus. So what else should lure you out to the country?
-                          Fresh Fruits and Vegetables:
In season, there are always farm-fresh fruits and veggies to be had. From summer corn and tomatoes to fall apples and pumpkins, there’s sure to be something for everyone. In just a few weeks, the area’s strawberry patches will be teeming with families and picking (and eating!) their juicy goodness. Why not make a batch of strawberry preserves, just like grandma used to? (catalog link?)
-                          Wide Open Spaces, Fresh Air, and Grand Views:
You’ll find an abundance of natural surroundings here. My
commute brings me a glimpse of one of my favorite quick getaways, Sugarloaf Mountain (link). There are also plenty of county and state parks & trails to enjoy, from Seneca Creek to Little Bennett and Black Hill and beyond. It’s also a great area from which to pick out a great bicycling route and enjoy the scenery while you get a workout.
-                          Historical Sites Galore
The past is alive out here, whether you’re walking in its footsteps along the C & O Canal Trail or driving through one the many historic towns here. Civil War buffs will note that both Union and Confederate troops moved through and camped out in the area. Take a ride on the historic White’s Ferry, in operation since 1786, and now the last of its kind on the Potomac. Many of the farming families here have been long established in their communities as well and many have connections to these earlier times.
-                          Life In the Slow Lane
Life is lived at a much slower pace (and we’re not just talking
about speed limits). Things are more easy-going and laidback here. It makes for a nice respite from the breakneck speed of life in the more urban areas of the county. Since everything is more spread out here, there’s no sense in rushing to get anywhere. You’ll arrive soon enough. (And if you try to hurry anyway, you’ll probably pay the price. There are no less than three speed cameras spaced throughout my route to work.)
Hope to see you soon!


CATEGORIES: History , Chris B. , Gardening
POSTED: 12:35:00 PM |

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ready, Set, GO! To the Festival...

May is jam-packed with festivals and outdoor events for the whole family.
The first full weekend in May is the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival in nearby Howard County.

My husband calls this “The best free show in the state of Maryland”, and he doesn’t even particularly like sheep! Their web page gives you an idea of what's going on, but you may want to read
Wool by Annabelle Dixon to the children before setting out. Or Judith MacKenzie's Intentional Spinner for an adult's eye view of the process.

Why don't you check out the Bethesda Fine Arts Festival  on the following weekend?
All kinds of art and fine crafts will be on display and for sale, as well as free entertainment. Does it make you want to try your hand at making art? Read David Sammiguel's Complete Guide...or try ArtStarts with your children.

For the third weekend, you don't need to go far. Gaithersburg is hosting its second annual Book Festival http://www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org/ with authors and activities for all.
How about making a book of your own?

If you are an author in search of a publisher, the 808 location in our reference collections hold lots of ‘Writer’s Market’ –type guides. They will tell you how and where to find a publisher, editor or agent.
But what about actually making your own book? Shades of Inkheart! Try McCarthy's Making Books by Hand .

Or, for a look into the actual mind (or brain) of a writer, examine Alice Flaherty’s The Midnight Disease  for a look at the process of writing (or not) as viewed by a neurologist.

You can make books with the kids, too. Susan Kapuchinski Gaylord teaches book arts for children and shares her wealth of knowledge through text, pictures and video. http://www.makingbooks.com/freeprojects.shtml

Or read together:
The young author’s do-it-yourself book by Guthrie, Bentley & Arnsteen Or Making Books that fly, fold, wrap, hide, pop up, twist and turn by Gwen Diehn; two great viewpoints on what it takes to 'make a book'.

The last weekend in May is Memorial Day, of course. Since we have three days, why not go a bit farther afield? Chestertown, just across the Bay, commemorates and re-enacts a great moment in Maryland’s Colonial era – The Chester Town Tea Party. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chestertown_Tea_Party

  Every year on this weekend Chestertown hosts thousands of visitors to   stroll, eat, drink and cheer. There are races to view or enter (including a raft race!) crafts to buy and a re-enactment of a famous ‘tea party’ that may or may not have happened in 1774.


 For more great astonishing information about America in its infancy, check out the Library of Congress.

Phew! Festivals can be exhausting! Gotta rest up before I start my Summer Reading!

Jan D.

CATEGORIES: Books , History , Hobbies , Local Events , Holidays , Travel , Writing , Art , Writers
POSTED: 10:00:00 AM |

Monday, February 07, 2011

From the Past to the Future

A recent spate of intrigue and research took me to different ends of MCPL’s spectrum of resources.  One day I found my deciding to jump on the bandwagon and try the latest in book reading technology.  Never much one for listening to audiobooks (regardless of the format), my curiousity was piqued when word came forth that Overdrive, one of our ebook and eaudiobook providers, had launched an update of its app for iPhones (also works on iPod Touches).  I decided to download it on mine and give it a whirl. I’m now three or four chapters in to my first ebook, So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld.  So far, it’s been a pleasant experience.  The ebook even tells me how many pages I have left in each chapter as I go along. 
Apparently, many of you have made a connection with our virtual collection of reading materials.  A recent check showed that on the selected day only 22 of the 1,467 epub formatted ebooks in our collection were checked in and ready to download.  The rest are sitting in various iPhones, Androids, iPads, and other such devices, being devoured by rabid 21st century readers. 
For those who haven't made the connection yet, MCPL has two great electronic library resources worth plugging into: Overdrive (for ebooks and eaudiobooks) and NetLibrary (mainly audiobooks but also has ebook versions of CliffsNotes).  Note to eReaders: only epub files can be read on Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod).  The app comes in handy in this regard since it will only search and display titles that can be downloaded to one of these devices.  Happy eReading!
At the other end of the spectrum, spending the holidays with my family got me interested in once again exploring old census records in HeritageQuest in search of my ancestors.  I had previously been able to find members of my mother’s family and my dad’s maternal grandparents but my dad’s paternal grandparents had proven to be elusive.  My search was made complicated because my last name isn’t easily spellable. After much searching, I found them.  Our last name was one letter off in the 1930 census (and not the letter that’s usually wrong) and was spelled even worse in the 1920 census. 
Looking at these old census records provides one with more information than you might think. Apparently, my great-grandfather was a catcher by profession, early in his working career.  No, he wasn’t a forerunner of Johnny Bench or Ivan Rodriguez.  He actually worked in a tin mill, catching the sheets of tin as they came out of the roller and putting them back in to be flattened even further.  The censuses provide a wealth of other information as well, including age when married, language spoken, year of immigration, birth country or state of parents, and much more.  In the process of discovering this wealth of information, I found a new challenge for myself, my paternal grandmother is thus far no where to be found in the 1920 census though she’s got to be in there somewhere. 
Whether you’re delving into the latest e-technology or digging up the past, MCPL is here for you!

- Chris    

2/16/11 Update: Just a week after this blog was written, Overdrive announced the release of its new app which is optimized for iPad!  Check it out here or search for it in the Apple App Store directly from yoru iPad.
CATEGORIES: Genealogy , E-Books , History , Chris B.
POSTED: 1:37:00 PM |
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Last edited: 11/6/2007