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Weekly Shhhout-Out

Roaming librarians file dispatches from the world of information.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Discovering Discworld

Did you ever wish you could visit the world created by a favorite author? Maybe to wander the streets and grab a pint in the local pub or to visit with a favorite character? I recently had the opportunity to do just that! Well, sort of.  I recently went to the North American Discworld Con (or NADWCon. “Con” having nothing to do with the Thieves’ Guild http://wiki.lspace.org/mediawiki/index.php/Thieves'_Guild but rather being the abbreviation for convention). The NADWCon was a chance to spend a long weekend in a hotel with nearly 1000 others who adore author Terry Pratchett and the Discworld he created as much as I do.


Pratchett is one of my favorite authors because of the sometimes goofy and sometimes sly humor, the sheer variety of characters with distinct personalities, the layered way a reader gains knowledge and insight about the characters and the Discworld itself as they read more and more of the books and the (not-so-subtle at times) satire of our own world that occasionally makes you want to pause in your reading to reflect on the magnitude of the idea that a seemingly silly book is really putting across to you. Discworld books are most generically classified as humorous fantasy but they offer so much more than that simple description can convey. Author Brandon Sanderson wrote a great description of Pratchett’s appeal recently (click here to read it).


Attending a Con of any type really didn’t cross my mind before this opportunity came my way. Mostly because I thought of Trekkies at Star Trek conventions (which were some of the first gatherings of fans for pop culture reasons) or thought only of the CosPlay aspect (i.e., costuming yourself as a character) of Comic Cons in New York or San Diego. The NADWCon had plenty of costumed attendees (more on that later) and die-hard Discworld fans, however it also had a very welcoming feel and plenty of friendly people who made it easy to relax and enjoy the experience. During the Con, I got to present as part of two discussion panels and I attended many others including the Guild of Thieves Good Practice Session (first rule: Always Leave a Receipt) and How to Commit the Perfect Murder (as sponsored by the Assassins Guild). Sir Terry connected with fans through video calls during which audience members could ask questions. My favorite question came from a young girl who asked about “the thing on the shelf” visible (but not clearly identifiable) behind him. (It was a black full-face motorcycle helmet, which drew laughs and cheers from the crowd.) I spent my days going to so many different panels or talking to different people that I usually forgot to eat lunch! 


And the costumes!  There were ladies wearing beautiful hand-crafted Victorian style gowns and men in dapper suits of a bygone era representing the Lords and Ladies of Ankh-Morpork, city watch members in chain mail and bits of armor, dwarves (some taller than you might think), wizards and witches aplenty, Tiffany Aching with her frying pan and some Nac Mac Feegle, the Unseen University Librarian (ook!) and I believe I caught a glimpse of Death once or twice. I didn’t have the extra money to spend for the Gala Banquet but I gathered with others also not attending the banquet to form a slapdash paparazzi horde at the entry doors.


If you want to explore Discworld for yourself, here is a handy guide to help you get startedIt will help you to know that this is not the kind of series you have to read in strict chronological order! The guide shows groupings, each group with its own “starter book.” 


If you have already tackled all of Discworld, here are some other reading suggestions culled from one of the panels at NADWCon:

Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series (start with Heartless; Adult paperback fiction)

Tom Holt’s books, like Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages (Adult fiction)

China Mieville’s books (Adult and Young Adult fiction)

P.G. Wodehouse’s books (Adult fiction)

The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (Adult fiction and Reading List)

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern (Young Adult)

Going Bovine and Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Young Adult)

The Elfish Gene by Mark Barrowcliffe (Biography: reflection on growing up playing Dungeons and Dragons)  

CATEGORIES: Characters , Fantasy , Reading , Tina R. , Books
POSTED: 11:40:00 AM |

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Reading Time!

Yes, it's June. Time to come to the library and sign up for the Summer Reading Club.


On our website you can find booklists for all ages--preschool to high school--as well as exciting events for kids and teens in all or library branches. We'll be posting pictures on Flickr and Tumblr all summer. Kids can sign up on-line and keep track of their reading under their own log-in. If your child prefers to keep a hardcopy record, I've found a nice guide for creating a summer reading journal.

Experts, such as Karl Alexander, Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, assert that children who don't read during the Summer can fall behind at school. This will impact the rest of their educational career.  On the Reading is Fundamental website they call it "The Summer Slide"  and say "Children who do not read over the summer will lose more than two months of reading achievement. Summer reading loss is cumulative. By the end of 6th grade children who lose reading skills over the summer will be 2 years behind their classmates." Excellent sites, such as RIF and Reading Rockets, provide links to research that backs up this statement, and provide resources, articles and information about summer reading and summer learning loss. Librarians on the Internet also offer advice for summer reading activities.

This summer, many local students will be reading the past winners of the Maryland Black-eyed Susan Award, as well as the latest nominees so they can place their votes. The National Endowment for the Humanities has some reading suggestions, and the library has many of the books there and  on the American Library Association summer lists. if you still feel you don't have enough lists, look up other library systems across the county. Everyone  is doing it!

Your social network is a good source of summer reading ideas. If you are registered for Goodreads, you can swap ideas with your friends, and popular blogs like The Huffington Post are chiming in with their lists, as well. And we're good, we're very good--our libraries have those books, too.

The library isn't the only place to find summer reading clubs--bookstores, banks, grocery stores, cinemas, and restaurants have been known to have them. Maybe you can find one of those alternates around here.

Unless you think we've forgotten the grown-ups--we do have plenty of lists for them, too. Or you might check Salon for a hot summer reading list.

And to end, I thought I'd share with you adults Jimmy Fallon's guide to what not to read on the beach.


Annette K.Annette K.

CATEGORIES: Annette K. , Summer Reading , Reading , Books , Children's Books
POSTED: 8:00:00 AM |

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Summer is Coming!

GazeboNo matter how chilly the weather feels, I know it is almost summer when our son returns from college and the authors return to the Gaithersburg Book Festival. On Saturday May 18, booklovers and authors will gather on the grounds of the Gaithersburg City Hall to to celebrate books, writers and literary excellence. In its forth year, the Festival features talks and book signings by authors, a story time tent, a coffee house with singers and poets/songwriters, and several panel discussions.

Download the one page Author Program Schedule, like the Festival on Facebook or follow them on Twitter, so you can plan your visit. It's a perfect time for kids,'teens and grown-ups to make a summer reading plan or to gather suggestions for a new or ongoing book group.To prepare for the Festival, look at the photos and videos from last year or read an entry from this year's short story contest for high school students. 

 The War Lovers cover     Picturing Camelot bookcover     Freedom's Daughter's bookcover  

MCPL can help booklovers prepare for the Festival, too. Let the Reader's Cafe guide your author presentation selection. Read or listen to a book by one of the featured authors. Fiction and mystery writers visitng the Festival include , Jane Green, Manil Suri and Phillip Margolin. Non-fiction writers include Mark Shriver, Kitty Kelley, Evan Thomas and Lynne Olson.  MCPL offers many of these works as downloadable audio books or ebooks, too. MCPL is one of the event partners this year.  The Gaithersburg Interim Branch at Lakeforest Mall is displaying authors'works throughout the month. Stop by, browse and take one home with you to enjoy.

      The City of Devi Cover          Another Piece of My Heart cover       Capitol Murder Cover

Get the kids ready, too. Share a book or audio book.  Children's and young adult authors appearing in the Jim Henson, Ogden Nash and Willa Cather Pavillions include Jon Scieska, Walter Dean Myers, Fred Bowen, Mac Barnett and Mary Quattlebaum. Try not to miss the free craft and other hands-on sessions for children at the IMAGINATION STATION are offered  too.

Chloe and the Lion cover    Underground Train cover    Darius and Twig cover

Visit the library, then grab your sunscreen, a pen for autographs and get ready to collect ideas for summer reading!!  


Barbara M.     Barbara M.

CATEGORIES: Barbara M. , Reading , Books , Local Events , Festivals
POSTED: 4:25:00 PM |

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Winter is Coming. Books for a Cold, Winter's Day.


Winter is coming and some books are best read on a cold, blustery day or night. The Game of Thrones books that I have recently been devouring have their fair share of snow and ice scenes but I have always thought that any book by Charles Dickens is best read in the winter. There is something about the despair and struggle of his characters to a better life that makes me think of winter.

So here are some books that will make you cozy up to the fire place with something hot to drink.

Picture Books

The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale by Jan Brett. A fun story where several animals try to squeeze themselves into a mitten. Will they all fit inside?

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner. A delightful book in rhyme describing what snowmen do at night while everyone is asleep.

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. What every kid hopes to wake up to. The adventures of a little boy in the city on a very snowy day.

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. On a cold, winter night many animals gather to party in the cave of a sleeping bear. But what happens if the bear wakes up?

Kid's Chapter Books and Nonfiction

7 Professors of the Far North by John Fardell. Sam finds himself involved in a dangerous adventure when he and his new friends set off for the Arctic to rescue kidnapped professors from a mad scientist.

White Star: A Dog on the Titanic by Marty Crisp. Sam, a passenger on the Titanic, volunteers to help care for the dogs in the ocean liner's kennel and becomes fast friends with the Irish setter of the ship's owner.

I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer by Carole Weatherford. True, dramatic story of Henson's journey with Robert Peary to the North Pole.

Poles Apart: Why Penguins and Polar Bears Will Never Be Neighbors by Elaine Scott. No penguin has ever lived at the North Pole, nor any polar bear at the South Pole. Find out why in this lively and informative book.


Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn. What is more entertaining than a winter scavenger hunt in New York City? This story is told in the alternating voices of Dash and Lily.

Shackleton's Stowaway by Victoria McKernan. My feet were cold the entire time reading this book. The tragedies and triumphs of a stowaway aboard Shackleton's ship Endurance during his 1914 Antarctic expedition.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Accompanied by her daemon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments in the Far North.

Trapped by Michael Northrup. Seven high school students are stranded at their New England high school during a blizzard. Will they survive?


Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. A snowstorm provides the backdrop for this story of the murder trial of a man accused of killing a local fisherman in December 1954.

Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. Love alternate timelines? Try this murder mystery set in the imaginary Alaska Jewish homeland.

Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Alaska, 1920. A childless couple builds a child out of snow. The next day the snow child is gone and in its place they see a blonde-haired girl running through the woods. Who is she?

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Love locked-room type mysteries? A journalist in Sweden goes to investigate the disappearance of a girl 40 years ago for her grieving uncle.

Happy winter reading!

CATEGORIES: Books , Winter , Children's Books , Teens , Reading , Susan M.
POSTED: 11:07:00 AM |

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Crossover Appeal

beach reading, a photo from the flickr.com photostream of aafromaa
I have a reading confession to make… I read promiscuously. I just can not limit myself to one genre, one style, one writer, one age level or even one format. I read cereal boxes and I read articles from the New York Times. I read books about social psychology and I read blog posts of all sorts. I listen to books in the car and I read them on my nook© in bed. Heck, I even “read” TV shows and movies because I am hearing impaired and use closed captioning. Reading has kept me awake all night, it has made me late to work and it has always been one of my favorite escapes when life gets rough. One of the great pleasures of being a librarian (for me) is getting to introduce people to new authors or genres that they have never before tried. It may not lead to a long-term reading relationship but it could spark some flirting with different styles.
Adults, allow me to introduce you to Young Adult Fiction. You may dismiss this section of the library as being beneath your adult tastes… but you will also be missing some great stuff! Young adult fiction is a booming category these days, especially with the recent blockbuster print and film successes of Twilight and The Hunger Games.  Here are a few suggestions for testing the waters:
cover image of wintergirls by laurie halse anderson


Books by Laurie Halse Anderson, especially Speak, Twisted and Wintergirls. These books set in contemporary times are powerful tales dealing with serious topics. Her portrayal of teens is sympathetic and realistic without being overly dramatic or exaggerated. Try Anderson if you like Jodi Picoult, Anita Shreve or Chris Bohjalian.




cover image of out of the dust by karen hesse

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Young Billy Jo’s harsh life in dust bowl Oklahoma during the Depression is told in poetic form. Readers who liked Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time should definitely seek this one out.




cover image of graceling by kristin cashore

The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy—Graceling, Fire and Bitterblueby Kristin Cashore. This trilogy packs a punch with action and strong female protagonists who use both physical strength and supernatural powers in battle. The trilogy is set in a well-crafted fantasy world rich with political intrigue and a bit of romance. Fans of George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Orson Scott Card or Ursula LeGuin should give these a try or look for books by Garth Nix (Abhorsen series), Tamora Pierce (Beka Cooper series) and Catherine Fisher (Incarceron series).

Other great teen books for adults to try:
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
Bog Child by Siobahn Dowd
So, go on... have a book fling with a younger book.  I promise not to tell your regular books.
CATEGORIES: Books , Reader's Advisory , Reading , Teens , Tina V.
POSTED: 11:54:00 AM |

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Gaithersburg Book Festival

GazeboIt is time for the Gaithersburg Book Festival! On Saturday May 19, booklovers and authors will gather on the grounds of the Gaithersburg City Hall to to celebrate books, writers and literary excellence. In its third year, the Festival features talks and book signings by authors, writing workshops, a coffee house with singers and poets/songwriters, a Children's Village and several panel discussions. One discussion, Separating Fact from Fiction, will include audience participation. Another will tackle the future of bookstores and books. Take a look at the festival program to decide how you want to spend your Festival Day. It's a perfect time for kids, 'teens and grown-ups to make a summer reading plan or to gather suggestions for a new or ongoing book group.

Emily Alone -covver

Friday Night Lights- coverUnder the Dog Star --cover

To prepare for the Festival, look at the photos and videos from last year or read an entry from this year's short story contest for high school students.  MCPL can help booklovers prepare for the Festival, too.  Let the Reader's Cafe guide your author presentation selection. Read or listen to a book by one of the featured authors. MCPL offers many of these works as downloadable audio books or  ebooks, too. This year's featured authors include novelists and mystery writers, Sandra Parshall, Christopher Tilghman, and Tim Wendel. Non-fiction writers include Buzz Bissinger, John Feinstein, Marvin and Deborah Kalb, and Jim Lehrer.

Hahn bookcoverbook cover Frindle

Get the kids ready, too. Share a book or audio book.  Children's and young adult authors appearing in the Jim Henson and Willa Cather Pavillions include Fred Bowen, Andrew Clements, Mary Downing Hahn, Laura McNeal and Matthew Quick (aka Q). Free craft and other hands-on sessions are offered for children, too.

Grab your sunscreen, a pen for autographs and get ready to collect ideas for summer reading!!

Barbara M. Avatar    Barbara M.


CATEGORIES: Barbara M. , Children's Books , Books , Local Events , Reading , Summer Reading , Writing
POSTED: 10:32:00 AM |

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gardening For A Good Read

One of the glories of gardens is the space and visual stimuli they provide for quiet contemplation and for reading.  The garden design books give lots of examples, lush, austere, expansive, cozy; whatever your available space and inclination allow.  Reading or drawing while sitting amongst plants is a great pleasure.  

 Here are a few pictures from garden design books of contemplative spaces suitable for reading, and adaptable for city or suburban environments.

Welcome into the garden through a wooden moon gate arch and down a path to relax and enjoy the sunlight or the shade with a good book.   Photobucket From: Well-designed Garden    

Or enjoy a garden bench among poppies, foxglove and catmint Photobucket  You

You may enjoy sitting in a woven-willow arbour in the rose garden which has had its lower criss-crossing stems stripped bare so that the pattern remains visible but the canopy becomes dense by midsummer.   Photobucket   From Dream gardens  

Sit and enjoy chair for reading nestled in a lush composition of texture and color. Photobucket  A

A bench made of living pin oak planted in its traveling crate. The leaves are pruned off the lower shaped areas to make the piece look more attractive.   Photobucket  

From Eden on their minds

Enjoy a garden floor with a variety of size, shape, and colored stones that adds its own organic vitality mingling with the plants. Photobucket From Stone in the garden

And relax into your surroundings in a comfortable chair and sit among the colors and textures of stone, terra cotta, flowers and greenery with your book.

Photobucket From Town gardens

For more ideas, find these books and more in the 710-719 section of the non-fiction in your local library.

With thanks to Sun Chong at Little Falls for her editorial advice.

CATEGORIES: Gardening , Nell M. , Reading
POSTED: 11:49:00 AM |

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Do Inmates Read?

Not your typical question...but it's a question I'm asked quite often. As the Library Manager at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility (MCCF) in Clarksburg (and yes, we're part of MCPL!), I see a very diverse readership within our population. Inmates have varied tastes in literature and interests, just as folks do in the general community. Following is a smattering of our hotter titles:

* The Alex Cross series by James Patterson
* "Chasing Destiny" by Eric Jerome Dickey
* The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind
* The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
* "The Godfather" by Mario Puzo
* "Classic" titles such as "Old Man and the Sea," "The Outsiders" and "Where the Red Fern Grows"

* "33 Laws of Power" by Robert Greene
* "The Prince" by Niccolo Machiavelli
* "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne
* "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Slam Poetry" by Marc Kelly Smith
* "Art of Seduction" by Robert Greene
* "Graffiti World: Street Art from Five Continents" by Nicholas Ganz

* "The Autobiography of Malcolm X"
* "The Diary of Anne Frank"
* "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass"
* "Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall" by Frank Brady

The MCCF Library offers free and equal access to services and resources to help the inmate population find the general and legal information they need to improve and enrich their lives, and enable their successful re-entry into the community. A wide variety of reading material is available, comprised of a collection of approximately 15,000 fiction and nonfiction titles, paperbacks and reference books, including materials in several languages. Inmates have access to the library on a biweekly basis, and may check out up to seven books to take back to their cells.

You can read more about what services we provide: go to the drop-down menu at the upper right side of the screen (it'll say "Most Popular Pages") and select "Branches and Hours."

See what's happening at The Jail that Reads!

CATEGORIES: Andrea C. , Prisoners , Reading
POSTED: 7:00:00 AM |

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Summer, Picnic, Mmm!


 A BOOK of Verses underneath the Bough, 
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou 
  Beside me singing in the Wilderness— 
O, Wilderness were Paradise enow! 

Sounds like an invitation to a picnic to me!

What do we need for a picnic? Food, an outdoor place in which to eat, and good company! Amusements, activities and ants are extra.

Originally, a picnic was a communal meal to which everyone contributed... what we today would call a potluck.  Try The Garden Entertaining Cookbook for inspiration and whip up a batch of Basmati Rice Salad with Fresh Peas, Corn and Chives (page 100) to go with anyone else's main dish.

Where shall we eat? Especially with children, a short trip to a new a different (but not too different) place is fun and exciting. There are lots of free picnic locations in local parks and many of them have sports or other amusements for the family.

book cover

Why don't you read Click, Clack, Quackity-Quack to the youngest children before you go? You can make a game of finding things from the book at your picnic destination.  And if the neighborhood is devoid of blankets, ducks, eggs, goats and hens, you can always make your own alphabetical list of facinating objects sighted.

But what about that book of verse?  Omar Khayyam is classic, but he doesn't suit every occasion. Choose Books and Authors from our Reading & Literature resources  and you can zero in on just the kind of rhyme (or free verse) that touches you.

And if Omar is your cup of tea, you can always download the "Rubaiyat" to your e-reader from Project Gutenberg.

What's left? Ants, of course! The kids will be facinated by Pestworld's take on ants.


Or, if it rains, pop in the classic movie "Picnic" or, for the kids, try this one!

Have a great summer!

Jan D.

CATEGORIES: Children , Books , E-Books , Food , Jan D. , Reading , Seasons
POSTED: 11:59:00 AM |
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Last edited: 11/6/2007