Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Labor Day, the unofficial ‘end of summer’ (although fall doesn’t start until September 22nd). Around here, the school year has already begun for most students, but a last whoop-de-do of parades, fairs and cookouts is still possible.
For our youngest scholars, the library provides a handy resource for homework.
Kids InfoBits gives easy at-home access to readable and understandable information. Need a quick biography about a favorite author? It’s here. Not sure exactly what the Mayflower Compact was? Look it up here. Kids Info Bits are magazine articles and entries from reliable encyclopedias and reference works. And all of the articles are helpfully coded to tell you the reading level. If you need to know how names and unfamiliar words are pronounced, just highlight the text and use the helpful ‘Listen’ button. (Up to 5th grade)
High School and older students need resources, too.
Look under the subject index to our databases.
History, Science, Health, Literature and Government all have separate references – and don’t forget “Homework Help” for the 6th grader to High School Senior. It’s chock full of helpful resources. Finally, for those research assignments, not only are our periodical databases like Masterfile Premier and General Onefile at your service, but you can always use Opposing Viewpoints, Discovering Collection and Biography in Context. Don’t forget to cut-and-paste the citations directly out of the bottom of each article. Your teacher will think you were up all night doing research!
Now, get out there and enjoy your Labor Day Weekend!
Thursday, August 16, 2012
A House Divided: American Civil War History Resources for Kids
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 Hero. African-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."
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Are your eyes blurry from all the fast-moving images of Olympic athletes? Mine are. Thank goodness the London event is over and the addicted ones can now catch up with our work and sleep. For those who have not had quite enough and are still under the spell of the lingering glow of those gold medals, the library can offer you a less exhausting option.
It's Not About the Bra: Play Hard, Play Fair, and Put the Fun Back Into Competitive Sports by Brandi Chastain
Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
This may be the closest you will get to ultra-marathoners and Tarahumara runners in Copper Canyon, Mexico. One of the central characters in the book, Caballo Blanco’s death was recently in the news.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
He writes, he runs and he also talks about writing and running in a Spiegel interview.
In the Long Run: A Father, a Son, and Unintentional Lessons in Happiness by Jim Axelrod
Endorsed by a former gold medalist, Bernard Lagat, who wrote, “An inspiration to runners and non-runners alike—and a reminder that the love of a family has no finish line.”
No Limits: The Will to Succeed by Michael Phelps and Alan Abrahamson
Even without a 6 foot 7 inches wingspan, if we have the will, perhaps…
Gold in the Water: The True Story of Ordinary Men and Their Extraordinary Dream of Olympic Glory by P. H. Mullen
On what takes to become an Olympic athlete.
Order on the Court: Pro Beach Volleyball a Rally for Respect & Recognition by Tom Burke
Why did this sport become such a popular Olympic sport? Sun, sand, sweat, and skimpy clothes…why not?
Bonus: Car Racing (This is not an Olympic sport)
The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel by Garth Stein
Just a good book about a philosopher dog, his companion human, and car racing, I had to sneak it into this list somehow.
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
I was talking with a very talented young journalist acquaintance, and I mentioned that I had seen a wonderful documentary on Harper Lee recently. I brought it up, partly because I enjoyed it so much and partly because it showed how cultured I am. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/harper-lee-hey-boo/watch-the-full-documentary/2049/
His answer stunned me. He had never read To Kill a Mockingbird. He wasn’t sure how he could have missed it in school since he’s sure it was assigned, and he never saw the movie either. He told me he didn’t like “old” movies because they spoke too fast. And besides, my own daughter, he said, hadn’t read Moby Dick (who has, really?) Now we are speaking about a well educated, well read young man with a bookshelf so laden with books that it recently tipped over. Anyway I was aghast and made him promise that he would read it or at the very least, watch the movie.
It made me think about holes in my own classics education:
The Alexandria Quartet: Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive and Clea by Lawrence Durrell which I’ve always meant to read since the smartest girl in my high school read it. Maybe I thought it was just too intellectual for me. The first three books shows the same set of circumstances looked at by several points of view. The fourth is after a period of 6 years. Yes it’s definitely on my list.
Anything about Greek Mythology (I must have been absent that day). Although I did read Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips, a 21th century adaptation of the twelve gods of Olympus living in a London town-house quarreling constantly and like the title says, behaving badly. A good place to start if you are Greek Mythology deficient is D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (oh how embarrassed I am now) but I did see the movie released in 2011 and read the wonderful time-travel sendup The Eyre Affair by Jamie Fforde. This is a start of his Thursday Next Literary Detective series where literary characters come alive…and behave badly.
Ulysses by James Joyce but I’ve seen so many adaptations in movies that I feel like I’ve read it. (see Brother Where Art Thou!)
And anything by William Faulkner. Now I am properly chastised.
Of course there are many other titles, but I don’t want to completely discredit my reputation as a reader’s advisor. If you are wondering what you haven’t read and want to fill in the gaps, start out with:
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall which covers a century of “book readin’” complete with lovely illustrations.
Book Lust by Nancy Pearl or check out this wonderful uber-reader’s advisor’s web site: www.nancypearl.com (I have her action figure, signed and everything)
So now the next time anyone admits that they haven’t read something they should have, I will be more patient. Think about the holes in your own literary treasure chest.
Saturday, August 04, 2012
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:
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.
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.
The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy—Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue—by 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:
So, go on... have a book fling with a younger book. I promise not to tell your regular books.
Montgomery County Public Libraries