Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Cure for Insomnia

No disrespect to Robert McCammon but his latest book keeps putting me to sleep. Don’t get me wrong, it’s actually quite interesting. The Queen of Bedlam takes place in 17th century New York. Matthew Corbett, struggling to make it as a magistrate’s clerk, witnesses a murder by a serial killer known as the Masker. He is drawn into solving the mystery, and finds his life threatened, not by the Masker, but by the villainous Professor Fell, an adversary worthy of Sherlock Holmes. The book is peppered with atmospheric details of city life of that time; ramshackle buildings, food served at meals (sweetbreads in mustard sauce or grilled lamb with pickles anyone?) and characters as intriguing as their names: Hudson, Greathouse, a madam called Polly Blossom, and Marmaduke Grigsby. So with all the unique characters and plot turns why do I keep falling asleep? I don’t understand it but I can only read for 45 minutes before my eyes start drooping, even when I read in the middle of the day! So what do you have to lose? Even if it doesn’t help you sleep, you still have a terrific book to read.

How's your "Digital Literacy"?

The answer to this question may be revealed in whether you'd prefer to read this fascinating New York Times article online at: or read the hardcopy folding version of the July 27th NYT in the library's periodical section.

Entitled "Literacy Debate: Online RU Really Reading?", writer Motoko Rich examines whether Internet reading and Web surfing count as true "reading". Experts certainly disagree, but there's no doubt that many in the younger generation spend more time at websites than they do immersed in books. One teenager describes reading (and writing commentary) on the Internet as a conversation, not the one-way direction of a book. Another likes choosing her own endings on web stories---if she doesn't want the character to die, as he might at the end of a novel, she can let him survive and prosper!

Companies like ETS (distributors of the SAT) are testing a digital literary test called iSkills at some U.S. colleges and high schools and some educators say that students with learning disabilities or less developed reading skills can read better on the Web because it's less language-orientated than books and has lots of sounds and pictures and non-linear paths to explore.
One fact not in debate is that those who read for fun score significantly higher on standardized reading tests, that reading skills are ranked highly by prospective employers. and that high scorers will earn higher incomes.
A professor at JMU advocates for both digital literacy and book reading: "I think they need it all." I agree and would venture that it goes both ways: sometimes the Web leads you to read a good book and sometimes a good book leads you to investigate further on the Web! It should never be either/or: online and print sources can and do complement each other and our students should be fluent in both methods.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jamie Lee Curtis Reads from her Latest Book

Watch Jamie Lee Curtis read from her new book Big Words for Little People at the American Library Association Conference . Afterwards, she explains how she found the idea for her first book, and then speculates on why celebrities are often compelled to write children's books.

Take a Bite of Beijing!

Before we all become glued to our TV sets when the Olympics begin on August 8, there's still time to get a feeling for the setting, the city of Beijing in the country of China. Try one of these new titles at the Dover Public Library that will help orient you to the Far East!

Ø Along the Roaring River: my wild ride from Mao to the Met. Hao Jiang Tian.

Ø Beijing and Shanghai. Eyewitness Travel guide.

Ø Beijing: from imperial capital to Olympic city. Lillian M. Li.

Ø The Bitter Sea: coming of age in a China before Mao. Charles N. Li.

Ø Charm Offensive: how China’s soft power is transforming the world. Joshua Kurlantzick.

Ø China Road: a journey into the future of a rising power. Rob Gifford.

Ø The Elephant and the Dragon: the rise of India and China and what it means for all of us. Robyn Meredith.

Ø Frommer’s Beijing 2008.

Ø Frommer’s Chinese Phrasefinder and Dictionary. Wendy Abraham, ed.

Ø Last Days of Old Beijing: life in the backstreets of a city transformed. Michael Meyer.

Ø Lost on Planet China: the strange and true story of one man’s attempt to understand the world’s most mystifying nation, or how he became comfortable eating live squid. J. Maarten Troost.

Ø The Man Who Loved China: the fantastic story of the eccentric scientist who unlocked the mysteries of the Middle Kingdom. Simon Winchester.

Ø Olympic Dreams: China and sports, 1895—2008. Xu Guoqi.

Ø Oracle Bones: a journey between China’s past and present. Peter Hessler.

Ø Out of Mao’s shadow: the struggle for the soul of a new China. Philip P. Pan.

Ø Serve the People: a stir-fried journey through China. Jen Lin-Liu.

Ø Snow Falling in Spring: coming of age in China during the cultural revolution. Moying Li. (YA fiction)

Ø Why the Dalai Lama Matters: his act of truth as the solution for China, Tibet and the world. Robert Thurman.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Drugs Found in the Library!

This could have been the local newspaper's headline for last Friday. Of course, if you read the whole article, you would discover that the drugs were planted by Officer Kennedy from the Dover Police Department during his "Dectective Dog Demonstration" on Thursday. Officer Kennedy and his police dog, Ace, presented the program for the children participating in our summer reading program, "Get a Clue @ Your Library".

Officer Kennedy explained what type of dog makes a good "detective", how they are trained, who they live with (he is responsible for Ace), and the proceedures the officer and the dog follow in order to locate drugs in a building or a vehicle.

The highlight of the program was not only watching Ace at work (he found the hidden drugs in 2 seconds flat) but also being allowed to pet him!

'Scuse Me

During a road trip to Maine last weekend we were playing an Oldies CD. One song came on that really puzzled me. The chorus kept singing “whose L.A. Gazette?” I asked my husband why this band was so hung up on whose newspaper it was. He burst out laughing and said, “It’s “Whose Cadillac Is That”, not whose LA Gazette!” Leave it to a librarian to put a literary spin on a rock song. This from a guy who thought “Radar Love” was Red Eye Love.

Anyway, it reminded me of an amusing web site you might enjoy; Kiss This Guy; the Archive of misheard lyrics. It gets its name from a misunderstood Jimi Hendrix lyric in “Purple Haze”. It’s happened to us all. Before this incident, I thought Eric Clapton was singing “Croquet”.

Bonus points to those of you who know which band sang “Whose Cadillac Is That”!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What’s In a Name?

A little girl named Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii became a ward of the court in New Zealand this week so she could change her name. Apparently there has been a rash of peculiar names given to New Zealand kids including such gems as Midnight Chardonnay, Number 16 Bus Shelter, and twins named Benson and Hedges. It reminded me of a wonderful New Orleans mystery series by Julie Smith starring a detective known as Baroness Pontalba. The Baroness doesn’t use her real name. Her uneducated mother allowed a mean spirited obstetrician to name her baby for her; he suggested Urethra. Personally, the wackiest names I have seen usually belong to kids of Hollywood stars. Have you ever met anyone with a truly unusual name?

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Haunted Library

This past week we had a group of paranormal researchers ask if they could investigate the Library. We do have a ghost here so we were curious as to what they would discover.

Elizabeth Anne Leach served as librarian at the Dover Public Library from 1945 to 1959. During a trustees meeting she complained of not feeling well but refused to desert her post. She lay down on the ancient leather "fainting couch" and never woke again.

There are often mysterious noises in the library, particularly at closing, when the rooms are dark and silent. When we hear the unexplained noises, the sound of leather shoes on wooden floors that are now covered by carpet, or the gentle creak of a door opening, we wish Miss Leach a good night and leave her to her library.

Since the Ghost Quest group visited, we librarians began sharing our stories. I have worked here 23 years and have only heard the ghost once. Around 8pm, my co-worker and I heard loud and distinct footsteps moving briskly in the Historical Room. Then we heard the glass cabinets begin to bang loudly. We both thought we had a misbehaving patron on our hands. My co-worker went upstairs to settle things down and reported that no one was upstairs. It was quiet for about five minutes when the racket began again. I went up and thoroughly explored the whole upper floor, including closets, bathrooms, any little nooks where someone could hide. There was absolutely no one there. Fortunately we closed for the evening shortly after.

One of the part time librarians said when her brother used to work here he heard running footsteps upstairs. He thought kids were fooling around so he went up to investigate. Again, there was no one there.

The last incident concerned a patron who needed to book a room for a tutoring session. When she was offered the Trustees room, she refused in a very matter of fact manner, stating that the room was haunted. I would love to talk to her. I wonder what she has experienced there to lead her to that conclusion.

If any of you Dear Readers have experienced ghostly manifestations here, I would love to hear about it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

If I had the time...

Brand-new non-fiction I'd read...if I had the time:

Buying In: the secret dialogue between what we buy and who we are by Rob Walker.
Advertising and marketing have changed drastically in the last 20 years with the genesis of the Internet, corporate sponsorship, You Tube videos, Second Life--all ways new ways of increasing brand recognition. Walker "demonstrates the ways in which buyers adopt products, not just as consumer choices, but as conscious expressions of their identities." Hmm...maybe I will having to find the time.

Governess: the lives and times of the real Jane Eyres by Ruth Brandon.
As a huge fan of historical novels, particularly England in the 19th century, this book really peaked my interest. This is the story of the English governess, "marooned within the confines of other people's lives, neither servants nor family members, governesses occupied an uncomfortable social limbo." Who can forget the fate of Ms. Testvalley in Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers--uncomfortable social limbo indeed!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Lost Book Club

Fans of Lost, the ABC television series, should have noticed that books play an important role in the show, often acting as clues. There are literary allusions to over forty books from Slaughterhouse Five to Jurassic Park. For instance, the Dharma Institute film is hidden behind a copy of The Turn of the Screw. Creators of the show have started the Lost book club, which discusses the relevance of the many books, as well as giving a brief synopsis of the book. It’s a bizarre twist worthy of the show for a television network to urge its viewers to read instead of watch.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Get a Clue @ Your Library

When you visit the library this summer, don't be alarmed to see crime scene tape strung up in the Children's Room or detectives (like the two pictured here) roaming the halls.

It's all part of the Dover Public Library's Summer Reading Program, "Get a Clue @ Your Library"!

A total of 400 children are participating in the program and more are signing up daily. There are 274 elementary school children marking off the minutes spent reading, recording books read, earning stickers and prizes, and entering the weekly raffle. In addition, 126 five and six year-olds are earning stickers, prizes and entering the weekly raffle after every six books read.

For more information about the reading program and related summer activities for children, visit "DPL's Detective Agency" (a.k.a. "The Children's Room") or click here.

Books I am looking forward to reading this summer

I can't wait to get my hands on these books:

Swan Peak by James Lee Burke. His novels offer the ultimate summer read, steamy with dark undertones, always lyrically written.

Walking Ollie by Stephen Foster. This book is being touted as England’s answer to Marley and Me by John Grogan. Ollie is a willful yet charming puppy who is adopted by a novice dog owner, and how the adventures they share.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Vive la France

Monday, July 14 is Bastille Day, the French national holiday commemorating the 1789 storming of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution. In honor of nous amis a travers l'ocean, we offer cette liste de nouveaux livres tres scintillants sur France.

  • Chocolate and Zucchini: daily adventures in a Parisian kitchen. Clotilde Dusolier. (cookbook avec commentary)

  • Discovery of France: a geographical history from the Revolution to the First World War. Graham Robb. (as explored on his bicycle!)

  • Extremely Pale Rosé: a very French adventure. Jamie Ivey. (wine journey through southern France)

  • French by Heart: an American family’s adventures in La Belle France. Rebecca S. Ramsey. (Mom, Dad and 3 kids relocate to Michelin-land)

  • The French Century: an illustrated history of modern France. Brian Moynahan. (from 1900 to the present)

  • The Girl With No Shadow. Joanne Harris. (sequel to the novel Chocolat)

  • I’ll Drink to That: Beaujolais and the French peasant who made it the world’s most popular wine. Rudolph Chelminski. (stylish history of wine-making)

  • La Vie en Rosé: a very French adventure continues. Jamie Ivey. (full-bodied romp through southern France)

  • Mediterranean Summer: a season on France’s Cote d’Azur and Italy’s Costa Bella. David Shalleck. (American chef cooks on board a luxury yacht)

  • Metro Stop Paris: an underground history of the City of Light. Gregor Dallas. (told through 12 subway stops)

  • My French Life. Vicki Archer. (beautifully photographed life in Provence)

  • Narrow Dog to Carcassonne. Terry Darlington. (down French canals in an English narrowboat)

  • Nobody Does It Better: why French home cooking is still the best in the world. Trish Deseine. (irreverent guide by best-selling French cookbook author)

  • Pardon My French: unleash your inner Gaul. Charles Timoney. (insider’s language tips for dining, shopping and slang)

  • Petite Anglaise: a true story. Catherine Sanderson. (digital age Paris blogging fairytale!)

  • A Piano in the Pyrenees: the ups and downs of an Englishman in the French mountains. Tony Hawks. (how not to buy a house abroad---hilarious!)

  • Pork & Sons. Stephane Reynaud. (homage to the pig from slaughterhouse to table, plus 150 recipes)

  • Talk to the Snail: ten commandments for understanding the French. Stephen Clarke. (customs, romance---it’s all here!)

  • A Town Like Paris: falling in love in the City of Light. Bruce Corbett. (searching for a new love in Le Marais)

  • We’ve Always Had Paris---and Provence: a scrapbook of our life in France. Patricia and Walter Wells. (one couple’s 25-year foray into going native)

  • Words in a French Life: lessons in love and language from the south of France. Kristin Espinasse. (short chapters, each inspired by a French word)

    Apprecier et avez-un verre de vin pour moi!

Prehistoric Fiction

An avid reader was in this week looking for recommendations for novels that take place in prehistoric times like Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear. I have read many of books in that genre; I was just having a difficult time remembering all of them. Using the Library catalog and the Novelist database to jog my memory, I was able to come up with some suggestions for her. I had so much fun sharing those titles with her, I made up a bookmark for all you fans of prehistoric fiction. You can pick one up at the library, or just use this list.

Stonehenge, 2000 B.C. by Bernard Cornwell

The Gift of Stones by Jim Crace

People of the Wolf by W. Michael Gear

Mother Earth, Father Sky by Sue Harrison

Pillar of the Sky by Cecelia Holland

Circles of Stone by Joan Dahr Lambert

The Horse Goddess by Morgan Llywelyn

The White Mare’s Daughter by Judith Tarr

Reindeer Moon by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Daughter of the Red Deer by Joan Wolf

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sobering but not surprising...

The Scholastic/Yankelovich 2008 Kids & Family Reading Report was released in June and here are some statistics:

  • 82% of parents wish their child engaged in more pleasure reading

  • 80% of 5-8 year olds believe reading is "extremely important

  • 56% of 15-17 year olds feel reading is "extremely important"

  • After age 8, children are more likely to go online daily than to read for fun daily

  • After age 15, children are more likely to have read a magazine than a book in last 7 days

  • After age 11, friends surpass mothers as the top source of ideas about books to read for fun

  • 62% of children prefer books printed on paper rather than digitally on handheld devices

  • "Trouble finding books they like" is the key reason kids say they don't read more

  • Parents who read are 6 times more likely to have kids that read frequently for fun

  • More than 6 in 10 kids age 9 and older have read Harry Potter

  • 29% of children who are "high frequency" Internet users are also "high frequency" pleasure readers.

To read the full report go to:

As of today, July 9, we have over 450 children and teens registered for our summer reading programs: kids who read for fun (and well, yes, for prizes too!). Although 450 is a fabulous number, I do sometimes think of all the kids in Dover who don't sign up, who aren't frequent readers and who, perhaps, won't do as well in school come September. There's still time to sign up...and we have plenty of wonderful reading suggestions for all ages. We promise we'll find you a book you'll absolutely love!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Hardscrabble Hollers of New Hampshire

I ran across a review of the book Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music by Dana Jennings, and though this is not my type of read, it caught my attention because he is a native of New Hampshire. I read a couple of reviews and found myself fascinated by the way New Hampshire was portrayed in the reviews. Here a couple of my favorite snippets:
  • From Publisher's Weekly: "Jennings tells of his upbringing in the hardscrabble hollers of New Hampshire."

  • From the Washington Post's Book World: "Jennings was born in rural New Hampshire and grew up in Kingston, a town of fewer than 1,000 residents. The local accent was Yankee cracker, but it was cracker all the same..."
  • From the book: In his "particular chicken-scratched swatch of New Hampshire, postwar prosperity was a rumor."
I have never read so many colorful phrases to describe a book, and the home state of its author. But seriously the book has been well-reviewed, and in its essence the book is the story of rural America in the 20th century through the lens of country music. Come to the library to check it out, but please ask for it in your best Yankee cracker.

Monday, July 07, 2008

New Words from Merriam-Webster!

The new 11th edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary is adding over 100 new words! Some of them are very familiar and you may wonder why it took that long for them to get in the dictionary. Others are brand new, at least to me. Apparently, the editors monitor "possible-inclusion" words over time and only the "keepers" actually make it into the newest edition. Here's some of their choices. A prize to the first person who can use all of these words in a sentence!!!

Wing nut---Webinar---Avatar---Barista---Frankenfood---Identity theft---Goth---NIMBY---Phat---Racino---Peloton---Comb-over---Shopaholic---Edamame---Air quotes---Infinity pool---Kiteboarding---Norovirus---Texas Hold 'em---Pescatarian---Prosecco

The word that tickled me was Mondegreen (origin 1964). A Mondegreen is a term for mistaken lyrics, e.g. thinking that the CCR song says "there's a bathroom on the right" instead of "there's a bad moon on the rise."! It comes from a mistaken interpretation of the lyrics of a Scottish ballad with the words "they had slain the Earl of Moray and laid him on the green." Someone heard instead: "they had slain the Earl of Moray and Lady Mondegreen" !!! I love it!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

O Canada

July 1 is Canada Day, our northern neighbors' version of July 4th. I was in Halifax a few years ago for the Canada Day parade and my heart still beats for those Royal Canadian Mounted Police on their tall horses, in their red jackets---so dashing. And the streets were lined with the very-unique-among-nations Canadian flag: no stripes, stars or shields for them, just a big red Maple Leaf! I also love the Canadian national anthem (in French or English, I've learned both versions) even more than our own---please don't call me unpatriotic, it's just more stirring to me and lots easier to sing.

So in honor of Canada Day, I wanted to mention a few items in the library's collections authored or performed by some of my favorite Canadians:

So take a listen or do some reading, eh?

Whew! Too busy and we love it!

Yesterday, June 30, was the first day to sign-up for the library's two summer reading programs (for children and teens). 51 young adults registered for "Game On @ Your Library" and 171 kids ages 5-12 signed on for "Get a Clue @ Your Library". The checkout lines were long all day long and by day's end we had circulated 2,032 items (950 in the adult area and 1,082 in the Children's Room).

Our staff was simultaneously exhausted and totally energized! It's so rewarding to see Dover's youth (and their parents) choosing to put reading on their list of summer activities. Let's keep it going throughout the school vacation months!

Remember, we have lauded children's entertainer Judy Pancoast in a performance on our lawn next Wednesday, July 9 at 10:30am and free family-friendly movies every Monday afternoon at 3pm. (Please call for a list of films. Due to the terms of our movie licensing agreement, we can't publish the actual titles on the web.)

Enjoy the summer @ your library!