I have a dear friend who loves poetry and can quote huge chunks of it anytime you ask. I envy her that because most of the time poetry doesn’t work for me. I had a brief flirtation with John Donne in college but that light burned bright and then died quietly and though I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to work up the will to take another ride on the Poetry Appreciation Train. I want to ride but I just don’t get most poetry. I’ve often wondered if this disability is tied up with my inability to appreciate jazz or the Three Stooges–it’s something that works for some but not all. I had grown accustomed to thinking that poetry, much like pro football, was never going to be for me. However, I stumbled across a collection of sijo poems in the children’s collection a while back and finally found a crack in my poetry defenses. My favorite from the book is called Wish and it so perfectly conveys how poetry should work on a person’s heart that it almost makes me weep (almost.) Thanks to this Korean form of poetry, which looks so innocent and non-threatening, I’ve been tempted into the poetry section–that’s 811 to the Dewey Decimal users among us. It’s still rocky going but I’ve now realized that Edna St. Vincent Millay is not as twee and ladylike as I thought and that has been a marvelous discovery for me. Maybe I’ll give John Donne a call.
The holiday gift season has arrived. If you’re like me, you’re always on the lookout for a great gift idea for the kids. Knowing that books make wonderful, lasting gifts, I set out this year to find the perfect knock-your-socks-off, WOW factor book…something that would make even the most jaded ten year old smile.
My search didn’t take long because I soon stumbled upon the brand new 2010 Guinness Book of World Records. Kids LOVE this book! They repeatedly ask for it at my library, and once they sit down and start turning the pages, you hear them shrieking “ohhh’s” and “ahhh’s” as they feast upon the delights within.
Each year the folks at Guinness World Records publish an updated volume full of weird and freaky facts, photographs and information. Over 4 million copies are sold annually and total sales exceed 124 million, since first published in 1955. Each volume dazzles the eye and boggles the mind. It is a real crowd-pleaser, especially among the pre-teen set. The 2010 version has 287 pages of facts, figures and photographs, enough to keep young minds busy for hours, learning about records set around the globe.
Bound in a shiny, colorful cover, the 2010 edition is billed as the “Book of The Decade.” There are Actual Size offerings (which kids love) such as the “largest known land gastropod” (the African Giant Snail), a huge beast of a slug, weighing in at two pounds and measuring 15½ inches long.
For aspiring record setters, the 2010 edition has step-by-step information on how to go about identifying and breaking a record. One of my favorites is featured on page 62, which shows a photo of the man with the longest recorded ear hair. Visit page 125 to see a picture of the world’s heaviest lemon! It weighs almost 12 pounds. Awesome!
This holiday season, why not make yourself the most popular uncle or aunt in your family. Give the 2010 Guinness Book of World Records to your favorite niece or nephew. They will remember you forever. (They might even name their first-born child after you.) Visit your local DCPL library to take a sneak peek before you buy.
If you dread hearing “How much longer?” or “Counting cows is boring!” check out your local library for things to check out for your Christmas roadtrips. DCPL has tons of interesting, entertaining and educational DVDs, audiobooks and CDs to engage you and your children on the way to grandmother’s house or wherever you’re headed this holiday season.
Try out any or all of the Harry Potter books read by the vastly talented Jim Dale. Or get a life and listen to someone’s biography or autobiography. Watch a holiday classic like It’s A Wonderful Life or Home Alone.
All it takes is a scan of your library card and you can entertain yourself and your passengers for miles. Who knows you might be so engrossed in your story that you won’t want to stop for anything but gas. If not you can always go back to counting state license plates.
Years ago I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Eddie Bonnemere. He had played piano for Duke Ellington and told wonderful stories of late rehearsals and long road trips. One story that stuck with me was this: whenever the band finally stopped for a meal Mr. Ellington would return thanks not only for the food but for the time and company as well. All these years later I’m still grateful to Mr. Ellington, by way of Mr. Bonnemere, for reminding me that time and the people we choose to spend it on are precious.
Now, let me get to my point. As a children’s librarian I am frequently asked, especially this time of year, by Grandma and Uncle and godpapa to help them choose books for the darling young person in their lives. They have gotten the message that books are good for youngsters and are eager to do their part in setting that child on the path to academic success. There’s a second, delicious part to the equation though. Books are great gifts, but they are all the better when a much loved adult spends time reading them with the child. If the adult is too far away there is reading together over the phone, or a video call, or even a homemade read-along with a CD or (yikes) a cassette tape of the adult reading. Jim Trelease can tell you all about the benefits of reading aloud, even to older children, and offers many wonderful suggestions. Any children’s staff member at DCPL can do the same. So, buy the books, check them out of the library, it really doesn’t matter either way but be certain to treat yourself, and that special child, to time together talking, laughing or crying over a book. Books are great, but books + time together is the best.
For some people, high school is four years that are fondly remembered as the best years in life. I am not one of those people. I started 9th grade as a New England transplant placed in a southern suburban high school of over 2,000 students. I hated every minute of it. I begged and pleaded with my parents to send me to boarding school back up north and they in turn, laughed at me. And while I begrudgingly made it through 4 tough years and moved on, I still can’t help but romanticize boarding school and dream of the school days I never had- cavorting around foggy school grounds, lessons in Charms and Divination, cheering on me mates at the Quidditch pitch, er…ok, so Hogwarts doesn’t really exist, but like I said, it’s a dream. Fantasy or reality, boarding schools make great settings for books. Below are a few of my favorites.
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Linda Bray
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart
Spud by John Van de Ruit
Do you have any boarding school fiction recommendations?
I just had the amazing opportunity of spending two weeks backpacking Northern India along with two other friends. We started in Delhi and made our way around the Golden Triangle stopping in Agra, Jaipur, Ajmer, Pushkar, Ranthambore, and Mathura. I can only describe India as one of the most interesting experiences of a lifetime. Here are my five can’t miss sights and activities:
5. Jaipur aka The Pink City
This entire city is built of pink stucco, even the walls that surround it, hence the name “The Pink City”. It is known for its beautiful palaces, rugged fortresses, and the most amazing sunset colors known to mankind… well at least in my opinion.
During the time we visited, the Indian holiday Dewali was in full force. The streets were exceedingly crowded and chaos surrounded us. After several attempts to fit in with the madness we retreated to a roof top restaurant and enjoyed the views and activities from a comfortable distance.
[read the rest of this post…]