DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

December 2011

Dec 30 2011

Drink a cup of kindness

by Patricia D

I’m going to be lazy today.  I’ve had a lot of holiday cheering the past few weeks: getting ready, driving up and down I-75 (do you understand how far away Michigan is?) and contemplating un-decorating my home so that it looks much more  “January is the Coldest Month of the Year” and less “Life’s a Neverending Rush of Fun.”  I’ll be honest–I’m tapped out on creativity at the moment, having expended most of this month’s allotment trying to keep the whole Seasonal Lying to a Small Child thing going.  Anyway, I’m not up to a clever post full of great information so let me leave you with these exhortations:

Read to a child (a lot) in the new year.

Read at least one thing outside your area of interest in the new year.

Make good use of your library card (in the new year) because it is the best credit card out there.

Finally, I will leave you with this:

It’s been around a bit, I know, but it never fails to give me goosebumps, bring tears to my eyes AND make me grin like a fool all at the same time.  I can’t think of a better state of mind to be in as we say “buh-by” to 2011.

Best wishes for joy and prosperity in 2012.


Dec 28 2011

This year, make it handmade

by Dea Anne M

I think we all could agree that there’s nothing quite like a gift you make yourself. Take, for example, the Mother’s Day gift I presented to Mom the year I turned nine. My scout troop made papier-mache earrings, and the ones I produced resembled nothing so much as a pair of orange golf balls. Some green glass beads and shellac turned them into something I considered quite fashionable and dramatic. Mom’s reaction upon opening the gift was…gracious, to say the least. I never saw her wear them. How could she? The things were huge and being clip-ons they probably would have slipped right off of her earlobes. She claimed to love them all the same and, as far as I know, they still reside in her jewelry box.

My crafting skills have improved since then, I hope, and there have been holiday seasons when lack of funds—or sometimes just the desire to give something more personal—have inspired me to make my gifts instead of purchasing them. One year I made personalized refrigerator magnets from polymer clay. Another year, we made candles and decorated picture frames. As I’m not the most enthusiastic shopper in the world, these gift-making sessions were infinitely more satisfying and fun than hitting the stores.

If you’re interested in planning your gift-making for next year’s holidays, or you want some ideas for gifts you can create through the year, DCPL has resources to help.

The Handmade Home: 75 projects for soaps, candles, picture frames, pillows, wreaths, and scrapbooks from the editors of County Living magazine will give you tons of ideas for gifts with down-home charm.

For the green-thinkers among us, Eco-craft: recycle, recraft, restyle by Susan Wasinger provides a number of ideas and instructions for stylish and surprisingly sophisticated gifts made from items that we often throw away. I was particularly wowed by the shopping tote made from coffee bags.

Martha Stewart’s Handmade Holiday Crafts: 225 inspired projects for year-round celebrations has gift ideas as well as inspirations for tabletop decor, gift wrapping, and holiday activities. Ideas for New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, etc. are here and the book  boasts the high-quality photography and enthusiastic tone that you’ve come to expect from the Queen of Crafting herself.

As long as you’re giving a lovingly crafted handmade gift, why not include a beautiful card that you’ve made yourself? Ultimate Card Making: A collection of over 100 techniques and 50 inspirational projects by Sarah Beaman provides, as the title might suggest, a wealth of ideas and instructions for making beautiful and unique cards. To keep the presentation of your gift as thoughtful and one-of-a-kind as the contents, be sure to check out The Art of Gift Wrapping: 50 innovative ideas using organic, unique, and uncommon materials by Wanda Wen. The wrappings themselves are gorgeous, and you’ll also find ideas for wrapping oddly shaped objects such as house plants and bottles of wine.

Finally, I must mention Pinterest, the social photo sharing website styled as vision boards. Users pin images related to special interests such as photography, gardening, and design as well as ideas for focused projects such as wedding planning and home decor. Crafters can browse hundreds of images for appealing ideas for crafts as well as handy source links for further information and instructions. What Harry Potter fan among your friends and family wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a Golden Snitch tree ornament? How about adorable “dinosaur tails” for the kids? It’s all there on Pinterest! You have to be invited to join, but the site has a handy “request an invite” button so that before you know it you’ll be crafting your gift-giving heart out.

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Dec 23 2011

Happy Holidays!

by Jimmy L

We hope everybody has a merry and safe time this holiday season. Just a reminder that the Library will be closed this Saturday, December 24 through Monday, December 26 in observance of Christmas.  See you next week!


Dec 21 2011

2011 Favorites

by Joseph M

As this will be my last post in 2011, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look back and mention some of the books that I enjoyed this year.

I may have mentioned before that I keep a book list, which tracks all the books I read over the course of a year.  I don’t include magazines, newspapers, or blogs, but I do count audiobooks and graphic novels.  After I finish each book I try to include a little blurb describing how I felt about the reading experience.  Looking back over my list for 2011, I’m a bit hard-pressed to decide on a single favorite; I read a lot of good stuff!  Even so, I’ll try to limit myself to just a handful of worthies to namedrop.

First off, I read a great short story collection entitled Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories by Lauren Groff.  It was recommended by a friend and did not disappoint.  In fact, it is one of the best short story collections I’ve ever read by a single author.  As it happens, I’m currently reading another short story collection, Karen Russell’s St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, which is also quite good.

I read several great nonfiction works, but the one that really stands out is Just Kids, Patti Smith’s memoir about her time with Robert Mapplethorpe in New York City during the late 60s and early 70s.

I eagerly devoured A Dance With Dragons, the latest installment of George R. R. Martin’s masterful fantasy epic Song of Ice & Fire.  I can hardly wait for the next one!

Later in the year I finally took the advice of the many people who had been recommending it and read The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins’ gripping work about a dystopian future.  I really enjoyed it and will definitely be checking out the other two books in the trilogy.

Finally, I have to talk about the Scott Pilgrim series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, one of the best graphic novels I’ve read in a long time.  I saw the movie and really liked it, so I figured I would probably like the comic it was adapted from as well.  I was not wrong!  Luckily, DCPL has all six awesome volumes.

Was there a particular book, movie, or CD that you enjoyed this year which deserves mention?  I’ll happily take recommendations for 2012!

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Foundation coverBack in 1973, the BBC aired a radio adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s seminal Foundation Trilogy. The Foundation series details a far future universe populated by a decaying empire of humanity spread across the Milky Way galaxy. In order to prevent humanity from falling into an extended galactic dark age, Hari Seldon, founder of the prophetic statistical and sociological science of psychohistory, works to establish a Foundation of knowledge and educated society on the remote planet of Terminus. The Foundation trilogy follows the lives and adventures of a variety of Terminus citizens throughout the decades and centuries after the establishment of the Foundation.

The Internet Archive is hosting the 1973 Foundation BBC radio adaptation of the Foundation Trilogy as part of their Old Time Radio collection. It is available here for both streaming and download in multiple formats.

If you are interested in listening to the original story on audiobook rather than the radio adaptation, you can check it out through the Library! Follow these links to Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation.

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Dec 16 2011

Choosing the best book for a child

by Patricia D

When I worked in the Children’s Room there was one question, above all others, that we were asked this time of year.  “What is the best book for a holiday gift for my child/niece/nephew/young friend?”   We would ask about the child’s interests and age, and offer up some of our favorite titles, things that were new during the year and also things we loved, either from our childhood or from our own experiences with children.   I completely understand the worry over choosing just the best book for that special child.  I ordered books for children for a living and was  stopped in my tracks by indecision at the bookstore every time I tried to buy a gift.

It’s almost impossible to predict what a child will actually like—I hated, hated, hated Dr. Seuss as a child (still do in fact) but Junior can’t get enough of Fox in Socks.  Thank the great Great Panjandrum there are other adults in her life who are thrilled to read him to her.   I have yet to be able to interest her in The Cricket in Times Square (charming and age appropriate) but she couldn’t wait each night for the next chapter in Calico Captive, something I thought was way too much for her but that she picked off the shelf herself.

There’s a secret to choosing the best book for a child.  Wanna hear it?  Lean in, and pay close attention because I’m only going to say this once:  The best book for a child is the one you are reading together.

That’s it, that’s the secret.  Books and children work best, even when the child is older, when you are sharing them.  If they hate it, if they love it—doesn’t matter.   Shared reading isn’t really about phonemic awareness, sequencing and decoding of letters.  Those things are part of it, sure, but it’s really about you and the child.  It’s about your undivided attention as you snuggle in the oversized easy chair or under the covers.  It’s about crying together when Charlotte or Ann & Dan dies, and cheering in one voice when Taran is finally revealed to be the High King.  It’s about taking the time to show your child that reading matters and that it matters to you.

I read aloud to a blind classmate during my college years.  I didn’t really want to read The Last Temptation of Christ or Mr. Sammler’s Planet and I well and truly did not want to read Anna Karenina but we read them together and the memories of those times are still sweet.   I think the same will be true for that special child in your life.  Is it tough to work reading into the nighttime routine?  Absolutely—there’s dinner to manage and that always takes longer than I think it will (seriously?  75 minutes to eat a hotdog and some slaw?) and then there’s the goofy homework assignments and the bedtime fight over how well the teeth got brushed, among other things. So yeah, it is tough to work in some print time.  I promise you though, this gift will keep on giving long after that amazing pop-up book by Robert Sabuda that I’m going to recommend has fallen to bits.

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Dec 12 2011

Joseph Heller

by Greg H

If you have found yourself of late wondering “Is it just me or am I seeing a lot about Joseph Heller recently?”, rest assured, it isn’t just you.  2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of Heller’s classic novel, Catch-22, reason enough for Heller, who died in 1999, to be memorialized by two new biographies.

Just One Catch: A Biography of Joseph Heller, by Tracey Daugherty, is the more comprehensive of the two but the more intimate,  obviously, has to be that written by Heller’s daughter Erica: Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller Was Dad, the Apthorp Was Home and Life Was a Catch-22.  Daugherty may have dug more deeply but Erica Heller knows her way around the Heller family plot, having known the residents when they were still walking among us.  (My favorite thing I learned about Heller: his best friend was a guy named Speed Vogel. Who wouldn’t want a best friend named Speed Vogel?!?!?!)

Erica Heller tackles the daunting task of making the reader understand how a man could be so egotistical, irascible, and insensitive and still be loved, at least by his daughter.  After his infidelity drove his wife into a bitter divorce,  Joseph Heller’s biggest regret, of the many he could have chosen,  seemed to be the loss of his ex-mother-in-law’s pot roast recipe. This was forever withheld from him as retribution for his betrayal. Erica, out of loyalty to her mother, would reject her father’s repeated entreaties and even an offer of $10,000 in exchange for the recipe.

Erica Heller has written a truly entertaining account of her place within her family’s tumultuous history, most of it lived out within the confines of various apartments in the Apthorp building. The double-edged sword of her father’s literary acclaim impacts much of her childhood and Heller develops  Job-like patience as she deals with her increasingly hostile parents from her precarious place between them.

Yossarian Slept Here is the perfect appetizer to a heftier tome like Daugherty’s.  Besides, even if Just One Catch covers Joseph Heller from soup to nuts,  Erica Heller trumps all with one last surprise at the end of the book: Grandma Dottie’s pot roast recipe.


Dec 9 2011

Learning from an Iron Chef and others

by Amanda L

Recently, I have been hooked on those contest cooking shows that seemed to have exploded on to the scene. You might know the ones I’m talking about… Iron Chef, Top Chef, Chopped, etc. It fascinates me that these chefs can make a delicious meal out of those most unusual ingredients. I mean who has ever seen an uni? (If you want to learn more about this ingredient check out this article from Star Chefs online magazine.)

Growing up, I always thought that you had to have a recipe in order to make specific dishes. These shows have shown me that you can make delicious food without a recipe by just knowing some basic techniques, principles and  food parings. When I watch these types of shows, especially the judging, it has reinforced that while cooking uses science to understand the interaction of ingredients it truly is an art in that it is in the eye of the beholder… I mean taster.

The library has several books written by the stars and participants of these shows. While the shows have enabled me to be creative in many of the dishes I make, I still enjoy books that not only inspire me but enhance the information I gather from watching these shows.

Mission Cook by Robert Irvine

Trained by the best European chefs, Robert also shares his cooking philosophy, his best recipes and tips on how to add that special twist to any dish.

The Soul of a new cuisine: a discovery of the foods and flavors of Africa by Marcus Samuelsson

In The Soul of a New Cuisine , Marcus returns to the land of his birth to explore the continent’s rich diversity of cultures and cuisines through recipes and stories from his travels in Africa.

New American Table by Marcus Samuelsson

From the winner of Top Chef Masters An affectionate, thoroughly diverse tribute to the modern American table “I’ll introduce you to friends I’ve met along the way who have shared their foods, told me their stories and inspired me with their passion.

Good Eats: the early years by Alton Brown

Contains more than 140 recipes and close to 1,000 photographs and illustrations from the Peabody Award-winning TV show, “Good Eats”, along with explanations of techniques, lots of food-science information (of course!) and more food puns, food jokes and food trivia than you can shake a wooden spoon at.

Michael Symon’s Live to Cook by Michael Symon

Michael tells the amazing story of his whirlwind rise to fame by sharing the food and incredible recipes that have marked his route.

Cooking from the Hip by Cat Cora

Iron Chef America, Cat Cora is used to improvising exciting dishes on a moment’s notice. In this book she shows you how to do it too, whether you want a spur-of-the-moment supper or a spectacular dinner that doesn’t require spending your whole Saturday in the kitchen.

Top Chef: the quickfire cookbook

Everything the home chef needs to assemble an impressive meal and channel the energy of the Quickfire kitchen is collected here, including advice on hosting a Quickfire Cocktail Party and staging Quickfire Challenges at home

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Dec 7 2011

A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

by Joseph M

On the morning of December 7, 1941, the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy in a surprise assault which caused the deaths of 2,402 Americans (with 1,282 wounded) and the destruction of numerous American ships and aircraft.  The attack was intended to prevent the United States Pacific Fleet from interfering with Imperial Japanese ambitions in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean, but instead it resulted in the formal entrance of the U.S. into World War II.  Today, the USS Arizona Memorial on the island of Oahu honors the lives lost on the day of the attack.

Click here to see a catalog listing of our books about Pearl Harbor and learn more about this pivotal event in 20th century history.


Dec 2 2011

Are you on the same page?

by Patricia D

We are.  We’re laughing our way through Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth at my house in preparation of meeting the author a week from Friday at the final event of the On the Same Page campaign, sponsored by Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, the Decatur Book Festival, the DeKalb Rotary and the Decatur Education Foundation.

We’re a little late to the game because my childhood copy of the Tollbooth, which survived two camping trips, a great Dane, and my brothers,  is stashed in my parents’ attic.  We had to wait for our copy from the library, but it’s been worth the wait.  It’s great fun to visit with Milo and Tock again.  The things I loved as a child are hilarious to me as an adult and I now have the added bonus of shushing Junior’s giggles as we read.  The word play mostly goes over her head but there’s a good solid story under the silliness, plenty of slapstick and Jules Feiffer’s amazing illustrations.   Nothing sounds better to me (and is accompanied by Puss-in-Boots eyes)  than, “Please, Mama, just one more chapter?”  I almost never say no, hoping that I am nurturing a love of reading and not just aiding and abetting in prolonging bedtime.

There is a 50th anniversary edition now out, but what has me twitching with excitement is the Annotated Phantom Tollbooth.  Leonard Marcus based his comments on interviews with Juster and careful perusal of early drafts.  He takes the story to a whole new level,  giving incredible insight into the process of creating and showing the goofy everyday stuff that happens along the way.  If you ever said, “I’m going to write a children’s book, how hard could it be?” you need to read this book.  It will give you perspective and (I hope) a great deal of respect for children’s authors.

Leonard Marcus is a rock star in his field and if you are a children’s literature geek like me you must, must, must read not only Dear Genius: the Letters of Ursula Nordstrom but also The Minders of Make-Believe.   Genius is not a sit down and read in one setting kind of book, it’s more for dipping into during those random moments when you need something to read but don’t have a lot of time, say, before bedtime.   Ms. Nordstrom was a mover and shaker in children’s publishing during the heyday of the four martini business lunch and an inveterate letter writer who, lucky for us, kept copies of every letter she wrote.  She had a lot to say about a lot of things, including sniping at Anne Carroll Moore, Queen of Children’s Services for the New York Public Library  and praising the Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) which provided monies to public libraries for books.  Minders of Make-Believe is a solid and entertaining history of children’s publishing in the United States and the scholarship is impeccable.   Of course these aren’t the only two books we’ve got by Mr. Marcus, but they are two of my favorites.  Look him up and give the others a try as well.

Mr. Marcus will be interviewing Mr. Juster on stage at Agnes Scott on Friday, December 9.  If you’ve been lucky enough to get a ticket perhaps I’ll see you there.