Books…and more books

I am forever taking too many books home and forever trying to read them before their due dates.

Last night, I crossed 5 books off my list, and today, I finished one more.

Art made from Books: altered, sculpted, carved, transformed, compiled by Laura Heyenga. In another life, I would be a craftswoman. I am forever taking home books about sewing, stamping, and always, paper crafts. This book goes beyond craft into Art. I just sat on my bed and read through this book in one sitting, looking at the unbelievable ways that artists have altered books. Usually when I put aside a craft book, I think, oh, someday, I could do that. Not this time. If nothing else, this book humbled me with its beauty. Shoes, earrings, sculptures, full scale installations, all made from books. Each artist explains their process and why they use books. I have one more word: WOW.

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England, by Ian Mortimer. This is a follow up to Mortimer’s book on the Middle Ages, and I had a feeling I should have started there. But this was the book in my hand, due to a review I’d read in Kirkus. I learned a few things I didn’t know, including the fact that Queen Elizabeth I ruled for 45 years. And I found a reference to a manners book which might be related to the manners books I studied while at the University of Florida. In the end, though, I decided that I have other books I would rather read. I would recommend this book to the right person, as Mortimer does an excellent job of describing life in Elizabethan times. And I will definitely try to hunt down a copy of the first Time Traveler’s Guide.

Sartoris, by William Faulkner. This is the first book of this lot that I will admit I am not even going to try to read. I can’t remember why I put it on hold, except that I think I should try Faulkner again, he is such an influential writer. (I did not understand As I lay dying when I read it for high school English.) For another time.

if you want to see a whale, by Julie Fogliano, pictures by Erin E. Stead, and then it’s spring (same author/illustrator team). Somewhere on the internet this week, someone recommended if you want to see a whale. So I pulled it and the spring book off the shelf and tucked them into the Trader Joe’s bag I use to cart books to and from work. I sat on my bed and chuckled through both these books, admiring the detail in the illustrations and the whimsy in the words. Each book features a boy and a dog, though both the boy and the dog are different in each book. And both are discovery books, waiting books, meandering books. I loved this passage from if you want to see a whale, “if you want to see a whale/you’ll have to ignore the roses/and all their pink/and all their sweet/and all their wild and waving/because roses don’t want you watching whales…” Everything in the book seems to conspire against the boy and his dog finally seeing a whale, until they do see one, on the very last page. There is an emphasis on waiting that reminds me of Ruth Krauss’ short book, The Carrot Seed. But instead of parents telling the boy that his seeds won’t come up, it is the entire book, pages and roses and possible pirates all conspiring against the whale sighting. I bring up The Carrot Seed because it is what I thought of immediately after finishing and then it’s spring. Again, we have only a boy and his dog, this time not waiting for a whale, but waiting for spring the only way they know how: waiting for seeds they have planted to come up from the brown brown ground. Again, everything seems to conspire against the boy and the dog and the seeds. Time itself, maybe birds, maybe bears. I love the sign that is mentioned in the text but also illustrated: “please do not stomp here–there are seeds and they are trying.” The worry which is real is expressed in both words and illustrations, as the boy and the dog wait through another week, and press their ears to the ground, maybe they can hear the seeds growing? The book ends with the boy swinging in a tire swing, wearing short sleeves and no shoes. The text reads, “all around/you have/green.”

At lunch today, I finished Rebecca Stead’s book, Liar & Spy. How could I even describe this book? Is it about two boys in a spy club? Is it about a boy who has moved from a house to an apartment? Is it about bullies and being different? Or is it about tasting? I’ll tell you this: it is wonderful.

And as soon as I finished Liar and Spy, I started two boys kissing by David Levithan. I can’t even begin to describe this book yet, so I won’t try. But it’s good.

Can you feel my palpable exhaustion as I finish these reviews? Up late, reading too many books, I guess. Until next time!

If I have 11 tabs open, it’s time to write a blog post…

American Libraries Direct, it’s all your fault.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

But I have some links open that I can’t close until I put them somewhere important. This blog is the closest place to that, right now.

And yes, I’m in Gainesville, I’ll blog about that at some point.

First up: A hidden medieval archive surfaces. Since I’m working with actual really old books right now, this just warms my heart. I mean, can you imagine being the person that finds this stuff? And lucky us, that we get to read about it, dream about holding it in our hands!

From DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard), a report on the Future of Special Collections. Again, since every day for a couple of hours (more next week, I need a weekend to decompress first) I am entering the Special Collections at the University of Florida, this stuff is near and dear to my heart. My heart BROKE when Pitt closed the Elizabeth Nesbitt room last summer.

Okay, this one is from Facebook. My dad worked down the hall from Mark Lijeck when they both worked at the American Embassy in Warsaw in the early 90s. So you can believe that when Argo came to the theaters I was there in a New York minute. Nope. I had NO CLUE that Argo was about a de-classified CIA story that featured someone I knew. I was at the theater in a New York minute because I am a huge fan of movies. This link (Q&A With ‘The Real Argo’ Houseguests, Cora and Mark Lijek)  features the real story (not the dramatized version from Hollywood, the one that won an Oscar, thankkyouverymuch.)

Well, more to come, I promise.


Some news from LibraryLand

It’s been ages since I’ve posted here, I don’t even know if I have any readers left.  HI!!

Since we last met, a lot has happened in my librarian life. I am now a full time cataloger. Yes, overnight, my job title was changed from p/t children’s and p/t cataloging librarian to full time cataloger. The details are not important to this blog. ‘Nuff said.

Also, I recently was honored as the recipient of a fellowship at the University of Florida, studying antique children’s books in their special collection. The Louise Seaman Bechtel fellowship is a month long endeavor sponsored by ALSC, the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association. The award is for librarians with 8 or more years of service to children. I could not be more thrilled. Nope, not a clue when I’m going, still waiting for a contact from ALSC to talk to the folks at Florida.

I have a lot less time to keep abreast of library trends since I no longer watch a desk two to three hours a day, so I’ve started sending my American Library emails to my home email. The rest of this email is catching up on the most interesting articles from the February 7 issue.  Yes, I know the news is therefore a bit stale. I used to read this voraciously from “cover to cover” on Wednesday when it came out.  I hope to get there eventually, but for now, I’m going to catch up as I can.

My first ever library director, Cynthia Richey, director of the Mt. Lebanon Library, was recently honored by ALSC as well. She was given their “Distinguished Service Award.” She has certainly done a lot over the years for libraries and advocacy. Bravo, Cynthia!

Do you remember Danny and the Dinosaur? Syd Hoff died in 2004, may he rest in peace. But his house in Florida was recently designated a “Literary Landmark” by United for Libraries.

Brooke Sheldon, a library educator (who got her PhD from Pitt, where I obtained my Master’s degree), recently passed away. She was a big advocate of minority hiring. I read about her death first in JESSE, a list-serv for library educators, and then again here, in the AL email.  I wish I had had the chance to meet her, but celebrating her life will have to suffice.

In this opinion piece, David Rothman makes a case for folks in the Warren Buffet and Bill Gates income bracket to support digital libraries financially.  An interesting piece, since digital librarianship runs the gamut from actual digital libraries to purchasing ebooks.

Thanks for reading, and I promise to try to show up here more often.



snowy book by Sara Zarr

I am not a fan of book reviews. Reading them, I mean. I would rather read the books. So when I write book reviews, I try to make mine as non-New York Times Book Review or Washington Post Book Review as possible. I think this time I have even outdone myself, since no self respecting New York Times Book Review reviewer would just cut and paste some emails she sent to the author and call them a review. Well, here’s the truth: this is not a review. This is a love letter to Sara Zarr’s latest novel.

actual email (with a few edits for clarity and general blogginess) to Sara Zarr, written at 2:03 a.m. on May 7th, after finishing ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) for How to Save a Life, Zarr’s latest book, which comes out Tuesday October 11.

Dear Sara,

In high school, I used my babysitting money to pay for a subscription to Writer’s Digest. And I remember one ad that said, I can come into your house and steal. (it was sort of sinister). But the gist was, a writer has power. To make you laugh, or cry.

I started crying about halfway (if that) through reading HTSAL and have been blubbering ever since.

(Did you cry while writing it?)

I went through a (not full) Kleenex box. I didn’t stop. I started at 11:30 and didn’t look up until 1:15. A.M. Fortunately, I can go in to work late in the morning if need be.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE your book. From the minute Mandy’s character said “all the magazines had ‘the’ in front of them, ‘The Economist…” I was in love.  (I never thought about that…that magazines could be categorized by an article. But truly, magazines like People, Star, Hello! are very different from The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker…) Right away, Mandy, who up to that point seemed like a bit of a ditz, had a real voice, not just the things her mother told her about to how to catch a man. Here she was, in a world so different from her own, trying to make sense of this new habitat. Even the magazines are different…

I remember your blog posts (and tweets, I’m pretty sure there were tweets) about being in Denver and thinking you should move to Denver.

I love that the fonts are different, and how each font really reflects each girl. I love that Alex wrote back and said “stop writing me!” (and how we discover that he wrote that.) I loved how Mandy parroted her mother but wanted something different, and that’s why she decided to not have an abortion, to instead try to save a life, to maybe change her own. I loved the letters that Mandy wrote, long hand, because I used to be queen of the long hand letter and miss that form of communication so much.

And Ravi…what a dear dear boy. I love that Jill decked him in the beginning.

I imagined the store where Mandy worked, Margins, as the Barnes and Noble that I worked at before I left to go to library school, in Seven Corners, Virginia. When I worked at a different B&N in downtown Pittsburgh, I remember a guy swiping my books back in the kids’ department, but I could never catch him, prove anything.

The relationships in this book were so true, the language was so natural. I feel like you took a lot of big risks, this was a book that could have been one big cliche. But you made it honest. You did right by the story.

And even though I am hormonal, and stressed, you gave me a way out of my own crap for a couple of hours. And I needed that, so badly. (Even though I do wish I hadn’t used all my Kleenex…) (Well, I’m sure I still have some in the bathroom.)

I thought the Bible being the box for the watch was a great prop. And Dylan, all hip, afraid of the cops at the pawn shops. So different from Ravi. “Clark.” That was a classic scene. “No, uh, I was thinking of William Clark, you know, of Lewis and Clark, the explorers?”

You done good. I promise to blog about it, but I wanted to write to you, too, since I already had (was that only yesterday? It seems like a lifetime ago.)

All cried out,


actual email to Sara Zarr, the day before.


It’s strange, because I don’t know you, not really, but I felt like I needed to tell you (ask permission after the fact?) that I flipped to the end of your book. It’s a habit I have if the book seems like it might break my heart. Almost all Grisham novels also get this treatment. After writing that, I can see some people might see that as pejorative and I didn’t mean it that way.

And it’s so beautiful and I probably was close to a cry anyways after a confusing chat with my mother, but I am blubbering. It is so beautiful. I didn’t get all of it, and that’s okay, b/c I don’t want to spoil the whole thing, but I know that I will love the middle, now that I’ve sampled the top and bottom layers.

Also, I adore the cover. It’s been staring at me all week, saying “why are you not reading me?” as I’ve been scurrying around, trying to not fail at my own deadlines.

I’m really intrigued now to find out who Kent is, and who the guy Jill meets for coffee at the end is.


The story of this blogger’s year: I have been too busy trying to not fail at my own deadlines since May. But I want you to know that if you miss this book, you’re missing something wonderful.

“It is not down in any map; true places never are…”

(Herman Melville)

So, here we are. We’re closed Sunday, I’m off on Monday, so starting…NOW, it’s Europe week for “One World, Many Stories” at my library. The “Oktoberfest in July” is on Tuesday–the next two days will be full of putting pretzels in little wax bags and stapling them.

Still have no clue how we’re doing the root beer taste test, or the crafts. But the crafts involve magazine pictures from Europe, so some sort of collage project.

I’ll post the book list on Tuesday. Meanwhile, what books would you put on a list of books that take place in Europe for children? I did picture books, younger grades, and middle grades.

See you Tuesday!

Books I’m not reading this week, an occasional feature.

Note: these are not bad books. I am merely not reading them. I am releasing them back to their home libraries, the shelves where someone else can pluck them and enjoy them. Who knows, you might find one you want to check out, and won’t you be glad I’m not reading it?

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Yes, I know. EVERYONE is reading it. Well, everyone is reading The Paris Wife, and I’m not reading that book either. (I may read The Paris Wife in the fall. It just seemed like it was heading for a train wreck and I can’t read books like that in the summer.) The Elegance… looks a little too complicated, and one friend on twitter said, “do the characters in The Elegance… ever stop trying to prove how smart they are?” I’m also not reading the latest Traveling Pants book (Sisterhood Everlasting) for a similar reason. Too heavy.  (I know, it seems totally against the whole Traveling Pants franchise, but I’m telling you, keep a hanky handy.) I made it through the first disc saying, no, tell me no, you can’t start the book this way and Brashares, darn her, did.

What can you do with an old red shoe? by Anna Alter. The cutest book on recycling I’ve ever seen. I came across it this morning because someone recommended Alter’s more recent book, A Photo for Greta and our consortium doesn’t have any copies yet. For shame! (Our particular library doesn’t order books during the summer in Children’s because we have this little affair called Summer Reading. We have over 1200 readers signed up from birth to twelfth grade.) So I’ll make a note of it for in the fall order. But I don’t need to take it home because a) it was a quick read and b) I do not have time for crafts projects in the summer.

The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly. I actually put this on hold when I was checking the catalog record a few weeks ago, and read the first chapter. But since then, I have become sensitive to the whole pregnant women, young children issue that rears its ugly head every so often. So when on the first page Jo, Jo! uses these words to describe her new daughter, I know this is not right now the book for me.

“And now, just when I had thought that part of my life was done, comes the most precious little gift that I had ever dared to dream of.”

Jo, I expected more of you.

I hope you are finding wonderful books to read. I’m too tired to tell you about them now, though. I am taking some lovely books home tonight, including:

The Schwa was here / Neal Schusterman
Penny Dreadful / Laurel Snyder
My year with Eleanor / Noelle Hancock
Heart of the City (about NEW YORK!) / Ariel Sabar.

Great Scott!

Today on the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, Anita Silvey tells us about the elevator operator at #2 Park Street, Boston, who became the inspiration for Dr. Seuss’s most famous character, the Cat in the Hat.

You might think *that* would be the piece of information that would tickle me to pieces and have me go all over the Internet to find out more information about Herr Docktor Seuss. You would be wrong.

No, the tidbit that caught my fancy was this, about William Spaulding, Houghton Mifflin Reading Division head, and his army buddy Theodore Geisel:

Wanting to outstrip his competitor, Scott Foresman, who published the bestselling Dick and Jane series, Spaulding believed there was another way to approach the teaching of reading. He told Seuss that if he could wed what he knew—how to entertain children—with what reading specialists believed, reading instruction in the United States could be revolutionized.

I have been piecing together children’s publishing history. You might say it is my current hobby. I’d been reading Leonard Marcus‘s Dear Genius and every Charlotte Zolotow book (books that she wrote, books that she published), thinking I wanted to write a paper on Charlotte Zolotow as an editor at Harper & Row. I gave myself a deadline for a rough draft. And on the day of my deadline, I hadn’t written more than a few sentences and I kept wondering on the bits and pieces that I knew about Virginia Kirkus, who was the first children’s editor at Harper & Bros, in 1926.

It was a quiet Saturday afternoon at the reference desk, so I just started doing any search I could think of to find more bits and pieces. Soon I had printed pages and pages of information.  So now I have an ambition: to write a paper, maybe a book, on VK. I have no idea when I’ll write this paper, since Summer Reading is upon us, my sister is getting married in August and I don’t have any NEW information about VK, except that her papers are at Vassar. From all the information I’ve gleaned, Vassar is closed for the summer.

Here is what I know, more or less: VK was the first children’s editor at Harper & Bros from 1926 to 1932.  She was a teacher before that, and a freelance journalist.

I have been using the tidbits I have with the tidbits in Minders of Make Believe, (Leonard Marcus, again).  I have been taking copious notes on the chapter called “Sisters in crisis and in conflict: the 1930s.” And all this time, I had been wondering what had happened to Scott, whose name I had seen here and there but knew was no longer a working publisher.

So when I saw that name, Scott, in Anita’s post this morning, I let my fingers do the walking and came across an obituary in the New York Times of William Rufus Scott. His publishing house, W.R. Scott, was the one where Margaret Wise Brown was Children’s editor for a while. (Thanks again, to Anita, a few weeks ago, when she wrote about Caps for Sale.)

And relief, what relief, that Scott Foresman was NOT the house that published Caps for Sale…wouldn’t that be awful, to have Margaret Wise Brown on staff in one era and be publishing Dick and Jane in another?

More to come, it’s time to start cataloging for the day.