Monday, May 28, 2007

Incredible News! The TEXAS LEGISLATURE Did Something Good!!!

This was just posted by Gloria Meraz of Texas Library Association. On the last day of its session, the Texas Legislature, both House and Senate, passed the full funding for informational databases for K-12 schools. After all the letters and calls, frustration and doing without, Texas librarians can look forward to providing students with these valuable resources. When the same legislative body cut funding in 2002, I felt ashamed and frustrated. That cut took place during a summer special session, at a time when many teachers and librarians were out for the summer and unaware of the proceedings, thus reducing the outcry of protest. The lack of funds hurt the poorest of the poor, those districts that could not pick up the funding from local monies. Right after this happened, I began offering presentations about how to cope with the lack of databases and how to work to regain them. I also wrote an article for Teacher Librarian about the situation, and gave the short list of states not providing the databases at that time: Colorado, Florida, California, Texas, and Rhode Island. Finally, five years later, it appears Texas students will once again have equal access to the databases, regardless of where they live. I cannot think of a piece of writing that would make me happier to be outdated.

Now, we can sit back and relax! Not really. We need to THANK those representatives who supported the bill. We need to continue to be vigilant in case the databases become threatened again. And, of utmost importance, we must increase awareness of the resources' value, and teach students and colleagues how to use them.

Book Burning...Bad? Good? Mix?

This is an interesting news story about a book store owner in Kansas City, MO, who is burning a sizeable number of books that he cannot even give away. In doing so, he is accomplishing several things:

  • He is decrying the decline of reading in today's media-driven world.
  • He is dramatizing the demise of many independent book stores.
  • He is probably getting rid of some really junky books.
  • He is promoting reading and his own business in a dramatic and attention-getting manner.

As a librarian and lifelong book lover, I do know that all books are not worth saving. No library collection can thrive without weeding. The same is true for a home collection of books. And many books are not worth donating either. You are doing no one a favor if you "contribute" books with biased, inaccurate, or dated information. I have a copy of "Someday You Will Go to the Moon," a relic of my childhood. I also have some other old, outdated, and very politically incorrect books that I keep for the memories. But they are not viable for any other reason. Furthermore, I have no illusions about the two books I have written thus far. One, in particular, should be ready to burn in not so many years. It is Internet and Personal Computing Fads, whose title I never really liked, and whose contents will certainly be hopelessly outdated relatively soon because of rapidly changing technology. I would like to think my second book about cyberethics might have a bit more staying power, but it too has a limited life span.

So what is my opinion of this guy burning a bunch of books? Overall I think it is a cool (hot?) idea! I am assuming he is burning items that have little or no worth. Even a copy of Edith Hamilton is fair game if it is a paperback that falls apart in your hands. He is getting people to think about reading and the value of books, and that is good!

PS To get to the original story, click on the title to this entry. Do visit the website. It is very interesting.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Saturday, May 19 Night Sky: Crescent Moon and Venus

What a magical sight on a wonderful night! My daughter Emily is visiting from Portland, OR, and we went down to Rice Village in Houston, TX for a little shopping and snack. Walking out of Mi Luna tapas restaurant (what a coincidence!) we looked up and saw an amazing sight. It was the bright crescent moon in a dark clear sky, with an amazingly bright heavenly body just off the lower tip. We debated over what it was? Satellite? Star? Planet? and finally decided it had to be a planet, but which one? Today, relaxing on the back porch, I took time to check online. As you might expect, I quickly found my answer: this was an unusual alignment of the moon and Venus. Supposedly you can see a slightly lesser version of this tonight, May 20, and a similar occurrence on June 18. Mark is worth it! AND, for a great website, go to the link above. It was somehow also magical to me to feel a connection with all the people across the country who posted in with comments on what they were doing when they were equally amazed by the sight. We may be different in many ways across this wide country, but we all feel awed by such a beautiful sight. Check the link for all the great comments, and add one if you saw it too!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What kind of librarian critter are you?

I was looking around today for additional writings by Lisa Von Drasek since my students are visiting her as part of our travel study class this coming June. She is, of course, children's librarian at The Bank Street School. This will be my second time to bring a group to the school and what a wonderful place it is! Visiting there is a high point for our trip. Anyway, I came across an article about her in SLJ called "Split Personality."
She describes her personality as "extremely terrier-like." This got me wondering about my dog/librarian personality. I would like to say I am like my best friend Ringo, featured on this page, but that is not true. He is very laid-back, and a master at relaxation, as well as being a hunk of burning love for just about everybody he meets. I must admit that is not exactly me. I suspect my personality is more that of a border collie...prone to worry and more than a little weird at times. I am not as bad as my dear old BC Maxx, who was literally afraid of the sky (there are mockingbirds! and horseflies!! and sweet gum balls that fall from trees!!!), but I am not exactly laid-back either. Anyway, I would love comments from visitors. What kind of dog (or other creature) are you on the job?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


This is the list that Judy Behan tried to share via LM_NET. I don't know about everybody else, but ALL THESE BOOKS sound great to me!

2007 Summer Reading Suggestions for Staff

Mix of Fiction & Non Fiction – NOT in any particular order – sorry – time constraints didn’t allow for Dewey Decimal categorization. ;-)

(Suggested by School Media Specialists on LM_Net)

Some annotations were “copy & pasted” from sources such as Amazon, Titlewave, etc.)

Across a Hundred Mountains

by Reyna Grande
A stunning and poignant story of migration, loss, and discovery as two
women -- one born in Mexico, one in the United States -- find their
lives joined in the most unlikely way.
For more info you can go to

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseini
like The Kite Runner, is set in
Hosseini's native Afghanistan and further reveals his
marvelous gift for storytelling. Propelled by the same narrative
instincts and emotional insights that made The Kite Runner a
beloved classic, it is a heart-wrenching chronicle of forty-five
years of Afghan history, and a deeply moving story of family,
friendship, and love. Hosseini's characters are born
generations apart, with very different experiences of c lass,
culture, love, and family, but as war and history weave their
stories together, their fates become inextricably bound,
redefining the meaning of family. Through these characters,
Hosseini shows how Afghanistan's evolving ideas about
women dramatically change the lives of everyone and
confronts the country's volatile history head-on.

The birth of Venus By Dunant, Sarah.
Summary - From the Inside Flap
Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen [when] her parents arrange her
marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing,
increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the
fundamentalist monk Savonarola.... Alessandra and her native city are
caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and
dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of
Savonarola's reactionary followers. Pl ayed out against this turbulent
backdrop, Alessandra's married life is a misery, except for the
surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to
[a] young painter and his art.

Dream Not of Other Worlds: Teaching in a Segregated Elementary

by Huston Diehl
It is about a northern teacher who went to Virginia to teach
in a segregated school. It is her story of surviving this environment
and what the kids taught her. The author is now a professor at the
University of Iowa.
from amazon "This touching, sometimes heartbreaking account of an earnest white
northerner's encounter with the last days of Jim Crow gives us a
clear-eyed accounting of the price that system exacted and continues to
exact. There are lessons here that both justice and prudence require us
to ponder"-- John Shelton Reed, William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor
Emeritus of Sociol ogy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
"This poignant book is a needed reminder that the days of Jim Crow
and the malignant lie of 'separate but equal' are not that long ago
and that the tragic legacy of that era is unfortunately still with us
;today."-Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of Harlem Children's Zone
and author of Fist Stick Knife Gun and Reaching Up for Manhood:
Transforming the Lives of Boys in America

A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual
by Daniel Pink
Explores how the business world is changing in the twenty-first
century, becoming more "right-brain" based and allowing people more
creative and artistic than earlier generations succeed more than those
with < style="mso-spacerun: yes"> ; left-brain dominance.

Braving Home: Dispatches from the Underwater Town, the Lava-Side Inn,
and other extreme locales
By Jake Halpern
Reporter Jake Halpern chronicles the experiences he had while traveling
throughout America in search of the five most punishing towns in the

A spot of bother by Mark Haddon
(author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time)
Haddon writes a story of a middle aged couple and their two adult
children. The man has found a lesion and has convinced himself he is
dying of cancer. The wife is having an affair with her husband's past
coworker. The son is a gay adult making peace with himself. The
is marrying a man her family thinks is wrong for her. It is a funny,
heartfelt tale that culminates at a wedding!

The new Pearl Harbor: disturbing questions about the
Bush administration and 9/11.

by David Ray Griffin, Prof. CA Claremont School of
Increasing evidence points from purposeful
overlooking to abysmal incompetence to, in a worst
case scenario, complicity at the highest levels of

Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results (Hardcover)
by Stephen C. Lundin (Author), Harry Paul (Author), John Christensen (Author)

This book is a super quick read and you'll find yourself able to not only grasp but also implement the key concepts the very same day in any organisation - if you chose to. This book has been so successful it's spawned a whole series of other similar books - but start with this one. Not only does this book help you to make your work fun, it's a fun read itself.
Excellent book! It was the staff theme one year and it really built the morale at our inner city school.

If you like Fish, then you may want to follow up with these.

Fish Tales (Paperback)
by Stephen C. Lundin (Author), Harry Paul (Author), John Christensen (Author) "

Fish! Sticks (Fish!) (Paperback)
by Steve Lundin (Author), Harry Paul (Author), John Christensen (Author)

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

It's a YA title but I really enjoyed it--stayed up til 3:00 in the morning to finish it--on a school night

When seventeen-year-old Bella leaves Phoenix to live with her father in Forks, Washington, she meets an exquisitely handsome boy at school for whom she feels an overwhelming attraction and who she comes to realize is not wholly human.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wall

Jeannette Wall writes about her childhood, living with her eclectic family, as she writes her story you almost forget that it is a true story of a family. One of the best books I have read in a long time, she had me from the very start.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Margaret Lea, a bookish loner, is summoned to the home of Vida Winter, England's most popular novelist, and commanded to write her biography. Miss Winter has been falsifying her life story and her identity for more than 60 years. Facing imminent death and feeling an unexplainable connection to Margaret, Miss Winter begins to spin a haunting, suspenseful tale of an old English estate, a devastating fire, twin girls, a governess, and a ghost. As Margaret carefully records Vida's tale, she ponders her own family secrets. Her research takes her to the English moors to view a mansion's ruins and discover an unexpected ending to Vida's story. Readers will be mesmerized by this -story-within-a-story tinged with the eeriness of Rebecca and the willfulness of Jane Eyre. The author skillfully keeps the plot moving by unfurling a new twist in each chapter and leaves no strand untucked at the surprising and satisfying conclusion. A wholly original work told in the vein of all the best gothic classics.

A Song I Knew by Heart, by Bret Lott

A modernized version of the Biblical tale of Ruth and Naomi--a young widow joins her mother-in-law as they journey back to her family's home in South Carolina. This is one of the best books I've read in quite awhile. While emotional, it's not overly sentimental, but deals realistically with loss.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon's

It's a noir crime drama set in a fictional Jewish settlement in Alaska. Really great.

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It's an autobiography of a Muslim woman who was elected to the Dutch parliament and renounced her faith.

Some of Tim's Stories, SE Hinton

a short story collection about two adult cousins with hard lives. Like the Outsiders for grownups -- somewhat.

A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier- The City, where the
recently departed reside as long as they are remembered by the living, is
home to Kuka Sims, who prints the City's only newspaper, Coleman Kinzler, a
vagrant who speaks the word of God, and Marion and Philip Byrd, who find
themselves falling in love once again, all of whom are remembered by Laura
Byrd, whose own time is running out.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult - The people of Sterling, New Hampshire,
are forever changed after a shooting at the high school leaves ten people
dead, and the judge presiding over the trial tries to remain unbiased, even
though her daughter witnessed the events and was friends with the assailant.

The Girls by Lori Lansens - A fictional autobiography of c onjoined twins
told by Rose and Ruby Darlen, two young women who, nearing the age of
thirty, are about to bec ome history's oldest surviving twins to be joined at
the head.

Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Death itself narrates this deeply affecting tale of young book lover Liesel, her loving foster parents, and the Jew hiding in their basement. They struggle, with their small, poor community, to endure the double-edged dangers of Nazi Germany. Zusak's poignant tribute to words, survival, and their inevitable entwinement is a tour de force to be not just read but inhabited.

The great deluge --Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley

Historian Brinkley (Tour of Duty, etc.) opens his detailed examination of the awful events that took place on the Gulf Coast late last summer by describing how a New Orleans animal shelter began evacuating its charges at the first notice of the impending storm. The Louisiana SPCA, Brinkley none too coyly points out, was better prepared for Katrina than the city of New Orleans. It's groups like the SPCA, as well as compassionate citizens who used their own resources to help others, whom Brinkley hails as heroes in his heavy, powerful account-and, unsurprisingly, authorities like Mayor Ray Nagin, Gov. Kathleen Blanco and former FEMA director Michael C. Brown whom he lambastes most fiercely.

The Sweet Potato Queens Big Ass Cookbook and Financial Planner by: Jill Conner Browne, or any of the Sweet Potato Queens' books. Jill has creatively learned how to live outrageously with her friends and family. Her books are hilarious and frank. The cookbook has more recipies than the others, and the recipies sound delicious (the few that I've tried taste great too.) They are wild, beloved and all-around fabulous, but with the SPQ's there is never enough good times or good eats. Now, you can always have good eats your ownself, as Jill so aptly describes it.

Now is also the time to read professionally. Try some of Stephen Krashen (particularly if you find yourself fighting the leveled readers issue) and make time to re-read the Jim Trelease Read-Aoud Handbook. The 6th edition came out 2006 and it is more wonderful than ever.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

takes readers to nineteenth-century China to explore a complex friendship between two women.

In the Heart of the Sea - nonfiction story of the whaleship Essex which was an inspiration for Moby Dick.

Evening by Susan Minot; Ann Lord, ill, and only vaguely conscious of what is going on around her, travels back in her mind to the memory of a summer weekend forty years earlier when she fell in love. This was actually published in Œ98 but has beenrevived in pbk. Since movie is coming out in late June.A perfect read for women, especially those in middle age.

Cross by James Patterson

Forensic psychologist and single father Alex Cross decides it is time to finally slow down and spend more time with his family, but he is drawn back into a dangerous investigation when his old friend Detective John Sampson asks for his help in tracking a serial rapist and murderer who may be linked to Alex's wife's death thirteen years earlier.

The JFK Assasination Debates: lone gunman versus conspiracy by Michael L Kurtz

Includes bibliographical references (p. 245-259) and index. Presents an objective accounting of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, examines the physical and forensic evidence and the various areas of controversy, and maintains that those responsible for the investigation failed in their efforts to either prove or disprove a conspiracy theory.

Shadow of the Wind- Carlos Ruiz Zafor

In 1945 Spain, the young son of an antique-book dealer searches for more books by Julian Carax, an author he has recently discovered, and finds that everything Carax has ever written has been destroyed--and that his search has put his friends and family in danger.

Memory Keepers Daughter - Kim Edwards

Dr. David Henry, forced to deliver his own twins during a snowstorm in 1964 with only a nurse to help him, makes a decision that has far-reaching effects on his life, and the lives of his wife and son, when his infant daughter is born with Down Syndrome, and in a vain attempt to protect his wife, he orders the nurse to take the baby to an institution.

The Last Days of Dogtown By Anita Diamant Inspired by the settlement of Dogtown, Diamant reimagines the community ofcastoffs-widows, prostitutes, orphans, African-Americans and ne'er-do-wells-all eking out a harsh living in the barren terrain of Cape Ann. This chronicle of a dwindling community strikes a consistently melancholy tone.

The Captain's Wife By Douglas Kelley This book imagines the real-life voyage of Mary Ann Patten, the woman who in 1856 commanded the clipper ship Neptune's Car as it sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco while her husband, Joshua, was incapacitated by illness(possibly meningitis). This tale rarely wanders far from historical accounts of the real-life heroine, who became something of an icon of the earlywomen's rights movement.

The Widow's War By Sally Gunning Lyddie, the wife of successful whaler Edward Berry, finds her life turned upside down after her husband is lost at sea, forcing her to rebuild her identity and adapt to life as a widow, while struggling to keep her property out of the hands of her closest male relative.

Water for Elephants By Sara Gruen Ninety-year-old Jacob Jankowski finds himself haunted by memories of his past in the circus and the freaks, exotic animals, and other people he encountered as a performer.

The Dress Lodger By Sheri Holman Gustine, a fifteen-year-old prostitute in nineteenth-century England, agrees to procure the dead bodies of victims of the bubonic plague for surgeon Henry Chiver to use in his anatomy school in exchange for his care of her baby boy,who was born with a remarkable anatomical defect, but her loyalty to the doctor is challenged by his growing greed and his obsession with the child

Beautiful Jim Key: the lost history of a horse and a man who changed the world by Mim Eichler Rivas (New York: William Morrow, 2005). A true story about a man at the turn of the century and his educated horse. It is about American culture and what it meant for an ex-slave/self-taught horse whisperer to have a horse that was advertized as being smarter than the average person. It is very good on many, many different levels.

The Professor and the Madman: A tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester (New York: Harper Collins, 1998). A true history about murder, insanity, and the creation of the OED. Very charming and well written.

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi PIcoult A young girl genetically engineered to be a donor match for her cancer-ridden older sister employs a lawyer to emancipate herself from being medically beholden to her family anymore.

Salem Falls – Jodi Picoult - When Jack St. Bride arrives in the small town of Salem Falls, all he wants is to escape his past. He's spent the last eight months in jail, after being falsely accused of having an affair with an underage student at the school where he taught. In Salem Falls, he gets a job as a dishwasher at a local diner and tentatively begins a romance with the diner's owner, Addie, who is still mourning the death of her young daughter, born after Addie was raped in high school by three drunk boys. As she and Jack fall in love, they both see hope for the future. But their newfound love is threatened when the residents of Salem Falls learn of Jack's conviction and begin harassing him. When, predictably, a teenage girl accuses Jack of raping her, he finds himself back in jail, fighting a serious charge and the town's prejudice. Addie wrestles with her doubts and memories of her own rape, but she believes in Jack and goes on a quest of her own to find out the truth about Jack's initial conviction, even as the Salem Falls trial opens

Marley and Me by John Grogan A heartwarming story about a family and their dysfunctional labrador.

Beautiful Jim Key: the lost history of a horse and a man who changed the world by Mim Eichler Rivas (New York: William Morrow, 2005). A true story about a man at the turn of the century and his educated horse. It is about American culture and what

it meant for an ex-slave/self-taught horse whisperer to have a horse that was advertized as being smarter than the average person. It is very good on many, many different levels.

The Professor and the Madman: A tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester (New York: Harper Collins, 1998). A true history about murder, insanity, and the creation of the OED. Very charming andwell written.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Young Adult) After calling the cops on an end-of-summer party, a 9th grade girl is a social pariah when she enters high school, but no one knows what really happened that night.

Luna by Julie Ann Peters (Young Adult )Fifteen year old Regan adores her older brother, but fears that his secret life as a woman will destroy the family.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (Young Adult) Four friends find a pair of jeans that magically fits all their shapes and sizes, and helps them through their troubles.

Inside the Kingdom by Carmen bin Laden This memoir details life as a woman inside Saudi Arabia's bin Laden family.

Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation-John Philip Santos (A
reconstruction of a family history from Mexico to San Antonio, Texas. A
chronicle of Santos' unforgettable family ancestors.)

Year of Wonders-Geraldine Brooks (the unforgettable story of the Plague
in a small English village. The year is 1666. When villagers turn from
prayers to murderous witch-hunting, main character Anna must face family
deaths, the survival of her village, and an illicit love affair.)

The Memoirs of Cleopatra--Margaret George (a must read-definitely my
favorite-but an extensive read-964 pages-the life of Cleopatra and her
ruling family and her illicit love affairs with Julius Caesar and Marc
Antony. Wonderful history of Rome and the lifestyles of the Romans.
Included is the infamous death scene with the asp. Lots of detail about
Roman battles and bat tle tactics. Told in Cleopatra's own voice. Rich
and authentic.

A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveler by Frances Mayes Travelwriter Frances Mayes shares the experiences she has had while exploring Spain, Portugal, France, the British Isles, Italy, and the Mediterranean.

"Heat" by Bill expose' of the culinary and

restaurant world. Much like Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential",

which I loved. Both books would be great if you have foodies in your

book group!

Animal. Vegetable, Miracle: a year of food life

Barbara Kingsolver

The author tells how she and her family relocated to southern Appalachia from Arizona in order to live a simpler life, grow their own food, and live among a community of local organic growers.

Autobiography of a Face

Lucy Grealy

A memoir in which award-winning poet Lucy Grealy recalls her experiences with a potentially terminal cancer that required she have a third of her jaw removed when she was nine years old, and discusses the suffering she endured as she was growing up from classmates, strangers, and other people because of her looks.


Elin Hildebrand

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket. Hilderbrand's saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she's fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie's husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the ado rable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he's believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki's bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.


Malcolm Gladwell

Presents a study of how people think without thinking, looking at the brain processes involved in making snap decisions, discussing why some people seem to have great instincts while others consistently choose unwisely, and examining ways to control the process.

Corpse in the Koryo

James Church

Inspector O, a North Korean state police officer, is given an unusual assignment: go to a certain part of a certain road at dawn and photograph a certain vehicle. Little does he suspect that this seemingly inconsequential task will escalate into a case that will lead him to risk his job, and his life. The (pseudonymous) author, a veteran intelligence officer, has intimate knowledge of Asian life and politics, and it shows: he gives the North Korea setting a feeling of palpable reality, depicting the nature of daily life under a totalitarian government not just with broad sociopolitical descriptions but also with specific everyday details.

Dear John

Nicholas Sparks

John Tyree is on the fast track to nowhere. At 20 he has no real relationship with his strange and dispassionate father, no attachments to anyone else, and no job, so after breaking up with his girlfriend, he decides to join the army. Military life does alter him, yet he remains disconnected. While home visiting his father in Wilmington, North Carolina, however, he meets Savannah Curtis, a college coed who is everything he is not. A warm, morally straight-ahead woman with a commitment to special education, she captures John's heart and he hers. In the short time they spend together, he opens up to Savannah and true love develops as they plan for a future. Then September 11 changes everything. John feels that it is his duty to renew his commitment to the army, while Savannah wants him home with her. The good soldier now lives in dread of receiving a "Dear John" letter.

Eagle Blue: A Team, A Tribe, and a High School Basketball Team in Arctic Alaska

Michael D'Orso

Follows the Fort Yukon Eagles high school basketball team from its 2004 preseason to the 2005 Alaskan state championship, exploring the lives of its players and coach and examining the six-hundred-person village's Gwich'in Athabascan heritage.

Early Bird: An Autobiographical Account of a Premature Retirement

Rodney Rothman

Rodney Rothman recounts the experiences he had after retiring at age twenty-eight and moving in with an elderly piano teacher at a retirement community, describing his struggle for acceptance from the senior citizens in his community and his efforts to the typical activities of retirement

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert recounts the experiences she had on her year-long journey around the world, and shares how her trip helped her deal with her divorce and the depression that threatened to end her career and her happiness.

Three Weeks with My Brother

Nicholas Sparks

Novelist Nicholas Sparks provides an account of his adventures traveling around the world with his brother Micah on the trip of a lifetime, and shares the personal story of their childhood and the family tragedies they have endured, and how those experiences have made them closer.

For one more Day

Mitch Albom

After years of drinking, being rejected by his wife and daughter, and a suicide attempt, ex-baseball star Charley Benetto returns to his childhood home where he encounters the ghost of his mother, who tells him family secrets and guides him in making his life better

God of Animals

Aryn Kyle

Sixth-grader Alice Winston is having a tough year. Her older sister dropped out of high school and ran off to marry a rodeo cowboy. Her father's horse ranch is teetering on the edge of solvency. Her depressed mother won't get out of bed. And her shop partner just drowned in a canal. Unprepared for the increasingly adult role she finds herself playing, Alice starts telling lies, and soon finds herself in a complicated relationship with her alienated English teacher.

I Feel Bad About my Neck And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

Nora Ephron

A collection of essays in which Nora Ephron shares her thoughts on middle-age and being a woman.


Kate Mosse

Two women, separated by eight centuries, become caught up in the same mystery when volunteer archaeologist Alice Tanner, working in a cave near Carcassonne, stumbles upon two skeletons, and a stone ring engraved with a labyrinth which had been entrusted to Alais, the daughter of one of the appointed guardians of the Holy Grail, in 1209 on the eve of the invasion by French Crusaders

Mockingbird: A Biography of Harper Lee

Charles Shields

Chronicles the life of "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee, exploring her personality and discussing such topics as her youth in Alabama; her satirizing of bigotry in campus publications during her college days; her experiences as a struggling writer in New York; the creation of her famous novel; and her contributions to her friend Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," for which she served as a research assistant in Kansas.

Motherless Brooklyn

Jonathan Lethem

Lionel Essrog, a victim of Tourette's syndrome, is rescued from the St. Vincent's Home for Boys, along with three other boys, by local tough guy Frank Minna who molds the group into a fly-by-night detective agency, but when Frank is knifed and tossed in a dumpster, Lionel is forced to become a real detective in order to find the killer.

Odd Thomas

Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas, a short order cook at the Pico Mundo Grill, keeps his ability to speak with ghosts a secret from all but his girlfriend, Stormy, and the local police chief who he occasionally helps solve or prevent crime, but his unusual talent leads him and his fellow citizens into big trouble when a strange man comes to town followed by a horde of borachs--ghostly harbingers of mayhem.

Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood

Jimmy, perhaps the last living human unaltered by science, struggles for survival in a post-apocalyptic world as he tries to make sense of how everything went wrong, mourns the loss of his beloved Oryx, a girl he met through a kiddie porn Web site, and considers the role of his genius friend Crake who had been working on a formula for immortality at the RejoovenEsenseCompound.

Rise and Shine

Anna Quindlen

Meghan Fitzmaurice, host of a top-rated morning television show, finds her perfect life threatened when she makes an on-air comment that has a devastating impact on Meghan, her husband, and Bridget, Meghan's social worker sister.

Saving Fish from Drowning

Amy Tan

When Bibi Chen, the leader of a group of twelve American tourists, mysteriously dies while on an art expedition in the Himalayan foothills of China, the remainder of the group discover that the Burma Road is filled with danger and uncertainty.

Teach like your hair's on fire

Rafe Esquith

Esquith might be the only public school teacher to be honored by both Oprah Winfrey and the Dalai Lama; he is the only school teacher ever to receive the president's National Medal of the Arts. For the past 25 years, Esquith has taught fifth graders at Hobart Elementary in central Los Angeles. Like most progressive educators, Esquith is outraged by the tyranny of testing, the scripting of teaching under "No Child Left Behind" and the overwhelming bureaucratization of the education industry. Still, he's done wonders with the basic curriculum developing a hands-on arts program, a money-management curriculum and a sports-based statistics unit. Esquith and his Hobart Shakespeareans are world famous for the rock opera they create every year. Throughout each school day, Esquith teaches life skills: how to think about problems, how to plan a strategy to solve them and, most important, how to work together and be nice to each other. While his goals are inspiring, he's also practical most chapters include affordable, how-to directions for a variety of his most effective classroom activities; he's even got a few tips for revamping those inescapable "test prep" sessions.

The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca

Tahir Shah

Afghan writer Shah uproots his family from the comforts of London and moves to Casablanca. There he purchases not just any house but the abandoned residence of the caliph. Undeterred by suicide bombers, jinns, and innumerable job applicants, Shah installs his family in the decrepit house and begins to restore its walls, its gardens, and its fountains. Reconstructing the house immerses Shah in Moroccan everyday life. He has to deal with plagues of rats, swarms of bees, and the ever-threatening prospect of organized crime. Shah's picture of Moroccan society, its deeply held Islamic faith, its primitive superstition, and its raucous economy makes for endlessly fascinating reading. Particularly telling is his encounter with the realities of Ramadan, which seems to bring out both the best and worst in people's characte rs

The Dive From Claussen's Pier

Ann Packer

Twenty-three-year-old Carrie Bell, engaged to her high school sweetheart, is ready to make a break from a life that has become suffocating in its sameness, but her decision is complicated when her fiancee is paralyzed in a diving accident and everyone expects her to stay and care for him.

The Innocent Man

John Grisham

Presents a comprehensive study of the controversial murder trial involving baseball player Ron Williamson.

his first non-fiction work which I believe is better than his fiction.

The Lies of Locke Lamora Scott Lynch

Abandoned as an infant, the boy known as Locke Lamora grows up to become one of his city's most famous (or infamous) con artists, yet his good nature has made him a folk hero. Leading his own band of men, Locke falls into the center of a conspiracy that threatens those he holds dear.

The Memory of Running

Ron McLarty

The pain of the loser permeates actor/playwright McLarty's first novel, part road story, part tragedy. Smithson Ide is 43, but he's also 279 pounds, having survived for 20 years on beer and pretzels. He once weighed 121, running or biking everywhere. But now (it's 1990) he's a couch potato, single, living in a small Rhode Island town, working in a toy factory. As the story opens, his parents are killed in a car accident. They'd been a close-knit family, and he hates it that he's drunk at the wake, drunk at the funeral. Then he learns that his older sister Bethany is in a Los Angeles morgue, and the shock impels Smithy to heave his fat self onto his childhood bike. His aimless start turns into a cross-country ride, and chapters alternate between his adventures on the road and Bethany's sad history. Somewhere in her teens, she slipped into madness, posing stock-still for hours on end, or raking her skin, or speaking in a vile croak as if possessed by an alien spirit. Sometimes she'd just disappear. There were shrinks and hospital stays, and she recovered enough to date and marry, only to disappear for good on the honeymoon. Smithy has his own problems. He hates to touch or be touched. His only sex has been with ten-dollar whores in Vietnam, where he was badly wounded. Nam and Bethany were too much for him, and the beanpole became a porker filled with self-loathing. The long ride west is good for him, despite bizarre and improbable encounters (a dying AIDS patient, a gun -toting black man). Smithy stops drinking, loses 50 pounds, and is sustained by long-distance conversations with Norma, a wheelchair-bound former neighbor, every bit as lonely as Smithy. The two lost souls will come together in the Los Angeles morgue.

The Road

Cormac McCarthy

Winner of the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses) here offers a prescient account of a man and his son trying to survive in a devastated country where food is scarce and everyone has become a scavenger. The term survival of the fittest rings true here-very few people remain, and friends are extinct. Essentially, this is a story about nature vs. nurture, commitment and promises, and though there aren't many characters, there is abundant life in the prose. We are reminded how McCarthy has mastered the world outside of our domestic and social circles, with each description reading as if he had pulled a scene from the landscape and pasted it in the book. He uses metaphors the way some writers use punctuation, sprinkling them about with an artist's eye, showing us that literature from the heart still exists

The Stone Diaries

Carol Shields

After a youth marked by sudden death and loss, Daisy escapes into conventionality as a middle-class wife and mother. Years later she becomes a successful garden columnist and experiences the kind of awakening that thousands of her contemporaries in mid-century yearned for but missed in alcoholism, marital infidelity and bridge clubs. The events of Daisy's life, however, are less compelling than her rich, vividly described inner life--from her memories of her adoptive mother to her awareness of impending death

The Traveler

John Twelve Hawks

Three secret societies, the Travelers, the Harlequins, and the Tabula, head for a showdown when the mercenary Tabula who want to control the world, target Gabriel and Michael Corrigan who may have inherited their Traveler father's gifts as a prophet of wisdom, forcing Maya, a reluctant Harlequin, to take up her duties as sworn protector to the brothers.

The World Made Straight

Ron Rash

High-schooler Travis Shelton steals one too many marijuana plants from vicious tobacco-farmer-turned-drug-dealer Carlton Toomey and ends up caught in a bear trap, his foot so mangled he needs surgery. Travis'stern father kicks him out, and he ends up bunking at the rundown trailer of bookish Leonard Shuler, a low-level drug dealer and former schoolteacher who lost his job and his family because of false charges. Leonard sees in Travis something of himself in his youth, when he used his intelligence to outrun the fate that lies in store for so many of the region's poverty-stricken residents. He bonds with the boy over their shared fascination with a local Civil War incident, a massacre that divided the town. Just as Leonard starts to get his own life in order and talks Travis into making plans for college, he becomes enmeshed in a confrontation with Toomey

Tipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell

Explains why major changes in society often happen suddenly and unexpectedly and describes the personality types who are natural originators of new ideas and trends.

Tortilla Curtain

T. C. Boyle

Tells the explosive story of yuppies, Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher, a stay-at-home dad and his real-estate whiz wife, and their clash with Candido and America Rincon, illegal aliens who have crossed into California from Mexico and are living in a camp awaiting the birth of their baby.

Washington's Crossing

David Hackett Fischer

Chronicles the events of December 25, 1776 through January 3, 1777, when George Washington led American troops across the Delaware River and launched an attack on the British Army that marked a turning point in the battle for independence.

The whistling season

Ivan Doig

Oliver Milliron answers an ad for a housekeeper named Rose from Minneapolis, who arrives with her unconventional brother, Morrie, in tow.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A little more about Bullying

My dad has been reading Nineteen Minutes. I passed the book over to him a couple of weeks ago with some reluctance. He is always interested in what I am reading, and we usually share our choices. But I did not know if he would relate to this story, at the age of 95, or whether I wanted to weigh him down with it either. I told him to read the jacket and decide if this was something he wanted to read or not. He was hooked in minutes. He just finished it, and marveled at how Jodi Picoult could have such insight into all the players in the drama. I assured him that she had surely done her homework as far as researching the topic and that her description of a modern high school rang true. I asked him if he remembered bullying from his own school days, expecting to hear a negative response. On the contrary, he did specifically remember two boys that were targeted in his school days. As is often the case today, nothing was really done by teachers or administrators at his small town Texas schools to remedy the situations. Years later, one of these two boys, all grown up, took his own life. Bullying has been around for a very long time.

Mother's Day can be a Lonely Day

On this Mother’s Day, I know I am far from the only mother who is missing her child. In my case, the wish that we could be together is just a tinge, because I know my only daughter is well and happy if a couple thousand miles from the Texas Hill Country where I am visiting my dad. I just talked to her as she relaxed in her back yard in Portland, Oregon. Even better, she will be down for a visit in a week! The moms I think of the most today are those with children far away, whose absences are the source of sadness, worry, and those even permanent loss. In particular I think of all the mother of men and women around the world, serving our country. On this day the sacrifices of mothers, children, and all family members who are apart because of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are all the more poignant. I also think of mothers of children lost too soon, and of others whose children are estranged or having trouble finding their ways in this difficult world. This seems like an especially good day to recommend a place for any mothers with children no longer safely under watchful eyes at home. is a site I found after my daughter moved away when I did a search for “empty nest” and “mother,” over six years ago. I must admit that, while she had been in college for the previous five years, I had not really felt her absence too strongly because I always knew I would be seeing her soon, and could be there for her in a short time if we needed each other. But the move to Oregon was a challenge. Two time zones away! It seemed so distant and unfamiliar, and she had gone there on as song and a prayer, literally. An aspiring singer/songwriter, she decided after college graduation to go there for the music scene and promise of a fun place to live. Six years later she is happily ensconced, with the proverbial day job, two CD’s, frequent gigs, and two cross country tours behind her. I am enjoying the fact that when I visit her, we are in one of the most beautiful places one could imagine, less than two hours from the coast in one direction and from the Columbia River Gorge in the other.

But making the adjustment was not easy. We drove out together with a U-Haul full of treasures and guitars, gaping out the window at places unfamiliar and exciting. When it came time for me to fly home, I had to face the fact that she was largely alone and very much on her own. The friends she was hooking up with were little more than acquaintances. Would they worry about her like I would if she did not come home at night? Unlikely. In fact, assuredly not. So I went home and worried all the time. This was the me who Googled for empty nest and mother on a lonely night and found a very supportive community of folks who understood exactly what I was feeling, the mothers of Tentatively I ventured forth with an introduction. Pretty soon I was a daily visitor and the group was an important part of my life. As time went by, I became more used to life far away from Emily and established a new routine that did not revolve around her. EmptyNestMoms helped me in this process

Then, about a year later, Emily announced her plans for a coast to coast tour, and my worries rose again. Just how safe was it for three girls in an old Ford Econoline, even if their fourth passenger was a protective Labrador retriever, to drive from Portland, Oregon to New York City and back? Once again I turned to EmptyNestMoms. The daily entries I made there helped ease my uncertainty about the journey of my adventurous daughter and friends. Things reached a critical point, though when (rather predictably), they broke down in Knoxville, TN. Emily called me with the dire news and I turned to the website for advice about auto repair shops and a decent place to stay. Incredibly, one member lived across the freeway from the shop where the kids’ van had been towed. We exchanged phone numbers and I called her to learn that she could look across and see them all sitting on the curb and looking forlorn. By now there were three girls, one guy, and, of course, the dog. This saintly woman offered, no insisted, on taking in the kids! For a long four days she housed and fed them, putting them up in her own flown-away children’s rooms. There were simply no words nor gifts to convey the depths of my gratitude, but somehow I think she knew. Moms are like that.

I have lost track of this wonderful friend, the trip is a distant memory to my daring daughter, and I have continued to improve in the department of letting my fledgling go. But I still like to remember the incredible kindness of this wonderful mom who did for my kid what she would want someone else to do for hers. People who say that the Internet isolates people and breaks down communication are wrong. That may happen for some who are inclined to withdraw anyway, but for me and many others, the Internet has led to wonderful and rewarding new friends.

Finally, a bit about this website:

I am no longer a regular there, but just paid a visit. I noticed the same familiar graphics and heading, but many new and inviting features. These include a regular magazine, opportunities for face to face gatherings, travel advice, publications by members, and many other offerings. There are separate forums for mother whose children are off to college, for those who are newlyweds, and for military moms. There are even forums for dads. If you are missing your almost grown/grown child, or know someone who is going through this unique transition, take a look at this special caring Internet community.

And I cannot conclude without plugging my talented daughter. Her two albums have had many great reviews, she recently completed a second coast to coast tour, on which I joined her for one portion of the trip, and she is busy with future plans. She has a song that has been in the Top Ten on Neil Young’s Living With War Today website for over seven months. Go to

Look for her song, “Has Country Gone to Hell,” by Emily Herring. There are over 1700 anti-war songs on this site, and competition for the top spots is keen. She can also be found at:

And by the way, if you click on her song from the Neil Young site, it counts as a vote for her song. That is what keeps her in the top ten!

In conclusion I would like to thank and remember again all military mothers. My daughter and I join the rest of our immediate family in deploring this misguided war. But we all honor and respect the brave men and women who serve, and their families who pray for safe returns.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Shame on Patricia Cornwall and other tacky peers

I just responded to a post to LM_NET in which a writer was asking if product placement is now finding its greedy way into novels as well as tv shows, movies, etc. The answer is YES and it seems a number of authors of current fiction are picking up a little extra on the side. I Googled for product placement and novels and got a number of hits including this article:
I understand that an author may put some product details in a book for time/setting/authenticity but c'mon people, we know what is gratuitous.

Sheesh! It upset me so much I had to get a Kleenex to wipe away my tears and grab a few swigs of Diet Coke to get the strength to write this! I may need some Ambien to sleep tonight!

Seriously, the worst epithet my mother could hurl was: THAT'S JUST TACKY. And this, friends, is very, very tacky.

Shamed by my slow postings...

I did post in once last week, but I am not keeping up the pace I would really like. Right now I have been grading, grading papers and projects as my students near the end of term. But I had such big plans! I am going to try for numerous very short postings instead of putting off until I have time to do something longer, or at least in addition to longer posts. My inspiration for this is a wonderful librarian whose blog I just learned about from a student who followed it for an assignment...Donnell (NYC) Library's Children's Librarian blog fusenumber8. As my student pointed out SHE posts nearly EVERY DAY. I went over there and sure enough it is true, and brings shame on my paltry efforts. If you want to check a really super blog, go here:

AND I will try to do better. Hey! I already posted twice today!

Wow! Letter to Editor!

I just got a call that a letter I sent to the Editor at the Houston Chronicle will be in tomorrow's paper. Yep, it is political and I must admit, a bit sarcastic. I am surprised they are posting this one but it will be fun! I do get letters in from time to time. I think this is the first one I have even sent this year, and know it is the first to be accepted. Oddly it seems that the ones I labor over the most are the ones that get rejected. Often when I dash something off it seems to meet their approval! Go figure. Since it is a bit more political than I want to be in this forum I am not going to post the text here. Of course it will be online tomorrow at

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Is America the New Rome?

I remember reading The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire back in college when I was a history minor. I remember class discussion then about whether America was headed down the same path in terms of eventual decline. This topic resurfaced, as it frequently does, in today's LM_NET discussion. However, the thread was ended before it could be discussed. I contacted Edward Nizalowski, the original poster, and he gave me permission to share his query here and give space here for people to respond. Here is his submission:

"I have seen a variety of opinions expressed over the years comparing
American society and culture to that of the Romans. One of the most
pertinent questions involves whether we will repeat the "decline and
fall" part. I certainly see ourselves in decline, but I'm not ready to
bet money that will be falling apart in the near or distant future.

Cullen Murphy, author of Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and
the Fate of America was interviewed in the latest issue of U. S. News
and World Report (May 7th). This exchange was especially perceptive:

You say there was an almost fatal parochialism among the Romans. Are we
in danger of duplicating it?

"I was looking the other day at one of the new Pew Center polls about
'what Americans know.' Americans in general aren't that interested in,
or aware of, the outside world, and increasingly even our elites don't
seem to put much stock in that kind of knowledge either. We don't have
[enough] Arabic speakers; the number of foreign correspondents continues
to shrink. Compared with the Greeks, the Romans were not passionately
interested in the outside world. And they were often taken by surprise.
The great disaster suffered by Varus in Germany in A. D. 9, when three
entire Roman legions were annihilated, stemmed partly from ignorance
about the tribes they were up against." "

Please feel free to share your comments.

School Violence and Bullying

On Monday, April 16, I borrowed a book from a colleague...19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult. I also borrowed an audiobook from another--London Calling by Edward Bloor. That evening I came home and turned on TV to the news of the Virginia Tech shooting. It seemed incredibly ironic to me that I had just been loaned a book about a school shooting, and the recent events were certainly on my mind as I read. Further, listening to London Calling concurrently with reading Picoult's book made me think a great deal about bullies and their victims. Why did the boy in London Calling move out of his depression while Peter in 19 Minutes took tragic action? How can parents help students who are bullied? Actually, if nurturing, caring parents could forestall such a desperate act, then Peter would have had a better chance than Martin. What should teachers and librarians do in response to the school bullying we all have seen? more question, is bullying worse than it was in years past? Frankly, I can remember incidents from my growing-up years that were quite cruel and doubtless very hurtful to the kids who were targeted. When I was in school I was not bullied, but saw it occur as a bystander and as one of those kids who are afraid to speak up for fear of becoming a victim. As a young teacher and later as a school librarian, I did not know how to respond other than make sure the behavior was not allowed in my presence. What can be done to promote healthier climates in schools?