Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fame Junkies (copy)

While attending school in the early years of 2000, I frequently lunched with a vivacious group of would-be librarians. Our conversations would evolve around school, grades, families, and celebrities. The celebrity talk came mostly from a twenty-something who brought her People or Entertainment Weekly to lunch.

At first I considered the celebrity talk a little odd. Here we were, soon to be professional information retrievers, and we were discussing the worst dressed at the academy awards. Instead of discussing metadata retrieval or authoritative websites, we were wondering who Nicole Kidman was dating. How odd right?

Not really. Between 2000 and 2005, circulation of major news magazines such as Time and Newsweek only increased by 2%. Celebrity magazines enjoyed a boom as sales increased 18.7%, according to Ruth McFarland of Bacon Information.

Another interesting poll, conducted jointly by Boston and Babson Colleges, asked 653 Rochester, New York, middle school students out of a list of famous people who would they most like to have dinner with. George W. Bush and Albert Einstein received 2.7 and 3.7 percent respectfully, yet Paris Hilton and 50 Cent placed third at 15.8% each. The second place winner was Jesus Christ at 16.8%, and the first place winner was Jennifer Lopez at 17.4 percent.

Within the same poll, students were asked which jobs they would prefer out of five choices. In fifth and fourth place, below 10%, were CEOs of a major company “like General Motors” and “a Navy Seal.” Only 13.6% chose to be “a United States Senator,” and 23.7 % opted for “the president of a great university like Harvard or Yale.” At 43.4 percent and in first place, students ecstatically choose to be “the personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star.” Not a famous person, mind you, but a lowly assistant!

All these fascinating statistics are compiled in Jake Halpern’s Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths behind America’s Favorite Addiction. This book, utterly enthralling, provides the psychological reasoning for our obsession with Anna Nicole Smith and Paris Hilton.

Halpern actually has an answer to the age-old question, “What price is fame?”

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Warm Springs (copy)

We saw the billboards as we entered the state of Georgia. The signs, whetting our appetites as we neared, featured a beautiful white house with Greek columns. The slogan may have read, “Come See FDR’s Little White House.” I’m not quite sure since I was seven years old at the time, and heading to a family vacation at Callaway Gardens, Georgia.

Brother and I understandably discarded our connect-the-dots game, as I envisioned red carpets, and he pictured huge body guards. Three billboards later, we began to beg and plea for the excursion as we neared Atlanta. Just on the other side of the city, where skyscrapers had distracted our thoughts, we caught another billboard, and our parents sighed.

We were practically standing in our seats as we pulled into the “Little White House” parking lot. We bounded to the gate, but were dismayed as the parents caught sight of the prices and herded us back to the car. Tickets were too high, we were told. Fortunately, our father caved after seeing our long faces, and we headed back to the house.

After the grand tour our dad was eager to hear if all the fuss was worth it. He asked my nine-year-old brother what he thought of the excursion. To all of our surprises he exclaimed, “Little White Rip-Off!”

I remembered this family joke during the reading of Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR’s Polio Haven by Susan Richards Shreve. In Shreve’s memoir she retraced her two years spent at Franklin Roosevelt’s polio retreat, Warm Springs, in 1952.

Upon entering the polio restoration facility, the doctors met with new patients to determine if any “traces” were left in his/her muscles. With traces came hope, for the doctors could operate and move muscles with traces to ones that no longer had capabilities. These operations were done in prepubescent children before bones and muscles had a chance to finally develop.

Author Shreve was a determined little girl. She contracted the virus before she was one year old and able to walk, unlike most of the children in the hospital who contracted the disease later in life. Her whole eleven-year-old outlook remained positive as she pictured herself walking away from the facility totally cured.

This memoir is an eye opener to the mysteries surrounding polio patients and their struggles. I’m sure if one takes the time to read this engrossing book full of history, humor, and honesty, they will not feel “ripped-off.”
Note: Warm Springs, Georgia Number 4 Armchair Travelers Reading Challenge

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Please Leave a Comment!

Oh, no! I changed my template and lost all my links! If you read this blog please leave a comment so I can place you back on my link list.

I'm so sorry!

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sixth Sentence 161 meme

Ah, I’ve been tagged for the 161 meme by Lori of Smokey Mountain Family History.

To play, open the book you are currently reading, and turn to page 161. Type the sixth sentence from the top of the page.

I’m currently reading Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven by Susan Richards Shreve. It is a memoir of Miss. Richards’ time spent in Warm Springs, Georgia, undergoing treatments for her polio in 1952. In the paragraph before the optimistic thought which follows, she is about to have another surgery to add muscles to her afflicted leg. In the Girl’s Ward the beds are situated with the latest entry into the ward at one end facing the next for surgery on the opposite side, across from her. As one goes into surgery the beds are moved down and around until they face their turn at the end of the rectangle room, hence, “Tomorrow could always be a social improvement on today.” p161

Other passages from the book I have enjoyed…

“I liked the idea of God, not an angry God or even a benevolent one, but a God like the wind, with sufficient force to lift a small girl into the air until she was weightless.” p60

“A reason, maybe the real reason, I never made an effort to be in touch with these people, who were so central to me for an important period of my growing up, is part of the reason I wanted to write this book in the first place. Not so much to discover anyone I’d lost, but to understand why I had wanted to lose them.” p64

Speaking of her parents, “I knew above all that I wanted their admiration, and that seemed difficult to earn as a sick child with a reputation for causing trouble.” p66

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Students...

...Keep Getting Younger!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Boy Who was Raised by Librarians (copy)

According to the landmark Perry Study released in 2004, sponsored by High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, children read to before they enter kindergarten will make more money, retain their jobs, and commit less crime than their peers who were unread to.

The study, began in 1962 by the late David P. Weikart, followed 123 African-American toddlers of low income in the Ypsilanti, Michigan, area for four decades. They were broken into two groups, one group of 58 were given one-on-one reading time with trained caregivers, while the other group was simply observed. The staff tested their abilities every year from age 3 to 11, and subsequently at ages 14, 15, 19, 27, and 40.

From my librarian point of view, it excites me to learn those who were nurtured by books made $50,000 more over their 40-year lifespan than the unread-to toddlers. Just think of the possibility, folks!

Imagine my surprise when a fellow librarian handed me The Boy Who was Raised by Librarians by Carla Morris and illustrated by Brad Sneed. This delightful picture book is aimed at children who can sit still and listen to a story, for it’s a story of possibility.

Little Melvin, our hero, lives at the Livingston Public Library. Well, not really, but it feels like it because he spends “lots and lots of time there.” At this particular library there are three friendly and well-read librarians, the same as one would find at any local public library.

As a modern day librarian, I’m thrilled these three drawn librarians are a little hipper. It is a real problem in our profession, as we want to be taken seriously, but the dang bun, cat-eyed glasses, and finger poised at the lips is what people tend to visualize.

I digress. Melvin likes these librarians and on his quest for knowledge he knows they are ready, willing, and able to help him in his many pursuits. As he grows older, we see him progress through seventh grade, the librarians really get a chance to strut their stuff by filing his baseball card collection, naming and organizing his bug collection, and finding his inner eggplant for the school play.

Every year a child like Melvin enters a local public library and begins his/her path to learning. As librarians, parents, and adults let us be ready to show them the world of possibilities.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Keeping It Simple!

cash advance

Man, I need to use more big huge enormous gargantuan mammoth colossal words!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Norman Mailer (1923-2007)

Illustration by Alan Dingman.
"Bout time I read The Executioner's Song.

Fred Yunioshi

Hope he doesn't look like this!?!
My Friend Tiffany thinks her dog, Fred,
looks like Mr. Yunioshi when she accidentally
locks him in a room!
Too funny!
Thanks for the laugh, Tiff!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Vince Profett (copy)

Guess what, readers? In my spare time I like to read books and write book reviews. “Naw,” you say, shaking your head, “Say it isn’t so.” I know, hard to believe, but I’m being serious. The weekly articles I write are what we in the library biz like to call booktalks not reviews.

Booktalks shy away from being overly critical of a book or trying to match the author’s style. In a booktalk the presenter has the option of retelling a story or acting out a certain character’s personae. They may skip over plot and dance around characterization in order to provide an entertaining view of a book or group of books.

All this to say, I was handed a paperback last winter to review for the Mississippi Libraries; a journal published quarterly by the Mississippi Library Association. The paperback was written by Mississippi family man R. Tyler Scott. His biography says he was born in 1968, and reborn in 1975. This Mississippi based Christian series stars preteen, Vince Profett, and is aimed for Harry Potter readers.

This is a fast paced superhero fantasy, with Vince finding his power from above. I was handed Vince Profett and the Dead Man’s Bones to review and the following is my brief summary.

Vince Profett is an ordinary, almost-12-year-old Mississippi kid. Well, except for the summer he spends in the Middle East accompanying his BBC-reporter dad and archeologist-enthusiast mother. It is a little, white rabbit that changes everything in Vince’s life. He spies the creature as his mother finds a piece of pottery, and instead of joining the celebration, he follows the rabbit - an unusual rabbit which turns around to wink at him.

Once out of site of the camp, Vince falls through a hole in the desert floor and comes face to face with the rabbit, which morphs into Gabriel, one of God’s messenger angels. Gabriel asks the soon-to-be hero if he is “saved” although he knows the answer, having watched Vince’s baptism from afar. It is only through Vince’s Christianity that Gabriel extends an incredible offer: to touch Elisha’s bones and have the powers of all God’s disciples in the Bible.

Back in Mississippi, Vince is unsure he even possesses powers. His uneventful summer, except for being passed for the All-Stars baseball league and meeting his angel-designated mentor Sam Lofton, is void of his special blue light That is until evil sets out to destroy the Profett family and all future good deeds from Vince.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

"Como Blues" Article Rejected

The previous post, "Como Reading Blues" was rejected by the PR department for my weekly column. Rightly, so I must add. It better serves as a letter to the editor as was pointed out to me. Northwest, the institution where I work, remains uncommitted to political views. Within the article, I proudly placed its name which could be interpreted as consenting to my point.

My point with the article is this, I blame no one or nothing. I think it is a mixture, mash-up if you like new fangled words, of a little bit of everything. Something that cannot be fixed overnight, and I feel plain guilty. Why didn't I do more while I was where I was...

My answer, as if reading fixes all, is to start reading to your kid(s). The sooner the better!

Como Reading Blues (copy)

Sorry readers, I didn’t read anything this week. I had good intentions, but things I grabbed didn’t grab me. It is sad when a librarian, with access to a whole building full of books, cannot find a single one to read. Please forgive me.

It could be that I’m a little low over recent news. Como, Mississippi, my current home and where I worked as a public librarian before moving to Northwest, is experiencing a crisis. Two weeks ago, Washington Post featured Peter Whoriskey’s article “By the Mississippi Delta: A Whole School Left Behind” and it isn’t pretty.

Como Elementary according to Whoriskey, “is at the bottom of the heap.” The school ranks as the lowest scoring elementary school in math and reading in the state of Mississippi and the nation.

This news hit me hard. This is my community, these are my people. What is wrong?

The past two weeks I’ve heard all sorts of reasons “why” from friends and neighbors in town, but also from the nation through my blog. Apparently, we need more money, better teachers, better books, more parental involvement, etc. to improve. Bah!

What we need are motivated kids. Poverty is no excuse! Those kids get a free meal in the morning and for lunch. The teacher to student ratio is as low at 14, and, just who is to say these teachers are “bad”? I can personally name four past teachers who graduated from Ole Miss and got their start in Como Elementary. As for the books, I got three grants for the school while working as the public library. These grants bought books and only books. Also, in their fine library, ran by an excellent librarian, they continue to receive new books from the Barksdale grant.

Ah, let’s blame it on the parents, working eight hours a day to clothe, feed, and raise their own. Better yet, let’s just say Granny or Auntie aren’t pulling their weight. Bah!

I’m not sure where I saw this, and I was unable to verify this information before deadline, but I heard a man on the television state, “For every year you read to your child it adds $50,000 to their income as an adult.” If that doesn’t motivate a mother to pile the kids in the car and head to the nearest library, nothing will.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Wake for RIP II

Thanks Carl V from Stainless Steel Droppings. I didn't finish but enjoyed all I read. I look forward to next year's RIP III! I read:
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
Death Makes a Holiday by David J. Skal
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Review Published!

So excited! Another review published in Fall 2007 Mississippi Libraries!
It's a quirky new Christian series for tweens and teens.
Look for Vince Profett and the Dead Man's Bones by Tyler Scott
on page 79, and I wish Mr. Scott success with the Profett Series.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cormac (copy)

Most self-help books on marriage suggest you try raising animals before having that first child. Our first year of marriage, we decided to do just that and found two kennel cuties. We both had pets before as children, but they were more of a shared affair. In code that means the parents fed, bathed, and took cuties to the veterinarian. We basked in the ownership without the maintenance.

Owning and allowing a pet to come into your home has its rewards. They become part of the family, and one can get extremely attached. Remember the Peanuts cartoon book, Happiness is a Warm Puppy? Well, I think that applies to all pets, um, maybe even snakes?!?

In the course of ownership, one can count on a certainty; the beloved pet will go missing. It’s a sinking feeling to stand on the back porch and call a name with no response. To look in the backyard and not see Spot, but find a freshly dug escape route is unsettling. This is the premise of Sonny Brewer’s new book Cormac: The Tale of a Dog Gone Missing.

Author Brewer begins his story reflecting on his first pet, Rex. It is a sad tale and would discourage anyone from owning a pet, for Rex gets sick and his father must put him down. Why does he choose this story? Is he preparing us for further hardships within the next pages?

His next tale is a little less bleak. It involves a very bad Jack Russell named Zebbie. This little guy is more trouble than he is worth, with jumping out of moving vehicles and chewing on hundred-year-old books. Zebbie is pure hazard in Brewer’s Over the Transom bookstore, and he needs to go.

After Zebbie waters the lower book shelf, Brewer prepares the family for a frank dissuasion. Upon hearing little Zeb has been given to another family, his own family seems unaffected. Apparently, the Zebmeister has been a bad dog to them all. The next dog, they all agree, will have to complement their family.
Enter Cormac and his red, Golden Retriever, good looks. As Brewer and his family interact with the dogs for sale, it is obvious Cormac has found his master. As the others play, Cormac walks in the shadow of Brewer waiting for affection from above. The seller points this out to Brewer and the family agrees this redhead is the one.

Akin to Marley and Me, this true story offers the reader who loves dogs a happy ending.