Information, Answers & Reviews

Helen Keller in Love

ISBN: 
9780670023493

Just after college I worked as a social worker at an agency for the blind in New Orleans. I remember one client particularly well. He was totally blind and deaf--an older fellow who spoke in a modified sign language and by spelling letters lightning-fast into your palm. Pat, who had worked there for years, was his favorite person to communicate with, but when she was gone, he'd come to me. Occasionally, while biking home from work, I'd see him from a distance crossing four lanes of traffic on St. Charles Ave.--usually against the light--his white cane held like a sword before him. He was always too far away for me to help, but my stomach would clench, and I'd hope that he'd make it across safely another time.

Reading Helen Keller in Love gave me a fresh awareness of what blind people endure especially the deaf and blind. When I was young, The Miracle Worker played in movie theaters (with Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft) and this movie painted Helen in saint-like tones. How refreshing and humanizing is this biographical novel. In her first novel, Rose Read more »

Dreams of Significant Girls - Not Building Romans

ImageEvery reader knows that once in a while, you come across a strange word, often from another language. This word may take hold of your imagination because it looks or sounds so weird, or you might be exposed to it over years and years in the most disconnected contexts, until you just have to look it up. Such is the word Bildungsroman. Read more »

Raccoon Nation

ISBN: 
9781608836291

Raccoons are smart. If you've ever had to deal with them then you'll probably agree that they are some of the smartest creatures on Earth. In 2011, PBS did a one-hour documentary on raccoons and their nocturnal behavior. The raccoons were tagged with GPS collars and studied for three months. The information gleaned from the researchers begged the question, "Are humans making raccoons smarter?" It seem as though every attempt to keep them out of our trash bins present them with a new and interesting puzzle to solve which in turn creates smarter raccoons that survive and pass on their genes. It sounds like a ridiculous theory but take look at the documentary before you make any judgments. The library owns one copy at the main branch.

Flash of Genius

Flash of Genius DVD CoverI lie back on my bed while listening to Janis Joplin's album Pearl. It contains one of many versions of the song "Me and Bobby Magee" that I've heard over the years. Janis is my favorite. I love how her grating bluesy voice sounds on this song, more than any other song she has recorded. As she sings the lines, "Windshield wipers slapping time, I's holding Bobby's hand in mine and we sang every song that driver knew," Read more »

Civil War "Rock Star" Ed Bearss Speaks on the 27th Indiana and the Battle of Antietam

 
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AP Photo/The Billings Gazette, David Grubbs
 
Civil War expert and popular battlefield tour guide Ed Bearss will talk about the Hoosier Soldiers who fought in the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. Bearss provided commentary for Ken Burns' PBS series, The Civil War, and has served as Chief Historian for the National Park Service. Presented in partnership with the Monroe County Civil War Roundtable; part of the David Wiley Lecture Series.

According to Adam Goodheart of the Smithsonian Magazine, Bearss is "nothing short of a rock star" in Civil War circles.

Don't miss this wonderful opportunity! Event is Tuesday, September 11th at 7pm in the Main Library's auditorium. Drop in.

 

The Sisters Brothers: A Most (Un)usual Western?

SistersBrothersI've worked in libraries for years including a few in Texas, so it is a wonder that I've never read a western.  Part of the problem then with reading your first book in a genre is that you lack the language to properly describe it or make comparisons.  Now I wonder if I shall ever read another for the fear that the next one won't hold up to The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt.

It is the gold rush years and the infamous Charlie and Eli Sisters are riding from Oregon City to San Francisco on orders from the Commodore to kill Hermann Kermit Warm.  There is trouble with horses, whores, a red bear pelt, excessive brandy drinking, a man named Mayfield, a witch and a mysterious magical formula. Large sums of money come and go. The characters are unique, but without a lot of overall development.  Is this usual for a western? Is the level of violence similar to other westerns?  Is this a parody of the genre, a homage or both?

Read more »

Supercar

SupercarIt's 1961 and I'm six years old. I've rushed home from school to plant myself firmly in front of the TV to watch a puppet show. But not just any puppet show. This was Supercar; real science fiction. Never mind that the puppets, Marionettes really, were a little jerky and you could see the strings. I didn't really care about the story. I wanted to own Supercar and to fly it. Supercar was Gerry Anderson's first science fiction series filmed in Supermarionation; a fancy name for a show done with puppets. Supercar wasn't a car at all, but what we would today call a vertical landing and takeoff craft able to fly, go into space and undersea; there was not a single wheel on it. Supercar was a beauty to behold. Even today I still would love to own it. It's my dream car second only to the 1960's Batmobile. Read more »

Against Wind & Tide: Letters and Journals

ISBN: 
9780307378880

These days not many people are familiar with the work of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. During her life (she died in 2001) she was most famous for her relationship with her husband, pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh, the first person to fly between New York and Paris, to cross the Atlantic solo. There was also much publicity and notoriety about her firstborn's kidnapping and murder in 1932.  

Against Wind & Tide begins with Anne roiling with the news that she is pregnant for the seventh time. She's in her forties and her whole spirit rebels against another pregnancy. Yet, unless she has a physical reason for an abortion, she does not feel that can be an option. Much of the book is about motherhood. Charles once asked Anne what she believed the most important relationship in life to be--he said between husband and wife--but Anne said the relationship between mother and child was paramount.  However, even as a rich woman who could afford a housekeeper and a cook, she often felt divided between parenting demands and her own writing. Yet what a wonderful mother her letters show her to be. She relates to each child differently, extremely aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses, and always encouraging each to be his or her best.

Anne was an amazingly gifted writer and though she wrote extended book-length essays and fiction, she excelled at detailing the personal struggles and explorations of an individual. She did that throughout the 20th century.  Anne's writing is deeply contemplative. She does not skim the surface of life but burrows into it both seeking and answering some of the hard questions. Read more »

Escape from Camp 14

ISBN: 
9780670023325

This terrifying book is based on the diary of Shin Dong-Hyuk, who was born in a brutal labor camp in North Korea. In Escape from Camp 14 journalist and writer Blaine Harden tells this young man's story--the only person born in a labor camp to ever escape from one.

The writing in this book is mesmerizing, but warning: this is not a book you will want to read while enjoying a cool glass of lemonade or munching an apple. It's horrifying on so many levels. The first being that camps such as these still exist where people are forced to do slave labor even as children, where torture is routine, and where almost everyone including the guards are starving.  These camps have existed far longer than Soviet gulags but they are less well-known. Read more »

What's an Alex Award?

In ZanesvilleWarning! Don't look for these books in the Young Adult section! These are "Adult Books," written for adults. Teens beware!

Ok, now that I've got your attention, let me also say that these books are just great for teens. So great, in fact, that the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) made an award just for them, and named them after a famous Baltimore librarian - sort of. Her name was Margaret A. Edwards, but her friends called her Alex, and that's where we get the Alex Awards. The 2012 Alex Awards feature ten books written for adults, but with special appeal to teens. Read more »

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