Friday, April 30, 2010

Wild Horses: Endangered Beauty by Traer Scott

Wild horses have figured prominently in our art, history, and folklore, are admired for their beauty and strength, were revered by Native Americans, and we certainly could not have settled the west without them.  Now they are fighting for survival.

Traer Scott traveled around the U.S. and Puerto Rico to be able to obtain these extraordinary and unforgettable images of wild horses in sanctuaries and running free.  She focuses on the horses current struggle and the efforts of certain individuals and groups who are trying to protect them.

The book contains more than 100 stunning black and white images, revealing the intelligent, caring, and protective nature of these animals, while telling stories about their daily lives, as well as their rescue and rehabilitation.

This book will appeal to horse lovers everywhere, as well as those of us who are concerned about the welfare of all wild animals.

"Wild free-roaming horses belong to no one individual.  They belong to all the American people...The spirit which has kept them alive and free against almost insurmountable odds typifies the national spirit which led to the growth of our Nation.  They are living symbols of the rugged independence and tireless energy of our pioneer heritage."....U.S. Senate Report No. 242, 92nd Congress, 1971

Monday, April 26, 2010

100 Creative Ways to Excite & Inspire Young Readers

#1 on the list: Visit the Library regularly!

But be sure to avail yourself of all the information drawn together in one place at this site.

Circular Bookcase

Designer David Garcia made this circular bookcase that the reader can use for both storage and transportation:

ARCHIVE II, a round wheel book archive, functions as a nomadic library, where the user can travel with his own books. Once still, it creates a room for meeting and inspiration, generating a special acoustic echo for the reader inside the wheel.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Commoner

This book was the April selection for Book Club. Had it not been, I'm not sure I would have picked this up on my own. This is one of the joys of the Book Club experience, being exposed to books you wouldn't necessarily seek out yourself.

This book is, as the jacket says, meticulously researched and superbly imagined. In 1959, Haruko, a commoner, marries the Crown Prince of Japan, the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. She is the first non-aristocratic woman to be immersed in the tightly sealed monarchy. She is treated with cruelty, and after she gives birth to her son, the heir, and has fulfilled her purpose, she suffers a nervous breakdown and loses her voice.

Years later, as Empress herself, she plays a crucial role in persuading another young woman to accept the marriage proposal of her son, the Crown Prince. The consequences of this are very tragic, and Schwartz does a great job describing the relationship between these two isolated women, who despite their high visibility roles on the world stage are invisible as women and really only truly understood by each other.

A lovely and moving book.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

President George Washington racks up $300,000 late fee for two Manhattan library books

He may have never told a lie, but George Washington apparently had no problem stiffing a Manhattan library on two books.

Two centuries ago, the nation's first President borrowed two tomes from the New York Society Library on E. 79th St. and never returned them, racking up an inflation-adjusted $300,000 late fee.

But Washington can rest easy.

"We're not actively pursuing the overdue fines," quipped head librarian Mark Bartlett. "But we would be very happy if we were able to get the books back."

Washington's dastardly deed went unknown for almost 150 years.

Then in 1934, a dusty, beaten-up ledger was discovered in a trash heap in the library's basement.

On its tan pages were the names of all of the people who had borrowed books from the city's oldest library between July 1789 and April 1792.

At the time, the city was the nation's capital and the library - then located at Wall and Broad Sts. - was the only one in town.

Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay all borrowed books, the ledger shows.

They returned them, too.

The library's boldest bold-faced name wasn't as cooperative.

On Oct. 5, 1789, Washington borrowed the "Law of Nations," a treatise on international relations, and Vol. 12 of the "Commons Debates," which contained transcripts of debates from Britain's House of Commons.

Beside the names of the books, the librarian wrote on the ledger only, "President."

The entry, written with a quill pen, contains no return date.

The books were due by Nov. 2, 1789, and have been accruing a fine of a few pennies per day ever since.

This week, Bartlett and his staff became even more convinced the books were filched when librarian Matthew Haugen stumbled upon the long lost 14-volume collection of the "Commons Debates."

Sure enough, Vol. 12 was missing.

"It's hard to know what could have happened," Bartlett said. "There are as many questions for us as there are answers."

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Owl Keeper by Christine Brodien-Jones

When I saw the book trailer for "The Owl Keeper", I thought it was so well done, and set such a mood, that I just knew I had to read the book. From the beautiful shot of the silver owl on the front of the book to the phrase on the back cover that says "If you look into the dark long enough you'll see things others don't"...this book does not disappoint.

Christine Brodien-Jones writes fantasy/adventure books for middle grade and teen readers. She writes on a huge Shaker desk littered with carved wooden owls. It no doubt helped her set the mood for this lovely story that drew me in from the first page with its mix of action, mystery, and fantasy. The charming illustrations by Maggie Kneen added just the right touch of whimsy.

Maxwell Unger, a boy who is allergic to the sun and loves the night, used to love the stories his gran told him, about the world before the great Destruction--about nature, and silver owls, and in particular, he loved the story of the Owl Keeper. In times of darkness, the Owl Keeper would appear to unite owls and sages against the powers of the dark. Max used to go exploring in the forest after dark with his Gran and do brave things. But now, Max's gran is gone, the books Gran saved have been destroyed, and he no longer does brave things. The forest is a dangerous place and silver owls are extinct. At least that's what the High Echelon says, though Max knows better. When Max meets a mysterious girl named Rose, he discovers that he just might have to start being brave again. The time of the Owl Keeper is coming.

Brodien-Jones has done an excellent job with her characterization and attention to story development. The world she has created is believable and you will find yourself solidly on the side of the spunky Rose and cheering Maxwell on as the secrets of his world are exposed one by one and his character grows and develops over the course of the story. With two strong lead characters, this book will appeal to both guys and girls, and many an adult will be won over as well, just as they were with the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling.

This highly imaginative book will entertain a broad spectrum of ages, and I hope it will be the start of many more from the owl engraved desk of Brodien-Jones.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant

This mini novel as poem is a quick sweet read.  Rylant imagines a God who is so curious, he decides to go out and experience the world and the beings in it that he has created.  What he discovers are not only the wonders of this world, but the pain as well.  So what we get is glimpses of every day experience that are reflective, humorous, and spiritual.

Rylant has written more than 100 children's books and has received numerous awards and honors.  Her Henry and Mudge series and Mr. Putter and Tabby series are two favorite checkout items of the kids in my library. 

My favorite book of hers would have to be "When I was Young in the Mountains".  It was her first book, telling the story of the main character's youth in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia, and was based on Rylant's real life.  The book won a Caldecott Award for its illustrations (by Diane Goode).

I guess the reason it's my favorite is because my experiences in my early years on the farm with my grandparents were so similar to what she writes about in the book.  Her love of that place and those people showed so strongly on every page.  I shared that love for that simpler time, a time when you didn't want to be anywhere else on earth than where you were.  That was indeed enough.

There are glimpses of some of that same sweetness in "God Went to Beauty School".  Here's a quote from the book:

"But He saw this dog
out by the tracks
and it was hungry
and cold and lonely
And God realized
He'd made that dog somehow,
somehow He was responsible
though He knew logically
that He had only set the
world on its course.
He couldn't be blamed
for everything.
But He saw this dog
and He felt bad
so He took it on home
and named it Ernie
and now God
has somebody
keeping His feet warm at night."

If you smiled reading this, you should pick up this book. 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Wabi Sabi: The Art of Everyday Life by Diane Durston

The concept of Wabi Sabi originated in Japan in the 16th century.  It started with their tea ceremony, when you stepped away from the chaos of daily life for a few moments to experience something simple and tranquil.  Over time, it came to mean an approach to life that is in harmony with nature, one that values homemade and rustic and recognizes the impermanence of life.  It emphasizes respecting age, both in other things and in ourselves, and teaches that we should be content with what we have, rather than always striving for more.  It actually describes the beauty to be found in imperfection.  In Japan, artists will often leave a rough surface on a bowl or subtle fractures in the glaze of a vase as a reminder of the wabi-sabi nature of life; the fact that all life is in a constant state of change, and that decay is as much a part of life as growth.

I think it's a wonderful concept.  One that maybe we should embrace a little more, especially as we get older.  We all want a little more balance and contentment in our lives.

Lori Erickson, in an article titled "Life's not perfect...and that's fine with me: What the Japanese art of wabi sabi taught me" in the April 17th issue of Woman's Day magazine, listed eight suggestions to incorporate wabi sabi into our lives:  1) Use what you have, 2) Make wabi-sabi friends, 3) Do your best at work--within reason, 4) Cook recipes from your childhood, 5) Relax your housekeeping standards, 6) Practice the art of hanging out, 7) When you drink tea, drink tea, and 8) Remember that life doesn't go on forever.  

Friday, April 2, 2010

World's best bookstores

I don't know if you've noticed, but libraries and bookstores have a lot in common these days.  It's no longer just about housing the books, it's all about presentation.  Here are 6 of the world's coolest looking bookstores for your edification.


Guys in Las Vegas Never Enjoyed Reading, Until Now

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