Thursday, January 26, 2006

Happy Birthday, Bobbie Burns!

Bring on the haggis, yesterday was Burns Day! Now celebrated throughout the world with "Burns Suppers," speeches, poem recitations and of course, haggis, the Scottish Bard's birthday was January 25, 1759. Most people have bits and pieces of Burns' poems floating around in their heads, whether they know it or not. How about these familiar lines, do they ring a bell?
  • "O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!" from "To A Louse, On Seeing One On A Lady's Bonnet, At Church"
  • "For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne, We'll tak a cup of kindness yet, For auld lang syne!
    Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And auld lang syne?"
    from the poem For Auld Lang Syne
  • "O, my luve is like a red, red rose,That's newly sprung in June.O, my luve is like a melodie,That's sweetly play'd in tune" from the poem of the same name.

and many more familiar lines and quotes including the one about "the best laid plans of mice and men."

For the complete works of Robert Burns, go to the Gutenburg Project Burns' Complete Works.

To send a Robert Burns email card with a picture of haggis or some other Scottish icon, go to this site. has some great links (hyperlinks, not golf links, another Scottish activity for another day) to a glossary of Scots words in audio format and to the Robert Burns National Historic Park featuring crossword puzzles, school assignment help, trivia, pictures etc etc. If you become a convert, go to the annual festival, "Burns an' a' That."

But above all, be sure to read his beautiful poems like: "To a Mouse."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Black History Month

Last month, Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman stated in an interview on TV's newsmagazine "60 Minutes" that, "Black history is American history." That's not the part that got attention though. Furthermore, he called Black History Month "ridiculous" and he claimed in this frequently quoted piece, "I don't want a black history month. You're going to relegate my history to a month?" These remarks generated a spate of editorials and letters to the editor at the time (12/18/05 broadcast). Now the topic is back in the headlines as February, Black History Month, approaches. In response to the Op-Ed piece of January 19, "Time to Dump Black History", a letter to the editor in USA Today yesterday states "Black History Month has no more to do with "confining" black Americans' history to February than St. Patrick's Day has to do with confining Irish history to March 17. Rather, Black History Month is the recognition that all of the world has benefited from the history of Africans in the USA relative to science, education, music, art and politics." Following that letter are others stating various takes on Freeman's statement and to the general idea of Black History Month, pro, con or in-between.
At BHPL, the monthly book display for February will feature books about the Civil Rights Movement, African-American history and biographies of notable African-Americans. School kids will stream into the Reference and Childrens Departments, assignments in hand, and we will do a brisk business helping the students learn to appreciate this part of their history curriculum. The kids can check out videos of Martin Luther King's speeches, jazz cd's and movies if they want to take a multimedia approach to their topics. They can also access thousands of primary sources, pictures, timelines, and biographies using the library's Facts on File African-American History History and Culture database. Research is much more fun and immediate than back in the days of the venerable Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature and I have never heard any complaints from the students. It is a little hard to steer the boys away from the famous athlete approach to this topic, but then again, the boys tend to pick biographies of athletes for their biography projects, their non-fiction projects and any other way they can shoehorn that common interest into their homework.
One of the best all around websites on the net is the Library of Congress's American Memory online collection which has a section on African American History. This includes a collection of interviews with 27 former slaves recorded from 1932 -1975. These interviews can be listened to from any computer with "Real Player" software and speakers or downloaded to an MP3 player. There is also a multi-format presentation about Baseball and Jackie Robinson with a baseball history timeline and historic photographs.
Links to other Black History websites: Kids Domain, Infoplease, Tennessee Tech, Cornell Africana Library.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Newbery and Caldecott Awards of Best Children's Books

The 2006 winners of the Newbery and Caldecott Awards for childrens books were announced at the American Library Association's midwinter conference in San Antonio this week. Take a look at this page on the ALA website to see a description of the Newbery Winner for the best written childrens book of the year: Criss Cross by Lynn Rae Perkins. Here is a link to the Caldecott winner for best illustrated childrens book of the year, The Hello, Goodbye Window, illustrated by Chris Raschka. The ALA site also has lists of the Newbery and Caldecott Honor Books (runners-up that is) and all the award books since 1922 for the Newberys and Caldecott winners since 1938. There are many literary awards given out every year for childrens and young adult (teen) books and they are listed on the ALA website, so next time you are looking for the perfect gift for the children in your life, take a look at the awards lists.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Osama bin Laden Recommends Book

Osama bin Laden has added "book critic", or as we say in the library biz, "readers' advisor," to his already colorful resume. In his most recent pronouncement according to Yahoo news, "He even recommended a book for Americans to read — "The Rogue State," apparently a book of the same title by American author William Blum. He said it offers the path to peace — that America must apologize to victims of the wars and promise never to "interfere" in other nations — though it was not clear if these were conditions for the truce."
BHPL does not have this book in its collection and there appear to be fewer than a dozen copies in New Jersey as a whole according to JerseyCat. There are already two reviews of the book on Amazon's site though, added yesterday, that mention the Osana recommendation, one for and one against, so to speak. On the theory that even bad publicity is good publicity, I expect requests for this book to be coming in pretty soon. As the author said in the Star-Ledger today, "I was amazed and amused," Blum said. "It's good publicity for the book."
Amazon does show a few pages of the book if you want to have a peek.
This is the juciest book blogger news since last week's Million Little Pieces expose. The book world isn't rocked by scandal or headlined in the "A" section of the news very often, at least not often enough when you are feverishly digging for interesting topics for your blog, so these tidbits are just too good to ignore!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Oprah Picks Another Memoir!

After the recent debacle and continuing brouhaha about Oprah's last book club choice: the recently debunked A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, Oprah has picked Night by Elie Wiesel. According to the annotation, "Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel's wrenching attempt to find meaning in the horror of the Holocaust is technically a novel, but it's based so closely on his own experiences in Birkenau, Auschwitz, and Buchenwald that it's generally--and not inaccurately--read as an autobiography." BHPL has Night cataloged as biography. A quick look at JerseyCat (the union catalog of most NJ libraries) shows that Night is cataloged as fiction OR as a biography OR placed in the Dewey non-fiction number for Holocaust history. So it seems that assigning a book to the category of memoir/autobiography/history/or non-fiction isn't easy. But no one is going to dispute the veracity of Wiesel's book, so it should be a safe bet for Oprah this month.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Martin Luther King

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954 - 63 (1988) was the first volume of Taylor Branch's biographical trilogy of Martin Luther King. The second volume was published ten years later (1998), Pillar of Fire: American in the King Years, 1963 - 65. This year, in time for Martin Luther King day, Taylor Branch's final volume in his trilogy is out now, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965 - 68. Publishers' Weekly says of this final volume in the trilogy: "The engrossing final installment of Branch's three-volume biography of Martin Luther King Jr. maintains the high standards set in the previous volumes, the first of which won a Pulitzer Prize. Moving from the protest at Selma and the 1966 Meredith March through King's expanding political concern for the poor to his 1968 assassination in Memphis, Tenn., Branch gives us not only the civil rights leader's life but also the rapidly changing pulse of American culture and politics." In an interview with the author about his 23 year project , Branch expresses a sense of "loss" that he is finished with this monumental project while at the same time being "thrilled" to finish what he started in 1982. He hopes the book might encourage discussion of non-violence as a political strategy again.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Author May Not be as Awful as his Memoir Claims!

James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, an Oprah book selection, has been targeted by The Smoking Gun website for fabricating much of his tell-all memoir. Here is Publishers' Weekly's take on the news. The Smoking Gun, a website that uncovers fraud, says,
"Three months ago, in what the talk show host termed a "radical departure," Winfrey announced that "A Million Little Pieces," author James Frey's nonfiction memoir of his vomit-caked years as an alcoholic, drug addict, and criminal, was her latest selection for the world's most powerful book club." After an investigation, TSG reports that, "Police reports, court records, interviews with law enforcement personnel, and other sources have put the lie to many key sections of Frey's book. The 36-year-old author, these documents and interviews show, wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw "wanted in three states." The article goes on at length to describe the research TSG did to uncover Frey's alleged fabrications.
The Smoking Gun website is also known for its celebrity mugshots and for publishing the "riders" on performers' contracts that demand all kinds of ridiculous perks. If you like to see the less than exalted side to celebrities, this is the website to visit. Isn't it nice to know that without the right makeup and hairdo and photographer's tricks, famous people look just like regular people? It's also ironic that celebrities will do anything not to be unmasked as TSG does by publishing unflattering pictures and information about them, but James Frey's lucrative career as a writer depends on the veracity of his disgustingly detailed memoirs of a supposed criminal, violent and drug and alcohol soaked past.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Happy New Year: Reading Resolutions

The most common New Year's resolution is to lose weight and there are so many diet books on the market, it's hard to know which ones are really useful. This article in USA Today
evaluates several new books and another article reviews some "tried and true" older diet books. USA Today's "Diet Challenge" for 2006 follows three people as they try to change their eating and exercise habits in the new year and will offer lots of practical advice along the way.
Searching for the subject "reducing diets" in the BHPL catalog results in 39 titles which can be sorted by date if you want only the latest diet advice. If you want to browse in the diet book section, go to the 613.25 area in non-fiction.