Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The French Have a Word for It

According to the New York Times Book Review (the headlines of which stream at the bottom of this blog unless you use Firefox, in which case they are to the right blocking out valuable sidebar information) The French Have a (Precise and Elegant) Word for It.

In their review of the book The Story of French by Jean-Badoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, reviewer William Grimes tells us that, "The unique relationship between French speakers and their language is one of the grand themes in “The Story of French,” a well-told, highly accessible history of the French language that leads to a spirited discussion of the prospects for French in an increasingly English-dominated world."

Further he says, "Arguments are as much a part of French as the acute accent and the nasal “n.” Since the 17th century, it has been treated by French speakers less as a language than as a work of art, something worthy of constant analysis and curatorial devotion. "

He ends with question, "Is French a surprisingly robust international presence, as the authors’ carefully harvested statistics seem to suggest, or an invalid that needs help crossing the street, terrified at being run down by Anglo-Saxon vehicles with an insane, cursing American at the wheel?"

He hopes that French will not be run over by the allegorical Anglo-Saxon vehicle. For those of us belonging to the generation traumatized and trained like the recalcitrant peanut-butter consuming savages that we Americans are, by (native born) French teachers, and feeling that we really should have taken Spanish, I hope French lives on and even makes a comeback for several reasons.
1. I won't have to learn a new foreign language to feel useful
2. Arabic is too hard and also involves learning a whole new writing system
3. Sacre Bleu! French really does have the "bon mot" for so many things that English does not
4. People will tire of visiting other countries and want to return to France without feeling unpatriotic.
5. I tried to learn Spanish, but they pronounce all the vowels as written and that is too confusing.
6. We will all greet each other with a musical and not-to-be-ignored "bonjour!" How refreshingly polite.

Local Author Dina West to Visit Library

Dina West, former Governor Livingston student and current Mountainside resident, will visit the Berkeley Heights Public Library on Saturday, December 2 at 2:00 p.m. to talk about her book, Bloom and Grow with Your Learning Disability.
Overcoming the hardships of a learning disability herself,Ms. West's book addresses high-school and college students with learning disabilities. She presents helpful motivational techniques which will contribute to a successful college experience. Ms. West will discuss the best methods for learning disabled students to navigate the college application process and to choose a suitable college program. After the program, copies of her book will be available for purchase and may be signed by the author.
Please join us for this free program, put call the Reference Dek to reserve a space (908) 464-9333

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Science Fiction Assignment

Lately local mothers have been coming to the Reference Desk with seventh grade progeny in tow, and the question du jour is: can you recommend a science fiction book for a class assignment? Yesterday it was further elucidated that the book should take place in the future and that the student is expected to create a diorama as the final project. I remember the mad dash to find shoeboxes in my house when my children had that diorama-in-a-shoebox assignment. It seems like for the sake of closet organization and the artistically disinclined student that a written book report should be an alternative format. But, as local public library reference librarian, we just follow orders that come from the school, just as parents, and sometimes even students do. So I went to a database called Novelist that BHPL subscribes to and looked up their ready-made readers' advisory lists by topic and emailed the sci-fi ones to this blog. Because of copyright issues, below a partial list can be found. To see the rest of it and to learn how to access and use Novelist from your home computer, please check at the Reference Desk.

"The following information was generated by NoveList.
Explore Fiction -; Science Fiction -; Post-Apocalypse

1. Armstrong, Jennifer The Kindling

2. Carmody, Isobelle Obernewtyn

3. DuPrau, Jeanne the City of Ember

4. Foon, Dennis the Dirt eaters

5. Hoffman, Alice Green Angel

Something about the books on this list:

What happens as the worlds as we know it, ends? The books on this list explore the possibility of life after an apocalypse.


Beatrix Potter and the Loch Ness Monster

The Times of London reports that Beatrix Potter's letters show that she had ideas about what the Loch Ness monster would have looked like if it did in fact exist. Look for interest in all things Peter Rabbit when the biopic of the author opens soon with Renee Zellwegger as the author and accomplished naturalist and illustrator. The Times states, "Such is Potter’s enduring appeal that The Tale of Peter Rabbit alone has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide since it was first published at the turn of the last century. Although more than two million Potter books are sold each year, the film — due for a nationwide release on January 5 — is set to inspire a dramatic rise in sales. "
In completely unrelated book news, NPR reports that, "Each year, thousands of tourists create their own Rocky moment by running up those [Philadelphia Museum of Art}... stairs. Photographer Tom Gralish and writer Michael Vitez spent a year meeting and photographing those runners. They've written a book called Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America's Most Famous Steps."
The Guardian book blog has a poll that asks what is your favorite book and why. Blogger Sarah Burnett asks, "What makes a book your favourite? Is it certain characters, is it because it changes your life, or is it down to memory and circumstance?" She goes on to say, "On a writing course recently we were all asked to bring a favourite book. We nodded sagely as the usual suspects rolled up: Orwell, Waugh, McEwan, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. And then someone flourished The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo. It was a good book to read if you were thinking of changing your life, said its advocate.
I should confess straightaway that The Alchemist doesn't do it for me: I can't think of a reason why anyone would finish it, let alone nominate it as their favourite book. But putting my prejudice to one side, it still struck me that something 'being a good book to read if you are thinking of changing your life' is an unusual reason for choosing a favourite (of course, she may have had other reasons as well, but those escape me)."

I was interested in her reaction to the Alchemist, because a local book group just finished that book and although opinions were generally that it was somewhere between "ok, a light read, not bad, and new age clap trap," it did lead to a very interesting and lively discussion. The book is an allegory about a shepherd who goes on a journey to find his "Personal Legend" or what might commonly be called a life's dream. The book has an almost cult-like following, including Madonna, which is of course enough to turn a reader off right there in guilt-by-association. If your book group is looking for a short read, a break from the long tomes, and a possiblity of a good starting place for a discussion though, ignore the cheap shots and sarcasm employed by the Guardian book blogger and this blogger; try the Alchemist. Or, I could say, if you liked Jonathon Livingston Seagull, or other inspirational books, this might interest you also.
Finally, Conversational Reading has a link to a list of book lists which are fun to browse.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Jack Prelutsky selected Children's Poet Laureate

Popular children's poet and poetry editor, Jack Prelutsky, is the first Children's Poet Laureate. For more information, take a look at this USAToday article and at his biographical article in the Academy of American Poets website. "Prelutsky, who lives in Seattle, says he writes the "kind of poems I would have liked as a kid: about food fights, dinosaurs, imaginary animals and outer space," ' according to the USAToday article. That's why his poetry is so popular with children. Not as well known as children's poet, Shel Silverstein, Prelutsky's books make a terrific gift for children and also answer that pesky assignment to select and memorize a favorite poem which can send any household into a tizzy.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Money Saving Tip for Bookaholics

A funny article by Ian Frazer in the Shouts and Murmurs section of the New Yorker, "Downpaging," cites a bogus article in the "News":
"Check books out of the library instead of buying them. . . . New releases of hard-cover novels cost $25 and more these days. If you buy just two a month, that’s $600 a year. —From “Ten Sure Ways to Trim Your Budget,” in the News."
He goes on to give some "examples" from "real life people" about how buying books is sending them into debt.
"Polk Benham, St. Marys, Ohio: “Right now, it’s costing me forty-five dollars to fill up my 4Runner, which is about two novels. Tough decisions are going to have to be made. I’m used to having a newly released hardcover on the dash of my vehicle, another in the back seat for the kids. At home, we’ve got a novel in each bedroom, two in the family room, one in the laundry room for my wife when she’s down there, and a novella in the john. We go through a couple of dozen novels in a year without even noticing. I hate to say it, but this can’t go on.” "
and, in a beautiful bit of irony,
"Mrs. Louise Rodgers, Eau Claire, Wisconsin: “I never owned brand-new hardcovers when I was a girl, and now I want my twin sixteen-year-old boys to enjoy opportunities I didn’t have. My boys are like any American teen-agers, in that they eat, sleep, and breathe novels. And they don’t want the three-dollar used paperback version, either. It’s got to be new, mint, original dust jacket, the works. How do you tell a youngster that he can’t have that just-released Modern Library edition of the complete Sinclair Lewis he’s been dreaming of? But I guess that’s what I’m going to have to do; I don’t see any other option.” "
I know all parents of teenagers can relate to that, so remember, the library is here to save you from your bookaholic debt. Don't give in to that siren call of brand new hardcovers!
"Mitch Gelman, West Hempstead, New York: “As an accountant, the first thing I tell my clients is ‘Get a library card!’ "

Friday, November 3, 2006

A Good Year: movie, based-on-the book, opens soon

Laura Bly writes in USA Today, "Nov. 10, the author's (Peter Mayle) pal and part-time neighbor Ridley Scott hits theaters with A Good Year, a film based on the 2004 Mayle novel about a London trader (played by Russell Crowe) who winds up inheriting his estranged uncle's Luberon ch√Ęteau and vineyard."
USA Today's Travel section features an interview with Peter Mayle, author of A Year in Provence and other memoirs of this transplanted Brit. The article links to a review of wines of the region which are improving, it states, due to an influx of monied new vinyard owners, rich people retiring there for a second career as a vintner.
Take a look at the photo montage from Provence A - Z, Mayles new book or click around for a taste of the scenery, including a guide to the famously beautiful hilltop villages of southern France.