Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Books Read in 2009

The complete list of the 31 books I read in 2009 is in the right column.  Six of the titles I listened to on CD while driving, but I do count these in my "reading" list.  My Sunday, May 3, 2009, post names the six books I started but stopped before completion this year.  No need to waste valuable time on books I don't like when there are more books to read than I'll be able to get to in my lifetime.  The book that will transition from 2009 into 2010, because I won't finish it before the stroke of midnight on December 31, is Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  I read it once before, long ago.  Recently I read somewhere that we never really read the same book twice because when we re-read a book we bring to it the experiences we've had since last reading it.  How about  you?  At this time of year when lists and reviews are popular, which books have you read?  Which have you put aside?  Which do you plan to re-read?  Share with me in the comments section.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I love lists.  I like reading lists.  I thrive on making lists.  Today I discovered a list of lists, perfect for those of us who especially like the end of the year, decade in review kind of thing.  From comes Lists: 2009, an aggregate of all lists related to 2009.  Topics include architecture, art, automobiles, books, film, gadgets, photos and travel.   Now I'm inspired to begin my own list of 2009 and decade favorites.  I think I'll start with books (of course).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Book List Contributed to Iditarod

Official Starting Marker

For almost two years librarian Cheryl Hannon and I worked from different states via e-mail to create an updated book list for the Iditarod Web site.  It is posted, and we are proud.  Take a look at Books About Iditarod and Alaska.  (Photo by Mcoughlin, used with CC permission.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Moon Rises Tonight

The Twilight Saga - New Moon opens in theaters at the magically appropriate midnight hour.  The movie is the second installment based on Stephenie Meyer's four book series.  The first book, Twilight, was rejected by 14 agents before finally being published in 2005.  Following in close order were New Moon (2006),   Eclipse (2007) and Breaking Dawn (2008).  As I put the books on hold for girl after girl coming to the library, I dismissed the series as teen girl silliness until my own daughter encouraged me to read it, and I couldn't put it down!   Now vampire romances have proliferated.  Have you read any of these 2009 releases?  (photo by Susan Larson)

Bite Me by Melissa Francis
Eternal by Cynthia Leitch Smith
The Eternal Kiss: 13 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire by Tricia Telep                
Fade Out by Rachel Caine
Royal Blood by Ellen Schreiber
Stargazer by Claudia Gray
Tempted: A House of Night Novel by P. C. Cast
Tenth Grade Bleeds by Heather Brewer
Vamped by Lucienne Diver
The Van Alen Legacy: A Blue Bloods Novel by Melissa De la Cruz

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Native American Books for Kids

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, I've compiled a book list for kids. 

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace

Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond by Joseph Medicine Crow

Crazy Horse's Vision by Joseph Bruchac

Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom by Tim Tingle

Diamond Willow by Helen Frost

Meet Lydia: A Native Girl from Southeast Alaska by Miranda Belarde-Lewis

Navajo Long Walk: The Tragic Story of a Proud People's Forced March from Their Homeland by Joseph Bruchac

Meet Naiche: A Native Boy from the Chesapeake Bay Area by Gabrielle Tayac

The Porcupine Year by Louise Erdrich (And the two preceding books in the series, The Birchbark House  and The Game of Silence)

The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale by Joseph Bruchac

Tallchief, America's Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief  

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day 1512

On November 1, 1512, the public for the first time tilted heads back to view the ceiling masterpiece of Michelangelo: the frescos of the Sistine Chapel.  Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo in 1506 to completely redecorate the chapel, and he reluctantly accepted.  He was, after all, a sculptor.  But his reluctant acceptance lead to the incredibly famous nine scenes from the book of Genesis which adorn the ceiling. 

In his book Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, Andrew Graham-Dixon writes, "The fresco cycle as a whole radiates a powerful and sometimes oppressively strong sense of introspection. Looking at it feels almost nothing like looking at the real world. It feels, instead, like looking inside the mind of the man who created it."  Reviewer Richard Cook says the book is an accessible look into the mind of Michelangelo.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Teens' Top 10 of 2009

In conjunction with Teen Read Week, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) announced the winners of this year's voting for the top ten young adult books for 2009.

1 Paper Towns by John Green
2 Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
3 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
4 City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
5 Identical by Ellen Hopkins
6 The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
7 Wake by Lisa McMann
8 Untamed by P.C. and Kristin Cast
9 The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
0 Graceling by Kristin Cashore

YALSA reports that more than 11,000 readers age 12 to 18 voted online for their favorite titles of the year.  I can personally comment on three of the titles on this list.  I enjoyed Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final novel in the Twilight series, although I considered it the weakest of the four books.   

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was not to my liking, and I quit reading it at about the fourth chapter.  I thought it too dark.  Not everyone agrees with me, though.  The book won the John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature.  Then again, the Newbery Medal has been loosing respect in recent years as the winners have not been as universally popular as they once were.

One of my daughter's tells me that The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is the best book she has ever read.  I plan now to read it.  I looked at it when it was first published, but it sounded too depressing for my liking.  My daughter says parts are sad; but that it is an excellent book.

What about you?  On which of these top ten can you comment?  Is there a book you would add or delete to the list?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hispanic Heritage Month Book List

Celebrated annually from September 15 – October 15, Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the culture and traditions of those Americans who trace their ancestry to Spain, Mexico, and the Spanish speaking countries of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.  In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, here is a brief list of suggested titles.

Books for Preschoolers

Diez Deditos = Ten Little Fingers and Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs from Latin America by Jose-Luis Orozco         
In English and Spanish, Orozco provides songs, rhymes and finger-plays with the actions explained for caregivers.

Dona Flor by Pat Mora
This is a tall tale about a giant woman with a big heart.

Frida by Jonah Winter
A whimsical introduction to the life of painter Frida Kahlo.

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale by Carmen Agra Deedy
As Martina interviews potential husbands, her grandmother gives her some shocking advice. 

Books for Kids

Baseball in April, and Other Stories by Gary Soto
Eleven contemporary short-stories tell of the lives of Mexican American families in California.  

Ellen Ochoa: The First Hispanic Woman Astronaut by Maritza Romero
A profile of the life of the first Hispanic woman astronaut.

I, Juan De Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
Juan, who serves the great painter Velasquez, secretly teaches himself to paint, gaining respect and freedom.

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
Sixth-grader Tyler Paquette befriends a migrant Mexican family working on his family’s Vermont farm.

Books for Teens

Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa
Chicago high school student Violet Paz reluctantly prepares for her quinceanera.

Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida by Victor Martinez
Winner of the Pura Belpre Author Award, this is the story of fourteen-year-old Manny Hernandez and his search for respect.

Someone Like Summer by M. E. Kerr
An upper-middle-class white girl from Long Island and an immigrant worker from Colombia fall in love despite objections from their families.

The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales
Sofia discovers that her experiences as a scholarship student in Austin strengthen her ties to the family and friends she left behind in the barrio of McAllen.

Books for Adults

In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd by Ana Menendez
A collection of poignant and humorous interrelated short stories that tell the lives of Cuban immigrants in Miami.

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Three young wives in the Dominican Republic, assassinated after visiting their jailed husbands, become mythical figures in their country.

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
Winner of the 1990 Pulitizer Prize for fiction, this is the story of brothers Cesar and Nestor Castillo who come to New York City from Cuba in 1949 with plans on becoming  mambo stars.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The history of the Buendia family is also the story of the rise and fall of their mythical town, Macondo.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Albert Goldbarth and His Shawl

Driving home this evening, I heard poet Albert Goldbarth read his poem Shawl on The NewsHour.   Goldbarth is the only poet to twice win the National Book Critics Circle award for poetry.  He won it in 1991 for his collection Heaven and Earth: A Cosmology, and in 2001 for Saving Lives.  Of his 25 books of poetry published to date, To Be Read in 500 Years is his most recent, published in 2009.  Goldbarth is also the winner of the 2008 Mark Twain Poetry Award from the Poetry Foundation.  Goldbarth does not own a computer.  He writes longhand in spiral bound notebooks with inexpensive pens.  When he feels a poem is complete, he types it. In his interview on The NewsHour, Goldbarth said, "It feels to me as if I were born to write, that that's why I was put on Earth, and I've been trying to be the best poet I know how to be."  I was so taken with Goldbarth and his poem Shawl that when I arrived home I immdeiately sat down to share them here.


Eight hours by bus, and night
was on them. He could see himself now
in the window, see his head there with the country
running through it like a long thought made of steel and wheat.
Darkness outside; darkness in the bus -- as if the sea
were dark and the belly of the whale were dark to match it.
He was twenty: of course his eyes returned, repeatedly,
to the knee of the woman two rows up: positioned so
occasional headlights struck it into life.
But more reliable was the book; he was discovering himself
to be among the tribe that reads. Now his, the only
overhead turned on. Now nothing else existed:
only him, and the book, and the light thrown over his shoulders
as luxuriously as a cashmere shawl.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Madeleine Albright: Read My Pins

Madeleine Albright, the first women to serve as U.S. Secretary of State (1997 - 2001), is known for her pins. On September 30 the New York Museum of Arts & Design opens an exhibit of Albright's pin collection, accompanied by her new book Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box. Albright came to wear pins not for their gem value, but for their messages, getting the "read my pin" idea from the first President Bush who said about no new taxes, "Read my lips." For example, she told Katie Couric on Sunday Morning that after Iraq President Saddam Hussein called her a snake, she began wearing a snake pin anytime she had meetings concerning that nation. She also said that every Valentine's Day she wears a pin her now grown daughter made her at age five. Much of her collection is comprised of mass-produced, inexpensive pieces she acquired during her travels as secretary of state. "Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection" is on view in New York until January 31, 2010. It will then travel to several still undetermined U.S. cities.

More Information

Madeleine Albright's Read My Pins Author Tour
Madeleine Albright's brooch collection on display in NYC (USA Today)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Iditarod Accomplishment

For some 18 months I have been working with another librarian on a book list for the Iditarod, and today I submitted the final draft. It came to the point where I had to admit to myself that the project could go on forever -- there are so many books about the Iditarod, Alaska, sled dogs, and related topics -- and that I needed to bring this volunteer project to an end. I emailed the list saying that it was as far as I could take it at this time, and that, of course, additions from others were always welcome. I feel a sense of accomplishment. The list is 22 pages long; a bit much to share here in its entirety. I'll let you know when it is posted to the Iditarod web site.

Friday, September 25, 2009

An American (Library) in Paris

Truth be told, there have been instances when I’ve heard librarians bemoan the existence of computers and the World Wide Web. But just this week I’ve experienced another positive to technology. Because of a google search, I made a discovery in Paris.

The American Library in Paris is not listed in any of the typical travel guides I consulted when planning my vacation. But as a librarian and a bibliophile, I wanted to visit a library in the City of Light. Google led me to the web page of the American Library in Paris, and on a recent afternoon I walked a few blocks north of the Eiffel Tower for a visit.

The American Library in Paris is an offshoot of the 1917 Library War Service, founded by the American Library Association, in which U.S. libraries shipped some 1.5 million books to American service personnel during World War I. Alan Seeger, a celebrated poet, was killed in the war. In 1920 Seeger’s father worked to found the American Library in Paris in honor of his son, with a core of the Library War Service books becoming the start of the collection. As part of its Vision & Mission, the library provides “access in France to what is best in English-language books, periodicals and other materials…”

Now the largest English language lending library in Europe, the library has had quite a history. For example, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein were contributors to Ex Libris, the library’s monthly review. As World War II began, the library circulated books to French and British soldiers. When the French libraries closed under Nazi occupation, the American Library remained open, attracting hundreds of French patrons. In 1941 Library Director Dorothy Reeder was sent back to the United States for safety, but one of the library’s founding members, Countess Clara de Chambrun, arranged for the library to remain open. The staff secretly continued to lend to Jewish members.

When Sylvia Beach closed her famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore in 1951, she donated its circulating collection to the American Library in Paris. In 1955 the library began its English Language Library for the Blind, providing the first Braille books in English on the European continent.

Today the library has a web site, an online catalog, a reading room, a research room, a children’s room, two internet stations for customers, wireless (WiFi) access, and numerous programs for all ages. Ex Libris is still published (four times a year), along with a new online electronic newsletter called e-Libris, which is e-mailed twice a month. Copies are available from the library’s web site under “Newsletters and Reports”.

The American Library in Paris is located at 10, Rue du General Camou, and is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ken Burns and Teddy Roosevelt

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has done it again. On Sunday, September 27, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, his most recent series, will debut on PBS stations. Jim Axelrod interviewed Burns for Sunday Morning.

A new book also takes a look at our National Parks. The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by Douglas Brinkley reviews the naturalist achievements of President Roosevelt, who preserved more than 230 million acres of American wilderness.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My Last Night in Paris

Following an early afternoon touring the ancient Egyptian collection at the Louvre, the largest of its kind outside of Egypt, I treated myself to lunch in Cafe Richelieu, overlooking I. M. Pei's pyramid. Afterward I walked through the spectacular Royal Apartments of Napoleon III. Then it was time again for an art break, so I headed outdoors into the Jardin des Tuileries. There were chairs surrounding the central fountain, and I sat for over an hour watching the comings and goings of both tourists and residents. The Louvre has Wednesday evening hours, so I returned at about 7 p.m. to see a few favorites still on my list. I'd read that the evening hours would be less crowded, but this was not the case. I believe the crowd increased in size, with many Parisians visiting after work. At about 9 p.m., I said goodbye to the Louvre, serendipitously finding a seat along the fountain wall with both the Louvre pyramid and the distant Eiffel Tower in view.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

J'aime Paris!

I'm in love. We've all heard that Paris is the city of love, and I've fallen head over heels for Paris. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Seine -- all have captured my heart. Here is Paris at sunset from the top of the Eiffel Tower. Isn't it beautiful!

My Birthday in Paris

Shopping at Printemps, viewing Monet's Water Lily panels at Musee de Orangerie, dining at the Julves Verne Restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. Oh la la!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An American (Library) in Paris

Just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower is the American Library in Paris. Being a librarian and a bibliophile I, of course, have made it a priority to visit. I doubt it makes many tourist's "must see" lists. I'm writing on one of the library's two Internet stations, and luckily no one else is waiting to use the computers because it is slow going on this French keyboard! But what an adventure. I'll have photos and details to share later, when I'm typing from my laptop and don't have to keep searching for keys. For now I will leave you with the library's web site so that you may visit virtually. And yes, I am wondering if there are any job openings here. Wouldn't that be quite the gig!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Joyce, Hemmingway and Ujka Larson

One reason Paris has fascinated me is because of the people who have come here to pursue their dreams. I am sitting and writing and dining this evening in Cremerie-Restaurant Polidor, a bistro on Rue Monsieur-le-Prince in the sixth arrondissement that traces its history to 1845, and was a favorite haunt of writers James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway, among others. As I look around at the thick wooden communal style tables and wood paneled walls, I try to imagine those of the past sitting around me. Even Julia Child comes to mind since, having recently seen the movie Julie and Julia in which Beef Bourguignon features prominently, that is what I order for dinner. It is savory and tender, served with the tastiest mashed potatoes (called puree here) I have ever eaten. The main course is preceded by cream of lentil soup and followed by lemon tart and coffee. Every taste is authentic; a delight to the palate. Bon appetit!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Paris Jour Deux

(L) Arc de Triomphe

(R) A Renoir painting in the Musee d'Orsay

Jardin du Luxembourg

Day two began with a walk west through the Latin Quarter toward the Jardin du Luxembourg. On the way I had a few moments of quiet in St. Etienne Dumont Catholic Church. My walk continued past the Pantheon, then through the campus of the Sorbonne. The Jardin du Luxemborg was filled with French people enjoying a gorgeous autumn morning. The flowers were abundant, fragrant and beautiful. Another walk north toward the Seine, then west took me to the Musee d'Orsay, where room after room was filled with the Impressionist and Post Impressionist paintings and sculpture so well known and recognizable in the world today. I remembered playing the board game Masterpiece as a child, and having seen some of these paintings on that game's playing cards. In addition, I unexpectedly came upon the original of a painting of which my Great Grandmother Lektorich kept a small print hanging in her farm house in South Haven, Michigan. It was a shock to see the real thing and be flooded with the memories of studying that print while visiting. Never did I think of ever seeing the original. This evening a friend and I visited the Arc de Triomphe, climbing more stairs than I could count to gain a spectacular 360 degree view of Paris at night. The Arc is much bigger than I imagined. From the top, we also had a view of the Eiffel Tower lit in the night sky. We ended the evening with a walk along the Champs-Elysees, which I compare to Fifth Avenue in New York City or the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, except with the late night activity that I've only experienced in Europe. I feel strangely at home here, and even have people asking me for directions, thinking that I am French. Tre bien!

Friday, September 11, 2009

First Day in Paris!

For so long I've dreamt of traveling to Paris that now it seems almost unbelievable to actually be here. This photo of me, standing on a bridge spanning the Seine, is the spot where I first saw the Eiffle Tower. Look closely, and you'll notice it behind me in the distant sky. I made it to the Louvre on my first day, and was quite moved to walk the historic Palace and art mecca I've imagined for so long. Arriving late in the day, there was no line to enter, and a very small crowd around the Mona Lisa. Two other top picks I saw were the Winged Victory and the Wedding at Cana. I've got so many stories to share already, but I'm on a thirty minute internet limit. However, now that I know my tech works, I plan to post each day I'm here. I'm blogging from Paris. Now that is cool! Au revoir until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The List of 35

As I write just 25 hours remain until my Air France jet takes off for Paris. The reality has not yet sunk-in. Over the weeks since making my reservations, I've been reading books and browsing web sites to compile "A", "B", and "C" lists of what I want to do and see while in Paris. As an art lover, visiting museums is high on my "A" list, and Paris if filled to overflowing with options. My top choices are the Louvre (of course), the Musee d'Orsay, the Musee de l'Orangerie, the MuseeMarmottan Monet , and the sculpture garden at the Musee Rodin. That's a lot, but I have a plan. For example, the Louvre has about 35,000 items in eight departments on display at any one time. So I've been browsing the Louvre's web site for 35 items that I most want to see. Of course my list includes the Louvre's top three: Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory.
What would you recommend I include in my list of 35?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What Should I See in Paris?

I've been reading Paris for Dummies (2005), but today checked out guides more up-to-date. They are Access Paris: The Only Guide That Leads You Street by Street into the Heart of the City, published in 2008; and Fodor's Paris 2009. Using these books, I'm drafting a schedule of what I want to see and when during my week in the City of Lights. What would be at the top of your list?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Girl Detective

When I was asked if I'd be interested in being interviewed by Voice of America (VOA) for a story on the Nancy Drew Mystery series, I immediately remembered reading it as a girl, sprawled across my bedroom floor. My mother was concerned that I was reading too much, and not getting out to play with friends. Now that memory is part of an overview of the books, and what they have meant to girls since they were first published in 1930. You can read the transcript and listen to the audio stream from the Voice of America website at My thanks to reporter Nancy Thompson for her excellent overview. Since the story is a feature on VOA's Special English site, the pace is slower for those who are learning English. It is interesting to read the comments posted after the transcript from people all over the world.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Almost French

There are some books you read that touch your life for years to come. One of those for me is Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull. Sarah was an Australian journalist who moved to Paris to marry her love, Fred. Although a gregarious person who had traveled, Sarah discovered that France is unique. In an interview with "Paris Through Expatriate Eyes," Sarah says, "I think a lot of foreigners come to France, knowing they're coming to a foreign country and naively don't expect it to be that different." For Sarah, it seems the biggest challenge relates to being a foreigner married to French person. She is not French, but because she is married to a French man, she is not a member of the expatriate community. She explains that, "I had Fred and being with a French person, sharing your life, you are thrown into the whole French culture. You can't avoid it. You're not really in an expat world. I think some foreigners would like to be more integrated but find it quite difficult. Although as you have suggested it's often easy to have pleasant, engaging spontaneous conversations with your neighbor at a café, forming friendships takes a lot of time." After many years, Sarah begins to feel Almost French. For me, Turnbull's book is an engaging and honest memoir of taking risks and living life as an adventure. My memory of it was a motivating factor in deciding that I could take myself to Paris. If Sarah Turnbull and Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and Frances Mayes (Under the Tuscan Sun) can travel alone, then so can I.

While writing this post I discovered some interesting web sites which I link to above and highlight here.
Paris Through Expatriate Eyes
The Official Web Site of Elizabeth Gilbert
The Official Web Site of Frances Mayes

Friday, August 28, 2009

Paris: City of Lights

The DVD Paris: City of Lights, produced in 1995 by View Video, is not well shot or written, but even that could not quell my growing excitement about visiting Paris. In one hour of viewing I was reminded of Paris' history, and the great men and women whose lives have contributed to her fame. I thought of beginning a list of those who have contributed to Paris' fame, or those French names that have become recognized world-wide, but I soon realized how huge it would be. I think of Berlioz, Debussy, Delacroix, Voltaire, Hugo, Braille, Nadar, Manet, Monet, Matisse, Degas, Pissarro, Renoir, Seurat, Valadon, Marie Curie, and on. When you think of French people of note, whom do you think of and why?

By the way, I discovered a "List of French People," organized alphabetically by profession, on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Sweeet Life in Paris

On the white board outside my office, I am counting down the days to Paris. As of today, the number is 17. What's fun are the comments I receive and conversations I get into when people walk by and notice. One woman stopped to reminisce about her trip to Paris. Later she e-mailed to say, "There aren't many things I know about Paris but this fellow is going to 'set you right' about Paris. I only wish I had learned about his website before we went to Paris." Fortunately for me, I'm viewing the site before I go!

My new friend suggests David's book, too.
The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bonjour Hello Kitty!

I like Hello Kitty. Recently one daughter said that women my age should not own anything Hello Kitty. I did own a cell phone case with this sweet character. But I lost it. Or maybe someone lost it for me? Then there appeared these Hello Kitty items with a French theme. Each time I visited a certain store, I'd browse the towels, shower curtain, trash can, bath matt, etc., featuring Mademoissele Hello Kitty and her chien. But I resisted purchasing, telling myself my money will be better spent in Paris. However, I have been telling everyone about this latest Hello Kitty find, and with the great friends that I have, I should have guessed that someone would buy me a gift. I now am the smiling owner of a Bonjour Hello Kitty bath towel. Tres bien!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Finding a Place to Stay

I don't remember who first recommended Karen Brown's books to me, but I know that when I used them to find places to stay in England and Spain, I was pleased with the results. My local library had two of Karen Brown's books for France: Karen Brown's France Hotels and Karen Brown's France B&B. Her books became my guide for finding a place to stay in Paris.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Keeping a Personal Promise

"My dream is to visit Paris -- especially the Tour Eiffel (1,056 feet high) and the Louvre. (Remember to make dinner reservations at Tour Eiffel well in advance!)"

My journal entry has been fulfilled. I have dinner reservations at the Julves Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower for September 14.

But why is the restaurant called The Jules Verne? Without even expecting to, I've made a Lit Linx! The restaurant is named for French author Julves Verne (1828 - 1905), known as one of the "Fathers of Science Fiction," along with author H. G. Wells. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Verne is the second most translated author in history, behind Agatha Christie

Verne is best known for his novels A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1865), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869–1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). He wrote about air, space and under water travel before they were possible.

Le Julves Verne was remodeled when world renowned chef Alain Ducasse took over in 2007. The restaurant is on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. However, the second floor is 410 feet up, providing diners with what many call "an unparalleled view of the grandeur that is Paris." This is where I will celebrate my birthday.

Alain Ducasse opens his Eiffel Tower Restaurant (YouTube :52)
Le nouveau Jules Verne (YouTube 3:10)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mysteries in Paris

Author Cara Black has set each of her mystery novels in one of the 20 neighborhoods or municipal districts, called arrondissements, of Paris. Her latest, released this summer, is entitled Murder in the Latin Quarter. I find it interesting that when I'm focused on something, there suddenly seem to be reminders of that something all around. For example, I'd just confirmed hotel reservations in the the Latin Quarter for my September visit to Paris. Then listening to NPR's Morning Edition, I hear Ms. Black's story (In Paris, A Mystery Writer Whose Name is Noir).

Paris' 20 arrondissements are arranged in a clockwise spiral, beginning in the middle of the city on the Right Bank (north side) of the river Seine. Black has written ten books thus far:

Murder in the Marais
Murder in Belleville
Murder in the Sentier
Murder in the Bastille
Murder in Clichy
Murder in Montmartre
Murder on the Ile Saint-Louis
Murder in the Rue de Paradis
Murder in the Palais Royal
Murder in the Latin Quarter

She has ten more arrondissements to go!

Have you read any of Black's books? Do you have a favorite Paris arrondissement?

Monday, August 10, 2009

LitLinx to Paris: Join Me!

Visiting Paris has been a dream and a goal since I cannot even remember when. So when the approach of a big birthday began to trouble me, I decided it would be healthy to distract myself from the shock of it by spending the day doing something special. I decided this was the time for Paris.

Why Paris? For me it is the city with so many links to my favorite literature and art. Within the next few weeks I'll explore those links here with you, as I prepare for, travel to, and spend my week in Paris. I hope you will join me.

Above: My journal with an entry from almost a decade ago. It reads, "My dream is to visit Paris -- especially the Tour Eiffel (1,056 feet high) and the Louvre. (Remember to make dinner reservations at Tour Eiffel well in advance!)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Julie & Julia: Lives to Books to Movie

Last night I saw the movie Julie & Julia. Meryl Streep should win an academy award for her portrayal of Julia Child. The movie is based on two real life stories told in two books: My Life in France by Julia Child, and Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell. In 2002 Powell, a Julia Child devote, set out to cook all 524 recipes in Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and blog (The Julie/Julia Project) about the experience. The blog became a book, the book a movie. Seeing the movie has inspired me to read the books. (However, it has not changed my personal mantra that the best thing to make is a reservation!)

Meryl Streep was a guest on The Daily Show on August 6, reviewing her role as Julia Child. It is a must see!

Seeing the movie and reading the books compliment my own adventure, to be recorded in this blog. I will have My Week in Paris, September 11 - 17, and I'll tell my story here, beginning today. I hope you will join me.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Library NewsBytes

I've taken a hiatis from LitLinx the past two months while transitioning into a new full-time position, which includes writing for the Fairfax County Public Library blog Library NewsBytes. I'm in the process of devising a logo for the site. Any ideas? Let me know in the comment section here at LitLinx, or at Library NewsBytes. Thanks! And welcome back.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Turtle's Penguin Day

Little Turtle is so inspired by the book about Penguins his father reads at bedtime that he dreams he is a penguin. The next day Little Turtle goes to school pretending to be a penguin, and all the children in his class cry, "We want to be penguins too!" Their teacher, Ms. Dog, reads to them about penguins, and they spend the rest of the day applying what they've learned. One of my favorites is when "they all tried to pass balls to each other using just their feet the way penguins do with their eggs."

I like this book for its direct link between reading and learning and fun. I like the colorful and cheerful illustrations. I like the creative use of "penguin colors" for the cover, and the polka-dots for the end pages. The book finishes with one page of Penguin Facts.

Turtle's Penguin Day
by Valeri Gorbachev (2008)
Recommended for ages 4 - 8
ISBN 9780375843747

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Beckoning Cat

Like me, you may often have noticed little statues of cats, beckoning with a paw, in Asian businesses. In her picture book The Beckoning Cat, based on a Japanese folktale, Koko Nishizuka tells the delightful story of this kind cat, and why it has become a symbol of good luck. This is a lovely book to share in honor of Asian Pacific America Heritage Month, recognized annually in May.

The Beckoning Cat

by Koko Nishizuka

Illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger

ISBN 9780823420513

2009; $16.95

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Books Not Finished

It used to be that I thought it imperative to finish every book that I began. Then as I realized that I'd never be able to read all the books I wanted in my lifetime, I began to give myself permission to stop reading books I did not like. It still is a struggle. I have this feeling -- where does it come from? -- that you should finish every book you start. Perhaps it results from school where you have required reading.

This spring I have encountered five books that I have not finished reading. I am slightly unnerved. Five books in only the first quarter of a new year! As a friend of mine would say, "What's up with that?"

Here are the books and the short version of why I put each aside.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
2009 Newbery Award Medal recipient
Dark, dull, difficult to imagine.

Paris Noir edited by Aurelien Masson
The introduction was a turnoff!

Into a Paris Quartier by Diane Johnson

Know Your Power: A Message to America's Daughters by Nancy Pelosi and Amy Hill Hearth
Obviously ghost written, and very poorly.

The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church by Diana Butler Bass
I imagine this was a doctoral thesis which someone decided to publish. Boring.

Anyone have a good book to read?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Poem In Your Pocket Day

Today is the second national Poem In Your Pocket Day, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets in honor of National Poetry Month.

At my place of work, staff posted favorite poems on a bulletin board in the lunch room. It was fun to watch as people read poems and engaged in conversations about them throughout the day.

I was surprised by how many people enjoy poetry, have favorite poems, and even recite poems from memory. The celebration turned out to be a team-building experience.

photo by sul

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day 2009 - 10 Things to Do

In honor of Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22, read this book with the children in your life.

10 Things I Can Do to Help My World
by Melanie Walsh (2008)
ISBN 9780763641443, $15.99

Walsh's ten are simple things all of us can do everyday that will make a difference.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

National Library Week Reading List

National Library Week (April 12 - 18) just ended, but in the course of helping customers I compiled a nice picture-book list related to libraries, librarians, books, and reading. Enjoy! (photo by sul)

Read Anything Good Lately? by Susan Allen and Jane Lindaman
The Best Place to Read by Debbie Bertram
The Best Time to Read by Debbie Bertram
Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue
D. W.’s Library Card by Marc Tolon Brown
Locked in the Library by Marc Tolon Brown
Book! Book! Book! by Deborah Bruss
Our Library by Eve Bunting
But Excuse Me, That is My Book by Lauren Child
Maisy Goes to the Library by Lucy Cousins
The Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy
ABC Letters in the Library by Bonnie Farmer
I.Q. Goes to the Library by Mary Ann Fraser
The Shelf Elf by Jackie Hopkins
The Shelf Elf Helps Out by Jackie Hopkins
Franklin’s Library Book by Sharon Jennings
Hot City by Barbara Joosse
Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk
Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
Clarence the Copy Cat by Patricia Lakin
I Want to be a Librarian by Daniel Liebman
Quiero Ser Bibliotecario by Daniel Liebman (SP JP LIE)
Bats at the Library by Brian Lies
The Saturday Escape by Daniel J. Mahoney
When the Library Lights Go Out by Megan McDonald
Winston the Book Wolf by Marni McGee
Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn
Lola en la Biblioteca by Anna McQuinn (SP JP MCQ)
Tiny Goes to the Library by Cari Meister
We’re Going on a Book Hunt by Pat Miller
The Boy Who was Raised by Librarians by Carla Morris
Beatrice Doesn’t Want To by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Curious George Visits the Library by H. A. Rey
I’m Going to New York to Visit the Lions by Tanya Roitman
Mind Your Manners, B. B. Wolf by Judy Sierra
Wild About Books by Judy Sierra
Carlo and the Really Nice Librarian by Jessica Spanyol
Beverly Billingsly Borrows a Book by Alexander Stadler
The Library by Sarah Stewart
It’s Library Day by Janet Morgan Stoeke
“L” is for Library by Sonya Terry
The Librarian from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler
Library Lil by Suzanne Williams
Can You Guess Where We’re Going by Elvira Woodruff
The Little Red Fish by Taeeun Yoo
At the Library by Carol Greene (J 027G 1999)
The Bookworm’s Feast: A Potluck of Poems by J. Patrick Lewis (J 811 L 1999)
Please Bury Me in the Library by J. Patrick Lewis (J 811 L 2005)
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter (JB BAKER 2005)
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky (JB ERATOS THENES)
A Library for Juana by Pat Mora (JB JUANA INES 2002)
My Librarian Is A Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World by Margariet Ruurs (J 027.4 R 2005)
The Library of Alexandria by Kelly Trumble (J 027.032 T 2003)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Year the Swallows Came Early

I heard this morning on NPR that today, March 19, is the day the swallows usually return to San Juan Capistrano. This seemingly minor migratory fact caught my attention because I just finished reading Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s debut novel called The Year the Swallows Came Early.

Eleven-year-old Eleanor “Groovy” Robinson lives in San Juan Capistrano. Her father is in jail, her mother works long hours at her beauty salon, and her best-friend is dealing with anger at his mom who has reappeared after several years’ unexplained absence. As she faces these life challenges, the swallows return earlier than usual, bringing with them a series of events that help Eleanor begin to understand the complexities of life and the importance of forgiveness.

The Year the Swallows Came Early
by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
2009, The Bowen Press
ISBN 9780061624971 $16.99
Recommended for ages 9 - 12

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Iditarod 2009

The 37th annual running of the Iditarod sled dog race began on Saturday, March 7.

For all the information, news, updates, photos, video, etc., see the official website

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mr. Lincoln's Boys

Based on true accounts, this picture book depicts the mischievous antics of Abraham Lincoln's two youngest sons, Tad and Willie, during their White House years. The boys were known as high energy pranksters, doted on by the adoring father.

Mr. Lincoln's Boys
by Staton Raybin
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
2008, Viking Juvenile
36 pages; recommended for ages 4 to 8
ISBN 9780670061693 $16.99

Monday, February 23, 2009

What Textbooks Left Out

In confessing to how boring they can be, former textbook writer Steve Sheinkin uses real-life accounts and quotes to write an attention-holding and readable account of the Civil War, with focus on Presidents James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln. His book further shares a review of what happened to the key players after the war, interesting source notes, resources for further study, an end list of all quotes in the book and their sources, and an exhaustive index.

Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the Civil War
by Steve Sheinkin
Illustrated by Tim Robinson
2008, Roaring Brook Press
264 pages, recommended for ages 9 to 12
ISBN 9781596433205 $19.95

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lincoln and Douglass

Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship
by Nikki Giovanni
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
2008, Henry Holt
40 pages, recommended for ages 9 to 12
ISBN 9780805082647 $16.95

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery, and then escaped in 1838. His work as an abolitionist brought him into contact with President Abraham Lincoln. This book is about the strong friendship that developed between two national leaders committed to the common goal of ending slavery in the United States.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lincoln Through the Lens

Lincoln Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Shaped an Extraordinary Life
by Martin W. Sandler
2008, Walker Books for Young Readers
96 pages; recommended for ages 9 to 12
ISBN 9780802796660 $19.99

History professor and award-winning writer Martin Sandler documents more than 100 photographs of Abraham Lincoln's life and times. Included in this collection is the only known pre-Gettysburg Address photograph of the sixteenth President.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lincoln for Kids and Teens

February 12 marked the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, and in preparation for this celebratory year, several new books have been written for children and teens about our 16th President. We'll review them on LitLinx one-by-one, beginning today with one of my favorites.

The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary
By Candace Fleming
2008, Schwartz & Wade
200 pages; Recommended for ages 10 to 14
ISBN 9780375836183 $24.99

An in-depth and personal review of the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, this book includes photographs, copies of documents, and highlights about the people important in Lincoln's life and times. The author spent five years researching, and it is evident in the quality and thoroughness of the finished work. Unique to this book is the new insight into Mary Lincoln's life provided by her recently recovered personal letters.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inaugural Poetry

Elizabeth Alexander has been chosen by President-Elect Barack Obama as only the fourth inaugural poet in American history. The 45-year-old award-winning poet also teaches African American studies at Yale.

Robert Frost was the first Inaugural Poet, chosen by John F. Kennedy in 1961. Bill Clinton followed Kennedy's example, choosing Maya Angelou for the 1993 inauguration, and Miller Williams for his second swearing-in ceremony in 1997.

On a musical side-note, poet Miller Williams is the father of singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams