Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Photoshop + book covers = fun

Better Book Titles bills itself as a kind of visual Coles Notes. Is it bad that I did laugh at the Stieg Larsson cover?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ferry book-banning

I find it especially embarrassing when American news sources pick up on our fear of exposed bottoms.


Be grateful you were spared endless bad puns as titles for this post. You're welcome.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday silliness

Did I mention that I am blogging here also? Oddly, I am quite proud of this.

Friday, August 20, 2010

What's on @ my library Fall 2010

A long time ago, I made a few cryptic references to plans for programming and outreach at Rideau. I am still working on a few things for the future (business and legal aid workshops, job workshops for teens, a "how do you get your news?" panel) but a few things have come to fruition for Fall 2010.

If you're interested, you can see our fall flyers for Rideau events here.

I've been thinking very hard about how we promote events over the summer. Our events are on our library's webpage, of course, and in our print library magazine, Preview. Over the past few years, I have commonly brought event flyers to local businesses, including Loblaws and coffee shops; it's hard to tell if anyone has attended programs because of this. Our most effective advertising seems to be word of mouth, either by staff in the branch, or from people who already attend our programs talking to their friends. As a result, I have spent the week telling eeeeeveryone at work about what we have going on this fall. We also usually get great exposure from a local community paper, IMAGE (in fact, they always find room for an article by me, which is very kind of them), but sadly IMAGE is only publishing two issues this year, so we won't get as much exposure as usual.

I've decided to experiment a bit: I have created "What's on this month" flyers (the ones linked to above) and displaying each month's flyer at the circ desk. I will also e-mail them to community groups that serve all ages, in addition to sending out children's programming info to schools. I am also having a volunteer drop off these flyers at some other local venues, and I am ensuring that all our events are listed in LibraryThing.

Anyone else have great marketing ideas?

I am particularly proud of two upcoming events: the "Coffee with a police officer" event on Sept. 28th, and the author reading with Claire Holden Rothman on Nov. 2nd.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Waiting for Mockingjay

Have you read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire yet? I am not heavily into teen books, but I do read about 10 a year. One series that I really, really loved recently (along with the rest of the world) is the Hunger Games trilogy, of which the third book, Mockingjay, is coming out soon (but not soon enough). In fact, everything is coming up Mockingjay in anticipation of its release on August 24:

If you're thinking, "Whaaa?" right now, let me explain: Collins's scifi series is set in a post-apocalyptic future, in which twelve districts are ruled by the all-powerful Capitol. Every year, to remind the districts who's boss, the Capitol forces each district to send 1 young woman and 1 young man as a sacrifice to the Hunger Games, a sort of latter-day gladiator battle in a giant arena (each year a different landscape) - the last teen standing wins. When the book opens, Katniss Everdeen's sister's name is pulled for the District 12 (poorest) rep for the Games, and Katniss steps up in her place. She embarks on the trip with a young man who has always had a crush on her, as he has been chosen as the other rep from District 12. Will she win? What will happen if Katniss does? Will she have to betray her male District 12 counterpart? I can't keep writing, because if I talk about book 2, it will be a spoiler for book 1 if you haven't read it yet. Anyway, the books are suspenseful, obviously, but also touching, and complicated, and full of romance, politics, and psychological suspense.

Personally, my favourite recent pre-Mockingjay news was the SLJ interview with author Suzanne Collins. Below are two quotes I found particularly interesting, relating to her depictions of war in the trilogy:

"My father was career Air Force. He was in the Air Force for 30-some years. He was also a Vietnam veteran. He was there the year I was six. Beyond that, though, he was a doctor of political science, a military specialist, and a historian; he was a very intelligent man. And he felt that it was part of his responsibility to teach us, his children, about history and war. When I think back, at the center of all this is the question of what makes a necessary war—at what point is it justifiable or unavoidable?"

[....] "One of the reasons it’s important for me to write about war is I really think that the concept of war, the specifics of war, the nature of war, the ethical ambiguities of war are introduced too late to children. I think they can hear them, understand them, know about them, at a much younger age without being scared to death by the stories. It’s not comfortable for us to talk about, so we generally don’t talk about these issues with our kids. But I feel that if the whole concept of war were introduced to kids at an earlier age, we would have better dialogues going on about it, and we would have a fuller understanding."

I would add there are several "large" concepts that we could introduce to kids at an earlier age, in order to foster "better dialogues" and "fuller understanding."

LGBT bookstores

September's Quill and Quire has an interesting article about LGBT bookstores in Canada. As you may have heard, This ain't the Rosedale Library seems to have bitten the dust (left its longtime location for Kensington Market, then got evicted from there for unpaid rent). Now Toronto's Glad Day needs help, and Q and Q observes it is only one of three LGBT bookstores left in Canada. The others are Ottawa's own After Stonewall and Vancouver's Little Sister's Books and Art Emporium.

Q and Q makes a goof point that these places are in many ways community spaces not merely bookstores, and it seems to me that the closure of each one is kind of especially sad because of this...

Glad Day co-manager Sholem Krishtalka calls his first trip to one a "revelation: a store full of books written for me. A small shelf at a chain bookstore cannot provide that kind of validation, and neither can Internet surfing."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Community library visit in Toronto

What's a trip to Toronto without a stop at some TPL branches? A waste, I say!

The husband and I checked out two this time; the first was a small renovated library in Thorncliffe Park. Thorncliffe Branch has been around since the 60s, and the current building dates from 1970. A renovation begun in December 2007 was finally completed in April this year and involved doubling the size and adding a KidsStop, Teen Zone, meeting rooms and an adult reading area.

As you can see from the photo at left, the neighbourhood is very densely populated and features many high-rises. I counted at least 8 within sight of the library. According to city info, 68% of occupied private dwellings in the ward are in high-rise apartments. The area is predominantly South Asian (I was the only white girl on the street, for sure); 11% of the ward speaks Urdu as their mother tongue. Interestingly, the population is also quite mixed (30% indicated "multiple response" for ethnic origin) and highly educated (the ward is 7% higher than city average for residents with a university certificate, diploma or degree).

Given that Thorncliffe's reno was only very, very recently completed, I will forgive them their unpaved (and extremely narrow!) parking lot; I would imagine, like Rideau, that many of their patrons walk to the branch. At right is a photo of the exterior of branch; when we pulled up, a police cruiser was pulled up outside, and the police were chatting good-naturedly with a large group of local kids and teens. The building is shared space with a community centre, and you enter the lobby and ascend a flight of stairs on the right to enter the library. Alas, we didn't have time to explore the whole centre, but I gather it includes a gym and fitness room, a teen lounge, and a daycare (although the whole reno wasn't entirely without its issues).

Inside the library, it's slatwall city. I continue to love how TPL places many of its stacks on an angle, although it is hard to do because it eats up so much more space. I like how they slatwalled the entire wall at the entry way, too; why waste the space? Tucked in behind the second doorway in the photo at left is a small space for hold pickup and a photocopier/printer. Strangely, Rideau has similar light fixtures! Overall, I really like how the entryway draws you in: the slatwall is enticing and the lights create a kind of pathway feeling.

The branch also made the most of storefront windows by creating a lovely reading corner (at right). This looks out onto the street (you can even see the front hood of the police cruiser I was talking about at far left!). First words out of the husband's mouth: now why didn't you guys get chairs like that? He's right too: the leather (or fake leather - whatever) is probably more hygenic. I wonder if these chairs came with tablet desks, too, though... 'cause we really needed those tablet desks. The husband was not a fan of the carpet though; I like it. Anyway, note use of slatwall again, and those lovely cube display units (each is a separate piece). I adore them.

The teen zone is just off the main entryway, and has a bunch of computers (see photo at left), a TV screen (on mute), cushy seating, and teen collections. The hanging kits you see on the right of the picture are part of the languages collection - I can't remember specifics now, but they definitely had books in Urdu and Gujarati, and some Hindi movies (ha! All those years I hung out with Seetha, and I managed to escape watching an entire Hindi movie beginning to end. Which is not to say I am not familiar with the tropes of the genre, or the actors and actresses...! Perhaps more from the Ms of SAM², though!) Where was I? Oh yeah, teens. Well, that was it. I'm happy to see a smaller branch manage to have a teen zone. Damn. I wish we could carve out the space.

Et bien - la pièce de résistance... The KidsStop! Talk about maximising the space. I will let the below photo speak for itself (note pre-literacy skill activities tucked into the letters). Genius.

On a side note, we also serendipitously visited North York Central Library (thanks to location assistance from a friend via text!), because it is my friend Lora's home branch and it wasn't toooo far from the location of Seetha's wedding (incidentally, check that second link out. The temple also houses the Canadian Museum of Hindu Civilization). North York started life as the first stand-alone facility for the North York Public Library in 1959 and it still has a ton of resources and programs, including a legal aid clinic and a teen book club - in French! Puts us to shame! Architectural highlights of the branch include: swirly stacks (puts me in mind of the swirly stacks at the Idea Store in London!), a secret fort in the kids' dept. with aquariums (dudes! It took me forever to spell aquariums properly. My fingers wanted to auto-complete it as "acquisitions" - sad!) and some good lookin' owls (which Laura - I know, another one, confusing, eh? - says might have at some point been a TPL symbol?)

P.S. I still haven't read the literature that I picked up on these two TPL stops - more updates on that if there is anything remarkable!

P.P.S. I also forgot to mention, when talking about Seetha, that she and her brother (both doctors) diagnosed my osteoporosis themselves (or at least, suggested I get a bone density test) after my second broken wrist. Told ya she was a superstar!

I leave you with the owl. I like him.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vacay reading

The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison
A young girl is evacuated from London and sent off to the country (a family manor in York, specifically) during WW2. She soon discovers that the childless couple who have turned their family manor into a school have some secrets; while her mother finds her path alone in London, she becomes implicated in events that change everyone's lives in York. Unfortunately, this book started off strong but took a nosedive somewhere around 3/4 of the way through, wrapping up a novel of introspection with a few abrupt action-packed scenes and a final section of super-fast-forward. What began as a thinker ended up as a trite romance.

Half Life by Roopa Farooki
A young woman who abruptly fled her lover and her life in Singapore two years ago returns, leaving behind a bewildered husband in London, to confront the shocking circumstances of her original departure. I loved Bitter Sweets and The Way Things Look to Me; Sadly, this one had a predictable plot. This was not her best, although it had its moments.

Histories by Andrew Steinmetz (poetry)
A mix of patient histories (Steinmetz is a medical doctor oops, I mean, he worked as an ICU clerk, and a librarian!) and personal stories.

Black Alley by Mauricio Segura
...Kind of a darker West Side Story (without the music) set in Côte-des-Neiges. Well-written, but the 2nd person tense was kind of annoying. I kept expecting the narrator to be revealed in some weird way, since he/she kept intruding on the action, but he/she wasn't. All the "you"-ing was giving me the creeps after awhile. Nonetheless, an interesting book: a fairly accurate look at gangs, high school and Montreal.

The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst
Novelist mum re-unites with rock star son after son is accused of murdering his girlfriend. I enjoyed that the novel was interspersed with exerpts from the final chapters of the mum's novels, which she was in the process of re-writing when her son is arrested (although the Independent review says "her revised endings congest the flow of Parkhurst's drama with contrived counterpoint," I read their oversimplification as a fault of the character's, not of Pankhurst's. A readable suspense/family novel, with sub-layers of guilt and nostalgia, with two central questions: who killed the girlfriend, and what alienated mum and son in the first place?

Time Meddlers: Undercover by Deborah Jackson
By the daughter of some of my mom's parishoners. An engaging time-travel book for 7-10 year olds involving WW2 Holland and (intriguingly) an alternate ending for the life of Anne Frank.

The Heart Does Break: Canadian Writers on Grief and Mourning co-edited by George Bowering and Jean Baird
This book nearly tore me apart. I was intrigued by the Globe review, and the idea of commissioning essays by well-known Canadian writers about grief (the editors's daughter died suddenly, and Baird found herself unmoved by traditional "grief" books, with the notable exceptions of Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and Allende's Paula - books I also loved). I had already read Jill Frayne's memories of her mother, June Callwood, and wept; in fact, I wept through the first few essays in this book, until I managed through careful reading and frequent breaks to pace myself. Particularly moving were Joan Givner's memories of her daughter (a would-have-been librarian), Linda McNutt's interweaving stories of the deaths of her father and several of her unborn children, and Paul Quarrington's light touch when writing about his mother's death when he was a teenager.

Gwethalyn Graham: A Liberated Woman in a Conventional Age by Barbara Meadowcroft (More here, but you knew that, of course).

8 books, 9 days, 4cities, 2 beach visits. I packed it in, baby!

Monday, August 16, 2010

No, I did not fall of the edge of the globe last week. I took a vacation.... Rare! I decided to make it a real one, and unplug (mostly. Sort of). Details on that forthcoming.

The main event last week, however, was the wedding of my good friends, Seetha and Ananth. Seetha and I first met at age 8, when we were in the South Shore Children's Chorus together (embarrassing close-up above; yes, that is a giant bow on my head). We hardly knew one another then, but we were two of the choir's youngest members. Two moves later (for both of us: her to India and back, and myself to Otterburn Park and then Bedford) we went to high school together for four years. She, Manasi, Manasi (known as Manu) and I (acronym: SAM²) were inseparable for the most of these years. We later went on to Marianopolis together (3x Health Sciences, 1x Liberal Arts... guess who that was?).

Seetha and her family mean a great deal to me. Seetha and her parents, particularly, have been tremendous influences on my life. She and her father both told me tales from Hindu mythology (Seetha telling them as bedtime stories during sleepovers), and her father taught me much about religion and philosophy that stays with me to this day. He is one of the most humble and kind men I know, and a true teacher. The evidence is here, although "he does not think of himself as a personification of Gandhi (as the article alludes to) but a devout follower of his teaching." He maintains that "sometimes we get a bigger honor before we deserve the whole of it; then for that we have to work hard to deserve it. At other times we work hard but it goes unrecognized. My case belongs to the first."

Her mother cooked for me: her unbelievably delicious meals were my first introduction to exotic cuisine (I know, it's not exotic anymore, really!). She patiently taught me what was what, how to eat with my hands, and oversaw my initiation into the realm of spicy food (I can handle a lot more than people think ... appearances are deceptive!). Under her tutelage, I sampled biryanis and mutton and butter chicken, and I scarfed up more samosas and naan than I care to admit. Knowing that butter chicken was my favourite (but only made her way, more South Indian than North, which is what you commonly get more of in restaurants here), she always made extra and sent a spare Tupperware full to school with Seetha for me, which I scarfed in ecstasy on the bus ride home on more than a few occasions. I watched her teach Seetha bharata natyam in preparation for her arangetram with a patience and determination I admired as a dancer myself. Both Seetha's parents accepted me into their home and their lives for many years (well, once they figured out this "Alex" person Seetha kept referring to at age 14 wasn't a boy... and Uncle did insist on calling me Alexis!) unquestioningly, and with a warmth and caring that I cherish to this day.

As for Seetha... well, there are not enough words to express how I feel about her, and about our friendship, which has been a wonderful blessing for many years. She takes after both her parents in her generous and warm nature. She is one of the most loyal people I know, and she is utterly BS-free; ask her opinion, and you will get it. She is straightforward, and she never once stooped to the petty machinations of high school. I am eternally indebted to her for being the person referred to in paragraph 7 of this post. Over our 16+ years of friendship, I have been honoured to watch a self-conscious tomboy flourish and grow into a graceful, talented woman who is comfortable in her own skin. Her wedding was a testament to the fact that she has touched many lives, and made many of us better people simply by knowing her. Ananth has much to be grateful for.

Reuniting with SAM², and spending time with her family this weekend again has been a joy. The title of this post is my wish for you newlyweds, Seetha.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Unjustly dusty: the works of Gwethalyn Graham

I am on a (too-short!) one week vacation this week, and I've brought home 5 books for the 9 days I am off... Do you think that will be enough? With side trips to Montreal and Toronto, I think it will be!

The first book on the pile is Barbara Meadowcroft's 2008 biography, Gwethalyn Graham: A Liberated Woman in a Conventional Age. It's at the top of the list because it's an ILL from TPL, and it's due this week. I find the designation of this series as "Women who rock" deeply trivialising, but luckily I am spared looking at this text as it is covered on my copy by the TPL barcode.

I first learned of Gwethalyn Graham in August 2005, when a friend and former professor of mine wrote a review of Graham's Swiss Sonata, brought back into print 67 years after its first publication. Although Claire Rothman admitted that Swiss Sonata "makes the mistake of putting politics before storytelling," she recommended it "for historical reasons," as a book remarkable at the time: written by a woman, with all-female characters; written not about romance, but rather world politics. Set in a model U.N. (or rather, League of Nations)-style Swiss finishing school in 1935, the novel uses the backdrop of European tensions to explore relationships and betrayals among a group of international students, and was blacklisted by the Nazis (a fact of which Graham was quite proud).

Who was this woman? The review also mentioned that both her novels, Swiss Sonata (1938) and Earth and High Heaven, (1944) had won the Governor General's Award. An almost unknown double GG winner (and a Montrealer, to boot) whose works had been out of print for over 60 years? I had to find out more about her.

Personal interest soon dovetailed with professional investigations, as I began extensive work in the fall of 2005 for an event at work celebrating Westmount's authors on the occasion of Montréal, capitale mondiale du livre. Along the way, Gwethalyn Graham's name popped up again: she had lived at 4129 Dorchester W. after fleeing her first disastrous marriage; she later bought a house on Argyle Ave., and was living at the time of her death at 4652 Sherbrooke W., just across Lansdowne from the park. I unearthed many articles from the Westmount Examiner about local authors that autumn, toiling away for often 12 hours a day, with Ann and Joan as company, executing elaborate maneouvers to get the giant Examiner archives face-down onto the photocopier. I came across many articles by and about Graham; she was often on my mind. I walked by her place on Sherbrooke frequently, wondering about her cozy, grey apartment; I read her novels while waiting for my then-fiancé while shopping in the Bay.

Her early interest in being a writer appealed to me, as I wanted to be a writer, too, up until late into university. Her self-consciousness also reminded me of myself: the fact that she took "great pains over her appearance" but that this "was not vanity; it was a necessary prop to her self-esteem" sounded familiar to me. Her choice of an unsuitable lover distressed me, but her courage as a young single mother living alone in Montreal moved me. I saw her ghost often in that last year I spent in Montreal; that time in my life was as tumultuous as her time in Montreal was comforting. I had always been drawn to tragic stories of thwarted gifts; Gwethalyn's story of great success and eloquent passion coupled with deep loneliness and alienation came at a time in my life when I perhaps felt her losses - idealism not the least among them - more keenly.

At an event in the library that fall (it could have been the Montréal, capitale mondiale du livre event or something else; memory fails me) I ran into Barbara Meadowcroft, who took me aside to tell me she was writing Graham's biography. I could not have been more pleased. It was five years later when I sat down, in another city, in another life, to read the biography, and I found myself deeply engrossed again in the life of someone I believe to have been a kind of kindred spirit of mine. I read Meadowcroft's book in one sitting, pausing when upset to get a drink or check e-mail, needing to put some distance between myself and the words on the page.

I will try to be concise about the facts of Graham's life: the daughter of a lawyer and a Classicist, she had a privileged upbringing in Toronto's Rosedale. An early marriage to John McNaught (known perhaps to CBC geeks as James Bannerman) ended in divorce not long after the birth of their son and McNaught's affair, and it was at this point that Gwethalyn fled to Montreal for the first time. Reading Meadowcroft and coming across the photograph at left, my heart aches to see her so young. She received critical recognition for her first novel, Swiss Sonata, but broke through to real fame after the publication of Earth and High Heaven in 1944. She was active in the Canadian Authors's Association (drafting an amendment to the Income Tax Act for artists and writers that would lay groundwork for forward averaging), and counted High McLennan and Constance Beresford-Howe as close friends. She wrote prolifically about anti-Semitism, immigration, and social injustice at a time when few women were political activists, and few North Americans were paying attention to the Holocaust; raised in a family that sheltered Jewish refugees, she urged Canada to pay attention before it was too late to atrocities abroad. Earth and High Heaven, a novel about an interfaith romance between a Protestant Westmount girl and a small-town Ontario Jew, came precisely at the moment when North American began to awaken to the realities of European anti-Semitism, and would have been made into a Metro Goldwyn film with Gregory Peck had A Gentleman's Agreement not gotten in the way. Graham's second marriage, which brought her to Virginia during desegregation, ended in betrayal and divorce a second time, causing her to return to Montreal. Never idle, but often short of cash, Graham turned to writing for TV (she presciently observed that "TV is or ought to be" considered art in 1959) and non-fiction, publishing her correspondence with Solage Chaput-Rolland, which examined the prejudices of English and French Canadians, under the title Dear enemies. Graham was consumed with self-doubt in later years, unable to finish another novel, and drank heavily after her second divorce. Observing her erratic behaviour and uneven gait, and concerned that she was an alcoholic, her son convinced her to admit herself to a treatment centre for alcoholism; within hours, she was transferred to the Neuro, where doctors discovered a tumur "the size of a fist." She died within weeks, at 52.

Reading her biography, I was struck again by the characteristics that had initially drawn me to Graham: her steadfast loyalty to her two husbands and her large circle of friends, her commitment to internationalism and insistence that Earth and High Heaven was not a love story but was "a plea for the individual, that he or she may be regarded and respected as such, and not judged arbitrarily according to a category," her "clear, straightforward prose," as Meadowcroft calls it, and her supportive family, including her father (who mailed her cheques during the early days writing Swiss Sonata alone with a baby in Montreal) and her sister, Isabel LeBourdais (whose book, The Trial of Stephen Truscott, she did not live to see published).

There are certainly things not to admire about Graham: she is not terribly charitable to a lesbian character in Swiss Sonata, although it is unclear if the views expressed in the book are her own, and her frequent abandonment of her son, Tony, to travel or write, was undoubtedly a difficult choice that had a deep impact on him. Overall, however, she showed remarkable talent and bravery for a woman with a complicated life in a troubled time in history.

I do think her novels have their dated - as well as their truly honest and vivid - moments. Meadowcroft calls them "as fresh and readable today as they day they were published;" Rothman counters that Swiss Sonata was "worth reading, if not for its literary artistry, then for its interest as a snapshot of womanhood and the Western World on the brink of transformation." I am somewhere in the middle: both novels have moments of lyric beauty, as well as cuttingly accurate dialogue, and both are also plagued with occasional moments of narrative clunkiness, for want of a better term.

I still unabashedly recommend Graham every chance I get; she was one of the first books I shelf-talked, and she has appeared in several of my readers' advisory lists. Although she came several years before Munro and Atwood began publishing, and she was not really one to make friends with other Canlit women, she paved the way for them, churning out solid, even, intelligent writing for many years, assembling frequent salons in her living room (mixing all types of Montreal characters, writers and lawyers, Jews and Gentiles) and throwing herself head-first into the révolution tranquille with the publication of Dear enemies. Canada should be more proud of her, or rather, they should be proud of her in the first place, since it seems they never really have been.

Cormorant's own Marc Cote has been a personal champion of Graham's work, mentioning her in a 2009 article in the Globe & Mail, in which he talks about the inclusion of mostly American texts in Canadian schools, and the slavish devotion of Canadian media to American writers and novels. Describing how book-buying tastes, and "knowledge" of Canadian content and literary awards, are cultivated in readers' early school years, he uses Graham's career, and her dismissal by a Canadian journalist as a second-rate novelist who has never won the Pulitzer, to illustrate our lack of awareness of our own writers, and our own awards. Samuel Goldwyn called Earth and High Heaven "the most beautiful love story he had ever read," (Meadowcroft cites this book as a reference). Why, even with allowances made for the dated nature of some of her writing, has Graham fallen so far by the wayside, out of print for so long, and so briefly fêted upon her return into print? She was a passionate, complex woman who lived in an awkward time, and she survived to re-invent herself numerous times, as a writer, a wife and a mother.

One of my two copies of Earth and High Heaven, this one the 2nd American printing from 1944, discarded from the Westmount Public Library's collection.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Maybe SRC does reach the kids it is supposed to reach...

I signed up three more kids for SRC yesterday. I am in the habit of asking them now if they have read any books so far this summer, to get them started with a base number for stats and to show them how the tokens and prizes work here at Rideau Branch.

Yesterday, responses included:
(from a parent) "No, you've all been playing video games all summer! You haven't read anything! That's why I brought you here!"
(from a 7 year old) "No, not really, but I'm going to start now!" (waves her SRC poster in the air).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

E-readers in Africa

Faster and cheaper than traditional books, e-readers are being used in a pilot project in Ayenyah, Ghana. Worldreader used Kindles and texts donated by Project Gutenberg; the Kindles were charged using solar-powered car batteries. The pilot is now being expanded from 20 Kindles in the village to over 300 in 4 local schools.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Urban jungles with the Ottawa Art Gallery

Today's SRC activity was a partnership with the Ottawa Art Gallery, and the theme was "Urban jungles."

Books displayed included:

The Trek by Ann Jonas: Wild animals hide in everyday objects as a girl walks to school.
Jumanji by Chris van Allsburg: A jungle adventure board game becomes real....
I, Crocodile by Fred Marcellino: A crocodile is taken from his native home along the Nile and brought to Paris by (who else) the Emperor Napoleon, and must scrounge for food... and avoid being eaten himself. His presence (and his snappy jaws and long-reaching arms) confound the proper ladies of Paris.
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins: Um, ew. That's all. And also, cool.
À la recherche du fabuleux diamant par Rémy Simard: Jim Moutarde se retrouve dans la jungle, perdu, en cherchant le diament de la reine Zaza....

And here are some of the urban jungles created by the kids:

This one is a fair, with a roller coaster and one of those spinny rides that made me throw up at Ormstown Fair:

An underwater urban jungle:

Fantasy-land (I highly recommend zooming in for the worms):

Note to Harrow

My alter-ego in name (replace the H) and town of my husband's alma mater:

Self-serve checkout kiosks do not "better service" make.

Is the kiosk going to say, "Hello, Mrs. Smith, and how are you today? Did you enjoy that Janet Evanovich? Can I recommend some Lisa Lutz?"

Methinks not.

File under: so dumb, it's kinda genius

Author Jennifer Belle took her book publicity into her own hands by hiring actresses "to read my book on the subway and at New York City landmarks for $8 an hour".

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Time-wasting Tuesday link

Originally uploaded by alexandrayarrow
Have you ever checked out this pool on Flickr: Librarians' desks?

If not, do! It's fun to see how messy other people are (ha ha) and also, to see what piles you have in common.

I took a new desk photo today when I was outside taking garden photos for our PowerPoint. Click on the notes for the truly voyeuristic experience.