Teen/ Youth Stuff: Guides to the internet

While these books are great for youth and teens to read themselves to get some direction, they’re also great books for parents for offer up to their kids or possibly discuss together.

A Smart Girl’s Guide to the Internet: “How to connect with your friends, find what you need, and stay safe online.” Did your BFF just tell you she’s RTFL and you’re confused? This quick & easy youth book may help you. It discusses net lingo, as well as basics of e-mail, social networking, blogging, online safety, and more. This little book features a lot of images and quizzes to keep interest.

A Teen’s Guide to Creating Web Pages and Blogs: This handy book shows you how to create and beef up your Myspace and Facebook pages, build your own website with html and javascript tips, and learn ways to protect yourself with some cybersafety tips.

AADL Mini-Podcast: Alia Malek

I had the opportunity to sit down with Alia Malek and talk about her book A Country Called Amreeka: Arab Roots, American Stories. Alia touches on her experience advocating for election protection and civil rights for diverse groups. She also discusses the influence of the American Civil Rights Movement on her choice of setting and character in her book.

Attachment Size
AADL_Minipodcast-Alia_Malek.mp3 13.74 MB

The scent of oranges

Fans of Joanne Harris' popular novel and movie adaptation, Chocolat may want to check out another of her novels, Five Quarters of the Orange. The story takes place in a French provincial village during World War II when France was occupied by the Germans. Framboise is the youngest of three children of a bitter, angry widow whose husband was killed in the war. The story moves back and forth in time, from Framboise's youth when she developed a crush on Tomas, a German soldier who provided goods on the blackmarket to the children, to her life as an older woman who has returned to the village, disguised in name, because of a violent series of incidents in which her mother was tragically involved. Throughout, Harris entrances us with descriptions of food and wine and the pervasive scent of oranges whose peel the vindictive Framboise laid in pipes near their stove to bring on her mother's blinding migraines. A lush portrait of rural life in France
during the war when good intentions, even love, became distorted in the smoke of battle.

Parent Magazine Update -- Inspiration Information


I hope you feel rested and refreshed at the end of this holiday season. On the other hand, if you feel like you used up all your creative energy picking gifts and planning activities, January's parent magazines have tools to inspire and inform you.

The Horn Book Magazine is a great guide to the best inspirational tools on the planet -- books! This issue contains an interview with children's author Margaret Mahy, an article in defense of fanfiction (an under-appreciated genre in my opinion), and of course, abundant book reviews. The editors' book picks this issue include Imogene's Last Stand, wordless picture book The Lion and the Mouse,Crossing Stones - a teen novel about World War 1, and graphic novel The Storm in the Barn.

Working Mother Magazine features some inspiring portraits of successful career women, with a bio of White House deputy chief of staff Mona Sutphen and an article by Lynn Blum, the founder of resale shops Once Upon a Child, Plato's Closet and Clothes Mentor. On the more serious side of things, Working Mother also covers recent changes in custody settlements brought on by an increase in stay-at-home dads, with suggestions to minimize the effects of divorce on children.This issue also contains tips on keeping track of your teenager, and some tasty-looking one-dish recipes. I think that "Vegetarian Paella" and "Chicken Olive Tagine" sound pretty inspiring, don't you?

Intriguingly Factual Reads on the Hot- and Blue-Blooded

These are not your high school history teacher's textbooks.

Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics, and its male consort Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge, are both written by a namesake descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor Herman.

In these two luscious books, Herman outlines the auspicious--and more often ominous--adulteries of European royalty, from the middle ages up until the modern Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

As you might expect, they cover many subjects not often touched by history teachers. But, probably for that reason, they are entertaining while still being factually correct. Perhaps a guilty pleasure to read, you will nevertheless be assured that they are not simply fabricated for your enjoyment.

The two books offer intriguing insight into the act of adultery among nobility--its origins and outcomes--with a pinch of feminism and a heaping spoonful of wit. Herman explains not only political and social risings among the mistresses and lovers of kings and queens, but also the fashions and foods inspired by them. They cover nearly all of Europe, from Britain and France to the cold reaches of Russia, and they span from five to nine decades.

She also offers a book on a papal puppetry by a woman, called Mistress Of The Vatican: the True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini, the Secret Female Pope, which Publisher's Weekly called "a window into an age of empire, nepotism and intrigue that rivals any novel for fascinating reading."

If you're looking for a painstakingly-researched read that delves into social and political history, but don't want to be reading yourself to sleep, take a look at these.

A bicentennial plus one

Today, January 4, is the birthday of Louis Braille, the inventor of the braille alphabet. Braille found that with a series of six raised dots, he could form coded patterns that became the letters of the alphabet, recognizable by touch. Born in Coupvray, France in 1809, Braille was blinded in one eye in an accident and later developed an infection in the other, leading to total blindness. Faced with opposition to his system, Braille unfortunately did not see Braille used extensively until after his death from tuberculosis in 1852.

Not only is it Braille's birthday but 2009 also marked the bicentennial of his birth. Check out the website for information on the history of Braille and suggested activities for young people. You may also be interested in reading a provocative article in this Sunday's, January 3, New York Times Magazine titled "Listening to Braille" which discusses the pros and cons of braille compared to audio transmission of information. The author raises interesting questions about literacy for the blind and how it may be adversely affected by new technologies. The Library still has a number of books in Braille as well as extensive services for the blind through the Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled.

AXIS Coffehouse Returns

Coffee DragonCoffee Dragon

Rejoice, poets and poetry fans! AXIS Coffehouse returns from winter break this Friday, January 8th at 6:30 pm, with more books, more snacks and more fine forgiveness coupons than ever before.

For those of you who are new to the program, AXIS Coffeehouse is space where you can hang out and share poetry in a comfortable and laid-back environment. Read your own work, or someone else's, and you get free goodies, including $5 fine forgiveness coupons!

So, whether you're new to AXIS Coffehouse or not, come on down to Malletts Creek this Friday for an evening of poetry and fun. Feel free to bring a friend.

The Road Comes to the State Theater

In August of 2008 I got all excited and wrote a blog about the upcoming film version of Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Road, which was supposed to be released that November. It never was. Then this autumn, I got all excited again when Division Films said the movie was really going to come out this winter. However, the closest the film came to Ann Arbor was the Royal Oak Theater. Finally, last night, I saw The Road at the State Theater, and for this McCarthy fan, it was worth the wait. Visually stunning, well acted, and faithfully adapted both as a narrative and thematically from the novel, director John Hillcoat does a fine job with this book to film experience. But you'll have to hurry to see it, for The Road will only be screened at the State until January 7th.

Teen Stuff: A Series by Henning Mankell

Best selling Swedish author Henning Mankell is known for his slew of adult mystery novels, including the popular Kurt Wallander series. He has also written a few teen titles, including a series about a boy named Joel Gustafson and his father living in Sweden in the late 1950s. The story begins with A Bridge to the Stars, where the curious and imaginative wannabe sailor Joel is nearly twelve and is meeting new friends and looking for new adventures while dealing with his father’s new love interest. He takes comfort in stories of the sea and befriends the town’s oddballs, including a local mad man who drives a lorry at night to stay awake, and an eccentric woman with no nose. Shadows in the Twilight, When the Snow Fell, and the most recent and series ender- The Journey to the End of the World, continue Joel’s story as he begins to grow, finds new challenges, and gets closer to adulthood.

Mankell is a master writer. He paints a wonderful image of snowy small town Sweden in these novels, and Joel is an adorable and fun character. As a fan of the Wallender series I was glad to read Mankell’s telling of Joel’s story in this laid back teen series. (For grades 6 and up.)

A Minnesota farmer poet

Today is the birthday of poet, Robert Bly, born in Madison, Minnesota in 1926. Bly is known for his deep resonant voice in public readings and his deft and sensitive translations of the poetry of Persian poet Kabir as well as poets of other countries. Heavily influenced by Kabir and other Persian poets, his poems often exhort the reader to undergo some transformation of spirit to acheive some measure of peace of mind and acceptance. Bly is also wll known in the men's movement as the author of Iron John, his call to men to examine their more feminine, intuitive sides, and has led numerous workshops exploring these ideas experientially. Following is a timely poem that describes a trip with his parents who have grown old:

Driving my Parents Home at Christmas

As I drive my parents home through the snow
their frailty hesitates on the edge of a mountainside.
I call over the cliff
only snow answers.
They talk quietly
of hauling water of eating an orange
of a grandchild's photograph left behind last night.
When they open the door of their house they disappear.
And the oak when it falls in the forest who hears it through miles and miles of silence?
They sit so close to each other¡­as if pressed together by the snow.

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