Eureka! Land in sight.

This week is the anniversary of the discoveries of two significant land masses. On December 13, 1642, Captain Abel Tasman of the Dutch East India Company first sighted New Zealand. In 1769, Captain James Cook landed and took possession for Great Britain. To read more on New Zealand, try Traveller's History of New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands by John H. Chambers.

On December 14, 1911, the South Pole was located and visited by Roald Amundsen. Although more has been written about Ernest Shackleton, his expedition to Antarctica was in 1914, a few years after Amundsen's discovery. Last Place on Earth is a book by Roland Huntford and then a film based on the rivalry between Amundsen and Scott who came one year apart to the Pole.

Long Live the French Language

Great news for people who, like myself, studied beaucoup de Francais (lots of French) in high school and college, and perhaps have lived to wish it had all been Spanish. Mais non! French is still the second global language after English, say Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau whose new book The Story of French recently was featured on The Diane Rehm Show. Learn more at the authors' website.

Here Be Monsters!

Welcome to the first adventure in Ratbridge, a town where there are boxtrolls, cabbageheads and Wild English Cheeses running afoot. The story begins with Arthur trapped in Ratbridge while collecting food for his grandfather. While in town, he stumbles upon an evil plot by Snatcher and his men to shrink monsters, and joins up with a band of rats and pirates from the Ratbridge Nautical Laundry to try to save the day.

Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow is a fabulous read and read-aloud for kids and adults who love fantasy enjoy the unordinary and extraordinary. Also, check out the website for screensavers, games and bios of all the monsters in Ratbridge.

Kid Bits - Journals, Hah !

Do you keep journals? Do you like to read other people's journals? Need to escape relatives and guests? Here are some goofy and good reads to fill the Holiday Breaks at home. Dear Dumb Diary series with 6th grade Jamie Kelly; Jack on the Tracks: Four Seasons of Fifth Grade; Amelia's Are-We-There-Yet Longest Ever Car Trip; and The Night I Flunked My Field Trip one of the Hank Zipzer, "world's best underachiever" series.

American Born Chinese & The Monkey King

Cleverly interweaving stories tell the tales of Jin Wang, a teen who meets with ridicule and social isolation when his family moves from San Francisco's Chinatown to an exclusively white suburb; Danny, a popular blond, blue-eyed high school jock whose social status is jeopardized when his goofy, embarrassing Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee, enrolls at his high school; and the Monkey King who, unsatisfied with his current sovereign, desperately longs to be elevated to the status of a god. Exploring issues of self-image, cultural identity, transformation, and self-acceptance American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is a rare treat.

Give the gift of a good read!

Are you stumped on what to get your family members for the holidays? Try giving someone a book! NPR's All Things Considered has several recommendations here in the article "Book Selections to Nourish the Mind at the Holidays."

And while you're on NPR's website, check out their page of holiday recipes too!

Dogs About Town

Portable dogs have increased in popularity, no longer residing solely under the arms of old ladies who wear costume jewelry and fur coats. Referred to as “woman’s best friend” in a recent New York Times article, pocket-sized dogs have become ubiquitous among young female celebrities, often appearing in matching outfits, poking their tiny heads out of designer bags. Tinkerbell Hilton, a Chihuahua, even has his own entry on Wikipedia.

Lest you miss out on the trend, we have you covered: projects for crafty owners skilled with needles, Dog is my Co-Pilot, a compilation by the editors of trendy dog magazine, BARk, and, for pocket-sized people (kids!), try Pocket Dogs by Margaret Wild. And, of course, there’s always local retailer, Dogma Catmantoo for all your persnickety pooch’s particulars.

Kid Bits - FolkLore

Every fall Youth Services runs tours DownTown for 2nd grades called "Second Grade RoundUp". A Folk Tale leads every tour, and the "J 398.2 Collection" (FolkLore and FairyTale Collection) is discovered. Folklore crosses age levels, displays cultural roots, and passes on values. To expand yourself, try FairyTales by the Brothers Grimm to hear some Grimm Brothers tales read aloud. Visit LibrarySparks to explore ways to help kids think critically about folktales. Or simply enjoy worldly favorites from the Library Folklore Collections, like Head, Body, Legs from Liberia, Something From Nothing from Russia, New Patches For Old from Turkey, Elves And The Shoemaker from Europe, or Kumak's House from Alaska.

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Best Sellers List (12/10/06)

The reviews for Pynchon's latest book have been surprisingly mixed. Taking 9 years to write and coming in at over 1000 pages, the novel may end up as a door stopper for some disgruntled readers.

For something entirely different and more entertaining, I recommend the latest mystery by Hillerman. I have never been dissatisfied with any of his magical stories set in the Navajo nation, featuring Leaphorn and/or Chee.

At #4 is The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman: "Lt. Joe Leaphorn, a tribal detective, tracks down an antique Navajo rug with a complicated history."

At #13 is Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon: "From the time of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 to World War 1, a sprawling cast of characters engage in Pychonesque high jinks."

Ever wondered . . .

how a jet's black box works, how a skin graft is grown, or how a pet translator interprets the mood of your dog or cat? Take a look at Cool Stuff and How it Works. This full color picture book uses advanced imaging technology such as X rays, scanning electron micrographs, and infrared thermograms, along with traditional graphics, to reveal the workings of all this and more. A feast for the eye and brain!

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