Category Archives: Books & Reading

Friday Reads: Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt

tellthewolves_I think my colleagues will be glad that I’m finished with this book, as I’ve been an emotional wreck every afternoon after listening to another installment over my lunch hour. The story is set in 1987, in and around New York City, at the height of the AIDS epidemic.  Several chapters in, 14-year-old June Elbus’s beloved uncle and godfather, Finn, dies of the disease. Fractures between June and her 16-year-old sister, Greta, which began prior to Finn’s death, open further, leaving each alone with her unique pain. And June’s mother, Finn’s sister, is so caught up in her own grief and resentment that she doesn’t see how her personal issues have contributed to her daughters’ crises.

A major catalyst for the emotional drama of the story is the secret June’s mother forced Finn to keep from June as a condition of him being allowed to be a part of her life: the very existence of his beloved partner Toby, with whom he shared his apartment and life. June learns of Toby’s existence at Finn’s funeral, when her mother spots him outside the funeral parlor, and her father tells June and Greta to alert him if “that man” tries to enter the building.

Several weeks after the funeral, Toby contacts June with a gift from Finn and a request to meet secretly, as she is, according to his note, “perhaps the only person who misses Finn as much as I do…” Thus begins a tentative and covert friendship, orchestrated in part, we find out, by Finn, which brings both comfort and additional pain to June.

What totally guts me about this book is the degree to which pain begets pain, especially between people who love each other. Greta’s pain, an outgrowth of her growing estrangement from June, along with pressure from her mother to not pass up any opportunities, even those she’s not ready for, leads her to cruelly and repeatedly lash out at June – behavior that, counterproductively, just causes more pain and further estrangement.

Similarly, the pain June and Greta’s mother holds on to from her own past – the abandonment she felt when Finn left home at seventeen; her jealousy and regret over the fact that he became the famous artist in New York City, while she wound up an accountant in the suburbs – leads to her irrational ultimatum about Toby, and its cascade of consequences. Her goal may have been to hurt Toby and teach Finn he “couldn’t have everything,” but her daughter June suffers significant collateral damage. Disoriented upon learning how much she didn’t know about Finn, June questions the very foundation of their relationship – essentially losing him twice. And even though she gets some of Finn back through Toby, she struggles with feelings of humiliation at having thought herself the most important person in Finn’s life at a time when everyone else knew he had Toby.

While this book doesn’t come with a “happily ever after” ending, it does suggest that, moving forward, there is hope for redemption and reconciliation for June, Greta, and their mother. Perhaps more significantly, it serves as a powerful reminder to those of us muddling through the mess of our own lives to resist acting out of pain and instead choose love.

Brunt, Carol Rifka. Tell the Wolves I’m Home. New York: Dial Press, 2012.

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NCompass Live: Womb Literacy: a Parent-to-be-Program

NCompass live smallJoin us for next week’s NCompass Live, “Womb Literacy: a Parent-to-be-Program”, on Wednesday, March 30, 10:00-11:00 am Central Time.

Womb Literacy is a cutting edge initiative at North Liberty (IA) Community Library that encourages expecting families to learn about early literacy skills and develop daily literacy routines like reading to their child while they are still in the womb. Parents will feel more confident as their child’s first teacher and better prepared to continue those habits after their child is born. Womb Literacy includes three programs: a Baby Fair, Stork Storytime Podcasts and Read to the Bump. Just as it’s never too late to develop a love of reading, it’s never too early either.

Presenter: Jennifer Jordebrek, Assistant Director, North Liberty (IA) Community Library.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • April 13 – Innovation on a Shoestring: Free & Cheap Tools
  • April 20 – Collaborative Community Outreach for Local History and Genealogy
  • April 27 – Lessons Learned Establishing a Technology Makerspace

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads: The Girl in the Spider’s Web, by David Lagercrantz

the girl in the spider's webAs a fan of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series I was curious to find whether David Lagercrantz’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web would be a worthy continuation of Larsson’s work. Labeled as the fourth book in the series, Lagercrantz, in my view, extended the series with notable success. While a number of readers have posted comments that the book doesn’t have the suspense of Larsson’s books, among other things, I wasn’t disappointed in this one.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web includes a mix of high level intellectual property theft, corruption, Lisbeth Salander’s evil twin sister, a Mikael Blomkvist perceived as a no longer revered investigative reporter, a rogue National Security Agency security chief, the usual police suspects, and an autistic child with a genius for math and drawing. Add in a number of familiar characters from Larsson’s earlier works plus several new ones, and plenty of bad guys. Most interesting is always the girl – Lisbeth Salander – a legend among hackers, fearless, clever, fiercely independent, and unhinged.

I borrowed both hard copy and the audiobook from Lincoln City Libraries. Now I’m ready for the movie. Noomi Rapace or Rooney Mara?

Lagercrantz, David, and George Goulding. The girl in the spider’s web. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf). 2015.

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Friday Reads: The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

Cover Art

I have had this on my list for a while. Since I am not a dog person, nor a car person, I overlooked it until now. I have already recommended it to friends of the 2-legged variety (dog-owning, car-driving or otherwise) because it isn’t a dog story or a car story…it’s a life story.

Enzo, a Lab-Shepherd-Doodle mix and the narrator of the story, would agree he is man’s best friend. When up-and-coming racecar driver Dennis brings him home as a puppy, their friendship and Enzo’s life lessons begins. As the mostly silent partner in the relationship, we are taken inside Enzo’s head to analyze the action taking place as Denny meets and marries his wife, Eve, and they add little Zoe and they struggle with the curves in their road of life. As the old boy ages, he looks back in this memoir of a 4-legged friend who is more compassionate then some humans, understands more than you realize, and looks forward to a applying the lessons he learned in a future life as a man.

“Here’s why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot talk, so

I listen very well. I never deflect the course of the conversation with a

comment of my own. People, if you pay attention to them, change the

direction of one another’s conversations constantly. It’s like being a

passenger in your car who suddenly grabs the steering wheel and turns

you down a side street…”

Enzo’s listens and learns from all his humans as well as the television, which Denny leaves on for him during the day. All this information will help prepare himself for his next life on two legs. As Denny shares his successes or losses on the track, and they review race video, his dog learns how the art of racing and navigating life lessons overlap.  Humor of life as a dog is interwoven with these because, of course, a dog can’t know everything and be everywhere. The author cleverly inserts that fact into Enzo’s stream of consciousness as he tries to share with us what he has pieced together about life and about the story’s action involving his family for which he wasn’t allowed to be present.

I am an audiobook reader and have recently discovered the art of downloadable collections from my local library. One of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much was hearing Enzo “speak,” given voice by actor Christopher Evan Welch (1965-2013); you are just listening to a friend share his trials and tribulations. I hope you will love it as much as I did, and maybe you will learn some lessons along the way that you can apply in your next life—as a dog.

PS—Garth Stein, the author, has also adapted this for youth under the title Racing in the Rain.

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Resources for Financial Literacy Month


April is Financial Literacy Month – a great time to think about money programs and displays. And, the last week of April is Money Smart Week, a national financial education recognition week. Here are some things you can consider as we head into this big money month:

Webinar: CFPB: Partnering with Libraries to Financially Empower Patrons

The CFPB has two webinars planned for later this month. The first will be hosted by the U.S. Government Printing Office’s Federal Depository Library Program. The CFPB will be providing an overview of our Community Financial Education Libraries Initiative. If you’re new to this program, or just want a refresher on what the program offers and how to access the free resources we provide, then register today.

The 60-minute webinar will begin at 2 p.m. (EDT) on March 23. The webinar is free, but you must register.

Webinar: Financial education resources for parents

The second webinar will focus on new resources we’ve developed just for parents and children. Parents and caregivers want to get their children off on the right financial footing, but many times don’t know where to start. So, we’re introducing the CFPB’s new Money as You Grow website, which provides the framework and resources to help.

This 60-minute webinar will start at 2 p.m. (EDT) on March 24. To join, access the webinar login page at the day and time of the event. For audio, dial 888-795-5920 and enter participant passcode 7173562.

Order free money books, brochures, worksheets and more

Now’s the time to place your orders for free money guides, worksheets and other materials from the CFPB and other government agencies like the Federal Trade Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, Social Security Administration, Department of Labor and others.

Plus, if you’re hosting a Money Smart Week event at your library, you can order free posters, bookmarks and more.

Need money related program ideas?

Stumped over what to do for Financial Literacy Month or Money Smart Week? Take a look at our list of program ideas for suggestions on topics, resources, partners and more.

Our webinar archive can also help you generate ideas. We have more than a dozen to choose from, including:
Retirement planning tools and resources
Helping patrons spot and avoid fraud
New home-buyers (and owners) toolbox
How to promote your financial education program

National my Social Security Week

One of our national partners, Social Security Administration (SSA) will hold National my Social Security Week April 4 – 13, 2016, during Financial Literacy Month.

To help raise awareness, SSA provides a toolkit that includes web graphics, social media posts, web banners, and other ready-to-use content to help us spread the word about the importance of opening a my Social Security account.

Creating a my Social Security account gives workers access to their personalized Social Security Statement. It’s free, fast, and secure. The Statement provides estimates of future benefits to help with financial planning. Workers can also use it to check their earnings information. This is important because we base benefit calculations on a worker’s earnings.

As an added feature this year, we are setting aside Thursday, April 7, 2016 as Check Your Statement Day, during which time we will encourage workers to access and review their Social Security Statement and join the millions who regularly check their Statement.

Digital resources

Promote financial education digitally with our free electronic graphics and marketing materials. Add financial screen savers to your computers or web banners to your website. Plus, access the CFPB’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages to share our posts, info-graphics and videos with your patrons, like this video from CFPB Director Richard Cordray.

Posted in Books & Reading, Education & Training, General, Information Resources, Library Management, Programming, Uncategorized, What's Up Doc / Govdocs | 1 Comment

Friday Reads: Carsick by John Waters

carsick“It wasn’t until I started reading and found books they wouldn’t let us read in school that I discovered you could be insane and happy and have a good life without being like everybody else.”
― John Waters

Let’s just say right off the top, if you’ve already heard of John Waters and have seen and didn’t care for his movies, you probably will not like this book. If you weren’t offended by his films (Ok, if you might have been just a bit moderately offended but not totally disgusted to the point that you could no longer watch), this book could be right up your alley. For me, it certainly was! I loved it, laughing harder than I have in months. Maybe even years! Crammed full of carnival oddities, raw direct adult language, filth (both general and specific), the grotesque, and other assorted deviances, this book is definitely not for the squeamish. Consisting of various explicit stories told in the most humorous of fashions, the basic premise is that Waters (often called the Pope of Trash or the People’s Pervert) hitchhikes from his home in Baltimore to his second home in San Francisco and then details his experience on the road. The first two parts of the book are fiction and are told in a fashion very Waters-esque, living up to his aforementioned unofficial titles. Part one is a chronicle of what his journey across the country would be like from a best case scenario perspective; part two from a worst case perspective. The final third of the book details what actually happened in his hitchhike across the country. We salute and thank you, John Waters (and my local library for including this book in the collection), for feeding the soul of the low brow reader.


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What’s Sally Reading?

School Library Journal’s “Battle of the Kids Books” and

28th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists Announced

School Library Journal’s “Battle of the Kids Books” began on March 7th. Find out more here or go here to learn the results of Round 1, Match 1.  I just have to say that the term “kids’ books” that School Library Journal is using is a bit misleading. The first match was between The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose and Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman… decidedly not kids’ books (depending on how you define “kids”). Otherwise, enjoy the contests!

The 28th annual Lambda Literary Awards, often call the “Lammys,” “celebrate achievement in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) writing for books published in 2015.”  A total of 321 publishers provided a record-breaking 933 submissions for the various categories this year.  Scroll down the list on the web page and within the 25 categories of finalists you will find the LGBT Children’s/Young Adult category which lists eight finalists.  Winners will be announced on June 6, 2016.

Harper007 A Big Surprise for Little Card by Charise Mericle Harper is a picture book I predict many public libraries will add to their collections.  Little Card was trained to be a birthday card, but learns there was a mix-up and now he is to be delivered to a library – where he runs in the door and shouts “Happy Birthday!”  Little Card soon learns his new duties and becomes the library card for a girl.  Imagine his glee when he learns that while birthdays only happen once a year a library card can be used almost every day!  It is fun to see things from a different perspective, that of the new library card.  Another good choice for preschool through grade 1.

(The Nebraska Library Commission receives free copies of children’s and young adult books for review from a number of publishers.  After review, the books are distributed free, via the Regional Library Systems, to Nebraska school and public libraries.)

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New Nebraska State Agency Publications

Nebraska StatehoodNew Nebraska State Agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for February 2016. Included are Annual and Audit reports, publications from the Department of Natural Resources, Local Emergency Operations Plans from various Nebraska counties, reports from the Nebraska Legislature, and new titles from the University of Nebraska Press, to name a few.

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Friday Reads: The Library of Shadows

I discovered The Library of Shadows, by Mikkel Birkegaard, while browsing the shelves of a Borders store that was having a Going Out of Business sale. Of course, it caught my eye because of the word Library in the title. And the cover looked kind of supernatural, which definitely made it even more attractive to me. I wasn’t completely sure about it though, when I saw that it was translated from the Danish. But, I’m glad I picked it up, because it ended up being a really good story!

LibraryofShadowsAs it turns out, there are people in the world who, when they read books aloud, can control how others feel and think – manipulating listeners and immersing them completely into the story. They are called Transmitters. On the other side, there are also people who can connect with a Transmitter, called Receivers. They can focus the energy of a Transmitter, enhancing their storytelling ability, making the effect of their reading even stronger. Together, they are part of a secret society who’s original goal was to help people develop a better enjoyment and understanding of literature. But, as happens with powers like these, there are other factions who have used these abilities for nefarious purposes.

As you read the book, you are discovering this strange new world along with Jon Campelli, who has inherited a bookshop from his father, which just happens to be a secret gathering place for people with these talents. Jon’s father has most likely been murdered and then the shop is fire bombed, forcing him to explore this mysterious society as he tries to solve his father’s murder and find out what the shadowy group who committed these crimes is really up to.

Since Jon knows just as much as you do about these people, meaning absolutely nothing, a reader can easily identify with him and understand his confusion and awe as he learns more about them. It’s a very original story concept, at least I’ve never heard of anything like this. In between the fast-paced action scenes, and many cliffhanger chapter endings, the history and workings of this ancient organization are very well developed. If you are a fan of mysteries, magic, and reading, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

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NCompass Live: What is this New Adult Fiction: A new category of literature or stepped up YA novels?

NCompass live smallJoin us for next week’s NCompass Live, “What is this New Adult Fiction: A new category of literature or stepped up YA novels?”, on Wednesday, March 2, 10:00-11:00 am Central Time.

In the last few years we’ve witnessed a boom in Young Adult literature both in the marketing of books and its readership. YA literature includes many firsts such as: first crush, first kiss, first love, first moral dilemma. The birth of New Adult literature takes it one step further. As the YA readers age out publishers are seeing New Adult as the next, new step. But what does New Adult literature mean for editors, publishing companies and librarians? A few years ago, editors at St. Martin’s Press held a contest. The results helped them to coin the term New Adult Fiction. What were they thinking when they came up with the term? And who did they think the readership would be? How did Indie authors impact the market? And where do you place these works of fiction in your collection? In this presentation we will: define New Adult Fiction and explore its history, identify books and publishers, and analyze its fast-paced success. At the end of the session, participants will: understand the significance of New Adult Fiction, identify motivated readers, and consider innovative ways to promote and integrate New Adult Fiction into their collections.

Presenter: Ann Matzke, former Children’s Director, Wilson Public Library, Cozad, NE.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • March 9 – Modern Pathfinders: Creating Better Research Guides
  • March 23 – Beyond the CMS: From to SOPAC3, new technologies at work
  • March 30 – Womb Literacy: a Parent-to-be-Program
  • April 20 – Collaborative Community Outreach for Local History and Genealogy

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads: Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary, by Gail Jarrow

Jarrow213As a child I first heard the term “Typhoid Mary” as a term, not a person, and did not think much more about it until I read Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow. The author provides clear and concise information about the disease and how it is spread. She then focuses on Mary Mallon and the effort that went into identifying and locating her.

The author gives a brief history of typhoid fever, noting that is has been around since prehistoric times. Then she brings the reader to January of 1903 in Ithaca, New York, where typhoid fever infected a number of local citizens as well as Cornell University students. The author tells of the disease, how it was transmitted, and efforts to reduce the possibility of contracting it. The New York State Commissioner of Health contacted George Soper, a sanitary engineer, who had helped Galveston, Texas deal with sanitation issues and disease following a deadly hurricane. The clean-up of the wells, cesspools and outhouses in Ithaca, along with the installation of a filtration system took several months.

Determined to prevent future outbreaks Soper was soon on the trail of one individual he felt was responsible for spreading the disease in 1906 and beyond. His efforts, along with assistance from others, and Mary Mallon’s viewpoint that she was being harassed for no reason, are documented throughout the rest of the book.  Mary continued to assert she had never contracted typhoid fever and thus could not infect others. Mr. Soper insisted that she must have had a light case that was not diagnosed and continued to carry the disease, his opinion eventually being verified after she was detained and tested.

This account reads like a detective novel and a tragedy. One person feeling persecuted and other people suffering from a terrible disease. Reading this put in my mind a real person who was appalled when the name “Typhoid Mary” first appeared in the newspaper. She had always been honest and worked hard and couldn’t understand why people were so convinced she was spreading disease.

The book includes period photographs, posters, cartoons, and newspaper items that convey the living conditions of the time and the suggestions for avoiding disease. Source notes, a bibliography, and an index are also included.

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Nourish Strong Partnerships to Foster Health Education

HealthHappensThe Health Happens in Libraries team has posted a new article to support libraries as you Nourish Strong Partnerships to Foster Health Education. The article includes two key resources to amplify your efforts:

Supporting Healthy Communities through Health Information and Services is a free resource to guide library staff in identifying local community health priorities and finding the right partners to address those priorities. The guide emphasizes strategies to access community data, make contact with other community organizations, and serve children, families and your community at large with a focus on health. The PDF guide can be downloaded here.

In addition, the Developing Health Literacy through Health Information and Services guide provides further inspiration on promoting health literacy in your community. It highlights many freely available health literacy resources for you and your library’s patrons to access at any time. This PDF guide is available for download here.

Both guides include individual and team reflection questions to help you take action on the information in a local context.

Please-take a look! Print a copy, share with your colleagues and post your ideas for using these resources to social media with the hashtag #libs4health. (If this request looks familiar, it is! :-))

Thanks for all you do to contribute to the vitality of your communities.

(Reprinted from OCLC WebJunction, Thursday, February 25, 2016)

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What’s Sally Reading?

Bram Stoker Award Finalist Lists

The eleven finalist lists have now been announced on their web page.  In the category Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel the finalists are:  Jennifer Brozek for Never Let Me Sleep (Book 1 of the Melissa Allen Trilogy), Michaelbrent Collings for The Ridealong, John Dixon for Devil’s Pocket (sequel to Phoenix Island), Tonya Hurley for Hallowed (Book 3 of the Blessed trilogy), Maureen Johnson for The Shadow Cabinet (Book 3 of the Shades of London series), and Ian Welke for End Times at Ridgemont High.  I have not read any of these titles, which shows me a gap in my effort to include all genres of books in my reading and recommendations to Nebraska librarians.  (I did read The Diviners and Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray.)  I promise to include more in my reading (and keep the light on at night).

Goodrich019We Forgot Brock! written and illustrated by Carter Goodrich shows the great friendship between Phillip and his imaginary friend Brock.  One fun illustration shows Phillip’s parents in the foreground looking out the window and seeing only Phillip, when the reader knows Brock is there too.  Life takes a turn when the family goes to the Big Fair.  Phillip and Brock have a great time on the rides but Phillip is sleepy when it is time to go home.  Brock, still at the Fair, looks but cannot find Phillip anywhere.  Fortunately he is rescued by Anne and her imaginary friend Princess Sparkledust.  Phillip and Brock struggle to go on without each other – until they run into each other again!  Soon all four are friends.  A fun picture book for preschool through grade 1.

(The Nebraska Library Commission receives free copies of children’s and young adult books for review from a number of publishers.  After review, the books are distributed free, via the Regional Library Systems, to Nebraska school and public libraries.)

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Adopt a book!

giveawaysThe Library Commission has a range of books that are looking for a good home.  There are volumes of Nebraska history,  poetry books, library science texts, reference works, titles by local authors, and much more.  All are free for Nebraska librarians to browse, request, and keep!  A small set of titles has been highlighted on our website:

Should any of these interest you, email the Information Services team with your requests.  There is no charge if you are able to pick up the books.  Books can be mailed to you for a small suggested donation to cover postage  Next time you stop by the Library Commission, ask to have a look at the shelf – who knows what treasures you will find!

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Friday Reads: How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy, by Stephen Witt

howmusicgotfreeHow do you listen to music nowadays?  Do you still buy CDs? (…did you ever buy CDs? I might be showing my age here…), download digital files, use a streaming service online?  Did you ever wonder how exactly we got from the “good old days” of recording mixed tapes to having any song available at our fingertips?  How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy by Stephen Witt answers this question and more.  From the invention of the MP3 format to the role of the music industury executives in the demise of their own business, this is a fascinating history of an industry turned on its head.  Witt focuses on 3 individuals who couldn’t be more different, yet who each played a crucial role in changing how we access music.
In Germany, an audio engineer, Karlheinz Brandenburg, and his team developed the MPEG3 data compression format and fought for its acceptance over rival formats, a largely political battle.  When not adopted by the industry, the team released the MP3 format to the public as a free conversion tool and music player.
In North Carolina, Dell Glover was using his job at a CD manufacturing plant to become the leading music leaker in an elite online community.  What had been a tedious task of burning individual cds to sell from the trunk of his car on weekends became vastly simplified with the introduction of the MP3 format and the ability to upload music easily and quickly to the internet.  (Mr. Witt also published this piece about Dell Glover in the New Yorker in April 2015.)
In New York, Doug Morris, the CEO of Universal Music Group, was too concerned with signing the next big rap artist to pay much mind to the growing portable music revolution.  Morris and other executives failed to grasp the significance of the MP3 format (and the piracy it enabled), leading eventually to a litigative nightmare and the downfall of the music industry as we knew it.
Whether or not you were online in the heyday of Napster, this book tells a compelling tale about a fascinating part of our recent history.
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Friday Reads: Updraft by Fran Wilde

UpdraftThis book is a first for the author, who is known by her short stories, according to the book blurb. This tale, is one of redemption in a postapocalyptic world set far, far in the future, of, I would guess, Earth, since there are familiar species of birds. But it’s the juxtaposition of the familiar birds with the strange that makes it so compelling.

Humans live in towers of living bone, the higher in the tower, the higher your social status, and as the towers grow, the lower levels are abandoned, since they get more crowded by the growth of the bone.  Travel between the towers is allowed, and is accomplished by flying with one’s own set of wings, which one is tested for at a certain, young age. Travel inside the towers is accomplished by ladders.  But the outcasts of the culture are also left in the lower levels of the tower to live or die. It is a very rule orientated way of living, where the main character, Kirit, longs to be a trader, like her mother, attain the right to fly to other towers and trade and also bring medicine. She is close to earning the right to fly free, as well as earn her apprenticeship as the story opens, when she and her once closest friend Nat, break the Tabu/Law, she goes outside during an attack, and he doesn’t let her back in. So they are equally at fault, and get caught by one of their officers, called a Singer. But in being caught outside, Kirit displays a unique skill that the Singers need. But the skill gets in the way of her dreams.

In another story, she might have simply gone with the authority figure, but not this one. She and Nat both work to get through their punishment in time for both to take their flight tests. To get done in time they meet and receive help from one of the cast off citizens of the towers, Tobiat, old, with injuries badly set and healed, and mind a little scattered.  He turns out to be key to many of the mysteries  come to face.  The tests seem to be passed, but the Singers have skewed them, and both Kirit has to go with them to their tower. She learns secrets that turn many of the things she’s learned in the towers inside out, and finds that the strange creatures that attack their towers were once much different. Not only does so much she has learned about her family change, but also about her culture.

So much happens in such a short pace of time. But it changes so many lives of this small  civilization on the edge of survival.  The disruption spreads from one life, to a family, to an order keeping service type organization. It’s interesting to see, after reading the book, how the character of one actor, can serve as a catalyst to expose the wrongdoing of an entire organization.


Book Review by Julie Novakova, in Fantasy Scroll Mag

The Illustrated Page blog

Bibliosanctum blog


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What’s Sally Reading?

Gene Luen Lang Named Newest Ambassador for Young People’s Literature!

The purpose of the Ambassador is to “raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people” (from their home page, link below).  Lang’s theme for his two-year term is “Reading Without Walls.”  Named in January by the Library of Congress and sponsored by The Center for the Book, the Children’s Book Council, and Every Child a Reader, the first Ambassador was Jon Scieszka for the 2008-2009 term. A selection committee reviews nominations and makes their choice. Visit their home page to see the criteria and read more about the newest choice.  Previous Ambassadors, in term order, are: Jon Scieszka, Katherine Paterson, Walter Dean Myers and Kate DiCamillo.

Spencer128The Sweetest Heist in History, Book 2 of the “Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective” series by Octavia Spencer finds Randi visiting her aunt Gigi in Brooklyn, New York for Thanksgiving and bringing her new friends D.C. and Pudge with her. They soon uncover suspicious doings in her aunt’s apartment building and at the Brooklyn Museum across the street. Could there be a plot to steal some of the Fabergé eggs soon to be on display? Randi and her friends are determined to outwit any criminals and save the eggs. A fun mystery for readers in grades 4-6.

(The Nebraska Library Commission receives free copies of children’s and young adult books for review from a number of publishers.  After review, the books are distributed free, via the Regional Library Systems, to Nebraska school and public libraries.)

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Friday Reads: The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day

The Circus in Winter cover“When I was little, my mother told me there are basically two kinds of people in the world: town people and circus people.  The kind who stay are town people, and the kind who leave are circus people.”

And neither are guaranteed happiness, which these stories make crystal clear.  Spanning decades and connected by both the circus and the small Indiana town in which it spends the off-season, these tales present a dazzling array of characters—elephant trainers! Zulu queens! Driveway-paving Gypsies!  But this is the circus in winter, when the lights have dimmed and the canvas has dropped.  It’s not focused on public spectacle, but on the often heartbreaking private lives of these extraordinary people.

Wallace Porter assembles his circus to assuage his own broken heart.  Over the years, he imports transient talent from all over the globe.  The circus, like the Pequod (or like the United States), becomes a “big tent” which includes people of assorted backgrounds working together for common goals.  But they’re also united by human experience—death, failed relationships, and the feeling of entrapment generated by familiar surroundings.   This is a somber book, but it’s not really a tearjerker in the Nicholas Sparks style.  It’s muted and plaintive, even in its humor (“They cried for a while, then went downstairs to make pancakes.”).

Structurally, Day’s book is reminiscent of Winesburg, Ohio and Olive Kitteridge.  Midway between a novel and set of short stories, The Circus in Winter lacks a true central narrative, but is united by overlapping characters and overarching themes.  And, of course, the circus looms over all of these tales, whether as the place where the clowns live or as a symbol of escape from snowy small towns.

“A depressing book about the circus, but only the backstage stuff” is probably one of Earth’s hardest sells.  But this is a compelling work that deserves a wider audience and is perfect for bleak winter days.

Day, C. (2005). The circus in winter. Orlando: Harcourt.

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New Nebraska State Agency Publications

Nebraska StatehoodNew Nebraska State Agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for January 2016. Included are Annual and Audit reports, Economic Development reports, Summer Reading programs for Libraries, and new titles from the University of Nebraska Press, to name a few.

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Friday Reads: Cinderella Ate my Daughter by Peggy Orenstein

Cinderella ate my daughter by Peggy…

Cinderella Ate My Daughter
by Peggy Orenstein

Have you ever noticed the increased abundance of princesses and pink in the youth section? Have you ever wondered how that came about?

Peggy Orenstein is an accomplished writer and cultural critic. When she has a daughter, she hopes to offer her a positive childhood experience that doesn’t revolve around her daughter being pretty or a “princess.” What she encounters is a consumer culture very different than the one she grew up in—and one that has surprising appeal for her daughter.

Orenstein takes a personal approach to the story, and her desire for her daughter’s happiness—even if it doesn’t look like the happiness she imagined for her—gives the book a very balanced and nuanced tone about complicated topics. Even when she visits a toddler beauty pageant, she doesn’t judge the families that are involved, but she does present an unvarnished look at the mechanics and effects of the child beauty industry. She writes honestly about moments when she doesn’t handle her frustration well—like when her four-year-old wants hyper-sexualized “bratty” doll/action figures on their trip to the store. In that sense, it’s a classic story of a child and a parent having different ideas about identity—and the parent having to learn how to let their child have their own ideas, in the safest environment they can provide.

What really stuck with me was the description of the processes companies use to market to children. You won’t forget the story about the branding shift at Disney, when the new head of the consumer products division realized that the firm demarcation between Disney vehicles—which was designed to protect narrative integrity—was getting in the way of selling products. Or his moment of clarity at a Disney on Ice show, when he realized all the little girls in the audience were wearing homemade costumes—and how his company could change that.

My paperback copy is covered with accolades and blurbs, and I like that People called the book “Funny,” while Vanity Fair called it “Blood-Chilling.” I read this as an assigned book for a class, but I’d recommend it to anyone who has children, or who works with children—or anyone who is curious about generational differences in attitudes towards gender and consumerism.

Orenstein, P. (2011). Cinderella ate my daughter: Dispatches from the front lines of the new girlie-girl culture. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

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