Thursday, May 31, 2007

DVD review: Kee to the future

children of men dvd cover Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe
~ Bruce Cockburn

It’s 2027 and Great Britain is the last refuge of a desperate mankind. Eighteen years ago humans became infertile for reasons that are unclear. This world without hope has fallen into chaos. The youngest members of society are revered for their special status and treated like rock stars. The recent murder of the youngest born has pushed society deeper into hopelessness and despair.

People are immigrating to Great Britain in droves, and upon arrival are detained in ghettos. In a world without leaders there are no rules and the immigrants are brutalized and executed at the whim of every jackboot guarding the camps.

Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is the Everyman whom we love to root for at the movies. What makes him so extraordinary is his ordinariness. He's clumsy and halting. He's terrified of every perilous situation in which he's placed. He's fueled by alcohol and cigarettes. He doesn't want to get involved because he just doesn't care about anyone or anything. He is Bizzaro Rambo.

Piecemeal we learn that Theo once had a good life - a beautiful wife, a young son. He was a passionate anti-war protester who had a stake in how his world was run. But now he's just a bored office worker. He lives in a city that resembles Blade Runner's, only not as glamorous. We don't know what he does for a living. He doesn't care. Why should we?

A blast from his past arrives in the form of fiery redhead, Julian (Julianne Moore). She is still a passionate activist, and is helping immigrants through the militant Fish group. She has come to Theo for a favor. She needs travelling papers for a young immigrant girl. Can he help?

Some might be surprised that the movie is based on one of mystery writer P. D. James' books. The Children of Men won a Deo Gloria Award in 1992. In a long list of crime mysteries, The Children of Men and Innocent Blood are the only non-mystery novels James has ever written.

We're left to our own conclusions at the end of Children of Men. There's been a lot of dialogue about the ambiguous ending. I personally like to think that the sounds we hear over the closing credits speak for themselves.

Links:

Search the JCLC catalog for more movies by Alfonso Cuaron, Clive Owen and Julianne Moore, and for books and audios by P. D. James.

The Official Website for Children of Men

Children of Men trailer

It's potty time!

everybody poopsNo, that’s not a typo. It’s not party time but potty time at our house, although I will reserve the partying for after my son is potty trained. For toddlers about to enter preschool for the first time, a potty trained child is usually a requirement. The library has numerous instructional books and media to give you a helping hand during this difficult time.

Currently, my son Luke and I are enjoying Everyone Poops, originally published in Japan as part of a My Body Science series. The book is simplistically drawn and explains to young children that since everyone eats, everyone poops. And, trust me, you will see every possible example of this. The book contains drawings of a veritable Noah’s ark of animals and their own unique waste.

Perhaps your child would be more inclined to ditch those diapers if his heroes were potty training, too. Did you know that Caillou, Dora and several of the Muppets are also in training? Who knew?

Then there are the his & hers potty training books:

And don’t forget, we also have a collection of Spanish language books and media to help all the little niños out there in their potty training endeavors.

I wish all you frustrated parents and caregivers the best of luck and hope that you find what you need at your local library. And just remember that all kids eventually learn, which is why they don't make Huggies in a size 13.

Links:

Search the JCLC catalog for more potty training books, DVDs, videos and cassettes

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

9th Annual Alabama Bound a Success Thanks to Alabama Writers, Writing Groups and Funders!

Alabama Bound logo
The Birmingham Public Library’s 2007 Alabama Bound celebration of Alabama authors presented 19 authors with ties to Alabama and welcomed 1,439 visitors into the Central Library on April 14. Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama and One Mississippi, began the program by recalling his childhood in Alabama and how it influenced his most recent novel.

Following Childress, the Library presented two panels of local authors, all of whom have had books published in the last two years. The authors, who spoke and signed books after the conclusion of each panel discussion, included:

Hester Bass, So Many Houses (Children’s Easy Reader)
William Cobb, Hermit King (Short Stories)
Ruth Cook, Guests Behind the Barbed Wire (Non-Fiction – Alabama History, WW II)
Sylviane Diouf, Dreams of Africa in Alabama (Non-Fiction – Alabama History, Slavery)
Eric Flint, Grantville Gazette III (Science Fiction)
Charles Ghigna, Love Poems (Poetry)
Rubin Grant, Tales from Alabama Prep Football (Local Sports)
Tim Hollis, Birmingham Broadcasting; Glass Bottom Boats and Mermaid Tails: Florida’s Tourist Springs; Mouse Tracks: the Story of Walt Disney Records; and Six Flags Over Georgia (Coffee Table Books)
Randall Horton, Definition of Place (Poetry)
Watt Key, Alabama Moon (Young Adult Fiction)
Caitlin R. Kiernan, Daughter of Hounds (Horror)
Julia Oliver, Devotion (Historical Fiction)
Delia Ray, Singing Hands (Young Adult Fiction)
Gregory Reece, Elvis Religion, the Cult of the King (Elvis)
John Sledge, An Ornament to the City (Architecture)
Carolyn Quick Tillery, Southern Homecoming (Cook Book with Stories)
Ann Waldron, Rare Murder in Princeton (Murder Mystery)

Alabama Bound concluded with a talk by Angela Johnson, author of Wind Flyers—a children’s book about the renowned Tuskegee Airmen—and winner of the Coretta Scott King Book Award for her book Heaven.

Alabama Bound also presented local publishers—Birmingham Arts Journal and OnStage Publishing—as well as Writers Groups Alabama Media Professionals, Alabama Writers Conclave, Alabama Writers Forum, Booker T. Washington Magnet School Creative Writing, Women Writing for (a) Change, and Writing Today.

The Birmingham Public Library would like to thank its most generous sponsors. The Library is deeply grateful to have received a grant from The Jefferson County Commission through the Jefferson County Community Arts Fund administered by the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham. This grant supported the Library in bringing high-quality authors from all over the State and beyond to Birmingham.

BPL also wishes to thank the Daniel Foundation of Alabama, whose grant to support Alabama Bound was most appreciated.

BPL would like to thank the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts for its generous grant to support local Alabama Bound authors.

Thank you also to the many sponsors who donated goods and services to this wonderful event:

Energen
Brighthouse Cable
Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center
Publix of Vestavia Hills
Bruno’s
Barnes & Noble at the Summit
Jim & Nicks, Southside
O’Carr’s in Homewood
Franklin’s in Homewood
Crepe Myrtle’s in Homewood

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Book review: Ask a Mexican!

ask a mexican book coverIs there a question you're just burning to ask a Mexican? Come on, don't be shy. Well, how about you just ask Gustavo Arellano instead? He won't be offended. In fact, he just might end up offending you. And it's all in the name of cultural awareness and fun.

Arellano, a California native born to an illegal immigrant and a tomato canner, has seen the best and worst the Mexican and American cultures have to offer, and he's not afraid to tell it like it is.

The idea for Ask a Mexican! began with Arellano's editor at the OC Weekly newspaper, Will Swaim. Swaim asked him to explain the humor behind a Spanish-language billboard that showed a cross-eyed Mexican DJ wearing a Viking helmet. Swain noted that the Mexican looked like someone who would answer any questions about Mexicans without being offended. They decided to create a column that would field questions from the inquiring masses that Arellano would answer candidly and, at times, scorchingly.

Some sample Q&A's from the Ask a Mexican! column:

Q: Why do Mexicans park their cars on the front lawn?

A: Where do you want us to park them? The garage we rent out to a family of five? The backyard where we put up our recently immigrated cousins in tool-shack-cum-homes? The street with the red curbs recently approved by city planners? The driveway covered with construction materials for the latest expansion of la casa? The nearby school parking lot frequented by cholos on the prowl for a new radio? The lawn is the only spot Mexicans can park their cars without fear of break-ins, drunken crashes, or an unfortunate keying. Besides, what do you think protects us from drive-bys? The cops?

Q: Are Mexicans really baptized in bean dip?

A: Yes, but only because Jesus once said, “Blessed are the refried, for they shall inherit the southwest United States.”

Q: Why do Mexicans swim in the ocean with their clothes on? I mean, denim?!

A: This is by far the most-asked question in ¡Ask a Mexican! history. So, to todos ustedes, I have my own question: Are you all brown chubby chasers? Like gabachos, an alarming number of Mexicans are out of shape. According to a 2003 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 24 percent of Mexico’s population is overweight. That’s the second-highest obesity rate in the world following — wait for it — ¡los Estados Unidos! Unlike gabachos, Mexicans respect the public when it comes to flashing our flabby chichis, pompis and cerveza guts — so when we’re out near the pool or by the beach, we cover up. It ain’t Catholicism, machismo or an homage to our swim across the Rio Grande. It’s good manners.

The column has been criticized for its offensive subject matter and stereotyping of Mexicans, but Arellano explains it this way: "Of course it's offensive. That's the Mexican that's been in the minds of Americans for many years. By running it week after week, it loses it's power."

I hope my fellow gabachos will enjoy Ask a Mexican! as much as I have.

Links:

Search the Biography Resource Center for more information on Gustavo Arellano (library card is required)

Register with Rosetta Stone to be able to speak, read and write Spanish the quick and easy way (library card is required)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lost in Mississippi


Alabama author Mark Childress has allowed us to experience all of the eccentricities, oddities and quirkiness that is characteristic of small town southern life.

In his new book, One Mississippi, the reader experiences yet again those 1970’s memories of lime green and sky blue tuxedos, The Sonny & Cher Show, American Bandstand, Led Zeplin and drive-in movies. Some prom memories and experiences with adolescent cliques, we might prefer to forget. We view small town southern life through the eyes of two adolescent best friends, Daniel Musgrove and Tim Cousins. What a pair! From the dreaded adolescent cliques, to high school prom night, chores, zany high school teachers and odd family members; we relive our old high school memories.

According to Daniel Musgrove, the story’s narrator, the family must transfer from Indiana to, of all places, Mississippi. The author uses characteristic dark humor to describe the journey experiences by Daniel and his family. The family watched as movers loaded their things onto a giant moving van. According to Daniel: “On Tuesday we set out down the brand-new interstate highway toward our future.” A sign welcomed them to Mississippi. Suddenly Janie, Daniel’s sister remarks: “Mama, that girl hasn’t got on a shirt.” The mother remarked: “Don’t stare Jane. People can’t help it if they’re not as well off as us.” From the quality of the schools, to the Mississippi heat, the family characters find themselves in many exasperating situations.

Daniel soon meets Tim Cousins at school and the two adolescents become inseparable friends. The two young boys deal with love, friendship and tragedy with all of the sensitivity that comes with being young. From high school proms to classroom pranks, they have some interesting and comical experiences.

If you would like to read more about Daniel and Tim, as well as a collection of other zany characters, read this book. Get ready for a startling ending!

You will laugh and cry with these characters, as you relive both the terrific and the terrible, your high school years. Oh, those were the days!


Links:

The Mark Childress Page



Friday, May 25, 2007

The Magical History Tour Hits the Magic City

StampSeven years before Brown v. Board of Education, the case of Mendez v. Westminster created a precedent for desegregation in American schools. This landmark case was brought forth by a Hispanic family whose 3rd grade daughter, Sylvia Mendez, was banned from attending an all-white school in Westminster, California. Her family’s action and courage helped change the nation.

Sandra Robbie produced the Emmy-winning documentary based on the case and in conjunction with the Post Office’s Mendez stamp unveiling, she’s traveling the country in her Volkswagen van to commemorate the event. Dubbed “The Magical History Tour,” she and a group of others will visit the Five Points West Regional Library on May 31st from 1:30 p.m.- 2:30 p.m. They will unveil the stamp to the community and offer a screening of the documentary, “For All the Children/Para Todos Los Niños”, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Mendez v. Westminster case.

The Five Points West Branch of the Birmingham Public Library is the only location in the state of Alabama to host this U.S. Post Office stamp unveiling and documentary screening for the first case to desegregate schools.

Dr. Leah Rawls Atkins to lecture at BPL

Book JacketIn celebration of Alabama Power Company's centennial anniversary, Dr. Leah Rawls Atkins authored the book Developed for the Service of Alabama: the centennial history of the Alabama Power Company, 1906-2006.

Join us this Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at noon in Central's auditorium where she will discuss her research and the history of Alabama Power Company.

This lecture is sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library and the Alabama Power Company. Funding is provided by the Alabama Power Company and is administered by The Center For the Arts and Humanities, College of Liberal Arts, Auburn University.

Millions of War Records Now Available

ancestry icon
In remembrance of Memorial Day, Ancestry.com has made available 90 million searchable war records free of charge from now until June 6, the anniversary of D-Day.

Ancestry’s expanded military collection contains all major wars and conflicts from American history, including the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.

According to the Associated Press,
"Ancestry.com …spent $3 million to digitize the military records. It took nearly a year, including some 1,500 handwriting specialists racking up 270,000 hours to review the oldest records."
After this free offer from Ancestry ends on June 6, you can still get access to these and other Ancestry database records at no cost by visiting our library. Birmingham Public Library provides access to the Ancestry database through it's public Internet computers in the Birmingham Public Library Southern History Department, the Five Points West Branch, the Springville Road Branch, the Avondale Branch, and the North Birmingham Branch.

For more information about genealogy resources available at BPL click here.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Nonfiction pick of the week: The Dangerous Book for Boys

dangerous book for boys book coverThe bestselling book for every boy from eight to eighty, covering essential boyhood skills such as building tree houses, learning how to fish, finding true north, and even answering the age old question of what the big deal with girls is.

In this digital age there is still a place for knots, skimming stones and stories of incredible courage. This book recaptures Sunday afternoons, stimulates curiosity, and makes for great father-son activities. The brothers Conn and Hal have put together a wonderful collection of all things that make being young or young at heart fun—building go-carts and electromagnets, identifying insects and spiders, and flying the world's best paper airplanes.

The completely revised American Edition includes:

The Greatest Paper Airplane in the World
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
The Five Knots Every Boy Should Know
Stickball
Slingshots
Fossils
Building a Treehouse
Making a Bow and Arrow
Fishing Timers and Tripwires
Baseball's "Most Valuable Players"
Famous Battles-Including Lexington and Concord, The Alamo, and Gettysburg
Spies-Codes and Ciphers
Making a Go-Cart
Navajo Code Talkers' Dictionary
Girls
Cloud Formations
The States of the U.S.
Mountains of the U.S.
Navigation
The Declaration of Independence
Skimming Stones
Making a Periscope
The Ten Commandments
Common US Trees
Timeline of American History

(Book description by Collins)

Reserve your copy today!

Links:

Search the JCLC catalog for Conn Iggulden's books

The Official Website of Conn Iggulden

BPL Wins First Place Award for MySpace

Birmingham Public Library's MySpace.com page
The Birmingham Public Library has received its second Be Innovative! Award from Innovative Interfaces, the company that markets the software used by the library to organize, order, process, and circulate all of its materials.

The winning entry “Social Networking at the Birmingham Public Library” demonstrated how the library uses MySpace.com to market library services and materials online.

Melinda Shelton, webmaster for the library, accepted the award for the Most Innovative Marketing of Millennium Products/Features at the 15th annual Innovative Users Group Conference in San Jose, California, on May 16, 2007.

Shelton designed and linked features from the Innovative Interfaces system to the library’s MySpace page to allow direct searching of the catalog, new materials lists, and other online content. MySpace members may also add the library’s catalog search box to their own MySpace pages.

The library won its first Be Innovative! award in 2004.

Innovative Interfaces is a leader in providing integrated library system to thousands of libraries in over 40 countries worldwide. This year's users group conference welcomed 1800 attendees from 11 countries.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Put Your Holds On Ice

vacation
Memorial Day weekend is upon us and kids are getting out of school for the summer. For millions of Americans, that means one thing: Vacation time!

What if the bestseller you are waiting for, say The River Knows by Amanda Quick, comes up on hold for you while you are on vacation? Missing your turn could be upsetting.

So, stay cool. Use the freeze hold function to save your place on the holds list while you are gone. If frozen, your hold will continue to move up the list for that title, but it will not be delivered until you unfreeze it.
  • To freeze a hold, click on Your Record from the catalog page.
  • Enter your name, library card number, and click Submit to log in.
  • Click on the Requests (holds) link to view your holds.freeze
  • Chose the holds you would like to freeze by clicking in the box under freeze on the right (If there is not a box to check, you cannot freeze that hold for some reason such as your request is already on the hold shelf for you to pickup.)
  • Click the "Update my list" button and your hold will be on ice.
When you get back, you need to unfreeze your holds so that the holds can be reactivated and delivered. To unfreeze the holds, log in again, uncheck the freeze box, and click the "Update my list" button.

Get a Clue at BPL with Summer Reading 2007

Summer Reading Poster
Super sleuths and daring detectives are invited to join Get a Clue @ Your Library at the Birmingham Public Library. The 2007 Summer Reading Program is open to young people, preschool through young adult, with programs, prize drawings, story hours, a reading club, and more. Families are invited to join the Read-to-Me portion of the program. Registration for the Summer Reading Program begins on June 1. For more information visit us at www.bplonline.org. The library welcomes children of all abilities.
All programs are free of charge.

La Biblioteca Pública Birmingham Lanza

Cat and dog detectivesLos súper detectives y los investigadores intrépidos están invitados a unirse a Busca una Pista en tu Biblioteca en la Biblioteca Pública Birmingham. El Programa de Lectura de verano 2007 está abierto a la gente joven, desde preescolares a jóvenes, con programas, premios, lecturas de historias, club de lectura y más. Las familias están invitadas a unirse a la sección “Léeme” del programa. La inscripción para el Programa de Lectura de Verano comienza en 1 de junio, 2007. Para más información, llame a la biblioteca por el teléfono 226-3600 o visite el sitio Web en www.bplonline.org. La biblioteca le da la bienvenida a niños de todas las capacidades.
Todos los programas son gratuitos.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Audio book review: Late at night while you're sleepin' poison ivy comes a creepin' around

the ruins CD coverFour young Americans about to enter graduate school or begin new jobs back home are relaxing in Cancun, Mexico, soaking up too much sun and tequila. At their hotel they befriend a group of Greek men and a German. The German’s brother has gone missing after becoming smitten with a woman and following her to a Mayan archaeological dig in the jungle. The only clue to his whereabouts is a crudely drawn map to the ruins.

The Americans are up for a little adventure and decide to assist the German in his search. One of the Greeks tags along. It’s not long before they regret the trip and realize what a fatal mistake they’ve made, but by then it’s too late. There’s no turning back from what awaits them at the ruins. It is ancient, unrelenting, slow to reveal itself...and it won’t allow them to leave.

Language barrier is an underlying ominous theme in Scott Smith's The Ruins. The Americans have trouble communicating with the Greeks. They all have trouble communicating with the bus driver who takes them to the ruins and tries to warn them away, with the villagers who greet their arrival with silence and stares, and, most tragically of all, with the last man who unsuccessfully tries to prevent their entrance to the ruins.

The Ruins is read by actor Patrick Wilson (Running with Scissors, Little Children, The Alamo). The music is a perfect accompaniment to the suspenseful story, kind of slow and sad and resigned to the inevitable fate of the characters.

Scott Smith is a pro at making us squirm as we watch his characters do stupid things, which lead to more stupid things, which starts the ball rolling to a most unpleasant denouement.

On the face of it, The Ruins may seem so different from Smith's earlier novel, A Simple Plan. One is about a group of intelligent twentysomethings on a trip to Mexico, the other is about a simple married man and his dimwitted brother and sidekick in Ohio. But as each story unfolds and the characters begin making choices that fly in the face of common sense, we realize just how similar they are.

Links:

Search the JCLC catalog for Scott Smith's works. His novel A Simple Plan was made into a feature film starring Billy Bob Thornton, Bill Paxton and Bridget Fonda; directed by Sam Raimi.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Book JacketThe Future ain’t what it used to be.
Yogi Berra

I suppose it’s my negative nature, but I always imagined the philosopher/baseball player sighing when he made this pronouncement. In later life Yogi explained the apparent malapropism simply: “times change, life is short. Everything’s faster paced.”1 Evidently, he didn’t know the half of it. I recently started scanning the current predictions of a few futurists and found that hyper speed is a given; it’s the destination that’s in question.

The Singularity is near: when humans transcend biology by Ray Kurzweil may have been a bad starting place. At 652 pages this book is dense. And the science, or should I say the blending of scientific disciplines, is challenging. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an explanation of why the ‘the future ain’t what it used to be’ Kurzweil has a theory for you. He posits in his “law of accelerating returns” that technological advancements have, and are, occurring at an exponential rate. In the year 2001, for example, readily available computing power equaled that of an insect brain; by 2010 he predicts computing power will equal that of a mouse. By 2023 we should all be able to buy a computer with the power of a human brain. (Do you program a spare brain, educate it, or train it?)
So why isn’t the book called the law of accelerating returns? See the sub-title. Kurzweil feels that the accelerating pace of technological advances will logically lead the human race to an enviable position. “Merging with our technology is the next stage in our evolution.” Yep, he’s talking about human cells enhanced with wireless communication and nano assemblers. That’s for starters. He’s also predicting that with GNR (genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics) we will create a world without hunger, aging or disease in less than a century. Now there’s the definition of too good to be true.
My first reaction was that we had misclassed this title; it must be science fiction. Then I remembered that this is the man who correctly predicted the date at which a computer would consistently beat a chess grandmaster. And his resume is more than good guesses. Kurzweil has a degree from MIT, is considered a forerunner of pattern recognition software and runs several successful businesses under the umbrella of Kurzweil Technologies. In other words, he’s not a fiction or tabloid writer; he’s a scientist with a sound track record.
My second reaction was that the material was way over my head and I needed Cliff Notes. The May 14, 2007 edition of Fortune magazine published a profile of Kurzweil and an analysis of some of his predictions. His exact net worth is unknown, but generally presumed to be in the millions. Microsoft officers have even been known to invest in his business ventures. (Fortune also published details of his diet, but let’s not go there. After all, geniuses are supposed to be eccentric.)
In 2004 Wired magazine interviewed one of Kurzweil’s colleagues, Bill Joy. Joy agrees with this picture of a world with ‘nano enhanced’ humans, but he doesn’t foresee anything resembling Eden. The article was entitled Why the future doesn’t need us. He predicts that GNR could be the next NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical.) “These technologies are fraught with ethical dilemmas and may threaten mankind’s continued existence. Referring specifically to enhanced humans Joy said, “These possibilities are all thus either undesirable or unachievable or both. The only realistic alternative I see is relinquishment…” He’s suggesting that we acknowledge that the disadvantages of these technologies greatly outweigh any advantages. I find it difficult to believe that any government or individual could shelf a technology with such promise regardless of the risks. Has mankind ever done this? Are we even capable of taking such a step? Well, maybe I’m just being negative.

I study nuclear science / I love my classes / I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses/ Things are going great, and they’re only getting better / I’m doing all right, getting good grades / The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades, I gotta wear shades.
The rock group Timbuk3 consisted of Barbara and Pat K. MacDonald and …a boombox.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

DVD pick of the week: Little Children

little children dvd coverOscar-nominated filmmaker Todd Field teams with novelist Tom Perrotta to adapt Perrotta's acclaimed novel concerning the suburban malaise experienced by a handful of small-town individuals whose intersecting lives converge in a variety of surprising, and sometimes ominous, ways. Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, and Patrick Wilson star in a cinematic adaptation that doesn't aim so much to simply reproduce the book for the screen as it does to re-imagine the written word by exploring new possibilities for the characters and situations originally presented in Perrotta's 2004 best-seller.

Sarah (Winslet) is a suburban outsider who, unlike the other playground moms, isn't afraid to approach the dreamy but long-absent father whom smitten housewives have taken to calling the "Prom King." Long days at the local community pool with their respective children soon find Sarah becoming acquainted with local husband and father Brad (Patrick Wilson) -- who seems to share in her seething discontentment with life in their quaint commuter town. An English literature major who never envisioned a fate as a soccer mom, Sarah has a growing dissatisfaction with her successful husband (Gregg Edelman) that parallels Brad's increasing frustration with his inability to pass the bar and connect with his wife, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), a successful documentary filmmaker.

It's not long before the dejected pair is meeting for a series of illicit afternoon trysts as their unsuspecting spouses work and their children lie quietly napping. Meanwhile, after the community is riled by the return of a convicted sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley) who leaves the concerned parents scrambling to protect their young ones, an attempt made by Sarah and Brad to legitimize their clandestine relationship by dining together with their respective spouses begins to awaken Kathy's suspicions about the fidelity of her husband. (Synopis by Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide)

Reserve your copy today!

Links:

Search the JCLC catalog for the movies of Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly and Patrick Wilson.

Tom Perrotta is the author of four books, The Wishbones, Election, Joe College and Little Children. Election was also made into a feature film and stars Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick.

The Official Movie Website for Little Children

Monday, May 14, 2007

Fiction pick of the week: The Ministry of Special Cases

ministry of special cases book coverThe long-awaited novel from Nathan Englander, author of For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. Englander’s wondrous and much-heralded collection of stories won the 2000 Pen/Malamud Award and was translated into more than a dozen languages.

From its unforgettable opening scene in the darkness of a forgotten cemetery in Buenos Aires, The Ministry of Special Cases casts a powerful spell. In the heart of Argentina’s Dirty War, Kaddish Poznan struggles with a son who won’t accept him; strives for a wife who forever saves him; and spends his nights protecting the good name of a community that denies his existence--and denies a checkered history that only Kaddish holds dear. When the nightmare of the disappeared children brings the Poznan family to its knees, they are thrust into the unyielding corridors of the Ministry of Special Cases, the refuge of last resort.

Nathan Englander’s first novel is a timeless story of fathers and sons. In a world turned upside down, where the past and the future, the nature of truth itself, all take shape according to a corrupt government’s whims, one man--one spectacularly hopeless man--fights to overcome his history and his name, and, if for only once in his life, to put things right. Here again are all the marvelous qualities for which Englander’s first book was immediately beloved: his exuberant wit and invention, his cosmic sense of the absurd, his genius for balancing joyfulness and despair. Through the devastation of a single family, Englander captures, indelibly, the grief of a nation. The Ministry of Special Cases, like Englander’s stories before it, is a celebration of our humanity, in all its weakness, and--despite that--hope. (Book description by Knopf)

Reserve your copy today!

Links:

Search our databases for articles, reviews and information on Nathan Englander (library card required)

Nonfiction pick of the week: Reposition Yourself: Living Life Without Limits

reposition yourself book cover
In his latest book, Reposition Yourself, bestselling author T.D. Jakes shares insights that will help readers adjust to the many changes that life brings. This is a shrill wake-up call to take charge of your life now. Not only does it confront areas where subtle passivity or even poor choices may have stifled the reader's creativity, but it also instructs how to manage change and maximize life now. Using wisdom collected from his more than thirty years of counseling and working with everyday and high-profile people, Jakes covers financial, relational, and spiritual creativity and shows how adapting to transitional moments in your life is the path to an enriched existence filled with contentment at every stage.

Reposition Yourself offers reality-based plans for those seeking to make the years ahead even more productive. Jakes accepts the inevitability of change, teaching how to embrace and expect it rather than fear it. Mixing both sacred and secular insights, he shares a unique blend of practical and pragmatic steps coupled with the sage wisdom of Scripture for which he is noted.

This new book is without question a makeover for the soul. It gives you permission to succeed and the how-to's necessary to position yourself for the limitless potential that comes from making minor adjustments in your thinking and plans. Jakes believes there is nothing more important than your next decision. Before you make another choice, this is a must-read! (Book description by Atria Publishing)

Reserve your copy today!

Links:

Search the JCLC catalog for T. D. Jakes' audios, DVDs and books

The Official Website of T. D. Jakes

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Children's Book Review: My Little Car (Mi Carrito) ~ Preschool-Gr 2

my little car book coverWhat an eye-pleasing book My Little Car (Mi Carrito) is. This is my son’s favorite book of the moment as it meets his current criteria: it’s colorful and it’s about a car.

Gary Soto’s My Little Car is the story of Teresa and the lowrider pedal car given to her as a birthday present by her Abuelito (grandfather). She lovingly takes care of her little car and enjoys driving around her neighborhood. She wins a trophy for her Bailelo skills (making her car dance) in a contest, outraces a dog and becomes the envy of the playground, all because of her special car.

But, alas, all things new must turn old, and Teresa eventually loses interest and becomes negligent. Her car is left out in the elements where it begins to rust, lose its flame stickers and become a target for the birds in the trees. It's even dented when Teresa’s father backs into it with his truck where it's carelessly parked in the driveway.

One day Teresa’s grandfather comes to visit and doesn’t even recognize the car. Teresa sadly admits “Es mi carrito.” Grandfather exclaims that the car looks as old and rundown as he. Teresa and her little sister Pumpkin rush to their grandfather’s defense, and Teresa is shamed into realizing that things should be cherished long after the new wears off, be they people or toys.

Pam Paparone’s illustrations bring the Chicano neighborhood to life, in the bright colors and décor of the houses and in the urban street scenes alive with the faces of its people.

My Little Car is an excellent introduction to the Mexican language and culture for young children.

Links:

Search the JCLC catalog for Soto's works

Search our databases for articles and information on Gary Soto (library card required)

The Official Website of Gary Soto

Friday, May 11, 2007

Seasoned Performers at North Birmingham

Seasoned PerformersThe Seasoned Performers will present their newest one-act comedy play, Balancing Act on May 14 at 11 a.m. Please call North Birmingham at 226-4027 for additional information. Light refreshments will be served.

Umdabu Dance Company performs at Central

Umdabu Dance Company flyer

Thursday, May 17, 2007 at 6:30 p.m. the Umdabu Dance Company will perform under the trees in Central's atrium as a part of our BPL@Night series. We hope you will join us and watch this South African dance company present traditional South African culture through dance.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Book Pick of the Week: The Children of Hurin

children of hurin book coverThe first complete book by J.R.R. Tolkien in three decades -- since the publication of The Silmarillion in 1977 -- The Children of Hurin reunites fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Elves and Men, dragons and Dwarves, Eagles and Orcs. Presented for the first time as a complete, standalone story, this stirring narrative will appeal to casual fans and expert readers alike, returning them to the rich landscape and characters unique to Tolkien.

The Children of Hurin, begun in 1918, was one of three 'Great Tales' J.R.R. Tolkien worked on throughout his life, though he never realized his ambition to see it published. Though familiar to many fans from extracts and references within other Tolkien books, it has long been assumed that the story would forever remain an unfinished tale. Now reconstructed by Christopher Tolkien, painstakingly editing together the complete work from his father's many drafts, this book is the culmination of a tireless thirty-year endeavor by him to bring J.R.R.Tolkien's vast body of unpublished work to a wide audience.

Having drawn the distinctive maps for the original The Lord of the Rings more than 50 years ago, Christopher has also created a detailed new map for this book. In addition, it will include a jacket and color paintings by Alan Lee, illustrator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Centenary Edition and Academy Award-winning designer of the film trilogy. (Book description by Houghton Mifflin.)

Links:

Search the JCLC catalog for Tolkien's works

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Genealogical Treasures Seminar June 9th

Dorothy Williams Potter, author of the award winning book, Passports of Southeastern Pioneers, will present a seminar titled "How to Locate Your Ancestors on the Southern Frontier."

Ms. Potter has presented lectures for the National Genealogical Conference of the States, she was editor of the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, a recipient of the Tennessee Historical Commission’s Certificate of Merit, and she has served as advisor, consultant and contributor to historical quarterlies and reviews.

Here are the details.

Saturday June 9, 2007
9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Registration 9 – 9:30 a.m.
Arrington Auditorium
Birmingham Public Library/Linn-Henley Building
2100 Park Place
Birmingham, AL 35203

Fee: $15.00 pre-registration, $20 on site registration
Please make checks payable to: Birmingham Public Library

To pre-register, send us your name, address, phone number and check and mail to:
Treasurers Workshop/Southern History Department
Birmingham Public Library/Linn-Henley Building
2100 Park Place
Birmingham, AL 35203

For more information call us at (205) 226-3665.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Book Review : The Woods

The Woods CoverAt the heart of this compelling thriller is the question of what really happened one night in the woods? Paul 'Cope' Copeland is still haunted by that tragic night in the woods when a murderer visited the summer camp and his sister disappeared.

Two decades later, Cope's intense prosecution of two affluent college frat boys is suddenly interrupted by events that casts doubt on the official story of what happened all those years ago. Has the truth remained buried? Are some still alive? Was this all the work of a serial murderer?

To find answers, Cope must muddle through layers of an increasingly dangerous and often perplexing investigation involving a serial killer, a guilt ridden hippy, fanatical private investigators, deceptive parents, and ex-KGB agents. Yet he is compelled by guilt to continue until the truth is revealed.

If you are looking for a suspenseful summertime read, this riveting novel by Harlan Coben, bestselling author of Gone for Good and The Innocent, should be on your short list.

Reserve a copy of The Woods now in hardback, book-on-CD, or audio download.

DVD Pick of the Week: Volver

Volver DVD coverThree generations of women survive the east wind, fire, insanity, superstition and even death by means of goodness, lies and boundless vitality.

They are Raimunda (Pénelope Cruz), who is married to an unemployed labourer and has a teenage daughter (Yohana Cobo); Sole (Lola Dueñas), her sister, who makes a living as a hairdresser; and the mother of both (Carmen Maura), who died in a fire along with her husband. This character appears first to her sister (Chus Lampreave) and then to Sole, although the people with whom she has some unresolved matters are Raimunda and her neighbour in the village, Agustina (Blanca Portillo).

Volver is not a surrealistic comedy although it may seem so at times. The living and the dead coexist without any discord, causing situations that are either hilarious or filled with a deep, genuine emotion. It's a film about the culture of death in my native La Mancha. The people there practice it with an admirable naturalness. The way in which the dead continue to be present in their lives, the richness and humanity of their rites mean that the dead never die.Volver destroys all the clichés about "black" Spain and offers a Spain that is as real as it is the opposite. A Spain that is white, spontaneous, funny, intrepid, supportive and fair. (Synopsis by Sony Picture Classics)

WINNER

Best Foreign Film
NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW

Best Screenplay & Best Actress
CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

Best Picture Audience Award, Best
Director, Best Actress, Best Composer &
Best Cinematographer
EUROPEAN FILM AWARDS


Reserve your copy today.

Search the JCLC catalog for Penelope Cruz's movies.

Disaster preparedness

To care for Birmingham’s Treasures,
Library Plans for the Worst

April 20, 2007, Birmingham—Birmingham Public Library staff will participate in disaster preparedness training on May 9, using the recently-vacated West End Library for a real-to-life rehearsal.

Fifty staff members from all departments of the central and four regional libraries will arrive to their makeshift offices that morning as if they had arrived at the scene of a disaster. From there, they will be trained on how to communicate with staff members and patrons, salvage collections, and identify potential hazards during or after a disaster.

BPL has hired a consultant from the Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET), an Atlanta-based organization that provides training—from disaster preparedness to grant writing—to encourage Southeastern libraries to be among the best in the country.

The Birmingham Public Library is proactive in preparing for disasters, making it part of only 20% of collecting institutions nationwide that have an emergency plan with staff trained to respond appropriately. This number comes from a study conducted by Heritage Preservation, a national nonprofit group that advocates for the country’s collecting institutions—libraries, archives, and museums.

According to the three-year study, Heritage Preservation found that American institutions hold more than 4.8 billion artifacts—including 1.7 billion rare and unique books, periodicals, and scrapbooks; 700 million photographs; and 48 million historic objects—yet less than 30% of these institutions have staff who are trained in case their collections are harmed. The Birmingham Public Library holds—in addition to nearly 900,000 books, CDs and DVDs—several million historic documents, more than 400,000 photographs, nearly 10,000 rare books, and 4,000 maps. “Many of our materials are irreplaceable,” said Yvonne Crumpler, Head of the Southern History Department. “They are books and documents that have been cherished by Birmingham residents for decades.”

The study concluded that, in order for Americans to preserve their collections for future generations, institutions must provide safe conditions for their collections, develop an emergency plan, and assign responsibility for collections care to staff members. The Birmingham Public Library has an ongoing commitment to protect Birmingham’s treasures by focusing to all three of these objectives.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Little House Books: 75 years and still going strong

Laura Ingalls WilderIt was 75 years ago in April when Laura Ingalls Wilder published the first book in her Little House series, Little House in the Big Woods. The books chronicle Wilder’s life on the prairies of Missouri and Minnesota as she grows from a young pioneer girl into a young lady. Wilder died in 1957 at the age of 90 at the Rocky Ridge Farm she shared with her husband, Almanzo. Fans young and old still eagerly read her cherished books and visit the places Wilder made famous in them.

Did you know...?

  • Wilder helped her husband work their farm for 30 years before penning her first Little House book at age 60

  • Her first draft was a memoir titled Pioneer Girl that was turned down by publishers but it was suggested that she rewrite it as children's fiction

  • Little House in the Big Woods was so popular with children, they deluged Wilder and her publisher with letters begging for more books about the Ingalls family

  • She refused to adapt her stories for film for fear that Hollywood would sensationalize her life story and alter her novels

  • Her daughter Rose Wilder Lane, a successful novelist and journalist, typed and helped edit her mother’s manuscripts

  • Bad girl Nellie Oleson is actually three different girls from Wilder’s childhood combined into one

  • The real Nellie had a brother named Willie who went blind from a firecracker explosion and attended a school for the blind

  • Wilder had a brother named Charles Frederic Ingalls who lived for only nine months

  • Laura and Almanzo moved to Westville, Florida, in the hopes of improving Almanzo’s health, but they soon moved back to De Smet, South Dakota, when Laura couldn’t take the heat and wasn’t accepted socially because of her Yankee status

  • 26 episodes of a Japanese animated version of the Little House series was released in 1975

  • The Little House series has sold 41 million copies in the United States and has been translated into over 40 languages

  • All books except Farmer Boy are named Newbery Honor Books


    book cover

    The Little House series:

    Little House in the Big Woods (1932)
    Farmer Boy (1933)
    Little House on the Prairie (1935)
    On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937)
    By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939)
    The Long Winter (1940)
    Little Town on the Prairie (1941)
    These Happy Golden Years ( 1943)
    The First Four Years (1971)

  • Links:

    Search our databases for articles and information on Laura Ingalls Wilder (library card required)

    Friday, May 04, 2007

    Ray Bradbury awarded Pulitzer Special Citation

    Ray Bradbury
    Ray Doulgas Bradbury became a full-time writer in 1943, when he discovered he could make a living submitting short stories to magazines. His first book was a collection of short stories titled Dark Carnival (1947).

    The launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the gathering interest in exploring the New Frontier really got the ball rolling for Bradbury's foray into the science fiction field. Even after 64 years of prolific writing that includes 500 short stories, numerous novels, poetry, plays and essays, he is still best remembered for his science fiction novels The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451.

    The Martian Chronicles (1950) is a book of linked stories that chronicle the exploration, expedition, invasion, colonization and eventual desertion of Mars. The Illustrated Man (1951) is a collection of 18 stories that touch on social topics such as racism, religion and warfare, each introduced by a tattooed man whose changing illustrations foretell the future if one sticks around long enough. Fahrenheit 451 (1953) is a dark story about an anti-intellectual society that discourages independent thinking and forbids reading. The fire department exists to set fire to books and libraries. Guy Montag, a reformed fireman, joins a nomadic clan of booklovers who memorize pieces of civilization’s greatest literature, awaiting the day when they are able to transfer the words onto paper without fear of death.

    The Pulitzer Special Citation recognizes an artist’s lifetime achievement. Bradbury, who started writing stories on butcher paper as a child, is still going strong at 87. It is easy to see how Bradbury fit the bill.

    Links:

    Search the JCLC catalog for Bradbury's works

    Visit the library's Biography Resource Center for a complete listing of Bradbury's achievements (library card is required)

    Tuesday, May 01, 2007

    Audio Book Review: Counter culture

    audio book coverI’ve been a fan of Steve Martin’s since I was 13-years-old. What impressed me about him back in the ‘70s was his silly ode to King Tut and his impressive balloon animal skills. My small hardback copy of Cruel Shoes survived three moves and even more spring cleanings. Later decades and a string of successful movies and books by Martin would allow me to see the intelligence behind the humor that is his trademark.

    I recently listened to the audio book of Martin’s novella Shopgirl (2000). I’m wary of listening to an audio book read by the author. Most times it seems ego driven and the author doesn’t always do justice to the story. I suppose since Martin is an actor as well as a writer it worked in this case. He’s able to read his own words with the exact tone of pathos, sarcasm, humor or sadness that they call for.

    Shopgirl is about a trio of Los Angelites: Mirabelle Buttersfield, who works a counter at Neiman’s, is several years past college age but still lives a student’s poor life, including owning the requisite cheap futon that folds her guests into impossible yoga positions; Jeremy Kraft, a Mirabelle admirer who is sure he could be The One, if only he had the money and social skills to do it; and Ray Porter, a 50-something Seattle millionaire who has a penchant for shopgirls who live on budgets. Mirabelle’s two suitors don’t suit her at all. What’s a poor girl to do?

    I’m somewhat jaded by romance stories because I think I know how they'll end, but I was pleasantly surprised.

    Shopgirl was made into a movie in 2005, and stars Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman and Steve Martin as Mirabelle, Jeremy and Ray, respectively.

    Links:

    Search the JCLC catalog for Steve Martin's audios, books and movies

    The Compleat Steve