Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summer Reading Kickoff Party at Inglenook Branch Library

Summer reading, here we come! With over 30 programs, the Inglenook Branch Library will ensure that the Inglenook community is always engaged and entertained. These events will be kicked off with a party on June 1 at 3:30 p.m. The party will consist of summer reading registrations, activities, games, motivation from community leaders to read, promotion from the 98.7 Kiss FM Radio Station, and light refreshments. The Birmingham Public Library Literacy and Outreach Department will also be on hand to sign folks up for library cards.

If you would like to motivate your child to read over the summer and prevent the summer slide, or even motivate yourself, stop by the Inglenook Library on Monday, June 1, for inspiration!

Karnecia Williams
Inglenook Branch Library

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Local Artist Shares A-maze-ing Technique of Drawing in One Continuous Line in Free Workshop

Octopus. Pen on paper
Birmingham artist Cory Casella creates“one-liners,” exquisitely intricate pen drawings produced with a single continuous line that never crosses itself…His works boggle the brain and the eye as you try to figure out how they were done.

And he’s willing to share his secrets so you too can attempt your own “one-liners.” On Saturday, June 6, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Casella will teach his technique in the Story Castle, 2nd Floor at the Central Library located at 2100 Park Place. The event is free; however registration is requested. Call 226-3670 to participate. Casella explained why he restricted his drawing to a one-line act. “I have found for me that my creativity is born from constraint. Having the constraint of only having one line allows me to focus on making shapes and shadows in interesting ways.”

Snail. Pen on paper
Casella is a User Experience designer for a local software company, Alden Systems. He graduated from Birmingham Southern College in 2005. He participates regularly in the Birmingham Art Crawl which is held downtown on first Thursdays of each month.

Casella’s works along with those of Melissa Shultz-Jones and Paul Cordes Wilm are are showcased in the exhibit, The Amazing Art of Local Curiosities, at the Central Library's Fourth Floor Gallery until June 26, 2015. All three are Birmingham artists with very unique perspectives.

On Wednesday, June 16, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., Shultz-Jones will lead a free “Hero Art” session for children and accompanying adult family members in the Story Castle on the Central Library. Registration requested; call 226-3655.

And check out these resources from the library to polish your drawing skills:

Southern History Department's Book of the Month: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
By Harper Lee

Any coward can fight a battle when he's sure of winning; but give me the man who has pluck to fight when he's sure of losing. That's my way, sir; and there are many victories worse than a defeat. — George Eliot

My first reading of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was when I picked up a cheap paperback edition of the book—I can remember how it felt in my hands, with the brittle pages ready to crumble at the edges—with Gregory Peck on the cover. And that is all I remember about that afternoon, except for what was happening between the covers of that paperback, for the novel completely captured me. I had not seen the film and this was before the days of the Internet, or a time when the book would appear on school reading lists far and wide, so I came to it blessedly free of the sort of pop-cultural osmosis that would have spoiled the story for me before I ever had a chance to read it.

The plot is relatively simple: Atticus Finch, a white lawyer in Depression-era South Alabama, defends an African American man named Tom Robinson who is charged with rape. Told from the point of view of Finch’s young daughter Jean Louise, AKA “Scout” Finch, the story strips away the polite social veneer from bigotry and race hatred in the fictional small town of Maycomb, Alabama. In the course of the novel, Scout and her brother Jem learn to the full, as no child should have to learn, the extremes to which prejudice can drive some of their otherwise friendly neighbors. And yet, lest anyone should think the story is unremittingly grim, it also shines with compassion for all sorts of marginalized people on the fringes of society, such as the Finch’s reclusive neighbor “Boo” Radley, the ogre of local gossip and a beacon to Scout and Jem’s insatiable curiosity.

Mockingbird is also—and frequently—laugh-out-loud funny, especially to anyone who has grown up in similar surroundings. At first reading, I knew these people as I knew my own family: the neighborhood ladies who jealously guard their secret cake recipes, the aunt who is scandalized by Scout running around in overalls and wishes her niece would try to be more of a “lady,” the bewildered young school ma’am who faces children unlike any she had ever imagined teaching. Throughout the story, Lee’s control of her material is impeccable, balancing humor with tension until the climactic courtroom battle over Tom Robinson and its frightening aftermath. Yet as the novel draws to its close, the tone is elegiac, wistful, and calming:

Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives . . . Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley front porch was enough.

To Kill a Mockingbird was made into a film in 1962 and starred Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. If you have never seen the film, it will air on Turner Classic Movies on Saturday, May 30 and is very much worth seeing—but as the old saying goes, “Read the book. Don’t wait for the movie!”

Stay tuned for the publication of the recently-discovered sequel: Go Set a Watchman, which is due for publication in July of 2015.

For more on To Kill a Mockingbird and Harper Lee:

The Big Read
Harper Lee’s Maycomb helped shape those of us . . .” on
Harper Lee’s Novel Achievement” on
Go Set a Watchman on JCLC catalog
Go Set a Watchman on Amazon

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library

Monday, May 25, 2015

Teen Summer Reading Programs

The Adventures of Moore Magic – Tricks of the Trade - First you see it, now you don't. Unmask the mysterious world of magic with Larry Moore. The impossible becomes possible and the unbelievable believable—it will blow your mind!

Pratt City Branch – June 2 – 1:00 p.m.
Springville Road Branch – June 3 – 10:00 a.m.
Powderly Branch – June 4 – 1:30 p.m.
Central – June 8 – 2:00 p.m.
North Birmingham Branch – June 9 – 2:00 p.m.
Avondale Branch – June 11 – 2:00 p.m.
Wylam Branch – June 18 – 2:00 p.m.
Five Points West Branch – July 1 – 2:00 p.m.
West End Branch – July 8 – 1:00 p.m.
East Ensley Branch – July 9 – 2:00 p.m.
Smithfield Branch – July 14 – 10:00 a.m.

Unmask the Artist in You with Cherie Hunt - Local artist, Cherie Hunt, will provide step-by-step instructions for participants to complete their very own canvas masterpiece.

Smithfield Branch – June 9 – 10:00 a.m.
Pratt City Branch – June 11 – 1:00 p.m.
East Ensley Branch – June 23 – 1:00 p.m.
West End Branch – June 24 – 1:00 p.m.
Powderly – June 25 – 1:30 p.m.
Springville Road – June 26 – 4:00 p.m.
North Birmingham – June 30 – 2:00 p.m.
Southside Branch – July 7 – 10:30 a.m.
Avondale Branch – July 9 – 2:00 p.m.
Five Points West Branch – July 15 – 1:00 p.m.
Wylam Branch – July 16 – 2:00 p.m.
Woodlawn Branch – July 28 – 3:00 p.m.
Ensley Branch – July 30 – 10:00 a.m.

Hunger Games - The odds will be ever in your favor when you join Dynamic Education Adventures to explore the science of survival through the eyes of Katniss Everdeen. Participants will make Mockingjay pins as well as their very own mini bow and arrow.

Five Points West Branch – June 10 – 1:00 p.m.
Wylam Branch – June 11 – 2:00 p.m.
North Avondale – June 23 – 1:15 p.m.
Powderly – June 25 – 1:30 p.m.
West End Branch – July 1 – 1:00 p.m.
Smithfield Branch – July 7 – 10:00 a.m.
Central – July 15 – 10:00 a.m.
Ensley Branch – July 16 – 10:00 a.m.

Hoops for Fitness - Challenge yourself to super fitness with hula hoops.

Springville Road Branch – June 15 – 2:00 p.m.
North Birmingham Branch – June 16 – 2:00 p.m.
Central – June 18 – 2:00 p.m.
East Ensley – July 2 – 2:00 p.m.
Pratt City – July 7 – 1:00 p.m.
Ensley Branch – July 9 – 10:00 a.m.
East Lake Branch – July 9 – 3:00 p.m.

Visit for information on Birmingham Public Library branches.

Children's Summer Reading Events

Backyard Heroes - Did you know that most superheroes have strengths and abilities inspired by real animals? Join us as the Alabama 4-H Coosa River Science School reveals some super astonishing facts about a few of our favorite reptiles, amphibians, and birds of prey. Who knows what super animal may be living in your backyard!

North Birmingham Branch – June 3 – 10:30 a.m.
West End Branch – June 4 – 11:00 a.m.
Wylam Branch- June 9 – 10:00 a.m.
Springville Road Branch – June 10 – 10:00 a.m.
Pratt City Branch – June 11 – 10:00 a.m.
Powderly Branch – June 15 – 10:00 a.m.
Woodlawn Branch – June 16 – 10:00 a.m.
North Avondale Branch – June 16 – 1:00 p.m.
Smithfield Branch – June 17 – 10:00 a.m.
Five Points West Branch – June 18 – 10:00 a.m.
Inglenook Branch– June 19 – 9:30 a.m.
Central – June 22 – 10:30 a.m.
Avondale Branch – June 23 – 6:30 p.m.
East Lake Branch – June 25 – 10:00 a.m.
East Ensley Branch – June 25 – 2:00 p.m.
Southside Branch – June 26 – 9:30 a.m.
Titusville Branch – June 30 – 10:30 a.m.
Eastwood Branch – July 10 – 10:45 a.m.
Central – July 14 – 10:30 a.m.
Ensley Branch – July 21 – 10:00 a.m.

Zoo to You! - We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo. How about you, you, you? You can come too, too, too. We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo. Join us as the Birmingham Zoo takes a scientific look at some of nature's lesser-known heroes. Discover what makes these animals heroes in their own communities and how they use their super adaptation powers to survive.

Smithfield Branch – June 3 – 10:00 a.m.
East Lake Branch – June 4 – 10:00 a.m.
Titusville Branch – June 9 – 10:30 a.m.
East Ensley Branch – June 11 – 2:00 p.m.
Eastwood Branch – June 12 – 10:45 a.m.
Wylam Branch – June 16 – 10:00 a.m.
Woodlawn Branch – June 23 – 10:00 a.m.
Avondale Branch – June 24 – 2:00 p.m.
Pratt City Branch – June 25 – 10:00 a.m.
North Avondale Branch – June 30 – 10:30 a.m.
North Birmingham Branch – July 1 – 10:30 a.m.
Powderly Branch – July 6 – 10:00 a.m.
Springville Road Branch – July 8 – 10:00 a.m.
West End Branch – July 9 – 11:00 a.m.
Southside Branch – July 10 – 9:30 a.m.
Central – July 13 – 10:30 a.m.
Five Points West Branch – July 14 – 10:00 a.m.
Inglenook Branch – July 17 – 9:00 a.m.

Moore Hero Magic! - Discover the “Power of Reading” with Magic Man Larry Moore as he presents stories and tricks that are bound to leave you wanting "Moore."

Five Points West Branch – June 4 – 10:00 a.m.
Eastwood Branch – June 5 – 10:45 a.m.
Woodlawn Branch – June 9 – 10:00 a.m.
North Birmingham Branch – June 10 – 10:30 a.m.
Avondale Branch – June 10 – 2:00 p.m.
Pratt City Branch – June 16 – 10:00 a.m.
East Ensley Branch – June 16 – 2:00 p.m.
East Lake Branch – June 18 – 10:00 a.m.
Southside Branch – June 19 – 9:30 a.m.
Inglenook Branch – June 22 – 10:00 a.m.
Springville Road Branch – June 24 – 10:00 a.m.
West End Branch – June 25 – 11:00 a.m.
Powderly Branch – June 29 – 10:00 a.m.
Wylam Branch – June 30 – 10:00 a.m.
Smithfield Branch – July 1 – 10:00 a.m.
Titusville Branch – July 7 – 10:30 a.m.
North Avondale Branch – July 15 – 1:00 p.m.
Central – July 20 – 10:30 a.m.

Superhero Science Show - Dynamic Education Adventures will make you want to grab a cape, spin a web, put on a utility belt, and leap tall buildings in a single bound! This is a program filled with superheroes and the villains who plague them. Participants will learn about flight, super-strength, managing matter, and more.

Powderly Branch – June 8 – 10:00 a.m.
Five Points West Branch – June 9 – 10:00 a.m.
North Avondale Branch – June 9 – 1:30 p.m.
Smithfield Branch – June 10 – 10:00 a.m.
West End Branch – June 11 – 11 a.m.
Southside Branch – June 12 – 9:30 a.m.
Central – June 15 – 10:30 a.m.
Titusville Branch – June 16 – 10:30 a.m.
Springville Road Branch – June 17 – 10:00 a.m.
Avondale Branch – June 17 – 2:00 p.m.
Woodlawn Branch – June 18 – 10:00 a.m.
East Ensley Branch – June 18 – 2:00 p.m.
Eastwood Branch – June 19 – 10:45 a.m.
Wylam Branch – June 23 – 10:00 a.m.
North Birmingham Branch – June 25 – 10:30 a.m.
Inglenook Branch – June 26 – 9:30 a.m.
Pratt City Branch – June 30 – 10:00 a.m.
East Lake Branch – July 9 – 10:00 a.m.
Ensley Branch – July 14 – 10:00 a.m.

Visit for information on Birmingham Public Library branches.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Popular Urban Street Market in Historic Woodlawn Scheduled for June 20

Photos from Woodlawn Street Market on Facebook

Everyone in the Birmingham and surrounding areas is invited to attend the next Woodlawn Street Market on Saturday, June 20, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The event will be held right in the center of historic Woodlawn on 55th Place. This will be the first Woodlawn market of the year and more than 40 vendors are expected to participate and display their wares and crafts.

“Woodlawn Street Market has almost become the embodiment of renewed energy within Woodlawn, and it’s drawing people in,” said Bekah Fox of Woodlawn-based recording studio and record shop, Communicating Vessels. ”The street market is changing perceptions about our neighborhood, even inciting new levels of engagement amongst merchants. New and old businesses now consider their neighbors partners in a much larger effort to launch this community forward. The change is happening from within, and events like the Woodlawn Street Market showcase that vibrancy for the region to see.”

REV Birmingham is still seeking vendors for the event. Applications can be completed at the link below. The vender application deadline is June 5, 2015.

Pamela Jessie
Woodlawn Branch Library

Ready to Buy a New Home? Find a Cheaper Mortgage

A few months ago, NPR had a great piece on new mortgage-finding tools from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Many home buyers only talk to one lender. This can lead to a loss of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the mortgage. It is well worth a borrower's time to research the best mortgage rate available.

Birmingham Public Library has several books to make your home buying experience easier.

Home Buying Kit for Dummies by Eric Tyson and Ray Brown
How to Have a Stress Free Mortgage : Insider Tips from a Certified Mortgage Broker to Help Save You Time, Money, and Frustration by Linda Fleischmann
Keep Calm... It's Just Real Estate : Your No-stress Guide to Buying a Home by Egypt Sherrod, host of Property Virgins

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Book Review: Imogene in New Orleans

Imogene in New Orleans
Hunter Murphy

For those of you who don’t already know, Hunter Murphy is one of Birmingham Public Library's own. He started with BPL in the Business and Economics Department at Central, which is where we met and worked together lo, these many years ago. I can’t pretend to be unbiased—when the author is your friend it tends to color your perceptions. That said, I’ll do my best to be fair: I LOVED THIS BOOK!

If you “know what it means to miss New Orleans” you’ll enjoy this romp through its courtyards and squares. The descriptions of the city and the French Quarter are dead on. Even old friends of the Crescent City may discover facets of life they've only imagined and their appreciation for N’awlins will deepen.

When Jackson, Billy, and Billy’s mom, Imogene, discover one of their friends dead in his art gallery, the action begins. Suspects and suspicions abound until it seems almost everyone (except Imogene and the boys) have something to gain by his death. The mystery is compelling, but the most enjoyable part of the novel is the dialogue between the characters. Jackson and Billy are long-time partners, but their relationship is just a relationship—not a device or the focus of sturm und drang. This is not a mystery about a gay couple; it’s a murder mystery with delightfully quirky Southern characters, some of whom happen to be gay. Imogene is a feisty matron who is determined to prove her independence and cleverness. Her down-home speech and stubbornness are instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever dared to tell their Southern mama what to do and not do. Billy is a tiny bit of a hypochondriac (who doesn't count at least one of these in their circle of friends?) and Jackson is the one who must comfort, direct, safeguard, and protect his family while trying to find out who murdered their friend. And since no true Southern story can take place without a dog, there’s Goose, the bulldog—or possibly he’s a four-footed carpet sweeper ever on the alert for crumbs.

This is a delightful whodunit, with charming characters, beignets, horse-drawn carriages, jazz music, murder, intrigue, corruption, night clubs, chases, good friends, hustlers, artists, parades, and a spoiled bulldog. Let Imogene, Goose, and the boys gently lead you on their comical search for the killer!

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Regional Branch Library
(Copies are available for check-out from BPL.)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Children's Book Review: Listen, Slowly (Ages 8-12)

Listen, Slowly 
Thanhha Lai

Mia is a California girl through and through. Her Vietnamese heritage isn't quite as important to her as her beach-bound hometown and circle of friends. She loves her family and everything, but to a twelve-year-old on summer vacation, friends and first crushes trump everything. Mia’s parents just don’t understand the misery they are putting her through when they put her on a plane for Vietnam. Her father insists that she is the one best suited to accompany her grandmother to search for her long-lost husband, but she doesn't even know the language!

Mia’s grandmother is a selfless figure who risked everything to leave her home and start a new life for her family. Even though Mia owes everything to her, she can’t help but resent the fact that she has been uprooted for a hopeless quest. As expected, the trip is miserable. The heat is outrageous, Mia didn't pack the right clothing, the mosquitoes are out of control, and she has to use dial up to get on the Internet! Initially, Mia is full of self-pity and complaints. Something changes when she finds herself befriending her cousins and absorbed in the mystery of her missing grandfather. Slowly but surely, Mia becomes a little wiser, kinder, and more mature. It’s a wonderful journey seeing a foreign land through the eyes of an American tween. Mia initially identifies as a uni-cultural American and by the end she is fully engaged with her Vietnamese heritage.

Thanha Lai’s debut novel was Inside Out and Back Again, which was beautifully written in verse. This is her first novel in prose and it does not disappoint. The writing evokes sights, sounds, tastes, and feelings that make Mia’s visit feel like tangible experience for the reader. I was fully wrapped up in the world just a few pages in. Mia’s voice and personality is just as vivid as the scenery. The nagging self-pity and misery brought up memories of my own feelings at that age. Sure, it was a little irritating, but I could totally identify with her. Mia slowly undergoes a transformation that is sincere and believable. I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice to say the book left me with a deep satisfaction. I felt like I had been through everything myself. I think children fourth grade and up will get a lot out of this title. Mia does indulge in thoughts about boys and body image, but it is all appropriately handled in a way that a preteen can identify with. I can see this title being a perfect summer read for tween girls. (And grown-ups like me.)

Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Regional Branch Library

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Searching for a Hobby

Man gardening

I had a discussion with a 65-year-old about retirement.  He told me that he has no intention to retire because he doesn’t have any hobbies.  “What will I do every day?”  I’m several years away, but I’ve already had people asking me what I plan to do during retirement.  I don’t know for certain, but I know this:  I do NOT plan to continue to work simply because I don’t have any major hobbies.   

This thought process put me on the path to consider hobbies I might enjoy.  My first approach was to think of things my coworkers enjoy doing and ponder if I might enjoy any of those things.  I was quickly able to cross a number of activities off the list.  Not a big fan of outdoor activities, so hunting, fishing, gardening, etc., got nixed.  I know a lot of people who are passionate about golf, but with my personality, every club and the bag would quickly be thrown into the nearest water hazard.  How about hitting the gym to work on that perfect bod?  I have already posted a blog about my inability to commit to exercise, so that might not be realistic.  Man, this is hard.

Man building model ship

So many hobbies require talent, skill, and patience, like woodworking, model building, knitting, and other crafts.  When I worked in the Arts, Literature, & Sports Department, we received a book on creating your own tabletop fountains.  That sounded cool, so I started reading it.  I figured by the time I bought all the materials I needed, I could just buy a fountain that was ready to plug in.  That seemed to be true for many of the craft project books I went through.  I admire people who have the patience and desire to undertake such projects.

Where does all this leave me?  Well, the library has a tremendous number of books and often DVDs on just about every hobby you can imagine.  I will take advantage of the fact that I am here a lot, and figure out something that I’d like to try.  If you are in the same situation, visit your local library and take advantage of the huge selection of materials.  Moreover, please don’t let a lack of hobbies prevent you from retiring!  Good luck!