Friday, July 31, 2009

BPL@Night Presents Foxxy Fatts

Foxxy Fatts: Photo by Larry O. Gay With his trademark toothpick hanging from his lips, Foxxy Fatts guides his band.

An Alabama Music Hall of Fame and Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame inductee, Fatts began drumming around 8 years of age.

The unique blend of rock, R & B, fussion jazz, swing and Motown played by this multi-dimensional performer is not to be missed.

Event Details
What: BPL@Night Presents Foxxy Fatts
When: Tuesday, August 4
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Cost: Free

BPL thanks Compass Bank for its generous support of BPL@Night. BPL@Night is also made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review: The Help

book cover"Do you ever wish you could...change things?"
- Skeeter to Aibileen

My family never had domestic help because we were too poor. But I always imagined that though there might be some racial or class conflict, the black and white ladies who run a household elbow-to-elbow would somehow share a mutual respect for one another. According to Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, I was both right and wrong on this perception, but, boy, when I’m wrong, I’m wrong!

The Help is the story of three women: Skeeter, a white graduate from Ole Miss who still lives at home under the genteel and critical thumb of her DAR mother; Aibileen, a proud, educated black woman who has raised 17 white children but lost her only son to a work accident; and Minny, a short, fat firecracker of a woman who has a hard time finding domestic jobs because her reputation for sass precedes her. These women come together when Skeeter proposes that they co-author an anonymous book about what it’s like for a black woman to work as a maid and nanny in a white household.

Threatening their anonymous project are Hilly Holbrook and Elizabeth Leefort, friends in Skeeter’s social circle. Hilly is the president of the Junior League, and her political platform is how to stay protected against the diseases Negroes carry and pass along as they’re cooking, cleaning, and raising white children in wealthy white households. She’s too blinded with race and class prejudice to see the hypocrisy of building ramshackle toilets in backyards and garages for Negro domestics while raising money to send to the League's charity—The Poor Starving Children of Africa. Elizabeth is a sycophant who mimics everything Hilly does. Too busy trying to worm her way into high society, she leaves the raising of her neglected daughter Mae Mobley to Aibileen, who loves Baby Girl as her own and sneaks in lessons of self-worth and tolerance between her daily chores, hoping the lessons will stick long after she's gone.

Not all is black and white in Stockett's black and white world. Skeeter's gentle father has worked a farm all his life and has developed a respect for and dependence on his black hired hands; and Miss Celia, "white trash" newly planted in Jackson, Mississippi, learns the hard way that it's not only race that keeps good people down in her town. Though she doesn't know it at first, Celia is lucky she's so far out of Jackson's social loop that she hires the blackballed Minny as her maid. Against Minny's better judgement of getting involved in crazy white people's lives, she and Miss Celia become allies in one of the many battles in the Civil Rights war.

I’ve read some reader criticisms about Stockett’s use of the southern dialect in The Help. Some just can’t believe that anyone in America, even in the rural south of the ‘60s, would use phrases like “law have mercy” and “sho’nuff.” But I’d like to introduce these people to some relatives who say “aimbulaince” and “healiacopter.” Readers should remember that the story is set over 40 years ago—decades before our cultures became more homogenized and our world made smaller by television and the Internet. And besides, Stockett grew up in a southern household that still employed the maid that started working for the family when her father was 14 years old. She speaks from experience.

The Help is one of those books that has taken off on word of mouth, similar to the literary phenomenon of The Lovely Bones. If I may toss out some tired clichés, Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny will make you laugh and, yes, cry. Laugh and cry a lot.

Reserve your copy today!

Take a sneak peek at The Help with Amazon's Look Inside feature

Search Encore for information on the Civil Rights Movement

Birmingham Public Library to Host Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Central Alabama for BPL@Night

Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Central Alabama
The Birmingham Public Library is excited to host the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Central Alabama. MYOCA is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization which was founded to awaken and nurture a passion for music in children. Students of diverse racial, social, cultural, and economic backgrounds are encouraged to explore and cultivate their musical talent and contribute to Alabama's musical culture. The organization’s goal is to make music instruction and ensemble playing available to all, thereby developing character and sense of community.

The orchestra finds its roots from a similarly-conceived group in Venezuela, El Sistema. CBS featured this groundbreaking concept on 60 Minutes. The segment captured how children's mental processes change when they learn to make music. Studies of students in the El Sistema music program have shown them to have "marked improvements in academic performance, self-esteem, leadership qualities, and social integration". The founder of El Sistema, Jose Abreu, says that when a student "generates musical harmony, (he) begins to understand from within what essential harmony is...human harmony." And he says that an orchestra "is a community where the essential and exclusive feature is that it is the only community that comes together with the fundamental objective of agreeing with itself."

For more information on the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Central Alabama, please visit For more information on the BPL@Night or the other BPL programs, please visit the Events calendar at

The Library will provide light refreshments at the concert.

Event: Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Central Alabama performance for BPL@Night
Date: Thursday, August 20, 2009
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Place: Central Library’s Atrium
Cost: Free

photo courtesy of Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Central Alabama

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Brown Bag Program: Me & Blue: A One-Man Band Show

me & blue publicity photo
Me & Blue features Jerry Ryan and his sidekick Blue in an original one-man band show. His repertoire includes wide-ranging songs from the Big Band Era, classic rock ‘n roll tunes from the '50s and '60s, a little bit of Buffet, a few Elvis favorites, and a whole lot of fun. Wednesday, August 5, noon.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Author E. Lynn Harris Dead at 54

E. Lynn Harris Image
Author E. Lynn Harris , bestselling novelist, died Thursday night, July 23 at 54. He introduced millions of readers to the life of African-American homosexual men. Through writing, he was able to deal with his depression over hiding his homosexuality. He sold more than three million copies of novels concerning African-American professionals in dramatic circumstances. According to Publisher’s Weekly Alissa Quart, he was “the bestselling African-American male novelist of the 90’s.” Harris’ series of novels focused on affluent African-American male professionals who were complex characters in dramatic romances. His tales featured African-American men who dated women, but also carried on hidden relationships with other men. His first novel, Invisible Life, was semi-autobiographical and was initially rejected by several publishers. Harris decided to self-publish the novel by using his own savings and money raised from AIDS organizations. This novel was a metaphor for the hidden life of closeted homosexuals and bi-sexual African-Americans. Later, Harris reached a large audience and became a well-known name in African-American fiction. Harris’ 2003 memoir, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, contained painful stories of child abuse, alcoholism, depression and the struggles of being a closeted African-American homosexual.

E. Lynn Harris was born in Flint, Michigan in the summer of 1955. At age three, he moved to Little Rock, Arkansas with his mother. His stepfather, Ben Harris, was physically and verbally abusive. He would later write stories of the abuse in his memoir. His mother, Etta, divorced his stepfather when E. Lynn Harris was 13.

Harris attended high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. He secretly believed he was gay and attended gay pride dances at George Washington University while on a brief internship for low-income African-Americans. He attended University of Arkansas at Fayetteville where he was a cheerleader and the first African-American yearbook editor. He casually dated women but had a more significant secret romance with a male athlete. This relationship was to inspire the subject matter for the novel Invisible Life.

Harris graduated in 1977 with a degree in journalism. However, he later got a job as a salesman for IBM in Dallas. He was introduced to social circles and a lifestyle that defined his life and his fiction for years to come. He frequented a gay club in Dallas, which he kept secret from his straight friends. He lived in Chicago and Washington, D.C. while continuing to work in computer sales. He struggled with alcoholism, difficult romantic relationships and depression while trying to keep his straight friends and gay friends separate.

Invisible Life featured the main character, Raymond Winston Tyler, Jr. who was a bisexual African-American lawyer and Harris’ alter ego. He told the Detroit Free Press, “I gave Raymond the life I would have wanted for myself.” “Two parents who adored me, middle-class lifestyle, popularity.” Invisible Life quickly became popular in Atlanta, and an article in an Atlantic newspaper helped Harris get the attention of a publisher and agent. And This Too Shall Pass, which was on the New York Times bestseller list, featured a star athlete accused of rape. He won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence with, If This World Were Mine, a novel about four friends and secrets they write about in a journal writing group. Abide With Me was the final book in the trilogy that began with Invisible Life. Not A Day Goes By, published in 2000 and Any Way The Wind Blows, published in 2001, both debuted at number two on the New York Times bestseller list.

Harris’ tales of his friends and romantic relationships has made him an extremely popular author with a wide audience. These are high drama tales that keep pages turning and readers interested. According to the Detroit Free Press journalist, “Though the characters were fictional-sort of-the soap opera-like drama in their lives was so real it kept readers talking long after they’d finish the last pages.”

E. Lynn Harris will be greatly missed for his novels of vivid detail and dramatic romance.

Please visit your library for more information:



Biography Resource Center


Official Website of E. Lynn Harris

Friday, July 24, 2009

27 Up, 27 Down

Mark BuehrleMark Buehrle just added his name to the history books by pitching a perfect game on Thursday for the Chicago White Sox. Buehrle is just the 18th pitcher in major league history to pitch a perfect game. Randy Johnson was the last pitcher to do so back in May 2004. Buehrle is also one of the few pitchers in major league history to pitch both a no-hitter and a perfect game during his career. His no-hitter came against the Texas Rangers in April 2007.

One of the team's biggest fans, President Barack Obama, called to congratulate Buehrle during his post-game press conference. Buehrle joked later about the 30-second phone call made by the President. His teammates contributed greatly to his achievement, including a spectacular catch by centerfielder Dewayne Wise in the top of the ninth to save a home run. The White Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 5-0.

Drop by the library to check out some of the new books on baseball:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Birmingham's Big Table Poets Recite from Einstein at the Odeon Cafe

book cover
Listen to some of Birmingham's finest poets recite work from the soon-to-be-released anthology, Einstein at the Odeon Cafe. Einstein at the Odeon Café offers readers (and listeners) an unexpected look at Einstein's life through verse. Poems portray Einstein, not at the blackboard struggling with his equations, but smoking cigars in a Swiss café, “dreaming always of light.” In a variety of poetic styles, hear about the Einstein who gave up his first daughter Elise for adoption, a daughter who has been lost to history ever since. Wednesday, July 29, noon.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Two Popular Children's Classics Coming This Fall to a Theater Near You

Exciting movie news for all the, er, kids out there. Kids with wonderful parents who will selflessly offer up their precious weekend time and hard-earned cash this fall to take their darlings to the theater to see two great children's books reborn as feature films. Don't say we never do anything for you; sacrifice is our middle name, you know.

September 18 is the projected opening date for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. It stars the voices of Anna Faris, Neil Patrick Harris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Tracy Morgan, and Mr. T.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a 1978 book written by Judi Barrett about the "lucky" town of Chewandswallow whose citizenry don't have to grow, harvest, cook, or buy their food. Soups and beverages rain down on them, mashed potatoes blanket them like snow, and all is fine and dandy until changes in the weather pattern pelt them with giant meatballs and smother them with Paul Bundy-sized pancakes. Will they escape with their lives? And, if so, will they be able to adapt to a world where they not only have to purchase food in things called stores, but cook it up, too?

Save room for the book's sequel, Pickles to Pittsburgh. The grateful residents of Chewandswallow who enjoyed so much food for so long return to pack up all the food left behind and ship it off to the hungry folks in other parts of the world.

In her stories Judi Barrett sets out to not only entertain children in their own little world, but to teach about the bigger world at the same time. In Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing, animals' different shapes and sizes are emphasized when a giraffe sports seven neckties on his long neck and a hanging opossum wears his clothes upside down. Never Take a Shark to the Dentist puts children at ease by blending humor and what to expect at the dentist's office.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is named one of Reading Rainbow's 101 Best Children's Books.

Visit Sony's official Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Web site.

Director Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are is slated for an October 16 opening. The cast includes Catherine Keener as Max's mom, and the voices of James Gandolfini, Forest Whitaker, Lauren Ambrose, Catherine O'Hara, and Paul Dano. Because Maurice Sendak hates "syrupy animation," he is thrilled about Jonze's dark adaptation of his book.

Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are was written in 1963, a time when most children's books were sentimental tales of innocence and sweetness and didn't deal often with realistic childhood issues such as anger or sibling rivalry or rebellion. It is the story of a misbehaving boy named Max who is sent to his room without supper, and he takes running away from home one step farther when he embarks on an imaginative journey for days, months, and almost a year to where the Wild Things are. But as exciting as it is to be King of the Wild Things, he misses home, and on his return is welcomed back by a bowl of warm soup. All in all, one of the coolest time outs ever.

Where the Wild Things Are forms a loose trilogy with In the Night Kitchen and Outside Over There. Though seemingly unrelated, Sendak says that the three books "are all variations on the same theme: how children master various feelings—anger, boredom, fear, frustration, jealousy—and manage to come to grips with the realities of their lives."

Where the Wild Things Are was supposed to be titled Where the Horses Are, but Sendak dropped the horse angle when he discovered he couldn't draw them well enough. He changed the horses to "things," based on some hairy-nosed relatives he hated from his Brooklyn childhood.

This book is the recipient of a Caldecott Medal and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and is an ALA Notable Book. In 2006 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp depicting a Wild Thing in a series of "Favorite Children's Book Animals."

Visit Warner Brothers' official Where the Wild Things Are Web site.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Frank McCourt Dies at 78

Frank McCourt, author of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize-Winning Angela's Ashes, died on Sunday, July 19 from cancer at 78. McCourt wrote with warmth, sensitivity, compassion and humor despite his tragic Irish Catholic childhood. His youth was filled with hunger, squalor, disease and touched by tragedy at such a young age. McCourt has written "When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive it all." We too might wonder how he managed to survive.

Frank McCourt was born to Irish immigrants, Angela and Malachy McCourt, on August 19, 1930 in Brooklyn, New York. The family later fled to Limerick, Ireland and found themselves in deeper poverty because of the Great Depression. Three of the family's seven children died. Malachy McCourt, the alcoholic father, left the family to survive on their own.

Frank McCourt later wrote about his poverty stricken childhood in Angela's Ashes. The book sold over 4 million copies, has been published in 27 countries and has been translated into 17 languages. Angela's Ashes won the National Book Critics Award, ABBY Award and Pulitzer Prize for Biography. McCourt later wrote Tis , which tells the story of his life after he arrives in America at 19 years of age. Teacher Man is a memoir of his years as an English teacher in the New York City Public School System. These books are tales of tragedy, love, triumph, and sorrow.

Through beautifully descriptive and lyrical language, Frank McCourt has opened our eyes to a childhood spent in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. The pages of these books are filled with sorrow, tragedy, compassion and finally triumph. Thank you for your inspiring work. Frank McCourt will be greatly missed.

40 Years Since the Eagle Landed

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to step foot on the moon after floating down the steps of the lunar module, Eagle. After having been awake for 24 hours and in the excitement of the historic moment, he flubbed what was to become the most famous line ever spoken: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." He claimed that he had meant to say, "That's one small step for a man...," but that static muffled the "a." But no matter. What did matter was that the people Armstrong and pilots Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins left behind in gravity's embrace witnessed the most astonishing scientific achievement in man's history, then and now.

Below are some new books at BPL that mark the historical occasion of the first moon landing. Click on the images to be launched to the catalog.

book coverbook coverbook cover

book coverbook cover

All About the Moon (Gr 4-7)
This splash page presents links to a plethora of nontechnical moon-related articles, online videos, and image galleries.

Apollo 40th Anniversary (Gr 4 and up)
NASA's official anniversary page includes links to "Key Apollo Source Documents," photo resources, animation, short videos, and articles on a wide range of related topics.

Apollo Lunar Surface Journal (Gr 6 and up)
Direct true completists to this page, where links to astronaut biographies, program and mission summaries, debriefing documents, image libraries, and full radio transcripts jostle with press kits, detailed catalogs of lunar samples and even, for confirmed space geeks, "Fun Stuff" concocted by a small gang of enthusiasts.

One Small Step (Gr 5 and up)
The exact, annotated transcript of Armstrong's climb down the LEM's ladder is recorded here. Note that aside from the LEM itself, the first human artifact of the mission to hit the lunar surface was a "jettison bag" of garbage.

StarChild: A Learning Center for Young Astronomers (Gr 3-6)
Maintained by a team at NASA's High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center, this site offers information on two levels of detail about the solar system, the universe, and our exploration of both.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Birmingham City Schools Registration Schedule

Still need to register your child for the upcoming school year? Thankfully, it's not too late!

The Birmingham City School System is having late registration Monday, July 27 through Thursday, July 30. Contact your child's school for additional information. The first day of school is Friday, August 7.

Information from the Birmingham City Schools Website:

"Most parents and legal guardians should go to their children's schools to register them. This includes kindergarten students, students who are returning to the same school, students who are making the transition to middle or high school and students with approved first-time transfers.

The registration schedule is:

Monday, July 27 - 8 a.m. to noon and 1:30p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 28 - 8 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday, July 29 - 8 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 30 - 8 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

To register, parents must prove residency by providing a deed or lease and two utility bills. New students need an original birth certificate, social security card and blue Alabama immunization form. Parents must have photo identification. Legal guardians also must present court papers.

Some parents need to go to the Attendance Department at the Davis Center, 417 29th St. South. Those include parents of students who are new to the school system, students who have been home schooled, homeless students, English as a Second Language students who are new to the system and students whose parents cannot prove residency because they live with someone else.

Attendance Department hours through July are 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The hours for August are 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information, call the Attendance Department at 231-7940, 231-7932 or 231-7937.

Graphic Novel Review: Ythaq - The Forsaken World

Graphic novel readers tend to fall into two camps: fans of American comics, and fans of Japanese manga. There is, however, another major source of quality comics that has until recently been largely ignored in the U.S. – namely, France.

To correct this oversight, Marvel Comics has entered into a partnership with French publisher Soleil to bring some of the best and brightest works of French comic art to American shores. Of the joint Marvel/Soleil ventures to come out so far, the most enjoyable has been Ythaq: The Forsaken World.

Written by Christophe Arleston and illustrated by Adrien Floch, Ythaq tells the story of the survivors of the ill-fated space cruiser Comet’s Mist after it crashes on a mysterious uncharted planet. Astronavigator Granite Welgoat (recently demoted to barmaid), ship’s maintenance worker Narvarth and snooty upper-crust passenger Callista find themselves on their own in unexplored territory and have to rely on the help of a motley group of memorable native characters to survive. Cross “Flash Gordon” with The Fifth Element and add a feisty heroine somewhere between Buffy and Starbuck, and you’ll get the idea.

French comics in general, and Ythaq in particular, deliver a lot (and I mean a lot) more story per page than their American and Japanese counterparts. Arleston’s writing is tight and engaging, and he has a knack for creating memorable characters. Floch’s art is detailed but uncluttered, as the work of a good illustrator should be – finding a comfortable middle-ground between the realistic and the cartooney. The second volume in the series, Ythaq: No Escape, will be hitting bookshelves fairly soon. Personally, I can’t wait.

Recommended for adults and older teens. Reserve your copy today!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Birmingham-born Author Paul Hemphill Dies

Paul Hemphill at Alabama Bound 2006
Noted author Paul Hemphill died of oral cancer Saturday at the age of 73. He was born in Birmingham in 1936, and graduated from Woodlawn High and received a B.A. degree from Auburn University. He moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1964 to work at the Atlanta Times. He was later hired by the Atlanta Journal where he wrote a column six days a week, modeled after the writing style of Jimmy Breslin, whom he admired for his "taut 1,000-word human dramas."

In 1970 Hemphill left newspapers behind and wrote his first novel, The Nashville Sound: Bright Lights and Country Music (1970). This was to be a subject he successfully returned to in 2005 when he wrote the acclaimed biography of Hank Williams, Lovesick Blues: the Life of Hank Williams.

Along with country music, Hemphill also loved sports. He wrote about baseball and bowling at his newspaper jobs, and even played minor league baseball in Florida and Kansas. Books on his favorite sports include The Heart of the Game (1996), Wheels: A Season on Nascar's Winston Cup Circuit (1997), and Long Gone (1979), which was made into a 1987 HBO movie starring William L. Peterson and Virginia Madsen.

Though critical of many aspects of the south that he loved and chronicled in his books Leaving Birmingham: Notes of a Native Son (1993) and The Ballad of Little River: A Tale of Race and Restless Youth in the Rural South (2000) , he said he would never leave it and had no business writing about any other location.

Hemphill was a guest speaker at BPL's book fair Alabama Bound in 2002, 2003, and 2006.

He is survived by his second wife, Susan Percy of Atlanta; three children from his first marriage; a daughter from his second marriage; and six grandchildren.

Brown Bag Lunch Program: The Tale of the Iron Man

"Two Boys Looking Up at Vulcan," courtesy of BPL Digital Collections

The Seasoned Readers is a spin off from the local acting troupe The Seasoned Performers. They will be reading/performing "The Tale of the Iron Man," the “up and down and all around” saga of Vulcan's first 100 years. The story is an original creation by local author and storyteller Lee Shackelford. Wednesday, July 22, noon

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Coming July 21, 2009 to Central's Fourth Floor Gallery: New Quilt Zone by Aisha Lumumba

aisha lumumba
Atlanta artist Aisha Lumumba became interested in quilting at an early age after watching her elders make quilts. She started her first quilt at 18 and has been quilting for more than 20 years. Ms. Lumumba is a member of the Brown Sugar Stitchers Quilt Guild and Barack and Michelle Obama are among her many fans.

The Birmingham Public Library will host the exhibit New Quilt Zone beginning Sunday, July 21 through Friday, August 28. There will be a reception for O.B.A. Quilts on Sunday, August 9 from 3:00-5:00 p.m. in the Board Room on the 4th floor of the East Building at Central Library.

Once In a Blue Moon

BPL's Successful Ready to Read Program to Be Featured at ALA

Ready to Read poster
The American Library Association (ALA) has selected Janine Langston and the Birmingham Public Library to participate in the 2009 Diversity and Outreach Fair at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois.

For several years Birmingham Public Library partnered with The Literacy Council to match tutors trained by the Literacy Council with learners. Once matched, the tutors and learners met at a convenient public library. Unfortunately, there were more learners who needed tutoring than available tutors. A waiting list for tutors began. As a result, BPL has created a new way to serve the learners with the Ready to Read program. Click on the poster for a list of locations, dates, and times.

This arrangement has turned out to be quite successful for everyone involved. After one year, the Literacy Council assigned a VISTA volunteer coordinator to the project. Also, at this time Lawson State Community College joined the partnership by writing and securing a federal grant. Books, laptop computers, and office supplies for each location were purchased with the grant funds. The program was soon expanded to six sessions at five branch libraries thanks to the VISTA volunteer coordinator and Lawson State’s materials.

Ready to Read is an excellent example of how three agencies partnered to meet a community need. There is no longer a waiting list, a burden for both the Literacy Council and Lawson State. Also, learners who are not yet ready for formal GED classes have a place to learn. The Library benefits by promoting its resources and services to the learners and tutors.

For information on how to become a tutor or a participant in the program, please call your local library branch or call the Literacy Center at 226-3671.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Brown Bag Lunch Program: China and Japan Revisited: The Newly Redesigned Asian Galleries at the Birmingham Museum of Art

japanese sculpture
After being closed for more than two years, the Chinese and Japanese galleries at the Birmingham Museum of Art are completely renovated and open to the public. Dr. Donald Wood, PhD, Senior Curator and Curator of Asian Art, gives an illustrated talk about the redesigned galleries, where you will find beautiful old favorites as well as some exciting new treasures! Wednesday, July 15, noon.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Staff Pick: Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (ages 4-8)

book cover We've all heard that the "pen is mightier than the sword" and "the squeaky wheel gets the grease," well in Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, Farmer Brown learns firsthand just how true these adages are when his cows find a typewriter in the barn and demand better treatment.

When Farmer Brown first hears the click-clack sounds coming from the barn, he tries digging out the wax buildup in his ears because cows can't type!

But these cows can, and they nail their demands on the barn wall:
Dear Farmer Brown,

The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets.

The Cows
Farmer Brown will not give in to their demands, so they go on strike and withhold their milk. It's not long before the hens feel the chill in the barn and join the strike.

This puts Farmer Brown in a tizzy because every fool knows you can't run a farm with no milk and no aiggs! So he dusts off his own typewriter and bangs out a letter reminding the cows and hens that they are animals and he demands that they produce for him.

Eventually the two sides come to an agreement, and peace returns to the farm. That is until Duck feels empowered to make his own demands known. Seems what the boring pond has always needed is a diving board.

Click, Clack, Moo rightly received a Caldecott Award in 2001 and was named one of the Best Children's Book by Publisher's Weekly. For an extra treat, watch the animated version at BookFlix. Randy Travis narrates and brings just the right amount of hayseed hysteria to Farmer Brown's plight.

doreen croninAbout the author: Doreen was born and raised in New York. She got her sense of humor from her dad, a New York police officer. His tales of the street made her want to become an officer or an FBI agent, until she realized she wasn't brave enough to go through with it. So she went into publishing.

Right before attending law school, her father got sick and passed away. A few weeks later she woke up one night and wrote Click, Clack, Moo, which cheered her up because it made her laugh like her father used to.

By the time she got out of law school, her book was published and won awards. She went on to write nine more books, some featuring the stars of Click, Clack, Moo. Her Diary Of books—Spider, Fly, and Worm—are funny and gross, two things that appeal to most children.

She lives in New York with her husband and two daughters. Visit her Web site for more information.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Nathifa Dance Company to Bring West African Dance to North Birmingham Regional Library

BPL @ Night presents the Nathifa Dance Company, which will entertain patrons of all ages with an exciting program of West African dance and drumming at the North Birmingham Regional Library on Tuesday evening, July 7. Founded in 1994, this dance company was the first Birmingham African-American troupe to offer training in West African dance and drumming to children and young adults. The stated purpose of the dance company is to serve as a vehicle for artistic enrichment and expression while educating and empowering youth to explore their human potential for personal growth and social integration. Please join us for an entertaining evening of West African dance and drumming, performed by the talented young people of the Nathifa Dance Company.

Where: North Birmingham Regional Library Auditorium
2501 31st Avenue North
Birmingham, AL 35207

When: Tuesday
July 7, 2009
6:30 p.m.

BPL@Night has been made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. BPL would also like to thank the Alabama Power Company Foundation and the Daniel Foundation of Alabama for their generous support of BPL@Night.

A Tennis Match for the Ages

Andy Roddick and Roger FedererIf you love tennis, you should still have a smile on your face after yesterday’s Wimbledon men’s final. Forget about Roger Federer, how amazing was Andy Roddick? Sure, Roger Federer now holds the men’s record for most grand slam titles (15). Yes, he is one Wimbledon title away from tying Pete Sampras’ win record (7). This win also placed him on the short list of people who’ve won the French Open and Wimbledon in the same season. But what about A-Rod, in this case, Andy Roddick? This is the third straight year that we have had an epic Wimbledon men’s final. In 2007, Federer battled Rafael Nadal for five sets to clinch the win with a 6-2 victory in the fifth set. Tennis fans begged for more, so in 2008, Federer battled Nadal again for five sets in a match that lasted nearly 5 hours. It was the longest grand slam final in history. Nadal finally prevailed in the fifth set 9-7. If you want to see a grown man cry (Federer), watch the footage of the trophy presentation.

I have been worried about American men’s tennis since Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi retired. We’ve had a few glimpses of brilliance, but no one has emerged to dominate tennis the way those two did. Andy Roddick has had great success in the past, but to be honest, I thought his best days were behind him. That is, until I saw him play yesterday. Roddick stood toe-to-toe with perhaps the greatest player of all time and he didn’t blink. He broke Federer’s serve twice leading to his first- and fourth-set wins. Roddick's serve was only broken once in the fifth set which clinched the victory for Roger Federer (16-14). Although this match didn't last as long as the 2008 final, it set a new record for number of games played in a grand slam final. Roddick hit winner after winner with his backhand and his net play was outstanding. His conditioning was stellar and he continued to hit serves in the 130s late in the fifth set. I have watched Andy play for years and I always thought he had the potential to be one of the greats. Based on his play in the Wimbledon final, I can’t wait to see what he has in store in the future.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Pat Conroy Alert: South of Broad

book coverSouth of Broad is Pat Conroy's first novel since Beach Music was published 14 years ago.

Set in Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad is the story of Leopold King, the son of a father who teaches high school science and a mother who is the school's principal. When his brother commits suicide at the age of 13, Leo finds solace in a tight-knit group of high school friends that remain close through their diverse and turbulent adulthoods. The novel spans the decades from the counterculture of the 1960s through the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Pre-reserve your copy today.

South of Broad is Conroy's third novel that deals with the suicide of a character. In Conroy's The Prince of Tides and Beach Music, a sister attempts suicide and a wife succeeds at it. Pat's brother, Tom, killed himself at age 33, and a sister was hospitalized for mental illness.

All of Pat Conroy's books pull from his dysfunctional but interesting life, which makes for some good reads:

The Boo and The Lords of Discipline are both set at the Citadel, a military college in Charleston, South Carolina. Conroy was a student there in the '60s. The Lords of Discipline is a fictionalized account of the first black Citadel cadet, and touches upon the infamous hazing that takes place at the institution.

The Water is Wide
is an autobiographical look at Conroy's year as a teacher for the underprivileged children of Daufuskie Island, South Carolina—an island that isn't even connected by bridge to the mainland. The residents on the island are descendants of slaves, most of whom are illiterate. The children's education has been so neglected that they don't know the body of water surrounding their island is called the Atlantic Ocean. Conroy bucks the system to fight for the basics of education for these children—books, paper, and pencils—and a delightful scene is when he takes them to the mainland for their first ever trick-or-treating experience against the administrator's wishes. Conroy was fired when he refused to use corporal punishment to discipline the children.

The Great Santini had to be painful for Conroy to write. The character of Bull Meecham is based on his father, Donald, a marine who was physically and emotionally abusive to his wife and seven children. In the novel the eldest son Ben vacillates between feelings of hatred and admiration for his hard-nosed father as he grows into manhood . (To learn how deep these emotions run, check out Conroy's eulogy to his father.) One of the most telling scenes in the book is when Ben beats his father at basketball for the first time, but can't enjoy the victory because the humiliated marine starts bouncing the ball off his son's head. Peg Conroy tried to hand this book to the judge at their divorce proceedings as evidence of her husband's brutality.

Other books by Conroy: The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life (1999); My Losing Season (2002)

Pat Conroy is married to Alabama native, Cassandra King.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Brown Bag Program: Digital Photography Basics

digital cameras
If you have been thinking about going digital with your photography, then this is the program for you. Richard Manoske, BPL staff member and avid photographer, will demonstrate the techniques involved in making and using digital pictures. Wednesday, July 8, noon.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Historic House Research Workshop at Central Library

historic b'ham home
E.P. Rosamond residence, Norwood, 1910
courtesy of BPL Digital Collections

The Birmingham Public Library is hosting a workshop sponsored by the Jefferson County Historical Commission and the Birmingham Historical Society on historic house research. Attendees will learn how to conduct research on historic dwellings in Birmingham and Jefferson County including resources at BPL and requirements for historic designations.

Presenters will be Linda Nelson with the Jefferson Co. Historical Commission, Jim Baggett with the Birmingham Public Library, and Jason Kirby with the Birmingham Public Library and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Also attending will be authors Cathy Criss Adams and Marjorie L. White to discuss their research and sign books.

What: Historic House Research Workshop
Where: Central Library, Arrington Auditorium
Date: Saturday, July 18
Time: 9:30 a.m.
Cost: Free

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