Friday, June 28, 2013

Staff Pick: The Two-Minute Drill to Manhood

The Two-Minute Drill to Manhood
John Croyle

John Croyle, for those of you who don’t know him, was an All-American defensive end at the University of Alabama during head coach Paul "Bear" Bryants' tenure. He has since spent his time as founder of the Big Oak Ranch, a home for over 1800 abused and neglected children, as well as parenting his own two kids. Based on his experience, he has produced a guidebook for parents who are raising sons. He uses a simple formula to make his point:

M - Master
A – Ask and Listen
N – Never Compromise
H – Handle Your Business
O – One Purpose
O – One Body
D – Don’t Ever, Ever, Ever, Give Up

One of the stories which struck a nerve with me involved a car trip with Brody. Brody asked if they were to obey the law. Of course, John said yes. Brody then pointed out the Speed Detector on the dashboard and inquired as to its purpose. He correctly assumed that it was used to evade driving the speed limit. This gave John pause, as it would most of us. He realized that what we do resonates more to a child, than what we say. It is a handbook that every dad should purchase and keep handy.

Submitted by Lorraine Walker
Five Points West Library

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gifts of a Wordsmith Workshop for July

John Paul Taylor
Award-winning poet and community activist John Paul Taylor will lead free adult poetry workshops on the first Tuesday of every month from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Gifts of a Wordsmith will take place in the Story Castle on the second floor of Central Library. The next workshop is scheduled for July 2. Taylor is one of the founders of Real Life Poets, a nonprofit creative writing program based in Birmingham.

The class will cover how to get your thoughts down on paper, overcoming writer's block, copyright issues, self-publishing, how to perform, and more. The Friends of the Birmingham Public Library funds the workshops.

For more information on the adult poetry class, contact Taylor at or 205-585-8271. The Real Life Poets website is The BPL contact is Haruyo Miyagawa, 205-226-3670. Her email address is

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Friends Book Sale to Be Held July 1- July 14, 2013, in the Friends Bookstore (@ Central Library)

The Friends of BPL Bookstore will host its semi-annual 'bag' sale from  Monday, July 1 through Sunday, July 14. Buy a Friends' bag for $6 and fill it up with almost anything in the Bookstore (located in the Central Library at 2100 Park Place, Birmingham, AL 35203).

In addition all other Friends merchandise in the store (t-shirts, mugs, etc) will be reduced by 25%. 
All purchases will greatly benefit the Birmingham Public Library!

Come fill a bag and Happy Summer Reading!

It's a Pirate's Life for Me, Yo Ho!

ARRGGHH!  Peter Pirate's Parrot Polly lost the letters spelling her name when she molted.
But don't worry.  The children played I Spy With My Pirate Eye and found color coded feathers hidden around the room.  By mastering the tasks written on the back of each feather, they earned her letters back, and became master pirates!

The Crocodile Pit
Captain Hook lost his hand to one of these crocodiles, so these
young pirates must be careful not to meet the same fate. 
Balance and courage are what's needed here, mate!

Cannon Ball Toss
Pirates are the terror of the seas, so blue. 
With three cannon balls, can you sink a pirate ship or two? 
The children tossed cannon balls at the pirate ships. Not only
did they sink the ships, they filled the pool with cannon balls!
Walking the Plank
After the pool was filled with balls, the children walked the plank and
 jumped in!  Thank goodness we have some good swimmers!

After completing all five tasks to earn back the letters P O L L Y,
the children found treasure and made hats.  Some of the braver crew
even posed for pictures!

Tot Time at the Avondale Regional Library is a program for 2-4 year olds with a caregiver.  It is held on Monday mornings at 10:30.  Call 226-4003 to register!  Don't delay, do it today!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bards & Brews Travels to the Hoover Public Library in July

The July 12 edition of the Birmingham Public Library’s (BPL) popular Bards & Brews poetry performance/beer tasting series will travel to the Hoover Public Library located at 200 Municipal Drive. Held every month except December, this Bards & Brews will be a SLAM—first place winner gets $200, and second place winner $100. The festivities start at 6:30 p.m with live music, and poetry performances start at 7:00. Emcee Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins will deftly guide both novice and veteran poets through an evening of verse with topics that run the gamut from romantic relationships to local politics.

Craft beer will be available for sampling courtesy of Blue Pants Brewery of Madison, Alabama, and light refreshments will be served. Attendees must be 18 years or older to be admitted, and 21 years or older to be served. IDs will be checked.

Bards & Brews is usually held on the first Friday of the month at various locations around town. Look for us on August 2, 2013 at the Avondale Regional Library located at 509 40th Street South. Check out the Bards & Brews page on Facebook for more information. This program is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Beach Reads

Summer is officially here and you know what that means.  It's time to head for the beach.  In addition to the sunscreen, beach towel, lounge chair, and cooler, make sure you have a good book to read while you relax in the sun.  Here are a few new titles to consider taking on the trip.  Book descriptions are from the publisher.

Courting Greta
Courting Greta  by Ramsey Hootman

Samuel Cooke knows most women wouldn't give him a second glance even if he were the last man on earth.  So when he leaves his lucrative career to teach programming to high schoolers, romance definitely isn't on his radar.  Perhaps that's why Greta Cassamajor catches him off guard.  The sarcastic gym coach with zero sense of humor is no beauty not even on the inside.  But an inexplicably kind act toward Samuel makes him realize she is interesting.  Samuel is certain she won't accept his invitation to dinner so when she does, he's out of his depth.  All he knows is that he'll do whatever it takes to keep her as long as he can.

Island Girls Island Girls  by Nancy Thayer

Charming ladies' man Rory Randall dies with one last trick up his sleeve:  His will includes a calculating clause mandating a summer-long reunion for his daughters, all from different marriages--that is, if they hope to inherit his posh Nantucket house. Relations among the three sisters are sour thanks to long-festering jealousies, resentments, and misunderstandings.  To their surprise, the three young women find their newfound sisterhood easier to trust than the men who show up to complicate their lives.

The Last Original Wife
The Last Original Wife  by Dorothea Benton Frank

Leslie Anne Greene Carter is The Last Original Wife among her husband Wesley's wildly successful Atlanta social set.  His cronies have all traded in the mothers of their children they promised to love and cherish--'til death did them part--for tanned and toned young Barbie brides.  She's had enough of playing the good wife to a husband who thinks he's doing her a favor by keeping her around.  Now, she's going to take some time for herself--in the familiar comforts and stunning beauty of Charleston, her beloved hometown.  Daring to listen to her inner voice, she will realize what she wants . . . and find the life of which she's always dreamed.

Time FliesTime Flies  by Claire Cook

Melanie followed her husband, Kurt, from the New England beach town where their two young sons were thriving to the suburbs of Atlanta.  She's carved out a life as a successful metal sculptor, but when Kurt leaves her for another woman, having the tools to cut up their marriage bed is small consolation.  She's old enough to know that high school reunions are often a big disappointment, but when her best friend makes her buy a ticket and an old flame gets in touch to see if she'll be going, she fantasizes that returning to her past might help her find her future . . . until her highway driving phobia resurfaces and threatens to hold her back from the adventure of a lifetime.

Friday, June 21, 2013

An Easy Way to Get Started with E-Books

A story in The New York Times in May of 2011 reported e-books surpassed print sales. E-books are here to stay. Despite difficulties with publishers, libraries continue to acquire more titles. When searching our library catalog, all versions of a book will be listed print, e-book, and audio book. There are many ways to read e-books. So many in fact, that one can be overwhelmed choosing a way to read. I have found the simplest for me, since I have not yet invested in a Kindle or Nook, is to use the Kindle app for PC or MAC and then read e-books in the browser on my pc. You do not have to have a Kindle to use the app. Here is the link to download the app:  And here is the link to our e-book and audio book collections:

So go ahead, take the plunge and find an e-book to enjoy.  

Mom, Is This a Brown Recluse In My Closet‽

Yes, summer has arrived. It’s time to play in the yard, go to the ball park, or strap on your hiking shoes. It’s also time to spray on the anti-bug spray, and determine which multi-legged species is invading your play space, or (gulp), your bed. The North American Insects and Spiders website from Red Planet is a great site for determining exactly what kind of creepy crawly you’re dealing with. Luscious, close-up photographs of spiders, bees, and beetles make it very easy to figure out if you’re looking at a Brown Recluse or a Longbodied Cellar Spider. Although the photographs do enhance the user’s ability to correctly identify insects, there’s more to this site than just pretty photographs. For example the nearly microscopic photo of the Brown Recluse clearly shows three distinct eye clusters. The site then explains that “a definitive physical feature of recluse spiders is their eyes: most spiders have eight eyes that typically are arranged in two rows of four, but recluse spiders have six equal-sized eyes arranged in three pairs, called dyads.” Entries also provide fascinating insights into their lives.

The Brown Recluse.

Under the beautiful Hieroglyphic Moth we learn that “some of the family is preyed upon by bats. However, these members have developed an evasive system whereby upon hearing the high pitched note which is emitted by the bat to locate its prey, a tiny organ in the ear sends muscles in the wings into spasm - causing the moth to dart around erratically. This random movement has the effect of evading the incoming bat.”

The Hieroglyphic Moth.

The site is relatively user friendly. (After all, you don’t want too much complication when you’re trying to identify what you just found between your sheets.) To use the site first click on the order, e.g. spiders, beetles, butterflies, etc. You’ll find the different families on the next screen. If you know the name of the insect you’re looking for, a more efficient search option is to simply click on one of the indexes on the front page. This will supply you with a list of the insects in that order.

Most of the photographs on this site were taken by Bruce Marlin. Some of the entries include personal stories such as how he and his son tracked down a particular beetle or spider. Even picking entries randomly reveals that this website is a product of love. And this makes you wonder why nearly every page advertises Terminix®.

Submitted by David Ryan
Business, Science & Technology Department
Central Library

Children's Book Review: Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace (Ages 8 and Up)

Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace
Nan Marino

Eleven year old Elvis Ruby is living the dream. He’s a good looking, talented, rich, and he’s the most beloved pop star in the country. He’s got it made. That is until he totally freezes up during the final round of the world-famous reality show Tween Star. Not only did he ruin his chance of winning the title, but his fans won’t let him live it down. He’s suddenly the laughingstock of the world. It’s a tough break for an eleven-year-old kid. The only thing that Elvis wants to do is run away, and his dad has found him the perfect place: Piney Pete's Pancake Palace in the remote wilds of New Jersey. Elvis lays low with quirky family friends where he learns how to act like a normal kid and the secret of making the perfect pancake. He befriends a nosy and outspoken girl named Cecilia who can’t help but speak her mind and certainly can’t keep a secret. Cecilia, who is completely lacking musical talent, helps Elvis find his music again, and Elvis helps Cecilia find that she has a song of her own.

This middle grade novel is light-hearted and populated with a large cast of endearing characters. Fans of Justin Bieber and teen sensations of his caliber are sure to enjoy reading a story from the perspective of the star. Being a pop sensation can be hard and stressful work, the pressure has the potential to bring a talented kid from stardom to ruin in a single night. The story is a great opening for discussion on perspective and point of view. It has another point in its favor, as it’s likely to appeal to boys and girls. Even though it’s the story of a young heartthrob trying to find himself, it’s still a story about a boy that readers will be able to identify with. The writing is direct, funny, and fast-moving. Marino’s writing catches the reader’s attention from page one and holds on until the end. It was a fast read in the best possible way. I felt like I’d been transported to the stark and lonely pine forests of New Jersey then before I knew it I was back in Birmingham. That’s what reading is all about. I would highly recommend as a fun summer read for boys and girls around fourth to sixth grade.

Submitted by Mollie Harrison
Springville Road Library

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Impact Alabama's SaveFirst Program Honored For Community Impact

Impact Alabama's SaveFirst Program Recognized
Pictured Left to Right: Renee Blalock, BPL Director; Channing Kennedy, Alabama Impact Program Manager;
Sarah Louise Smith, Alabama Impact Executive Director; Pam Jesse, Woodlawn Branch Manager;
Maya Jones, West End Branch Manager

The Birmingham Public Library Board recently presented certificates of appreciation to Impact Alabama Program Manager Channing Kennedy and Executive Director Sarah Louise Smith for providing free tax help to patrons through their SaveFirst program.

SaveFirst has been available to Birmingham Public Library (BPL) patrons for the past several years. This past year, the program was available at three BPL locations: Smithfield, Woodlawn, and West End. The program just at these three locations resulted in 1,486 tax forms prepared and filed, $2,297,516.00 refunds secured, and an estimated $449,800 saved in preparations fees.

About SaveFirst
SaveFirst targets those who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, the federal government’s largest anti-poverty program supporting low- to moderate-income working individuals and families. (Website)

The Need for SaveFirst
Many low-income households are eligible for the EIC and other tax credits, but are unaware of their existence and thus do not apply for the annual refunds. The IRS estimates that 15% or more of EIC refunds are unclaimed by low-income families, which amounts to approximately $2.7 billion each year (The 2004 Just Money Project).  Moreover, many who do not have the resources or knowledge to file their own taxes instead rely on costly commercial tax preparers. Additionally, many consumers are convinced to take out a Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL)—a predatory one-to-two week loan secured by and repaid directly from the proceeds of a consumer’s tax refund, offered at exorbitantly high interest rates, ranging from about 50% to over 800% APR.

In Alabama, more than 500,000 families annually claim an estimated $1 billion through the federal EIC. However, with more than 75% of EIC recipients in Alabama paying a commercial preparer to complete their taxes, Alabama families lose more than $78 million annually to tax preparation and refund anticipation loan costs—a figure which places us at 48th in the nation. That extra $78 million could have made a tremendous contribution to helping lower-income families secure health insurance, pay down debts or put food on the table. (Website)

Library Prepares for Fusion Exhibition

The sculptural work of Charles Clary and Jamey Grimes will intrigue, fascinate, and challenge viewers. It is an exhibition unlike anything shown at the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) before. The artwork may resemble objects seen in nature, yet they are fictional fabrications born of the artists’ imagination. This exhibition titled Fusion: Sculpture by Jamey Grimes and Charles Clary is scheduled to open on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in the Fourth Floor Exhibition Gallery of the Central Library located at 2100 Park Place. An opening reception is scheduled for Saturday, June 29 from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. in the Fourth Floor Board Room. The exhibition runs through August 2, 2013 and is on view during regular hours of operation.

Hugg-a-Diddle Serology Movement 2 by Charles Clary
Charles Clary is Associate Professor at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee where he teaches painting and design. He received his BFA in Painting from Middle Tennessee State University and an MFA in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. He has received numerous honors and awards including the New York Workspace Residency (2004) and Emerging Alumnus award (2010), both from the Savannah College of Art and Design. He has also been featured in publications including Papercraft 2 published by Gestalten and PUSH Paper published by Lark Books. Clary has exhibited nationally and internationally at such venues as the Diana Lowenstein Gallery in Miami, Florida and a recent solo show at Galerie EVOLUTION-Pierre Cardin in Paris, France.

When asked about his art, Clary stated, “I use paper to create a world of fiction that challenges the viewer to suspend disbelief and venture into my fabricated reality. By layering paper, I am able to build intriguing land formations that mimic viral colonies and concentric sound waves. Towers of paper and color jut into the viewer’s space inviting playful interactions between the viewer and this conceived world. These constructions question the notion of microbial outbreaks and their similarity to the visual representation of sound waves, transforming them into something more playful and inviting.”

strata VIa by Jamey Grimes
Jamey Grimes teaches design and drawing at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He received his BFA in painting and BS in Biology with a Mathematics Minor from Birmingham-Southern College and MFA in Sculpture from the University of Alabama. He has shown at numerous galleries and museums around the country including the Alabama Artists Gallery at the Alabama State Council on the Arts in Montgomery, Alabama, Salt Space Gallery in New York City, and the Gutstein Gallery in Savannah, Georgia. Among his many honors are the 2012/13 Alabama State Council on the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship Recipient and the Director’s Award at the Annual Members’ Juried Exhibition at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts in Wilmington, Delaware.

Grimes describes his sculptures as “fragments of a conversation with nature. The dialogue can be hostile, soothing, or both. Storms, trees, and the sea personify heightened emotion, wisdom, and awareness. Reflecting on my own vivid experiences with nature, I realize that imagination plays a powerful role, transforming observations into unique, dream-like forms. This process guides experimentation with synthetic materials. As I find unlikely relationships between memories and materials, metaphors open and expand this dialogue.”

Visit the artists’ websites for more information at and

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Book Review: The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah”

The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah”
Alan Light

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
that David played to please the Lord
but you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth
the minor fall, the major lift;
the baffled king composing Hallelujah!

Few songs in modern times have managed to capture the hearts and minds of millions the way that Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” has. Many first learned of it from a VH1 post-9/11 tribute featuring Jeff Buckley’s cover, while others learned of it when k.d. lang performed it at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Hundreds of other artists have offered their versions including John Cale, Rufus Wainwright, Celine Dion, Bono, Chris Botti, Michael McDonald, Neil Diamond, Susan Boyle, and Bon Jovi to name just a few. The song has been featured in films such as Shrek (Rufus Wainwright) and The Educators and on popular television shows including The West Wing, The O. C., and One Tree Hill. Jeff Buckley’s and Rufus Wainwright’s covers are the most listened to on YouTube.

The song’s overwhelming popularity is ironic given that it languished in relative obscurity for two decades. Leonard Cohen wrote the words and music in the early 1980s for his album Various Positions, which his record label Columbia Records refused to publish thinking it was not commercial enough. Cohen published it himself in 1984 to poor sales and lackluster response. It took ten years for the song to find resonance with the public. Jeff Buckley began singing it at his concerts and included it on his 1994 album Grace. To this day many attribute the song’s authorship to Buckley. Many who are familiar with both prefer Buckley’s cover, yet both versions are excellent. Jeff Buckley’s death in 1997 at age 30 would cement his status as a legend and propel Cohen’s song to a larger audience. It would take a few more years for the song to mesmerize millions and reach its current ubiquitous zenith.

It seems impossible to classify “Hallelujah” into any genre of song. Since it invokes the Old Testament David in its opening verse, one might think of it as a hymn, yet the follow-up line in the same verse offers the flippant quip to the listener, “but you don’t really care for music, do you?” which is radically un-hymn-like. The next verse includes sexual overtones (references to the Biblical stories of David and Bathsheba, and Samson and Delilah) that one would not expect in a hymn. Many may not pay close attention to the words in the verses, but simply concentrate on the refrain that merely repeats the word hallelujah to a reverent sounding melody. The song’s subtle waltz rhythm moves the listener along to a state of exaltation. Perhaps it is not important to establish a genre. The power of the song can be overwhelming and for many it feels like a benediction – “the holy or the broken Hallelujah!”

The award –winning author Alan Light is no newcomer to musical writing. He is a previous editor-in-chief of both Vibe and Spin magazines and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times and Rolling Stone. He has written several full-length books on music and currently directs the public television concert series Live from the Artists Den. Here, in The Holy and the Broken he offers a rock and roll history from 1960 forward all based around a brilliant discussion of a song. Anyone who cares about contemporary music will be delighted by the myriad details concerning musical greats with whom they are familiar and whom they admire. (Did you know that the Cohens and the Wainwrights were neighbors and friends? Did you know that Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell were once engaged?)

My enjoyment of this book was further enhanced by listening to various renditions of the song while reading. Thanks to the collections of the Birmingham Public Library, its partnering libraries within our county and YouTube, there was much to choose from. There is even an Italian version of the song available (Il Divo, The Promise). All of the libraries’ items are available and can be reserved and routed to the pick-up location of your choice.

Hallelujah, indeed!

These CDs that include “Hallelujah” are available at the Central (downtown) location of the Birmingham Public Library.

Chris Botti, December
k. d. lang, Hymns of the 49th Parallel
Willie Nelson, Songbird
Michael McDonald, Soul Speak
Leonard Cohen, Live in London

Submitted by David Blake
Fiction  Department
Central Library

Archivist Frazine Taylor Leads Genealogy Workshop on Researching Convict Records, June 22

 Convict lease prisoners inside the barracks of an unidentified Jefferson 
County work camp.  The prisoners were kept shackled at all times. 
This photo is from the Thomas Dukes Parke Papers of the Birmingham Public Library Archives.
How can convict records help with your research? Or do you think perhaps this is research that cannot possibly have anything to do with you and your family? Well, think again! Librarian, archivist and lecturer Frazine Taylor will lead a workshop to discuss vagrancy laws and examine daily convict labor reports, applications for employment and inmates’ correspondence for clues to family information. The workshop titled "Genealogy At Its Worst: Researching Convict Records" is scheduled for Saturday, June 22, 2013 from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at the Central Library located at 2100 Park Place. This workshop is free and open to the public.

Vagrancy, the offense of a person not being able to prove that he or she is employed, was an innovative and insubstantial fabrication used at the end of the nineteenth century by the state legislature of Alabama and other southern states to put unsuspecting persons in the legal system. It was enforced by local sheriffs and constables, and cases were decided by mayors and notary publics, recorded messily or not at all in court records, and most telling—in a time of substantial unemployment among all southern men—was enforced almost exclusively on black men. Approximately 2,500 men were being detained against their will at more than two dozen labor camps across Alabama. Records were kept on these men and in some cases their families.


Frazine Taylor has over twenty years of experience as a librarian, archivist, lecturer and writers. During her time as Head of Reference with the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH), she became an expert on Alabama records and particularly African American ancestry. She has traveled extensively and once served as a Peace Corps volunteer and administrator serving in the Fiji Islands and the South Pacific. Taylor received a Master’s Degree in Information Studies from Atlanta University. She is a member of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society and serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. Taylor is the President of the Elmore County Association of Black Heritage, Chair of the Black Heritage Council of the Alabama Historical Commission, a member of BBAAGHS and of the Society of Alabama Archivists, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Alabama Historical Association. She is the author of Researching African American Genealogy in Alabama: A Resource Guide (2008) and researched Tom Joyner’s and Linda Johnson Rice’s family roots and ties to Alabama for the PBS series African American Lives 2.


For additional information, visit the website at and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. The mission of Birmingham Public Library is to provide the highest quality library service to our citizens for life-long learning, cultural enrichment, and enjoyment. This system—with nineteen locations and serving the community for 126 years—is one of the largest library systems in the southeast.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

80 Years of the Man of Steel

Books about comics currently on display in the Arts, Literature & Sports Department.

Since making his debut in Action Comics #1, Superman has been an American icon. That 1938 appearance brought the crime-fighting Kryptonian into the imaginations of children and adults, first bringing hope throughout the Great Depression, and later being a moral hero through confusing times. Originally created by two high school students, writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933, Superman was soon sold to Detective Comics, now DC Comics, where he first donned his “S” emblazoned costume.

Over the last 80 years, Superman has met sidekicks and enemies including Supergirl (1959) and even Batman (and Robin), beginning in World’s Finest (1941). He joined the Justice League in 1960, fighting alongside a rotating team of heroes including Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern. Although his love interest with Lois Lane started in Action Comics #1, Superboy #10 introduced Lana Lang, Superman’s high school love interest—a relationship that was elaborated upon in the television show Smallville (2001).

Since his inception, the “Man of Steel” has seen numerous incarnations across comic books, television, and movies. He has been the subject of many live action and animated shows, beginning with Adventures of Superman (1952) starring George Reeves, to The Adventures of Lois and Clarke (1993), Superman: The Animated Series (1996), and most recently, with the ten season run of Smallville, which focused on the life of the teenage Superman.

The larger than life hero has been brought to the silver screen nine times since the often-forgotten black and white serials, Superman (1948) and Atom Man versus Superman (1950). George Reeves began his role in the next film, Superman and the Molemen (1951), followed by Christopher Reeve’s iconic portrayal in Superman: The Movie (1978), and the subsequent Superman II-IV (1980, 1983, 1989). More recently, Superman Returns came out in 1996.

After an almost ten year break, Man of Steel is in theaters now. The film’s villain, Kryptonian General Zod, though less well-known than frequent nemesis Lex Luther, was first introduced in Adventure Comics #283 (1961).

The film’s release promotes DC Comics’ new comic universe reboot known as the “New 52.” Debuting in 2011, the New 52 hopes to bring a new generation of comic book readers to the DC Universe. The publisher ended all of the existing stories and started over, making the plots more accessible and bringing the stories together.

Superman (and other comic books) can be found in the Birmingham Public Library in the Fiction Department, typically with Graphic Novels under FIC SUPER.

To read more about Superman and the DC Universe, see Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye; Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel by Daniel Wallace; Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster - The
Creators of Superman by Brad Ricca; and DC Comics: The Ultimate Character Guide by Brandon T. Snider.

Comic book collectors can check out the Comics Buyer’s Guide: Comic Book Checklist and Price Guide and Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide

Superman was created by two high school students; do you want to draw your own comics? Try The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by Dennis O'Neil; So, You Want to Be a Comic Book Artist? by Philip Amara; Superhero Explosion : 60 Easy Lessons for Drawing Comics! by Neal Yamamoto; Stan Lee's How To Draw Comics: From the Legendary Co-Creator of Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Iron Man by Stan Lee, and Writing for Comics with Peter David by Peter A. David.

All of these books, as well as many others, can be found at the Birmingham Public Library.

Submitted by Allie Graham
Arts, Literature, & Sports Department
Central Library

Book Review: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid
Bill Bryson

If you’ve read any of my past blogs, you know I have spasms over Bill Bryson’s books. I do go on a bit. Still, after reading and liking several of his titles, I’d put this one off. A memoir about growing up in Iowa in the fifties? I doubted even Bryson could sell that. Looking back, I’m puzzled by my hesitation. All I had to do was read one paragraph.

I quickly saw that, of all the times and places Bryson had traveled to, researched and written about, none was more exotic than his childhood. Des Moines at midcentury was a place where kids watched TV through their neighbors’ windows. TV was so rare, they didn’t care if they couldn’t hear the sound. Fear of polio was ever-present; to avoid contract, a magazine advised against “admitting new people to the family circle.” The nation’s top food writer, Duncan Hines, went to Europe, came home and told his fellow citizens they weren’t missing anything if they hadn’t eaten there. Food was bland. People liked it that way. Chain stores scarcely existed; each community had unique shopping. Parents let their kids run all over town. Parking lots were few in number. “It was a greener, quieter, less intrusive world,” concludes Bryson. Optimism was rife. “People were radiantly unsophisticated.” This is very much what I imagined Midwest life to be like then. This is not at all what I’d imagined. My view now of Middle America in the fifties has been smeared, blurred and contradicted by Bill Bryson. I now look at it with shock, dismay, dislike, admiration and not a little awe. The author makes it all plausible, real, tactile. Well, almost all of it. There’s some serious hype here, but that’s how kids saw things then, and still do. Bryson himself that the book’s true, “more or less.” The hype ultimately translates into the higher plain of exuberance, and this is one of the two blessings of Thunderbolt. The other is humor. It is funny as hell.

The humor mostly derives from the fact that Bill Bryson delivers in print what it feels like to be a footloose, fancy-free boy, a small anarchist taking on and artfully dodging the world. He does this better than any nonfiction writer I know. When dad threatens the little hellion with military school, Bill cleans up his act for a couple of days, but figures that, if worse comes to worst, he didn’t mind the notion of “being at a place where rifles, bayonets and explosives were at the core of the curriculum.” That gets at what it’s like to be a boy—it’s gangbusters. If anyone got in Bill’s way, he would adopt his ever-available alter ego, the Thunderbolt Kid, and “vaporize” them.

Though the book takes place in Des Moines, Bryson switches from it to the national scene many times to show us how closely his world mirrored the American one. Niceness, modesty, naïveté, obliviousness, paranoia, violence and conformity plays out on both levels. Of course, it couldn’t last. That many people couldn’t stay that sheltered forever. (Young Bill gradually discovers poor white people and, later, Negroes. These are shocking events for him, but he later adapts.) The contradictions of the Fifties would work themselves out in the Sixties. They still work themselves out. But, before they did, before the scales started to fall, this seeming utopia was all there for Bill the child to explore and blast his way through. He got up to more trouble than just about any kid I’ve come across. It’s a major miracle he grew up to write this, or grew up at all. He kept at least some of his vaporizing theoretical. I’m glad, and relieved, that this roller coaster didn’t crash and burn. Don’t hesitate to read it like I did.

Richard Grooms
Fiction Department
Central Library

Monday, June 17, 2013

Registration Now Open For July Computer Classes

Public Computer Services Screen
The Regional Library Computer Center July 2013 Computer Classes schedule is now available, and registration is open to the public for the free courses. Please note that class times have been changed to 10:30 am – 12:30 pm. This month, we are again offering Microsoft Office 2010 programs and featuring Twitter in our “Introduction to Social Media” course. programs will be offered in August.
Beginner Classes
  • July 8 – Keyboarding: Introduces you to the basics of working with the computer keyboard and the mouse. Participants need not have any previous computer experience to take this course.
  • July 9 – Basic PC: Introduces people to the computer: basic PC terms, components, hardware, peripherals, desktop features, etc. Participants need not have any previous computer experience to take this course.
  • July 10 – Basic Internet: Introduces people to the history of the Internet, how to access and surf the Web, what web browsers are, what search engines are available, and basic search methods. Participants need to have taken Keyboarding and Basic PC or have some PC, mouse, and keyboarding experience to take this course.
Intermediate Classes
  • July 15 – Microsoft Word 2010 Part 1: Introduces people to Word 2010, a word processing application that is part of the Microsoft Office suite. It is recommended that participants to take all three parts. Participants need to have taken Keyboarding and Basic PC or have some PC, mouse, and keyboarding experience to take this course.
  • July 16 – Microsoft Word 2010 Part 2
  • July 17 – Microsoft Word 2010 Part 3
  • July 24 – Email Workshop: Helps people set up email accounts and learn to maneuver their way through email browsers. Participants need to have taken Keyboarding, Basic PC, and Basic Internet or have some PC, mouse, keyboarding, and Internet experience to take this course.
Advanced Classes
  • July 22 – Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 Part 1: Introduces people to PowerPoint 2010 presentation software. It is recommended that participants take Microsoft Word 2010 prior to taking this course.  It is also recommended that participants take both parts of the course. Participants need to have taken Keyboarding and Basic PC or have some PC, mouse, and keyboarding experience to take this course.
  • July 23 – Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 Part 2
  • July 29 – Microsoft Excel 2010 Part 1: Introduces people to Microsoft Excel 2010, a spreadsheet software in the Microsoft 2010 Office Suite. It is recommended that participants take Microsoft Word 2010 prior to taking this course.  It is also recommended that participants take both parts of the course. Participants need to have taken Keyboarding and Basic PC or have some PC, mouse, and keyboarding experience to take this course.
  • July 30 – Microsoft Excel 2010 Part 2
  • July 31 – Introduction to Social Media – TWITTERIntroduces people to the history, elements, and software used in social media interactions. Participants need to have taken Keyboarding, Basic PC, and Basic Internet or have some PC, mouse, keyboarding, and Internet experience to take this course. An email account is needed for this class.
For more information about computer classes and other services, please contact the Public Computer Services Department at (205) 226-3680 or email at

Introduction to Finding Funders Workshop

This session provides an introduction to the Foundation Center's comprehensive online database, Foundation Directory Online Professional. Learn how to create customized searches to develop targeted lists of foundations that will match your organization's funding needs. We will also explore Power Search, which allows you to search across nine Foundation Center databases—grantmakers, grants, companies, 990s, news, jobs, RFPs, nonprofit literature, and IssueLab reports. Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 11:00 a.m., in the Youth Department's Story Castle, Central Library

Free but space is limited. Pre-register by e-mailing

Research the Company Before That All-Important Interview

The U.S. continues to experience a sluggish labor-market recovery, despite better than expectant job creation numbers released for the month of May. According to the many media outlets, the jobs behind the numbers are mostly low-paying positions. During the economic downturn, numerous high-paying jobs were eliminated, leaving many high-skilled workers unemployed. With so many people looking for employment, how does one gain a competitive edge over the competition when interviewing for a job? Be prepared.

One way to prepare for an interview is to research the company ahead of time for which you seek employment. This step can give you an edge in answering potential questions about the company and also a heads up in knowing what questions to ask. Most people think that going to the company’s website is the only way to research a company. Unfortunately, not all websites provide all the information you’ll need to have to get a leg up on your competition.

The Birmingham Public Library provides remote access to Mergent Online, a one-stop shop for researching public and private companies. This database includes company information such as, contacts, business description, company history, executives, joint ventures, properties, subsidiaries, long term debt, and capital stock. It also includes company financials like ratios, income statements, balances sheet, annual reports, ratio analysis, news reports, and competitors.

The Birmingham Public Library also has many helpful books about what type of information to look for when researching companies. Written by Levinson and Perry, one such book is Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0. In Chapter 5 (Research Plan), the authors provide you with several categories to consider when researching a company, in addition to various questions to consider under each category. For example:

Financial Category

  • What do the numbers say? How are the company’s balance sheets, income statement, earnings per share, dividend(s)? What do they indicate about the company’s health?
  • What is the debt-to-income ratio? Remember, cash is king.
  • How is the stock pricing doing? Why is it moving?
  • How is the stock doing against its competitors? Against the market as a whole?
  • Are there other companies where you should be interviewing?
  • What do the analysts think?

Is it time for a new career? How about a different aspect of your current job, such as upgrading and advancing? Perhaps you’re underemployed and looking for a higher paying job. Whatever situation you find yourself in, the Birmingham Public Library has resources that can assist with gaining a competitive advantage over other candidates.

Submitted by K. Jackson
Business, Science, & Technology Department
Central Library

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Digging in the Garden at Avondale's Tot Time

Monday's Tot Time at the Avondale Library was all about gardening. I created a felt board to tell the feature story, Tops and Bottoms, by Janet Stephens. In this folk tale, Rabbit offers to plant a field for Bear, and gives him the choice of 'tops' or 'bottoms' from the harvest. When Bear chooses tops, Rabbit plants carrots, radishes, and turnips. When Bear chooses bottoms, Rabbit plants lettuce, broccoli, and celery. Bear cries, "NO FAIR! This time I want tops and bottoms!" So Rabbit plants corn. Bear learns a lesson about work and self reliance, and Rabbit buys a farm with the proceeds from selling his vegetables. 

The paper mounds on the felt board were made from grocery sacks. The felt vegetables were hidden in the paper mounds and 'grew' to be harvested by Rabbit. As the vegetables were harvested, the tops were "un-velcroed" from the bottoms. This visual helped the younger children follow the story. I designed our craft of creating a storyboard for retelling the story to help develop the sequencing and narrative skills of our participants. 

Thanks to Western Supermarket on Highland Avenue for donating the grocery sacks for our craft! Tot Time at Avondale Regional Library is held on Monday mornings at 10:30, and is designed for children ages 2-4. Call 226-4003 to register.

Submitted by Eve Parker
Avondale Library

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Library Partnership Encourages Area Students to Dream Big

Alabama Power Company (APCO), the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club, and the Birmingham Public Library will launch the A.G. Gaston American Dream Entrepreneur contest for area students with the first of two panel discussions with local entrepreneurs. Students who attend one of two panel discussions and submit a business idea will be eligible to win a laptop computer.

Students in grades 5-12 are eligible to participate in the contest. To be eligible to win a laptop, students must attend one of two panel discussions taking place Friday, June 14, at the Central Library, and Monday, June 24, at the Smithfield Library. Both panels will take place at noon.

Through the contest, partner organizations hope to introduce young people to the late A.G. Gaston, who rose above poverty and discrimination to build a long list of successful Birmingham companies.

Participating students will be encouraged to read Gaston's memoir, Green Power, which was recently republished for the first time in four decades. The book tells Gaston’s story, from his first foray into business, selling rides on a swing in his grandmother’s backyard, to the founding of the Booker T. Washington Burial Society, to his expansion into a host of other prosperous enterprises, including a motel, a real estate company, and a life insurance company. Proceeds from the sale of the book go to the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club. The book is available on the club’s website,, and on Amazon.

This contest, along with a gallery exhibit at APCO's archives museum that opens June 13, are part of the company’s ongoing “Power of Leadership” commemoration, which focuses on celebrating some of the unheralded leaders of the civil rights movement: pioneers of business.

“We’re excited to continue our 50th anniversary commemoration with this art exhibit, and with an education initiative we hope will inspire a new generation of Birmingham leaders,” said John Hudson, Alabama Power’s vice president of public relations and charitable giving.

For more information about the exhibit and the American Dream contest, contact Robin Oliver: or 205-322-7557. For more information about the 50th anniversary of Birmingham’s civil rights movement and the most up-to-date listing of events, please visit

Public Computers Will Be Down Thursday

Computer Upgrade
The Birmingham Public Library Information Technology Department will be upgrading software on the public computers this Thursday, June 13. During this process, the computers in the Computer Commons and Regional Library Computer Center will be closed to the public. Both areas will reopen and computers accessible to the public on Friday, June 14. We apologize for any inconvenience. 

If you must have computer access, you are welcome to visit our other branches in the Birmingham Public Library system.

Meet Birmingham Public Library Young Professionals Board Member Rikesha Foster

The Young Professionals of the Birmingham Public Library celebrate the rich history and prosperous future of Birmingham's oldest cultural institution. The Young Professionals support the Library financially and culturally and promote its remarkable treasures. By hosting dynamic lectures, special collection tours, and other social events and by volunteering time and skills, the Young Professionals increase public awareness of and access to the Library's resources.

BPLYP Rikesha Foster

What is your full name, age, and occupation? Rikesha Suelena Foster, 34, Special Education Teacher with the Birmingham City School District.

What is your favorite place to eat in Birmingham? Slice Stone Pizza and Brew in Lakeview.

Why did you get involved with the BPLYP? I've been an avid supporter of the library for years. I've served as a volunteer, monthly donor, and as a participant in various library programs. So when the opportunity arose to join the BPLYP board, I felt that was a perfect opportunity to continue my efforts to support the mission of our library.

Which is your favorite (or most frequented) library branch? Avondale.

Name some of your favorite books as a child or teenager. Wow...what a hard question to answer! I have always loved reading, but will try to narrow my selections: Charlotte's Web, Sweet Valley Twins series, The Little Princess, and Les Miserables.

What genres do you read the most as an adult? Christian Fiction.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Local Christian Fiction author Vanessa Davis Griggs and Stacy Hawkins Adams.

What is your wish for the city of Birmingham? My wish for Birmingham is that everyone, from school leaders, community members, business owners, everyone, work together communicating ideas to make the city a better place for future generations.

Do you have a special talent? If so, what is it? I work with special needs students and wouldn't trade it for the world!

What is your favorite quote or inspirational saying? Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in The Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: The Book of Killowen

The Book of Killowen

Set in modern-day Ireland, The Book of Killowen reaffirms the power of language and  the never-ending mysteries of good and evil. With its haunting lyrical storyline, it brings together forensics, archeology, and the history of Ireland.

In the Bog of Killowen, the well-preserved body of a 9th century man is found buried in the trunk of a car. As the bog man is studied, the archeologists discover that the ancient corpse is not alone. Pinned beneath it is the body of Benedict Kavanagh, missing for only two months and familiar to television viewers as a philosopher who enjoyed destroying his opponents in debate. Both men were viciously murdered, but centuries apart, so how did they end up buried together
in the bog?

Books That Celebrate Dad and Fatherhood

Father's Day is a time to celebrate the men in our lives who have raised and loved us.

According to Wikipedia, since Mother's Day was such a success in the United States, Father's Day was considered a way to celebrate fatherhood and male parenting. Sonora Dodd is credited for the establishment of this celebration.

Father's Day was founded in Spokane, Washington, at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas. Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910. Her father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children. After hearing a sermon about the founder of Mother's Day in 1909, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. Initially June 5, her father's birthday, was suggested as the day to honor father's. The celebration was set for the third Sunday in June to allow pastors enough time to prepare their sermons.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. In 1972, President Richard Nixon made Father's Day a national holiday.

Below is a selection of titles that celebrate fatherhood.

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
"In Dad is Fat, stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan, expresses all the joys and horrors of life with five young children—everything from cousins ('celebrities for little kids') to toddlers’ communication skills ('they always sound like they have traveled by horseback for hours to deliver important news'), to the eating habits of four year olds ('there is no difference between a four year old eating a taco and throwing a taco on the floor'). Dad is Fat is sharply observed, explosively funny, and a cry for help from a man who has realized he and his wife are outnumbered in their own home."

Dads are the Original Hipsters by Brad Getty
"He listened to vinyl before you did. He drank whiskey before you did. He had a mustache before you did. Admit it: your dad was a hipster before you were! Based on the blog phenomenon of the same name, this book celebrates dads as the original hipsters. Vintage photos of real dads back in the day in their short shorts and tight tees playing arcade games accompany snarky captions that at once tip a cap to Dad's glory days and poke fun at modern hipsters. Featuring tons of never-before-seen content, this is the perfect gift for dads, hipsters, and those who love to tease them!"

Fatherhood: And Other Stories by Thomas H. Cook
"A debut volume of collected short stories from Thomas H. Cook, one of America's most celebrated crime fiction authors. The range of this collection is, itself, astonishing. From a backwoods Appalachian shack during the Depression (Poor People) to a Midwestern college campus in the
throes of Sixties revolt (The Sun-Gazer) to a midtown Manhattan bookstore on Christmas Eve, The Lessons of the Season,' this collection demonstrates precisely that, in the words of Michael Connolly, 'no one tells a story better than Thomas H. Cook.' "

One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper
"Drew Silver is 44, divorced, and living alone at the Versailles, anapartment complex off the interstate and home mainly to divorced men. His ex-wife is about to marry a respected surgeon. His 18-year-old daughter, headed to Princeton in the fall, is pregnant. And now a heart ailment forces Silver to begin to take life seriously before it prematurely ends."

Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century Parenthood by Drew Magary
"Drew Magary, journalist for GQ and Deadspin, brings his unique voice to a memoir. In Someone Could Get Hurt, he reflects on his own parenting experiences to explore the anxiety, rationalizations, compromises, and overpowering love that come with raising children in contemporary America."

And more books on fatherhood...
Submitted by Felita Yarbrough
East Lake Library

Flow Tactics Teen Open Mic at the YMCA Youth Center

Teens, get your poetry on at the Flow Tactics Teen Open Mic every 3rd Saturday from 6:00 to 8:00 the YMCA Youth Center, 2400 7th Avenue North (near Phillips Academy). Admission is free. The sessions are for high school students only. To sign up to perform or for more information, e-mail This month's program is scheduled for Saturday, June 15.

Flow Tactics is sponsored by The Real Life Poets, the Mayor's Office Division of Youth Services, YMCA Youth Center, and the WORD UP! Student Poetry Slam Committee of the Jefferson County Library Cooperative. WORD UP! is an annual poetry slam for Jefferson County high school students hosted by the Birmingham Public Library.

Friday, June 07, 2013

National Doughnut Day, June 7

National Doughnut Day was created in 1938 to raise much-needed funds during the Great Depression, and to honor the work of World War I Salvation Army volunteers who prepared foods for thousands of soldiers. During World War I, Salvation Army “Lassies” were sent to the front lines of Europe. These brave women cooked homemade treats and provided a much needed morale boost to the troops. Often the doughnuts were cooked in oil inside the metal helmet of an American soldier. The Salvation Army lassies were the only women outside of military personnel who were allowed to visit the front lines. Lieutenant Colonel Helen Purviance is considered the Salvation Army’s “first doughnut girl.” This national observation takes place on the first Friday of June each year and celebrates the doughnut or “donut.” Be it sprinkles, chocolate, cream-filled, sugar, cake, powdered, jelly-filled, or glazed, nothing beats a doughnut, a glass of milk, and a good book.

The Great Doughnut Parade by Rebecca Bond
Daisy the Donut Fairy by Tim Bugbird
Donuts by John Edge
Disappearing Donuts by Gail Herman
Arnie the Doughnut by Laurie Keller
Donuts by Elinor Klivans
Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut by Paul R. Mullins
The Donut Chef by Bob Staake
Who Needs Donuts? By Mark Alan Stamaty
A Baker’s Field Guide to Doughnuts: More Than 60 Warn and Fresh Homemade Treats by Dede Wilson

Submitted by Carla Perkins
Avondale Library

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