Library patrons know that the library building can be an extraordinary place. Rows of books shelter new worlds and forgotten classics. Stacks of DVDs offer the promise of a free movie night. And programming might bring author talks, academic lectures, or the chance to make glittery princess wands. But even the most adamant library lovers sometimes forget that the library’s offerings don’t begin and end at the front door. Even when the library is closed or you can’t manage to go across town, the ever-growing world of online resources is available to you any time you can access the internet.
Each library’s offerings are, of course, unique. You’ll have to grab your card, log on to your local library website, and explore the resources available to you. But, while you’re browsing, make sure you keep an eye out for the following services.
There’s nothing quite like holding an actual book in your hands, but renting e-books does have its advantages. Is your library closed because it’s Thanksgiving Day, Labor Day, or just Tuesday (but two o’clock in the morning)? Are you traveling, and therefore too far away for a quick trip to the library? No problem! You can still browse the digital shelves, borrow a few titles, and read to your heart’s content. If you have an e-reader, these books can easily be transferred onto it. If not, you can just read them on a laptop. You may even be able to borrow audiobooks online.
Not only can you borrow e-books, but with Zinio you can also rent digital copies of popular magazines. Depending upon the magazine you choose, you may be able to access recent issues or a variety of past issues. Options include National Geographic, Seventeen, and Newsweek. You can also read your rentals on portable devices.
This service allows you to legally download free music and music videos. There is a weekly limit to how many songs you can acquire, but you can treat those songs like any others that you have purchased (copying to devices, burning onto CDs, etc.). You probably won’t find every song you look up, but there is a decent collection of classics and current chart-toppers to choose from.
This is a language-learning program that uses flashcards – and videos, depending upon the language – to teach grammar and vocabulary. A full library subscription to Mango offers 63 languages, including Hebrew, Scottish Gaelic, and English as a Second Language. It also offers a course in Pirate, if you feel like you need to brush up on that. Mango keeps track of your progress and offers placement tests to help you figure out where in the course to begin.
At lot of libraries subscribe to online test-prep resources, but they may appear under a variety of names. If you’re preparing for college, graduate school, or a career exam, you should definitely see what your library offers. A free, timed practice test that grades itself is a great way to get ready for the real thing!
Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is
Top Ten Characters I’d Want with Me on a Deserted Island
1. Aragorn from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn possesses many important survival skills, being able to scout for enemies (you never know if your island is really deserted!), find food, build shelter, and provide medical care, but he can also liven up evenings around the campfire with tales of long ago.
2. Faramir from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: Faramir brings many of the same skills as Aragorn, including hunting and cooking, so if something happens to Aragorn, the rest of us can still survive.
3. Sara Stanley from L. M. Montgomery’s The Story Girl: When Aragorn or Faramir do not feel like singing ballads, the Story Girl can charm us with her tales.
4. Otter from Sam Garton’s I Am Otter: Otter would come up with all the fun ideas to keep us busy and entertained during our sojourn. Of course, Teddy and Giraffe would have to come with her, and I believe we’d have to take Otter Keeper as well so she wouldn’t miss him. But I’m going to count all of them as a set.
5. Bilbo Baggins from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit: Aragorn and Faramir know how to cook in the wild, but I think having a Hobbit along would be the best way to get the most out of our island fare. And, of course, Bilbo can always regale us with stories about his adventures.
6. Hermione from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series: Her wand would no doubt come in handy, perhaps even helping us to an earlier rescue. I’m sure she also has a lot of knowledge about surviving in the wild that she would be eager to teach the rest of us.
7. Robin Hood: Robin, of course, is used to living outdoors, but he can also help while away the time by offering lessons in archery and swordfighting, perhaps with demonstrations with Aragorn and Faramir. No doubt Bilbo would also want to prove himself with Sting.
8. Viola from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: I almost chose Feste so someone could offer witty banter, but then I realized Viola is just as capable and she’s used to washing up on strange shores.
9. Corduroy from Don Freeman’s Corduroy: Sleeping on a strange island might be a little scary, but everyone knows that teddy bears are the best protection from monsters!
10. Beowulf from Beowulf: Just so when I get home, I can tell everyone I met him.
Goodreads: Introducing Derrida
Series: Introducing series
Published: February 10, 1993
Jacques Derrida is the most famous philosopher of the late twentieth century. His philosophy is an array of rigorous tactics for destabilizing texts, meanings, and identities. Introducing Derrida introduces and explores his life and work and explains his influence within both philosophy and literature.
As a disclaimer, I have no direct experience with Derrida’s work. I started my journey in critical theory by reading Introducing Critical Theory, which I found offers a useful overview of the subject but which is, perhaps necessarily, very general. To help fill in some of the gaps, I decided to continue on to some specific theorists, starting with Derrida. So my review of this book is purely of this book and how clearly and engagingly it seems to convey the complex, sometimes seemingly contradictory, school of deconstruction. Whether it interprets Derrida “correctly,” I cannot accurately judge without reading his works myself.
Introducing Derrida, from a novice’s perspective, is a very approachable guide to deconstruction. I went into the book really knowing nothing about the topic (besides the fact that people seem to equate it with tearing things apart) and came out feeling as though I could talk knowledgably about the general concepts and approaches of the theory. The book highlights key terms and gives brief definitions and examples, providing a more than adequate overview of not only deconstruction itself, but also its historical reception and its political implications.
I do have some confusion, but I believe my issues are with deconstruction itself, and not necessarily with this book. In many cases, deconstruction does not make sense to me. The book is written clearly enough that I understand the explanations…but I fail to see the point of deconstruction. I see that one can, for instance, show the “undecidability” of terms, but I have yet to understand exactly why one would want to, why deconstructive approaches are actually useful.
For example, the book explains that a deconstructive approach to architecture would theoretically result in a building that is ugly and functionless—but then hastily reassures the readers that this would not be quite the case, because perhaps beauty and function can be redefined—but then notes that no one has ever really solved this problem or built such a building. First, this summary is contradictory. Is the building useless or not? Second, it fails to adequately convey why someone would want to build a maybe-useless building, besides as some type of protest or artistic statement.
In comparison with Introducing Critical Theory, the graphics in Introducing Derrida are notably less clever and less useful as mnemonic devices. An inordinate percent of the illustrations are simply of Derrida himself, with speech bubbles quoting some of his works directly. Many of the other remaining illustrations are of other theorists and philosophers, with their own speech bubbles. So there is really no overwhelming benefit to the book’s being a “graphic guide” as opposed to having been primarily text-based—unless one simply enjoys pictures breaking up what can otherwise be a dense topic.
However, the Derrida pictures occasionally complicate the message of the book. As in Introducing Critical Theory, the lines between instances where the authors are summarizing Derrida (or other scholars) and when they are adding their own personal commentary on deconstruction are vague. The fact that there are so many mini Derridas with speech bubble quotes tempts the reader to suspect that anything not in a speech bubble must be authorial commentary…but it is impossible to be certain.
So, I still have a lot of work to do understanding Derrida and deconstruction, but I feel as if this book has given me a solid foundation from which to start. Derrida is notoriously complicated (the word “incomprehensible” may have been thrown around as well), so I believe having a general overview of his primarily ideas will be essential in attempting to tackle his primary texts. And after that I should be able to move on to figuring out how other scholars have used deconstruction.
Today we welcome Katie of Doing Dewey!
As a reader, I’ve always adored my local library. Whenever I move, one of the first things I do is get a library card. The library is basically a place where anyone can walk in and receive advanced review copies – free books! There are often wait lists for the very newest books, but personally having the very newest books doesn’t matter to me. To me the only downside of a library book compared to an ARC is that you can’t keep it forever and even that isn’t a problem if you haven’t overscheduled your reading to where you can’t fit library books in between your ARCs. My favorite thing about libraries is what I’m going to talk about today – the ability to browse.
A few others bloggers have already tackled this topic. Aarti at Book Lust talked about the forgotten pleasures of browsing which inspired Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness to experiment with a return to book browsing. Like both of these bloggers, I used to do more browsing than I do now. I’d go to the library and simply wander the shelves. Unless I was in the middle of a series, I went in without any specific books in mind. As a book blogger, I do that much less frequently. I always have had so many good books recommended to me by bloggers I trust, I usually go to the library to pick up something specific. Even if I don’t, there’s my ever-growing goodreads TBR list to turn to once I’m there. However, as both Kim and Aarti pointed out, I think we lose a little something by never browsing.
As book bloggers or people who read book blogs, it’s so easy to stick to the book recommended by others. As a book blogger, it’s very easy to go overboard requesting ARCs and end up constantly following a reading schedule. Browsing is a wonderful way to add some spontaneity and diversity to your reading. I think spontaneity is just pure fun. If a book comes highly recommended, you can start it with impossibly high expectations. A spontaneous pick has none of the pressure, so it’s that much more thrilling when you find a surprising new favorite.
The diversity added to by browsing can be just as important as intentionally reading books by and about diverse people. It’s wonderful to read a book all your blogging friends are reading so you can chat about it, but I think it’s also important for each of us to approach the world from slightly different perspectives. Reading different books is one great way to make sure we each maintain our individuality. And if you do find a great book, you can often be the one to introduce your friends to that hidden gem. So live a little, bloggers! If you feel your reading is missing diversity or spontaneity, some browsing time at your local library might be just what you need.
Goodreads: May Bird and the Ever After
Series: May Bird #1
May Bird lives on the edge of the woods of Briery Swamp and, though most people find the woods creepy, May thinks of them as freedom. There she can be the girl no one at at school would expect–the Amazon warrior; the princess who can fly; the girl who sets forth on adventure with her one trusty friend, Somber Kitty. But then May starts seeing ghosts. Of course no one believes her. Soon, however, it does not matter who believes her or not because May finds herself dragged down into the world of Ever After, a place of ghouls, ghosts, and specters. A place where Live Ones are not welcome. Now on the run from the evil ruler Bo Cleevil, May must find and read The Book of Dead or risk being turned into nothing.
May Bird and the Ever After is the perfect kind of book for any who can relate to what it feels like to be different. In her imagination, May is free and fearless, a warrior princess, an inventor, yet when she goes to school she is shy and remains an outcast. All she wants is for someone to recognize her worth, yet even her mother thinks her a little odd. Falling through a portal into the world of Ever After thus proves the opportunity she did not realize she was waiting for–the opportunity to show everyone her true self.
Thus Jodi Lynn Anderson introduces readers to a world magical and dangerous. From the moment May finds herself in Ever After, the uncanny and the unexplained intertwine to create an atmosphere that beckons the readers ever farther in, promising adventure and beauty even as it threatens. Tension lies ever beneath the surface, but it seems impossible not to want May to stay, just a little longer.
A cast of likable and strange characters completes the charm of this book. From the loyal Somber Kitty to the fearful yet friendly Pumpkin, the story is full of personalities who invite the readers’ interest and sympathy. Even the evil Bo Cleevil and his terrifying henchman the Bogey Man prove intriguing–no one wants them to capture May, of course, but a few runs-in just so readers can meet them seems only fair. With so many personalities to meet, May and the Ever After seems almost too short.
Fortunately, however, this book is only the first in a trilogy (and, these days, such words from me are usually not a recommendation). May and the Ever After proves a fun romp through the afterlife, complete with just the right amount of danger and mystery, but the story knows when it is time to end and how to provide a satisfying conclusion while still promising wonderful adventures to come. I cannot wait to journey with May through more of Ever After.
With the increase in popularity of discussion posts, there has been some anxiety in the book blogosphere that book reviews are becoming obsolete. After all, compared to the traffic that discussion posts gets, it looks as if no one reads book reviews and no one comments on them anyway.
While I think there is some truth to that observation (our discussion posts probably get twice as many views as our reviews, and they can get three times as many comments), I also think it is somewhat of an exaggeration. There are reasons discussion posts see more interaction. But there are also reasons that book blogs will always have reviews.
Why Discussion Posts Get All the Fun
Simply put, discussion posts are more universal. Anyone who likes to read (any genre, any number of books per year) can probably find something to say about how they organize their books, whether they prefer e-books or paper copies, or how they approach their to-be-read pile.
A book review, on the other hand, has a much narrower audience: it appeals mainly to people who have either read that exact book already, or people who are interested in something specific about that book (i.e. a fantasy book review will be more interesting to fantasy fans than to people who primarily reads memoirs).
So discussion posts naturally get more hits and more comments.
Why Blogs Will Always Have Book Reviews Anyway, Even If “No One” Reads Them
From reading the results of surveys that various bloggers have asked their followers to complete, I noticed a general trend: Blog followers overwhelmingly say they like to read book reviews on book blogs. They may not read every review that a blogger posts, but they want to see them posted.
So, on a very base level, bloggers who want to keep their followers will probably keep writing reviews.
However, I think the desire to see bloggers reviewing reveals something a little deeper: Book reviews give a book blog legitimacy. When a blogger reviews books, they are demonstrating that they read. No one wants to read a blog filled with discussion posts about every bookish topic imaginable—without having any “real” indication that the blogger is actually a reader and is “qualified” to talk about books.
Secondly, book reviews give a blog personality. They show what types of books the blogger likes, and what types of things they think make a book “good.” Reading a blogger’s reviews helps followers determine whether they have similar tastes, and how much weight they should give to that blogger’s opinions. They help readers decide which blogs to watch.
So, keep reviewing, everyone, and the right readers will eventually find your posts!
Goodreads: The Borrowers
Series: The Borrowers #1
Arietty Clock and her parents Pod and Homily are Borrowers–little people who live in the homes of human beans and take what they need to survive. Pod and Homily fear the world upstairs, remembering the fate of other Borrowers who have been seen, but Arietty is tired of living alone and fearful that she and her family are the last of their kind. The arrival of a boy in the house signals the start of a new adventure for Arietty, who longs for a friend. Interacting with humans, however, even the nice ones, always means trouble.
The Borrowers introduces readers to a magical world where little people live beneath the floors and behind the walls of the homes of “human beans,” taking what they need both to survive and to furnish their homes. Lengthy descriptions of letters used as wallpaper, stamps as portraits, and match boxes as beds are as integral to the story as the characters or the plot–Mary Norton seems to want readers to inhabit this world and to make their own, just as the Borrowers do. There is something enchanting about viewing a world in miniature and, ultimately, that enchantment overshadowed the other charms of the book, at least for me.
After viewing Miyazaki’s The Secret World of Arietty, I expected The Borrowers to be the tale of a forbidden friendship that endured despite familial opposition and thwarted evil attempts to capture the Clock family. Though The Borrowers contains elements of such a friendship, I never felt that Arietty and the human boy ever really got to know each other, or understood each other. Instead, the focus remains on the Clock family, humorously drawing their foibles and poignantly recalling a time when they did not live alone but in a house full of Borrowers. It is a clever and a bittersweet portrait, and yet all I wanted was more of Arietty and her friend.
In fact, I remember little about the actual plot of The Borrowers, but instead retain only snatches of the items used to build their home. Such a lapse on my part tempts me to say that something about the story is, if not memorable, at least slightly lackluster. But this is a children’s classic we are talking about! Is it the story really not that interesting or did watching The Secret World of Arietty first simply lead me to disappointment because I expected a different reading experience?
Whatever the case may be, the more that time passes, the less inclined I feel to read the rest of the series, though I initially had vague intentions of reading the sequel. Mostly, I admit, because I hoped to see the origins of Miyazaki’s Spiller character. I suppose that the charm of the Clock family’s world was, in the end, not enough to hold me.
Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is
Top Ten Favorite Movies
1. The Fellowship of the Ring: Of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, the first film is my favorite. I think it is the happiest. We get to meet many of the beloved characters at a time when they still feel relatively safe in the Shire, in Rivendell, in Lothlorien. Though the characters meet many obstacles, they still find many reprieves and they don’t all fully realize the extent of the danger into which they have thrown themselves. All too soon that illusion will vanish. I like to cherish these early moments.
2. Disney’s Sleeping Beauty: Aurora receives a lot of criticism these days for not saving herself, but the girl still has many good qualities–she is kind, helpful, and relatively cautious (at least she wants to bring her new crush home to meet the family!). Really, though, I think the Princess Line may have given the mistaken impression that this film is supposed to be all about Aurora and girl power, but it’s not. The fairies really steal the show and Prince Philip gets an awesome action sequence that no mutterings about how Aurora should have slain the dragon can ruin for me. Everyone in this film plays a part and does it admirably. And, of course, I can’t not mention the beautiful artwork.
3. The Two Towers: Everyone knows that middle films sometimes lag a little, but The Two Towers is, in my opinion, a solid addition to Jackson’s trilogy. I especially love this film because Rohan is one of my favorite places in Middle-earth and there’s nothing like seeing it come to life onscreen. Plus, the music that goes with Rohan is absolutely fantastic.
4. Glory: Glory tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first African American units in the Civil War. The movie tells an important part of American history and does not flinch from the prejudice the unit faced, from having to be led by only white officers to receiving less pay than their white soldier counterparts. It is a moving, gripping film with a ton of fantastic actors and a beautiful soundtrack.
5. The Return of the King: Though this film received many accolades upon its release, it is my least favorite film in the trilogy. The heart is still there, but sometimes the action threatens to overtake the film. And some of that CGI is ridiculous. The oliphaunts look as if they could conquer Gondor simply by stepping on Minas Tirith.
6. From Up on Poppy Hill: Gorō Miyazaki directed this 2011 film for Studio Ghibli, which focuses on the innocent love of teenagers Umi and Shun as they fight to save their school clubhouse. The film possesses a rare, quiet beauty belying the power the story has to move audiences. Some great comic relief is also included.
7. Kiki’s Delivery Service: This 1989 film from Hayao Miyazaki inspires with its story of a young witch trying to find her place in the world. The stunning artwork is as big an attraction as the bright young protagonist, her talking cat, and the feel-good plot.
8. Kenneth’s Branagh’s Henry V: Action, romance, the St. Crispins’ Day speech–what more could you ask for? Kenneth Branagh is absolutely stunning in this Shakespearean adaptation. My favorite part? Act V.
9. Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet: This was the film that finally helped me to understand why everyone thinks Shakespeare is so great. I’d read a few plays before, but they’d never come alive for me until Branagh showed me how it’s done.
10. Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing: Emma Thompson is fabulous in this film, but I have also watched it simply for the chair scene. That’s how funny I find it.
Review in both English and Spanish.
Goodreads: La princesa bolsa de papel
Published: June 17, 2014 (Spanish edition)
The Princess Elizabeth is slated to marry Prince Ronald when a dragon attacks the castle and kidnaps Ronald. In resourceful and humorous fashion, Elizabeth finds the dragon, outsmarts him, and rescues Ronald–who is less than pleased at her un-princess-like appearance.
The Paper Bag Princess is a classic story about a princess who outwits a dragon and saves a prince. The story celebrates a strong, clever heroine and provides a fantastic example for young girls.
The Paper Bag Princess also explores the difference between having a noble title and having a noble personality. After the dragon destroys her castle, Princess Elizabeth has only a paper bag to wear for clothing. But she is still a princess. The paper bag is symbolic of the sacrifices Elizabeth is willing to make to save her prince.
Elizabeth’s courage, cleverness, and kindheartedness are obvious through her actions, but the conclusion of the story emphasizes those personality traits for young readers. Elizabeth explains to the prince that her actions, not her clothes or her hair, define her role as a princess. It is a wonderful lesson for young readers.
The Paper Bag Princess is a story full of humor and great wisdom. Readers will love both the spunky princess and the foolish dragon. A lasting book.
Fun Fact! (And Spoiler)
Author Robert Munsch says the story originally ended with Princess Elizabeth punching Ronald in the nose!
El resumen oficial
En este exitoso clásico moderno, la princesa Elizabeth se está por casar con el príncipe Ronaldo. Pero un dragón ataca su castillo y se lleva al príncipe. Con su gracioso ingenio, Elizabeth encuentra al dragón, es más astuta que él, y logra rescatar a Ronaldo. Pero éste se ve decepcionado por la apariencia poco principesca de su amada . . .
La princesa bolsa de papel es un cuento clásico sobre una princesa quien aventaja un dragón y salva a un príncipe. El cuento celebra a una heroína fuerte y lista y para las niñas es un ejemplo fantástico.
La princesa bolsa de papel también explora la diferencia entre la posesión de un título noble y la posesión de una personalidad noble. Después del dragón destruye su castillo, Princesa Elizabeth tiene solo una bolsa de papel para la ropa. Pero ya es una princesa. La bolsa de papel es simbólica de los sacrificios que ella está dispuesta a sobrevivir para el príncipe.
El valor, la inteligencia, y la bondad de Elizabeth son obvias pero la conclusión del cuento recalca las características para los lectores jóvenes. Elizabeth explica al príncipe que sus acciones, no su ropa o su pello, define su papel como princesa. Es una lección muy bueno para los niños.
La princesa bolsa de papel es un cuento lleno del humor y de gran sabiduría. Los lectores querrán a la princesa valiente y también al dragón tonto. Un libro duradero.
Books have the power to change lives, so imagine the potential a library has to transform a community. Besides providing access to books, movies, music, video games, and toys, libraries also offer programs ranging from book clubs to computer literacy to concerts. At Pages Unbound, we love libraries and the work they do, so we asked several bloggers to share what they love about their libraries. Come back all July to help us celebrate libraries!
Briana already covered many of the wonderful resources and services libraries have to offer, but, of course, there’s more! Below find listed some of my favorite library offerings.
Libraries these days seem to offer just about everything, but the possibilities expand once you add the Internet. With my library’s online resources, I can rent a book in my pajamas, learn a new language without worrying about having to return an audio disc in three weeks (really, when is the last time anyone learned a language in three weeks?), and access tons of cool research sites that specialize in various disciplines. One of my biggest recommendations to others, though, are the test preparation programs. Now students can study for various tests without having to worry about shelling out tons of money for a course or even $20 for a book (though libraries, of course, often carry those, as well). Plus the Internet means the practice tests will be timed and scored for you! Some resources even offer preparation for career tests.
Parent and Teacher Resources
I don’t have a child, but I have been in positions where I’ve had to teach younger children various skills from reading to math. It sounds simple enough in theory–I can read and add, after all! But knowing how to do a thing is different from knowing how to teach it. Libraries often have special materials marked for parents or teachers that will help patrons learn how to teach literacy, math, grammar, and more. Issue books about making friends, dealing with peer pressure, staying healthy, and more can also often be of use, while craft and game books can inspire a night of family fun.
Story Times and Play Times
The library is a great place for children to get together and learn while having fun. Story times focus on helping children learn to love reading, but they can also show parents how to read with their little ones at home. Play times, meanwhile, are a fantastic way for children to get hands-on with learning, whether that means creating a beautiful work of art, attending a science camp, or discovering the possibilities of blocks and architecture.
Sadly, not everyone has access to a local library, but despite budget cuts, libraries still make an effort to reach under-served populations, whether that means running a bookmobile or going to schools. Librarians know what they do matters, and they’re willing to go the extra mile to make a difference in the community.
Librarians are there to help, whether that means tracking down a DVD, recommending books, or directing patrons to resources they didn’t know existed. Handling so many requests while still maintaining a clean and ordered library can’t be easy, but they manage to do it with a smile, while never turning anyone away.