Saturday, March 9, 2013

Teens Only | Divergent

So I just looked up the definition of divergent: (1) Drawing apart from a common point; diverging.(2) Departing from convention. (3) Differing from another; a divergent opinion. (Source:

Aha. Now I get it.

Oh, you might be wondering why I would look up the definition of this word. Last week I ran into three of my favorite young readers -- Q, Z, and J. Each of them were terribly excited to get their hands on the next book in the new series by Veronica Roth.

The first book, as you have probably guessed by now, is Divergent. It's the story of a dystopian society divided into 5 factions, each devoted to the cultivation of a particular virtue: honesty, selflessness, bravery, peacefulness, and intelligence. There comes a day each year when every 16-year-old must choose which faction to dedicate the rest of his/her life. There is a simulation which helps these teens select the faction which best suits them, but sometimes the simulation results in multiple choices. These "multiple choice-ers" are called divergents. And you can bet the leaders of each faction are not too happy with the divergents, since the leaders want people to act and think their way.
Ok, ok. I'm convinced. I'm going to read this first book and then put a hold on the next in the series: Insurgent. I do love books about dystopian societies. (There it is for the second time in this blog -- dystopian. I went back to that ever useful website and looked up dystopia: An imaginary place or state in which the condition of life is extremely bad, as from deprivation, oppression, or terror.) Oh I'm definitely going to read these books! I'm hoping you will too!
Just the other day my colleague Lori blogged about book recommendations, and how we library people really do pay attention to what our customers are reading -- and recommending! Read Lori's blog here
If you're reading this, I know you're not just a reader of blogs, but a reader of books! Do you recommend your favorite books to your friends? Do you read books your friends recommend to you? I do! I do both! And I want to hear your recommendations as well. And I will read them. I promise, promise, promise.
After quote Thomas Jefferson: "I cannot live without books."
So true.
Happy reading. And happy sharing your favorite books with others!


Books On Film | War of The Worlds

The Martians are coming! Run for your life!

The War of the Worlds (1898) by H.G. Wells is one the most famous alien invasion stories in history. The science fiction novel is a first person narrative of a Martian invasion of Earth set in late 17th century England. Two book is split into two parts after a significant introduction, Book One: The Coming of the Martians and Book Two: The Earth under the Martians.

The book has been adapted into a motion picture twice. The first time in 1953 (LINK+) and the second time in 2005 (starring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning). Both films are fairly loose adaptations of the novels. They use some themes from the book, but veer very far from the source material on many of the main plot points.

The most famous adaptation of the novel was as a radio play for CBS Radio which aired on October 30, 1938. Howard Koch, co-writer of the famous film Casablanca, and Anne Froelich adapted Wells' novel for radio as part of the Mercury Theatre On Air program series. Wells narrated and directed the radio drama.

The radio play caused a huge uproar during and after it's broadcast, because a good number of people who listened to the program thought it was either a real attack by aliens or a attack by German soldiers due to the US involvement in World War II. The radio drama was designed to tell the story by emulating new bulletins frequently put on the during the war. It was enough to send some of the public into a panic.

Despite having been an internationally known event, repeated performances by radio stations in Equador (1949) and New York (1968) also produced panic among the public. To hear more about the original broadcast, as well as subsequent broadcasts, and the public reaction consider listening NPR's Radiolab broadcast on The War of the Worlds below.

Radiolab: Season 4 Episode 3

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Book Bucket List | Bless Me, Ultima

There are so many books being made into movies right now.  The Hunger Games, Anna Karenina, Twilight, The Lorax, The Lucky One; these are all titles that have been adapted into films that were released last year.  I like watching movies based on books to compare how closely the screenwriters stayed to the original book. (I take great pleasure in picking apart films that I thought strayed a little too far...)

Right now, the film based upon the classic novel Bless Me, Ultima is out in theaters. This book is a coming of age story about a young boy torn between the cultures of his mother and father.  It is used in schools from middle school to colleges because it is such a powerful and meaningful work.  So if you want to compare the book to the film, or even just read it for the first time, it would be well worth it.

The film was made by a production company that was formed specifically to make this movie.  That's a lot of support for a single project.  So if you've loved this book, interested in comparing the book to the movie, or even just curious, check out the film too.  The reviews are mixed, so I'm curious to hear what people think.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Short Attention Span Challenge | Plants vs. Zombies

I was listening to the radio recently and they were talking about "survival packs" for a zombie apocalypse type of emergency.  One of their suggestions was to save packets of seeds, in case at any point there was a shortage of food.  "Wow! what a great idea," I thought to myself, until I remembered two things: one, I am a terrible gardener and two, other than put them in the ground and water them (which to me seems simple enough), I do not really know how to start seeds.  If I was depending on seeds, I wouldn't make it very long, at least in human form.  Zombies don't eat veggies.

Even though I know basically nothing about gardening, every year I at least try and start a seedling.  Although, I never actually took the time to research how to properly do this.  One year,  I planted seedlings in plastic cups.  The cups cracked in the sun, and didn't drain, and nothing grew.  Plus, we carted them from our playroom to the yard every once in a while daily, but that was a hassle.  The next year, my daughter and I planted seeds in little biodegradable cups that you can plant directly into the garden once they sprout.  We carted them in and out almost everyday, but this time, the birds came down and picked at the little cups, upending all the seedlings and taking the cups away for their nests.  I discovered I was starting them all wrong.  Seedlings do not have to be indoors.  If you do not have a greenhouse, you can create something called a "cold frame".  It protects seedlings and starter plants from the frost, wind, birds, and allows them to get sunlight in the daytime.

The Challenge
Create a cold frame. 

The Process
Cold frames are relatively easy to create.  Simply put, a cold frame is a box with hard opaque sides and a clear lid.  The box can be made from many different types of materials.  Some books I read suggested making one out of hay bales and covering the top with an old window frame.  Other books suggested taking plywood, creating a box and covering it with plastic sheeting.  The idea is to create a warm place for seedlings, by capturing enough sunlight in the daytime to warm the box and the soil.  The cover should be something that can be easily opened or modified.  The box needs to remain at approximately 70 degrees F, so if the temperature rises above that during the day, the lid should be cracked open or pulled back a bit.

We had a bunch of old 2x4s laying around, so I decided to use those to make my cold frame.  I also had an old IKEA changing table, so I used the wood from that as well.  Since I have small children, I decided to use a clear acrylic plastic for the lid.   I was concerned plastic wrap would be a choke hazard, and glass would get broken.  I purchased a 2'x4' piece of plastic at the hardware store for about $25.  Many of my books suggested making a box with a hinge attached, but I thought that would be hard to create, and I also didn't want my kids to get their fingers or bodies smashed under the lid.  Instead, I decided to make a way to slide the door open.

The box does not need to have a bottom.  In fact, some people put them directly into the garden and grow seedlings in the ground beneath the box.  I don't have much empty garden space, so I made my frame portable, and I will plant seeds in clay pots.  When the frame is not in use I can put it up on its side against the fence behind our metal shed.

Look at the awesome drill!

I used the 2x4s to create 3 rectangular frames that would fit around the plastic.  Using a saw (which I kept calling a "drill", thoroughly confusing my husband) I cut six 51", boards and six 25" boards.  Lengthwise, I cut about 1/4 off one the 25" boards.  I drilled screws (with an actual drill) into the boards to make the 3  rectangular shaped frames.  Then, I placed the frames on top of each other.  The frame with the board cut lengthwise went on top, with the gap facing up.  I secured the frames together by using little pieces of the changing table.  I drilled two long pieces of the changing table level with the bottom of the gap, on the inside of the frame.  After securing the frame, I slid the plastic piece over the gap and rested it on the long pieces of the old changing table (they are the pink wood in the box).  The plastic slides back and forth for easy opening.  
The Result
I know it isn't the cutest cold frame in existence, but it is functional!  When I have more time, I plan on painting the inside white to reflect more sunlight onto the plants and soil.  Another fun project would be to ask my little one to help me decorate the outside of the box using paint. 

In retrospect, it might have been better to create a gap on either side of the box, so that the plastic could be cut in half and slide out in smaller pieces.  Right now, when the box is half open, the plastic sticks out pretty far.

Ditz alert: In order to get the screws into the boards, I had to drill a guide hole into the frame first.  I was cursing at the drill and how annoying it was to take the hole maker (I don't know what the name is for this, obviously) off and then put the other drill bit on to insert the screws.  I did this over and over, for every board.  Then I realized I could just make the holes on ALL the boards at once, then go back and drill in the screws.  Duh.

Learning | Dude! Read Any Good Books?

A friend asked me for a quick recommendation for a 7th grade boy who's more interested in Legos and guns than reading stories.  This sounded very familiar to me; neither of my boys liked fiction much until they were older.  (It's interesting to note, that I caught each of them reading classic adult literature in their late teens. Even though they were not currently in school, and had no assignments. You could have knocked me over with a feather. The only reasons they gave were things like, "I heard this is a good book," or "it looked interesting.")

I recommended Jeanne DuPrau's The City of Ember off the top of my head.  It's the beginning of a series that takes place in the future, after a huge war has destroyed civilization. The City of Ember is an underground settlement that has relied on a water-powered generator for hundreds of years. When it fails, the residents of Ember will be in darkness, day and night. It's up to Lina and Doon to solve a number of mysteries and technical problems to save the city, because nobody else seems to know the danger they face.  You may have heard of the movie based on this book.  Sometimes a reluctant reader is more inclined to pick up a book if (s)he knows a little bit about the story.

Later, I thought about books for boys who like guns. There are quite a few classic books that are perfect for grades 5 through 8. I always loved Fred Gipson's books, like Old Yeller, because they invariably featured dogs, but I do recall that the main characters needed to know how to shoot.  The same thing with Jack London's books, like The Call of the Wild, and Jim Kjelgaard's books, including Big Red.

I'll have to think a little harder about books that might have an appeal for those who love building with Legos. If you have any ideas, feel free to comment below.  

So, this week, I was already pondering the idea of books to recommend to young men, when I heard a cool idea from a customer.  She's a (grownup) musician who plays with the Stockton Youth Chorale.  She struck up a conversation with a fifth grader; they talked about reading. Pretty soon, she came up with a list of twenty of her favorite books from her childhood; the fifth grader composed a list of his twenty favorite books from today.  Now they each have a list of titles to read and discuss with each other. Sounds like a win/win plan to me!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

4 Kids | Reading Magic

Today is Mem Fox's birthday. She is the author of a whole bunch of wonderful children's books (and a really wonderful book for parents, too!). I thought it would be cool to honor her birthday by looking at a few of her books that happen to be on my list of all-time favorites.

One book that I love to read over and over is Boo To a Goose! It's a funny rhyming book that asks questions such as: "Would you feed your pajamas to giant piranhas or walk on your knees past a hive full of bees?" And for younger kids, it's fun to predict the rhymes on each page. It's fun and the pictures are absolutely awesome!

Another picture book by Mem Fox which I absolutely adore is Let's Count Goats! It's another great rhyming -- and counting -- book, but this time, stars some pretty funny goats in all kinds of crazy situations. One of my favorite parts is this: "Here we see an airport goat looking for her cases. But can we count the pilot goats with goggles on their faces?" 

One of my all-time favorite books just happens to be another written by our birthday honoree, Mem Fox. It's called Whoever You Are. While it's a lovely poetic tribute to the ways children all over the world may be different, it's also a beautiful reminder of our common humanity. And even though it's a lovely children's book, it's also a really great reminder for all of us -- no matter our age.

And finally, for you parents who may have chanced upon this blog, here's one for you: Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. Fox's message is really simple (but really, really true): Reading aloud every day to our children will help them become readers when they are developmentally ready. And since reading well is really the ticket to success in all academic areas, why not give our children this head start? Read aloud. Every day. Older children can read to younger children. It's one of the most important gifts we can give our children.

So Happy Birthday, Mem Fox -- and thank you for the wonderful books!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Life& Style | Emergency Preparedness

Do you have an emergency supply kit if a natural disaster strikes close to home?

I used to work at CSU East Bay campus in Hayward which was located on top of a hill. The campus was beautiful, but there were speculations that in case of an earthquake, the campus could be cut off from help for days.

One of the very first things that they told me was that I should have two emergency supply kits for both my car and my work place.

I made fun of it for a while before making two simple kits. Unfortunately I raided the munchies in my emergency supply kits quite often. I think I am lucky that I never ended up using these kits. 

No one knows when the next natural disaster is going to hit California.

The last time I checked on the flood map, in case of a major flood, my house is going to be under 5 feet of water. Water almost as tall as me.

My house isn't earthquake proof either so if the big one hits, I might only have seconds to get myself and my family out the door (although I just learned that during an earthquake you should Drop, Cover and Hold on until it passes before doing anything else).
So I am going to have a basic emergency supply kit ready just in case. I think you should think about having one for your family as well. 

I went straight to website to get reliable information:  

Here is what I copied exactly from this site:

A basic emergency supply kit includes:
  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger 
Once you have gathered the supplies for a basic emergency kit, you may want to consider adding the following items:
  • Prescription medications and glasses.
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler's checks and change
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, ID and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person.
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes.
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted, nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
Here is a printable Emergency Supply List from the same site.

Don't wait too long to get your emergency supply kit ready. The next big natural disaster might be just around the corner. 

I am warning you, if disaster strikes, don't count on me to share my kid's water with you.

Signing off until next Monday- Panteha