Saturday, April 13, 2013

Teens Only | Unwind

At first glance, you might expect this post to be about relaxation. You know, unwind. Let go. Etc., etc.

But au contraire, as my French friends will say. This post is about one of the BEST books I've read in a long time. And I challenge you to read it as well.

It's Unwind by Neal Shusterman. I stumbled upon this book when picking up my vacation reading. I'd read another by this author several years ago (The Schwa Was Here...also a great book). So I thought...why not?

I don't know where to start.

Unwind. Wow.

This science fiction story takes place after the Second Civil War, a battle waged between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice armies. The premise of the story is that human life cannot be touched from the moment of conception (i.e. no abortion). But parents can choose to retroactively get rid of a child through a process of "unwinding." So any young person between the ages of 13 and 18 can be unwound, meaning all of their organs are harvested and transplanted into various recipients. They're not "technically" dead. What? No more counseling for troubled youth...oh no. They get unwound!

In this gripping story we meet Connor, a bit of a rebel, who learns that his parents have chosen to unwind him. He's none too happy about this decision, so he takes off. And it goes from there.

Not everyone in this future society is in favor of unwinding. There are some seemingly altruistic types who want to help these young people -- actually, to save them -- until they turn 18 years of age and can no longer face the dreaded unwinding. I say they are seemingly altruistic because...well, you'll know what I mean when you read the book.
I'm telling you: you've got to read this book. There was one part toward the end where I think I read almost 2 pages without taking a breath. Seriously. I felt I was there -- with the character -- observing a truly horrific thing. That just tells you how amazing a writer Neal Shusterman is. He grabs you on the first page and doesn't let you go.
I'm not usually a reader of science fiction, but this one is not to be missed.
There is a sequel to this book: Unwholly. I'll be picking that one up soon. But I'm still reflecting on Unwind.

Let me know what you think. Until next Saturday, happy reading.

Books On Film | 42 (Jackie Robinson)

The biopic 42 hit movie theaters yesterday. The film is about the life of famous baseball player Jackie Robinson, who was the first black player in major league baseball since 1884 and whose recruitment helped end 60 years of segregation in baseball.

The film focuses on Robinson's recruitment by the Brooklyn Dodger's team executive Branch Rickey in 1946, follows him during his successive rookie year on the team, and culminates in the 1947 World Series (the first to be televised) where the Dodgers faced the Yankees.

The movie already has a tie-in novelization book, but I thought a better book to read would be Jackie Robinson's autobiography I Never Had It Made. In the book Robinson chronicles his early life, his college years at UCLA, his time in the army during WWII, and his years as a baseball player for the Negro American Leagues and Major League Baseball.

If you have an interest in baseball or American History then check out the film and the book!

Cover courtesy of LibraryThing

Friday, April 12, 2013

Short Attention Span Challenge | The Graphologist

Imagine you are on the perfect date.  Your date is charming, they are fun to be with, but then when they write their name on the check you realize something...they are probably an ax murderer and you should run.  Like right now, RUN!!!  No, I'm joking, don't run.  Just keep reading my blog.  Seriously though, you can tell a lot about people from their handwriting.  I have always been fascinated by those experts who show up on the news to tell us some unknown fact about someone famous based on how they sign their name or write a note.  It is a practice with a long history, believe it or not.  In fact, according to one of my books, in 330 BC, Aristotle said, "Handwriting is the visible form of speech".  Wow that was a long time ago.  The actual practice of graphology began in France, and was developed by a French monk named Jean Hippolyte Michon in the early 19th Century.  He created a system to analyze handwriting called the study of fixed signs.  After that, more research was done and methods were created in the practice of graphology until "Voila!", the analysis of handwriting that we practice today was created.

Sample 1- Impulsive variety sampler?
The Challenge
This week, I wanted to master (well as much as I can in a week) Handwriting Analysis, or Graphology.

The Process
To start, I asked for handwriting samples from staff around the library.  I asked them to send their samples anonymously and I threw out anything that I recognized.  After doing this, I found out the best handwriting samples are on unlined paper (I asked for lines), contain the word "I" (which says a lot), and were not anoymous.  Oops, I did none of those things.  Oh well, carry on!

This week was mostly a lot of reading and researching.  Honestly, I know I didn't master nearly all of the things you need to know to analyze someone's handwriting, but I did get a few good pointers on how to make a quick assessment.  However, a few things probably aren't enough to get a real analysis.  It takes a good combination of elements from a handwriting sample to get a complete picture of who someone really is.

Sample 2 - Tired, logical worrywart?
So based on the first half of two of the handwriting analysis books I used (which really tells you what an expert I have become, doesn't it? So please don't get mad at my horrible analysis of your sample), here is some helpful information:

Line spacing is the amount of space left between one line and the next.  It indicates mental clarity.  It shows how you plan, your perspective, whether you can be objective, closed minded, or irrational.
Sample 1 is a good example of crowded line spacing,  Do you see how the "g" in the word "everything" crowds over the word on the next line?  According to graphology, it means that the person who wrote this lives in the moment, and is driven by impulse.  They don't think about how their big "g" loop is going to leave them no space for the word underneath later.

Sample 3 A reserved serious person who wants to move forward
On the other hand, sample 2 leaves wide spacing between each line.  In fact, they make sure to skip a line in order to avoid hitting the next one.  This could mean a few things.  They are very logical, organized and have great mental clarity or it might mean they are too concerned about maintaining their own space and enjoy observing rather than participating.  Since I work with whoever sent this in, I am leaning toward the logical and organized analysis.  They are definitely not antisocial at all, no way.

Word spacing is the distance between words and indicates how much personal space the writer demands from others and the level of restrain in social situations.  In sample 6, the person demonstrates irregular word spacing.  This indicates that their behavior changes unpredictably in relation to others and that they cannot sit still - especially since they also have low loops, such as in the word "go."  Since they demonstrate crowded line spacing in addition, they are probably someone who talks quickly, does not think ahead, and lives in the moment.
In sample #3, the person uses wider word spacing and they are probably someone who is reserved and keeps their distance from others.

Letter Spacing is the distance between letters and gives clues to the degree of freedom allows, or whether they are able to adapt and change their mind when needed.

Sample 4  Trusting, smart, social, debater who doesn't like to plan?
Sample 5 and 6 show narrow letter spacing.  It means that they could be likely to give in to emotional and peer pressure.  They might also be someone who rushes to judgement.

Margins show a writers feelings about the past and future.  The left margin signifies the past, the right signifies the future. Margins reveal how you perceive and balance your time.

Samples #1 and #6 feature an irregular right margin.  They might not be very good at planning for the future.

Sample 4 has a rigid left margin, which indicates discipline.  

Sample 5 features an expanding left margin (a slow starter) and an expanding right margin (and so does 3), showing someone who will move to the future, but needs encouragement.

Sample 4 has a wide right margin, which might mean that they are interested in doing things, but not necessarily planning things.

Sample 5 is a slow starter, but gets really enthusiastic eventually!
The Baseline is the invisible or printed line on which the handwriting rests.  You can see the baseline by using a ruler or straight edge.  The baseline is an indicator of goals.  The steadier the baseline, the more focused someone will be at achieving the goals.  It could also be a symbol of optimism or struggle.  For example, in sample 3, the baseline moves up, which could mean the person is optimistic, or it could mean they are struggling against something.

Sample 2 has a downward baseline which indicates worry.  I'm still not sure why it wouldn't indicate that someone was having an easy go of something - since if it goes up it could mean difficulty.

The Result
Clearly I am not very good at this, even after a week of trying.  I think this is a skill that would take YEARS of research to really master.  I didn't even get into zones (where your letters fall), size, or any other indicators.  Still, even though I am horrible at handwriting analysis, it sure is fun! Coworkers who donated your samples, I hope you aren't mad at me!!!! I am sure I did this all wrong.  Oh, and sample 6 was me, in case you were wondering...but let's not tell my husband that, okay?
6. Someone with a short attention span who is impulsive, irrational, and conflicted.  Yeah, right.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Bucket List | The Book Thief

I first heard about this book from a friend who just finished reading it with her book club.  She raved about the plot, the writing style, and the characters and how she was so, so glad she had picked it up after she had initially decided against reading it. (It is set in during the Holocaust.)   What really caught my attention though, is when she told me that the book is narrated by Death.  So I was excited to see that our system carries The Book Thief by Australian author Markus Zusak.

The Book Thief is about nine year old Liesel Meminger who is forced to stay with foster parents during the Holocaust due to her parent's communist sympathies.  Liesel's foster parents start hiding a young Jewish boxer from the Nazis, which becomes harder and harder to do in the worsening political climate.  However, Liesel develops the habit of stealing books, a habit that starts effecting the lives of everyone around her.  

So this whole story is narrated by Death.  Death is not, at least in this form, a dreary and terrifying thing.  Instead,  Death is reluctant and tired of his job and even at times sarcastic about his lot in life.  Having Death as the narrator throughout the book makes it an interesting read, and if you're looking for a good book that reads a little differently, I would definitely check this one out.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Learning | Collaboration

My friend, Julie, showed me a fun book today.  It's a picture book, designed to be read out loud to children.  Chloe and the Lion is written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex. 

Both of these men are introduced at the beginning of the story, along with Chloe, the main character. That should have been the first clue that this was an unusual book; I can't recall any other books that make a point of introducing the author, illustrator and main character right off the bat.

So the story about Chloe begins to unfold.  Chloe looks for coins everywhere she goes, on sidewalks, under furniture, in coin-operated machines.  She saves the money she has collected and uses it to buy tickets on the carousel in the park on Saturdays. One day, she wanders into the forest and encounters a scary lion. But the picture doesn't show a lion; it shows an enormous dragon.

Mac (the author, remember him?) interrupts and tells Adam (the illustrator) he put the wrong animal in the picture.  They argue. It doesn't take long for Mac to fire Adam and replace him with a new illustrator, Hank. Hank has a completely different style from Adam. At first, this seems like a good thing. Hank thinks it would be better to have a dragon in the story than a lion. Pretty soon, Hank is gone, and Mac tries to  draw the pictures himself.  He realizes he needs Adam back. It isn't going to be easy to get him back; Adam is now in the lion's stomach.  He also expects an apology.

Mac and Adam work things out just in time to get back to Chloe's story: lions! Coins! Merry-go-round rides!  The final result shows that the book is better because of both men's talents.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

4 Kids | Your Chance to Meet Somebody Famous

That's right. In honor of Children's Book Week (May 13-19), the Library is hosting a special writing contest for students in 4th, 5th and 6th grades. We will select one winner from each grade, and a famous children's author will visit the winner (and his/her classmates) during Children's Book Week. 

I've got your attention now, don't I?

Oh, did I mention that each winner also receives a Kindle? Yep.
All you have to do is finish the story started by one of our famous children's authors. Your story should be no longer than 250 words, including the part started by the author.

Get creative. Let your imagination go wild. You can do this!!

You've got about 3 weeks. If you're going to mail in your story, it must be postmarked no later than May 1, 2013. If you email your story, the deadline is May 6, 2013.

Ok, ok. Click here for all the information on the Children's Book Week Writing Contest. And thank you to the Library & Literacy Foundation for San Joaquin County for their support of this fun contest! 

And to read books written by our famous children's authors, click on the following:

Books by Deborah Underwood, author of the 4th grade story starter

Books by Bruce Hale, author of the 5th grade story starter

Books by Gennifer Choldenko, author of the 6th grade story starter

Happy Writing! And good luck!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Life & Style | Don't Save That For An Special Occasion!

I have this crazy tendency to save things for special occasions. 

I have a closet full of nice clothes but I don't dare wear them to work. I tell myself that I should save them for a special party or a wedding. The funny thing is, that I am not really a party going kind of person in the first place. I prefer to stay home and read a magazine instead. So I am saving up all these nice clothes for something that I rarely attend.
What a waste!

I think I have learned it from my mom. She has this tendency to save things for us or to save things for special occasions instead of enjoying them right then. 
For example, on one of her trips to France, she brought back some expensive beauty products. But instead of using them on a regular basis so she could benefit from them, she saved them all in our refrigerator's door for years and used them only occasionally. 

I am telling you, ten years after that trip, we still had these beauty products inside our refrigerator's door. I am not kidding.

In my case, I have a closet full of clothes but I keep wearing the same clothes to work over and over. This is insane. I also have my favorite perfume; Coco Chanel that I absolutely love but I rarely use it. Saving it for my funeral I guess.

I think we all have similar tendencies to some degree. 

For example, do you have a beautiful china set that you save for special occasions?

Do you save up your favorite perfume for special occasions like me?

So, I have decided to raid my own walk-in closet and start wearing the clothes that I have been saving for that unforeseen special occasion.
I am going to start wearing my signature perfume more often darn it.

While I am at it, I am going to bring my nice hand lotions to work to share them with my great co-workers.

Your turn!

Are you saving up an expensive wine bottle for that special occasion, if the answer is yes, stop right now and pickup the phone, call a friend or a sibling and invite them over to share it with you. 

The way I see it, your special occasion is only a phone call away.

Life is too short to save things for only special occasions.

Signing off until next Monday- Panteha