Friday, July 11, 2014

Learning | Sherlock Holmes, Anyone?

Sometimes library customers approach service desks with the funniest accidental statements, like,"We want to know if you have books."  I can understand that. Once I corrected myself in an office supply store, after I started to ask, "Do you have spiral-bound notebooks?" In mid-sentence, I changed that to, "Where would I find spiral-bound notebooks?"

One of my favorite funny statements was,"I need help finding Sherlock Holmes." Not, "Where might I find Sherlock Holmes books (or DVDs?)" 

Doesn't that strike you as a bit ironic? Sherlock Holmes' cases often begin with the cliché of a person appearing at his residence at 221 Baker Street, asking for help with a mystery. I would expect fans of that famous detective to try to test their own skills of deduction, and find their own library materials.  

Of course, they might ask where to find the library catalog (Sherlock himself would likely ask for the card catalog, because his stories take place in an era when automation of library catalogs with computers sounds like a science fiction concept.)

I'll save readers of this post a little bit of trouble. A catalog search for author "Doyle, Arthur Conan"   returned 73 titles. Some of the items on this list are written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself; he wrote four Sherlock Holmes novels, and 56 short stories featuring the world's most famous consulting detective.
Benedict Cumberbatch, on location as Sherlock. Chinatown, London. 
From Fat Les' photostream on 
Some rights reserved.

Over the years since the fictitious character, Sherlock Holmes, first appeared in publication in 1887, he has inspired a veritable plethora of authors, directors, and artists to create new versions of Conan Doyle's stories, or use characters from the original tales for  plots of their own. 

I especially like a BBC television series called Sherlockstarring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes.  It's an incredibly complicated series that takes place in the present day; I always feel I must keep my eyes riveted to the screen, just in case I miss something.  They only make a few episodes every year, because of this complexity.

I'm looking forward to the release of an upcoming movie called Mr. Holmes, featuring Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf!) as a 93 year old Sherlock Holmes in the year 1947.

Here's the book I'm reading right now. I picked it up one day when I needed something to read on my lunch break, and I had not looked too closely to see what it was about; I just saw it in the mystery section of the new book shelf. 

What a delightful surprise to find it is part of a series about Arthur Conan Doyle, the doctor who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories; he is cast as an amateur detective, in addition to being a famous writer.  I haven't read very far in the Revenant of Thraxton Hall: the Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but I can tell you that I am enjoying it.  Arthur Conan Doyle has just published "The Final Conflict," his last Sherlock Holmes story, and killed the Sherlock character off.  This has caused a public outcry; people are calling him a murderer. He escapes London for the country, and follows a case to Thraxton Hall, with his friend, Oscar Wilde. Oh, I should probably mention that the murder he is investigating  has not yet happened. That's just another of those intriguing Sherlock Holmes conundrums so many of us have grown to love.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Wanderlust Librarian | Lots and Lots of plans....

One of my dream trips will be happening in 2 weeks with my daughter Scout. I never thought I would ever be able to write these words, but it's true....

We're Going to Comic-Con Together!! 

All sorts of schedules and plans are being made, so my blog post will be up next week! 

Have any questions on my annual nerd trek? Leave me a comment! 

Book Bucket List | It's just too much...

My friend "A" and I are always talking about books.  I know, I know, it's easy to do that working in a library and all, but with her, it's really fun because we love the same kind of books.  We share, recommend, and trade books all the time.  This week, she told me that she couldn't finish the book she was reading, because it just got "too weird."  I was shocked, considering she can read through pretty much anything.  "A" said it got too dark and was just too much so she started another book.  So of course, I got a copy to read this weekend, just to see how weird this book really is.

This conversation got me thinking.  How often have I ever stopped a book because it was just too weird, dark, or strange to my liking?  I remember one specifically.  When I first started at the Tracy Library, one of the first books I checked out was Chuck Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters. I knew that Palahniuk was known for edgy stuff and was famous for writing Fight Club, but this book was all sorts of different from what I was used to.  The story follows what happens to a model after she is attacked, resulting in permanent disfigurement.  Afterwards, she has a breakdown, understandably, and goes on to try to find out why she was attacked.  However, she meets someone who takes her in, regardless of her disfigured face, and they unknowingly have a shared history.  

I got about half way through this book when I just had to stop.  Palahniuk is an excellent writer.  So much so that the story stayed with me after I put it down and made me feel super creepy.  It was a horror novel in it's truest form.  So if you're curious about why I was freaked out by this book, I would definitely check it out. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

She's Crafty | Discovering EZ Knitting

I have finally taught myself to knit well enough, I think, that I will keep doing it for as long as I have time left to do it. Knitting can fulfill some of my needs to be challenged, creative, useful, relaxed, appreciated, and lots more. I sure wish I would have come to this point a lot sooner, rather than later. But, oh well. My children probably won't mind that I didn't knit them baby hats and sweaters, and are probably glad I didn't knit them leggings (remember those?) or sweaters while they were in high school. They do like the slippers I made them for Christmas last year, however, and continue to say I can knit for them whenever I long as I knit what they like. This means I don't knit sweaters for anyone yet (more about that in a minute), but I do make slippers, scarves, hats, bags, and wash-cloths. I can make lots of wash-cloths in lots of different designs. I've also started my first pair of socks, but haven't actually turned the heel yet (that's the hard part, I hear, and I'm scared.)

I say I taught myself to knit, but what I really mean is there wasn't a person sitting next to me to show me how. I've used some pretty good books, though, to teach me and show me how a left-handed person can too learn to knit without any more trouble than a right-handed person would have. One of the books I used was Stitch 'N Bitch, by Debbie Stoller, which was a good book to start with and still provides me with great illustrated stitch-by-stitch instructions for things like picking up stitches or casting off. This book also let me know I could knit lots of things that are modern and up-to-date cool. There was even a knitted bikini in there along with the scarves, hats, bags and sweaters.

I also discovered a type of knitting early on through Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee which taught me I could make hats, scarves, shawls, and socks by following a knitting recipe. Rather than a to-be-followed-exactly pattern, the knitting recipe is a general guide-line which allows knitters to choose the types and colors of yarn they like, the stitch patterns they want to use, and the size to make based on the wearer's actual measurements. I even learned how to "measure" a person for a shawl the sneaky way: "Hey, how tall are you?" The answer to this question gives a measure of the person's wing-span (fingertip-to-fingertip, arms outstretched), which will ensure their shawl will stay on much better than a shorter shawl would. Imagine that! I was still a bit scared, though, to branch out on my own like this.

Well, guess what (and this happens a lot to the self-taught in any field, I think)? I found yet another book in our library, called Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac, which made me realize the serendipitous nature of learning to knit by one's self. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee wrote the introduction to the commemorative edition of Elizabeth Zimmermann's book (which was the edition I found) and let readers know how much EZ (because Elizabeth Zimmermann is a mouthful, and every knitter sooner or later knows who EZ was)  had influenced and inspired her own work. Well, I thought, if Stephanie thought so highly of EZ, I'm going to sit down with this book and read every word because I really want to like this kind of knitting. Okay, I haven't read every word yet, but that's because I'm stopping to order every other book EZ wrote about knitting. Here are links to the ones I found in the Stockton San Joaquin County Public Library:

And, here are some more I found through our Link+ service:

Now, you might remember I said earlier I don't yet knit sweaters for anyone. The reason for that is my first sweater was too big--way too big. It was so disappointing, I stopped knitting for a while. I finally ripped the thing out and really hope I don't need to be scared to try again. From reading EZ, though, I think I've learned why my sweater was too big, even though I got what I thought would be the proper gauge before I started. I was knitting the sweater in the round (in which I used all knit stitches) and I made my gauge swatch flat (in which I used both knit and purl stitches.) Evidently, I knit looser than I purl! Ugh! But, at least I know I can try again now, with a new swatch and a new way to knit. Once I make a sweater that fits me, I can make a sweater that fits anyone. I'll let you know how it goes.

Until next time, stay crafty!
          Kaye and Malia

Ms. Suzy Reads | Interrupted by Midnight Caller

In the middle of the recent 4th of July weekend -- that wonderful holiday filled with fireworks, music and an overall "I'm glad I live in the United States of America" feeling -- my phone rang. At 10 pm. That's almost midnight to us older folks, by the way.

But rang it did. And it was a friend of mine. A young friend. 7th going into 8th grade friend. And that young friend said: "Hey, Ms. Suzy, I want a really, really good book to read. Something with substance." (Did I mention this friend is really smart?)

It took me about 20 minutes to wake up and engage in intelligent conversation with my young friend. But we ended up talking about how sometimes we all want to read a book that is going to make us think

I keep lists of great books for all different grades. I am a librarian, after all. I looked through my 7th and 8th grade lists and found some books that I think you smart 7th/8th graders will really enjoy.

But I'm not just going to list the titles. That would be too easy. You're up for a challenge, aren't you?

Here you go: Below are 10 titles. Below that are short blurbs that correspond to the titles. The challenge: Figure out what blurbs go with what titles. 

And then your next challenge (because I know you'll all want one): Read one of these books! They're not old, old, old, but also not necessarily new, new, new. But they're great and you might have missed them the first time around.

Ready? Good luck!

1. Tangerine by Edward Bloor
2. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
3. Hoot by Carl Hiassen
4. Wonder Struck by Brian Selznick
5. Game Changers by Mike Lupica 
6. Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
7. Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
8. Rules by Cynthia Lord
9. Smile by Raina Telgemeier
10. Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson

And the blurbs: 

a. Having lost his mother and his hearing in a short time, 12-year-old Ben leaves his Minnesota home in 1977 to seek the father he never knew in New York City, and meets Rose, who is also longing for something missing from her life. Ben's story is told in words; Rose's in pictures. 

b. 12-year-old Paul, who lives in the shadow of his football hero brother Erik, fights for the right to play soccer despite his near blindness and slowly begins to remember the incident that damaged his eyesight.

c.  The story of the first free-born child in Canada, in a town which was a haven for slaves fleeing the American south. The young boy uses his wits and skills to try to bring to justice the lying preacher who has stolen money that was to be used to buy a family's freedom. 

d.  When the coach's son, Shawn O'Brien, is chosen to play quarterback, 11-year-old Ben McBain is not surprised. But when he tries to be a good teammate and help the inconsistent Shawn, he is startled to learn that his new friend does not really want the position. 

e.  After learning that humans are headed toward his hidden home, Firedrake, a silver dragon, is joined by a brownie and an orphan boy in a quest to find the legendary valley known as the Rim of Heaven, encountering friendly and unfriendly creatures along the way, and struggling to evade the relentless pursuit of an old enemy. 

f. Frustrated at life with an autistic brother, 12-year-old Catherine longs for a normal existence, but her world is further complicated by a friendship with a young paraplegic. 

g. When seemingly unrelated and strange events start to happen and a precious piece of art disappears, 11-year-olds Petra and Calder combine their talents to solve an international art scandal.

h. From sixth grade through tenth, a young girl copes with a variety of dental problems that affect her appearance and how she feels about herself. 

i. Roy, who is new to his small Florida community, becomes involved in another boy's attempt to save a colony of burrowing owls from a proposed construction site.

j.  Recounts the escape of one of history's most notorious assassins and the intensive twelve-day search for him and his accomplices. 

Feel free to list your guesses by leaving a comment. I'll check back in a few days and give you the correct answers. But I know, smart readers that you'll know them all! 

Happy Reading, by the way!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Just Life| How to Write Anything

At reference desk, patrons often ask me how to write different types of letters. So, when I came across this new book called: " How to write anything: a complete guide" I just wanted to shout " Eureka". 

I am happy to report that I have found the perfect book for you.

Here is what this book can help you write:

  • Letter to fight a parking ticket
  • Wedding toast
  • Eulogy
  • Business letter
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Letter accepting a job offer
  • And much much more
So, the next time you need to write something, consult this book and it might save you time.

Signing off until next Monday- Panteha