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    And they lived happily ever after... THE END.

    Oy! I have never liked that ending. Many children today are only familiar with the neat and tidy endings to ooey-gooey, sunshine stories.  While these types of stories most certainly have their place in childhood, isn't it much more interesting when something unexpected, dark, or silly happens instead? What if the Big Bad Wolf was not quite so big and bad? Have you ever wondered what kind of person would enter a strange family's home, break their furniture, eat their food, and then sleep in their beds?  

    The Wolf Disguised as Grandmother

    Not only are these stories fun to read and share; they are also beneficial to young children's development. Novel and unexpected situations encourage critical thinking and problem solving. As the stories unfold, they will encounter scenarios which will challenge their views and expectations. This in turn allows them to experience new outcomes as well as stimulate future creativity in both real life and imaginative play. As you read these stories (or any story for that matter) with your child, take a moment (before, during, and after) to discuss what they think might happen versus what is written in the narrative. Suspend your disbelief and have a vivid, imagination-filled conversation.  

    Each week during story time and read alouds, I mix in a few irreverent tales or two. Here are some of my favorites:

    Ten Big Toes and a Princess Nose by Nancy Gow
    Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. This charming tale-in-verse tells the story of true love discovered  through inner beauty.

    Dimity Dumpty: The Story of Humpty's Little Sister by Bob Graham
    Why did Humpty Dumpty really fall off of that wall? Why was he up there in the first place? Finally, Humpty's little sister, Dimity, can tell the whole story about what  really happened that fateful day.

    The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pigby Eugenios Trivisas
    A BIG BAD PIG! This piggie has a bad attitude, and the wolves better watch out! The tables are turned in this mixed up tale.

    Three Cool Kids by Rebecca Emberley
    These goats live in the big city (maybe NYC) and  are ready to move on to a greener lot. There is only one problem: a huge rat is guarding the street. Visually striking collage illustration throughout the book adds to the story.

    Rubia and the Three Osos by Susan Middleton Elya
    ¡Qué tontería! A bilingual interpretation of the beloved Goldilocks tale. A small twist offers a moral. 

    Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox
    Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your chair. Chair?! Uh, oh.  Will the prince ever make his way up to the tower, or will silly Rapunzel squish him before he can save the day?

    The End by David LaRochelle
    Are you the type of person that flips to the last page to read the end of the story  first? Well you are in luck, read this backwards tale from end to beginning (starting on the first page). 

    That Is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems
    Would you follow a fox into the deep, dark woods? Would you go into his kitchen? Would you smell his pot of bubbling soup? That is not a good idea, but  the choice is yours.  Don't say that you weren't warned. A surprise ending  to a classic tale.

    Wolf's Coming by Joe Kulka
    The wolf is stalking through the forest and creeping in the shadows. His teeth are sharp, and his tummy is rumbling. All of the forest creatures are on the run, but they may not be able to hide from the wolf in time. (This is one of my favorites for pre-school classes! The suspense builds until the very last page.)

    What are some of your favorite mixed-up or not so happily ever after tales?

    Check out some classic fairy tales.

    Books about fostering creativity in children.

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    roller derby

    In New York City in 1948, Midge "Toughie" Brasuhn and Gerry Murray duke it out on the roller rink for the benefit of thousands of TV viewers. Gerry is on the Manhattan team, and Toughie is skating for Brooklyn. Leo Seltzer founded the derby in 1935. Men play each other and women play each other, but the fans go crazy for the ladies. 

    Gerry and Toughie joust each other, both attempting to knock the other off her feet. Each skater wants to break away from the crowd, traverse the oval, and pass rivals for points. These players do not shy away from knocking people over the sides of the rink in order to score.

    The women love the jostling. Gerry charms the referees with her flashy smile so that they do not call her on fouls. By contrast, no one gives Toughie any breaks. They elbow each other in the ribs. Toughie is the villain, Gerry is the hero, and, secretly, they are friends.

    Roller Derby Rivals by Sue Macy, 2014

    This book is based on a true story. I like the fact that the rules of the game are listed on the first page of the book. The sport of roller derby is being considered for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

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    butterfly hill

    Ten-year-old Celeste is living an idyllic life in Chile with her parents, relatives, and friends Gloria, Lucilia, Marisol and Cristobal... until things start changing. At first, the changes are slow, but frightening. Celeste's schoolmates start "disappearing," the principal of the school is replaced with military personnel, and the president of Chile is killed. A dictator replaces him. People who proclaim democratic beliefs or disagree with the dictatorship are declared "subversives" or dissidents, and they simply fall off the face of the earth. No one knows where they went, and they are removed from the street or their homes by people who put them in cars without license plates. Fear rules the lives of most Chileans.

    Then Celeste's parents, physicians who help the poor, receive death threats, and they must go into hiding. All Celeste has is her Abuela Frida and Nana Delfina. Then they inform her that she must go to live near Boston with her Tia Graciela. America is a new sensation for Celeste. She lives in the country and learns English, in addition to the Spanish, Russian, German, Hebrew and Arabic that she knows. She meets Kim and her brother Tom, who are exiles from Korea. She makes friends with Charlie, his twin Meg and Valerie—after they stop making fun of her. Life seems okay for her, and then Celeste receives word that it is safe for her to return to Chile.

    I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin, 2014

    It was great to read a story about a girl who becomes a librarian. I love the multicultural, bilingual nature of the book and the illustrations within.

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    It is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, so to celebrate these writers we asked our staff here at NYPL to name some of their favorites. Here is what they had to say:

    "So it was that we soaped ourselves in sadness and we rinsed ourselves with hope, and for all that we believed almost every rumor we heard, almost all of us refused to believe that our nation was dead." Viet Thanh Nguyen's masterful debut novel, The Sympathizer, not only sheds light on the Vietnamese experience in America, but takes a penetrating look at the lasting legacies of war. —Miriam Tuliao, Selection Team

    Last year I read A Tale For the Time Being  by Ruth Ozeki. It's a little bit surreal in parts, uncanny and dreamy like a Murakami story, which I like. And it regularly reminded me of a film I love, Ikiru, for extra obvious reasons that might be spoiler-y if I wrote them out. It manages to both be a bit of a meditation and well as a story with suspenseful moments. And it's all very human and real, despite being surreal at points. I feel like my describing it is a bit of an injustice but I liked this one quite a lot. I found it enveloping and delicate and descriptive and interesting. —Carmen Nigro, Milstein Division

    Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age is one of a series of novels that Kenzaburō Ōe has written about a father’s relationship with his developmentally challenged son. There are a number of books, both fiction and nonfiction, that describe the trials and gifts of raising a child in those circumstances, but few achieve the emotional and intellectual insights that is achieved here. Combining moving descriptions of this special father/son relationship filtered through ruminations on the writings of William Blake, Ōe demonstrates why his Nobel Prize for literature was well-deserved. —Wayne Roylance, Selection Team

    The collection of short stories titled Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharensap, a young Thai-American author, is a raw, hilarious, and personal take on Thai cultural norms, family relationships, romance and friendship. The author offers incisive views about Thai interactions with farang (tourists), and also tackles the issue of Cambodian immigration in Bangkok communities. Lapcharensap will have you laughing through your tears with this poignant collection of stories. —Sherri Machlin, Mulberry Street

    I just finished All the Birds, Singing by Australian/British author Evie Wyld. It was dark, mysterious and not at all uplifting, but still fantastic and engaging. The story works backwards, pulling you to the end. The mystery of what happened to this reclusive female sheep farmer unravels through to the last pages. Kokoro by Natsume Soseki is a Japanese classic that quietly and beautifully crosses generations to look at traditional values placed against new ideas and examines the loneliness embodied in a young student and his aging mentor, "Sensei." —Jessica Cline, Mid- Manhattan

    I always enjoy a good book by Chang Rae Lee. His insightful writing is the type that sticks with you long after you're done reading it. I just started his most recent book (it came highly recommended by some of my colleagues!), On Such a Full Sea, and I can't put it down. My favorite novel of his (so far...) is his debut, Native Speaker. Filled with spies, political intrigue, family drama, and sharp cultural and emotional observations, Native Speaker has a lot to say about the immigrant experience in America, and it says it with a punch that might just make you reconsider everything you thought you knew about race and class in our communities. —Nancy Aravecz, Mid-Manhattan

    I would recommend the book Hawaii by James Michener, a great novel about Asian-American experience both pre and post American statehood. Also, the Sano Ichiro Detective Series by Laura Joh Roland. Set in the Tokugawa period Japan; this series follows Sano Ichiro as he solves mysteries for the Shogun while following the code of Bushido and surviving the Tokugawa Court. —Brian Baer, Mulberry Street

    I enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. It is a fascinating of a young girl growing up after being sold into slavery to a geisha house. The story of her transformation is eloquently described, but not so much that it hides the sadness and pain that is she also experiences. —Sandra Farag, Mid-Manhattan

    I have so many recommendations I am going to need my own list inside this list.

    • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is the hot book right now encouraging minimalism, Zen and joy in your everyday life, something Japanese culture has always embraced. 
    • Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang is the genesis for the current ABC comedy, a hilarious, profane and thoughtful look at Asian-American culture and family.
    • I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight by the comedian Margaret Cho (who paved the way for a show like Fresh Off the Boat) is fierce, funny and feminist. All things great! And I'm not just recommending her because I get mistaken for her on the street all the time.
    • American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is essential graphic novel reading—this book changed the genre and shared the ABC experience in a new way. 
    • Echoes of the White Giraffe by Sook Nyul Choi - I read this as a teenager coming to terms with being an adopted Korean in a white American family. It's not specifically about adoption, but I was so hungry for insight into Asian culture (in rural Oklahoma) and so very grateful for this book.
    • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua garnered intense attention from both supporters and critics. Did Chua further stereotypes or bring understanding to the biological nature of Asian mothers? The world may never know, but I think it's worth a read for any mother or perfectionist. Happy Asian-Pacific Heritage Month!

    —Leslie Tabor, Associate Director, Manhattan East

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    Enrollment Now Open! SAGEWorks Boot Camp.  This two-week long, intensitve training course will provide participants with essential skills to lead them toward job placement.  The first session starts on Monday - Friday, from June 8 to June 19, 9:30 am - 2:00 pm.  Participants must attend every day at the SAGE Center, 305 7th Avenue,  15th Floor, New York, NY 10001.

    NYC Fire Department Information Session for career opportunities: EMT, Paramedic , Firefighter on Monday May 18, 2015 at NYS Department of Labor,  Queens Workforce  1 Career Center, 168-25 Jamaica Avenue 2nd Floor, Jamaica, New York, 11432.

    Super Soccer Stars will present a recruitment on Monday, May 18, 2015, 10 am -  2 pm, for Assistant Soccer Coach (P/T Seasonal) (15 openings)  at the New York State Department of Labor, 9 Bond Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.

    The Avondale Care Group will present a recruitment on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 10 am - 2 pm for Certified Home Health Aides (Live-in, Live-out)  (15 openings) at 9 Bond  Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.

    SAGEWorks Workshop  - Employer Panel - Get tips and advice direct from employers who hire!  This free employer panel is for people who are in the process of seeking or obtaining employment.  The panelists will provide insight into what hiring managers/HR departments are truly looking for in the ideal candidate.  This workshop will be held on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 10 am - 12 pm at the SAGE Center, Great Room A, 305 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10001.  SAGEWorks assists people 40 years and older in learning relevant, cutting-edge job search skills in a LGBT-friendly environment.

    Ideal Properties Group will present a recruitment on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 10 am - 2 pm,  for Real Estate Agent ( 15 openings)  at the New York State Department of Labor - Workforce 1 Career Center, 250 Schermerhorn Street,  Brooklyn, NY 11201.

    SAGEWorks Workshop - How to Seek Employment Within the Banking /Financial Industry - Learn tips from employees of JP Morgan Chase, on how to get a job within the banking /financing industry.  This workshop will be held at The SAGE Center, 305 7th Avenue, 15th Floor, New York,  NY 10001.   SAGEWorks assists people 40 years and older in learning relevant, cutting-edge job search skills in a LGBT-friendly environment. 

    AAAA Secure Driving Schools will present a recruitment on Thursday, May 21, 2015, 10 am - 2 pm for Driving Instructors (15 openings)  at the  NewYork State Department of Labor , 9 Bond Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

    DAV/RecruitMilitary will present New York All Veterans Job Fair on Thursday, May 21, 2015, 11:00 am - 3:00 pm at Hotel Pennsylvania, 401  7th Avenue, New York, NY 10001.  "Five Steps to Informed Financial Transition" seminar presented by USAA Wealth Management at 10:00.  This will provide information as you consider future retirement.

    The New York City Employment and Training Coalition (NYCE&TC) is an association of 200 community based

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    organizations, educational institutions, and labor unions that annually provide job training and employment services to over 750,000 New Yorkers, including welfare recipients, unemployed workers, low-wage workers, at-risk youth, the formerly incarcerated, immigrants and the mentally and physically disabled. View the  NYCE&TC Job Listings.

    Digital NYC is the official online hub of the New York City startup and technology ecosystem, bringing together every company,  startup, investor, event, job, class, blog, video, workplace, accelerator, incubator, resource and organization in the five boroughs. Search  jobs by category on this site.

    St. Nicks Alliance Workforce Development provides Free Job Training and Educational Programs in Environmental Response and Remediation Tec (ERRT).  Commercial Driver's License, Pest Control Technician Training (PCT), Employment Search and Prep Training and Job Placement, Earn Benefits and Career Path Center.  For information and assistance, please visit St. Nicks Alliance Workforce Development or call 718-302-2057 ext. 202. 

    Brooklyn Workforce Innovations helps jobless and working poor New Yorkers establish careers in sectors that offer good wages and opportunities for advancement. Currently, BWI offers free job training programs in four industries: commercial driving, telecommunications cable installation, TV and film production, and skilled woodworking.  

    CMP (formerly Chinatown Manpower Project) in lower Manhattan is now recruiting for a free training in Quickbooks,  Basic Accounting, and Excel. This training is open to anyone who is receiving food stamps but no cash assistance.  Class runs for eight weeks, followed by one-on-one meetings with a job developer. CMP also provides Free Home Health Aide Training for bilingual English/Cantonese speakers who are receiving food stamps but no cash assistance. Training runs Mondays through Fridays for 6 weeks and includes test prep and taking the HHA certification exam. Students learn about direct care techniques such as taking vital signs and assisting with personal hygiene and nutrition. For more information for the above two training programs, email:, call 212-571-1690, or visit. CMP also provides tuition-based healthcare and business trainings free to students who are entitled to ACCESS funding.

    Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) trains women and places them in careers in the skilled construction, utility, and maintenance trades. It helps women achieve economic independence and a secure future.  For information call 212-627-6252 or register online.

    Grace Institute provides tuition-free, practical job training in a supportive learning community for underserved New York area women of all ages and from many different backgrounds.  For information call 212-832-7605.

    Please note this will be revised when more recruitment events for the week of May 17  become available.

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  • 05/14/15--07:56: Ask the Author: Paul Czajak
  • Seaver the Weaver Cover

    Don't miss Paul Czajak, author of the Monster & Me series, at KidsLIVE! Author Talk May 21 at the Battery Park City Library.  Paul will be signing copies of his latest picture book, Seaver the Weaver, and the first forty children in  line will receive a free copy of the book! Librarians and kids at the Battery Park City Library asked Paul some questions to get to know him better, and you can find his funny answers, and more details about Seaver, below!

    When and where do you like to read?

    I will read pretty much anywhere. Though my two favorite places are the car—don't worry, only when I'm not driving. And bed—only when I'm not sleeping—because unlike Dr. Seuss, I cannot read with my eyes shut.

    What were your favorite books as a child?

    My favorite picture books were the Berenstain Bears, especially the one when they go on a picnic. I love the illustrations in that one. Then, when I first started to read on my own, I loved the Boxcar Children. Then for some reason I fell out of reading. It wasn't until I was 12-13 years old, when I started reading again, that a friend gave me a copy of The Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings. Great series, which rekindled my love for reading.

    Would you rather fly or be invisible?

    Fly! I would save so much money on travel!

    What's your favorite thing to see or do in New York?

    I love, love, love the Museum of Natural History. No matter how many times I go I never get bored.

    What books had the greatest impact on you?

    The Pawn of Prophecy: it's the book that got me reading again. For some reason I didn't like to read anymore as a kid. But really, it was just that I hadn’t found the right book. There is a book out there for every reluctant reader; it's all about finding it.

    Sometimes you write about scary things, like spiders and monsters. Are there any animals that you are afraid of?

    I wouldn't say I'm afraid of any animals. I do, however, have a healthy respect for them. In other words, I think bears are the coolest but I would never want to be in a room with one!

    Would you like to name a few writers out there you think deserve greater readership?

    Well, Paul Czajak immediately comes to mind. Other than him, I can't possibly think of anyone else I would rather read. Ok, I'm just kidding. For chapter books, Jen Malone has a great sense of humor, and for picture books, Carol Gordon Ekster and Ben Clanton are great!

    What comes first, writing or illustrating?

    Always the writing. I can't even imagine trying to draw my stories first. The words almost force themselves out onto the page before I even have a chance to draw. Also, I can't draw to save my life which is why I have illustrators.

    What was the last book you recommended?

    Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, and A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. Not to the same person. That would just be wrong.

    What do you plan to read next?

    I am in the middle of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman.

    About the Book

    Seaver is an orb spider, and orb spiders only make round webs—or do they? Inspired by the constellations he sees in the sky above, Seaver tests the limits by weaving sharp shapes. Courageous Seaver meets with success; his patterned webs are snagging snacks from the sky around him while his brothers and sisters wait with boredom in their beautiful round webs, unnoticed by passing insects. Soon Seaver, confused about being different, is the toast of the sky, and is happy to share his shape-making skills with his large family.

    Author Bio

    Paul Czajak got an F with the words “get a tutor” on his college writing paper and after that, never thought he’d become a writer. But after spending twenty years as a chemist, he knew his creativity could no longer be contained. Living in New Jersey with his wife, and two little monsters, Paul has rediscovered his passion for writing and looks forward to sharing his stories for years to come. In addition to the Monster & Me™ series, Paul is also the author of Seaver the Weaver.


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    birthday ball

    Princess Patricia Priscilla and yellow cat, Delicious, lead a life of luxury... but it's boring, boring, boring. The princess longs to attend school as the peasant children do in order to add some excitement to her life.

    Herr Rafe, the schoolmaster, has to learn to be stern so that the children will listen to him.

    Contentious conjoined twins Cuthbert and Colin argue about everything, including what to wear.

    Identical triplets work in the kitchen, but their true passion is singing, and their voices harmonize to delight the ear.

    Duke Desmond is the ugliest person ever, but his staff has been trained to perpetually complement his appearance.

    Prince Percival of Pustula always dresses in black, and he is the vainest of vain.

    The lives of this fantastic cast of characters intertwine in most unexpected ways.

    The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry, 2010

    I love the illustrations by Jules Feiffer.

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    Since the Masterpiece Classic series, Wolf Hall, finished up this week on PBS, fans of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies will surely be missing something while Mantel finishes part three of her dramatic series about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII.

    Reading (and watching) Wolf Hall was such an engrossing experience that it sent me into a tailspin where I read anything I could get my hands on about England during the Renaissance era or earlier. Here’s a sampling of some of the best books—fiction and non—I found. Happy reading!

    Princes in the Tower

    The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir
    After the abrupt death of King Edward VI in the year 1483, his two sons, age 12 and 9 were sent to the Tower of London to prepare for the coronation of the eldest son, Edward V. Instead of being crowned king, however, Edward and his younger brother are murdered in the tower. Was it their uncle, the notorious Richard III? Or someone else? Weir’s treatment of this spooky and tragic episode of English history is a riveting investigation that mystery lovers and history buffs alike will thoroughly enjoy.

    Queen of Scots

    The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
    Dorothy Dunnett is a seriously underrated English writer with an amazing imagination and some really stunning writing chops. The Game of Kings is the first book in her Lymond Chronicles series—an engrossing set of books that take a look at the complex political climate in the Scottish aristocracy in the 1500s.

    Queen of Scots by John Guy
    If you loved Hilary Mantel’s characterization of Thomas Cromwell, you’re really going to like John Guy’s biography of Mary, Queen of Scots. Like Cromwell, Mary earned herself a posthumous reputation as a cold, cruel, and calculating political mastermind. Guy’s work scales back that conception of Mary, and adds realistic layers of humanity and nuance to her character.

    A Journey Through Tudor England

    A Journey Through Tudor England by Suzannah Lipscomb
    This history book takes a unique approach to English history, by giving readers an intimate glance into the halls, castles, and churches in which much of Tudor intrigue and drama took place. Perfect for the armchair traveler who wishes she could travel back in time!

    The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
    If you’re like me, this bestseller has been on your reading list for ages. Fans of Wolf Hall will not be disappointed upon finally picking this one up! The plot is centered around a group of memorable characters working to build a massive Gothic cathedral in the 12th century. It features glistening details of art and architecture of the time, and an accurate portrayal of medieval life in England.


    1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro
    Here’s your chance: walk side-by-side with Shakespeare for a full year! In the final days of the sixteenth century the Bard writes some of his greatest plays (Hamlet, As You Like It, Julius Caesar), the famous Globe Theater is built in London, and England is embroiled in bloody wars with Spain and Ireland. This book is a really fun and unique glimpse into the economic, political, and creative climate of Shakespeare’s time.

    The Sixth Wife

    The Sixth Wife by Jean Plaidy
    Anne Boleyn tends to overshadow Henry VIII’s other five wives in our dramatic and literary imagination, but all six women certainly led fascinating lives. Part of Plaidy’s Tudor Saga, The Sixth Wife is Katherine Parr’s chance to shine. We learn all about her love life before the King (spoiler: she married three times and had a thing for Thomas Seymour, the King’s former brother-in-law), her love for writing and literature, and her scandalous religious affiliations.

    Foundation by Peter Ackroyd
    Did you know that prior to the Norman Invasion of 1066, English nobles had face tattoos and dyed their hair green, blue, and orange? Or that Many of the roads in England today are the very same ones used by the Romans in the first centuries of the first millennium A.D.? Foundations is Ackroyd’s first book in his sweeping history of England, and it’s brimming with mind-blowing facts about England and the many people who have lived there through the ages—all expressed in a most entertaining way. Check out his history of the Tudors, too!

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    Surveying Landscape for Enemy. Image ID: 115706

    This past August we marked the centennial of the Great War, a cataclysm that forever altered our political map. In the course of the war, no less than three major empires fell and were dissolved and new countries were created with the stroke of a pen or born in fire and blood. This was a truly global conflict which was far from limited to the muddy fields and trenches of Western Europe that have persisted in the popular imagination. Major land campaigns were conducted all over the map, from the fields of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Alpine mountains, the coasts of Turkey, the Caucasus, Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, Mesopotamia, and more. Naval engagements likewise ranged throughout the globe.

    We are still living with the effects of decisions made in the heat of that conflict and in its direct aftermath. The modern countries of Saudi Arabia and Yemen were among those created from the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire; and the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 between France and Great Britain with the acquiescence of Imperial Russia determining the modern borders of Syria and Iraq are just a few of many such examples.

    Map Collections

    With the passing of the centennial of World War I there has naturally been a lot of interest in the conflict. Here at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building we have an exhibit of WWI propaganda as it related to the American involvement in the conflict in “Over Here: WWI and the Fight for the American Mind” (now extended to August 15, 2015, so get in and see it). And at the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division we have no shortage of maps of all kinds that date from the war.

    Among the hundreds of maps from the Great War, you'll find commercial maps produced for sale to the general public, pictorial propaganda maps, newspaper maps intended to illustrate the unfolding conflict, and military maps produced for a variety of purposes including training, planning offensive and defensive operations, troop dispositions and more. The languages printed on the map mirror the international range of the conflict.

    Portion of "Carte de la guerre Europeenee..." [1914]
    Portion of "Carte de la guerre Europeenee..." [1914]

    One map that exemplifies the global nature of the conflict in a variety of aspects. Deceptively entitled, in French, a “Map of the European War,” it is actually a world map that depicts the major combatants and their various colonial holdings.

    This map is all the more remarkable for being produced in one of those colonies, being published in Hanoi by the government of French Indochina, and was intended for use in schools there. The map is in French as well as Chinese, Khmer, and Vietnamese. The yellow regions show countries and colonies of the Central Powers and the green regions show those of the Allied Powers while pink is reserved for neutral countries. As can be seen, this map was produced some time prior to the entrance of the United States into the war on the side of the Allied Powers.

    Commercial Maps

    The London based Stanford’s Geographical Establishment was a prolific commercial publisher of maps whose aim was to elucidate various aspects of the war to the public. Many of their maps show the state of the different fronts, from the more familiar Western front in Europe to even going so far as to illustrate the loss of German colonial possessions in Africa. Stanford’s maps are particularly noteworthy for the creative way they represent this information.

    The Battle Fronts of Europe
    The battle fronts of Europe - Stanford's Geographical Establishment [1917]

    A number of their maps use an interesting technique which helps contextualize geographic information about the war by means of comparisons with geographical regions more familiar to the viewer. Above is one such map which illustrates the scale of the fighting in Europe by superimposing a map of the major European fronts over a map of the continental United States. It had long been a common understanding that the United States spans vast distances and by means of this juxtaposition the long distances covered by the front lines of the European Theater are made starkly clear.

    The Map Division also has maps from American commercial firms such as the familiar Rand, McNally & Co. and many others. There are also a large number of German commercial maps from such firms as Dietrich Reimer, Freytag, Justus Perthes and others. Many of these German maps were produced as sets of war maps called kriegscarte.

    "On his way" New York Herald Magazine Section, April 15, 1915

    Newspaper Maps

    Newspapers were prolific publishers of maps and often printed them as illustrative accompaniments to stories on the latest developments of the war. Newspapers also frequently published maps as separate series meant to be kept for reference by the newspaper buying public. The Map Division has a set of such maps published by the Brooklyn Daily Eagleand other local papers.

    As well as being more or less reliable sources of information about the war, newspapers were also conduits of propaganda. This spectacular example is from the New York Herald and shows the Dardanelles, site of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign then just getting underway—in fact, the date of the newspaper is same as the inaugural date of the campaign.

    Trench Warfare, Trench Maps

    “A map is a weapon.”

    —Lt. Col. E.M. (Ewan Maclean) Jack, Royal Engineers, Maps GHQ, British Expeditionary Forces.

    The Great War is well known for stimulating many innovations on the battlefield. From the introduction of the tank to aerial combat and reconnaissance, the use of poison gas, unrestricted submarine warfare and more. So striking and transforming were these innovations that each of them has become emblematic of the war. Military cartographic and surveying techniques are one often overlooked area that had at least as great an impact on how the war was fought than any of these.

    World War I was, more than any other conflict to that point, a war of maps. Maps were used by the militaries engaged in the war for many purposes: making defensive preparations, planning offensives, training, etc. Probably the most important and innovative use of cartography in the war was in the use of maps for carrying out artillery strikes and barrages without having to preregister targets and adjust fire. In this way artillery barrages could be conducted with complete surprise. Creeping or walking barrages could be executed which enabled infantry to advance on enemy lines almost directly behind a moving curtain of deadly artillery fire, giving rise to the phrase “over the top." In a war in which it has been estimated that more than 60% of all casualties were caused by artillery these were deadly techniques. Known as predictive fire, this technique was a major innovation of the war and depended upon highly accurate surveying and detailed draftsmanship and was originally known as “map shooting.”

    The most numerous of the military maps in the collection at the Map Division are the series of French artillery or trench maps used to plan such missions called the Plans Directeurs. There are well over 400 of these maps that are so evocative of the images of muddy trench warfare that dominate the popular imagination of life on the Western Front during the First World War.

    Detail of the eastern portion of a map of Amiens, June 10, 1918 showing French trenches in red named after polar explorers and vessels. Note the names Shackleton, Erebus, Scott, Amundsen, and others. The western side of the map is named after British explorers of Africa such as Burton, Speke, Stanley and Livingstone; and the southern trenches carry names of famous scientists such as Boyle, Huxley, Faraday and Kelvin.

    These maps were produced by by a specialized cartographic military unit created at the beginning of the war and assigned to each division of the French army known as the Groupe des Canevas de Tir des Armées, or GCTA. It was their job to survey the terrain and update the maps used by the French Army based on direct observation, aerial reconnaissance, sound ranging, and other methods.

    British and German military maps were both based upon the Belgian Bonne projection, a method of projecting the curved surface of the earth onto a flat surface which accurately preserves distance. In 1915 the French began basing their military cartography on the Lambert projection. This projection preserves bearing and proved much more accurate and useful for plotting artillery missions, particularly when distances could be ascertained by other methods.

    The American Expeditionary Forces adopted the French Plans Directeurs trench maps for their own purposes and set up a special topographic unit of its own, the 29th Engineer Regiment, whose purpose was to print and update these maps for both the American and French militaries. At least 40 of the maps in the collection of the Map Division are examples of these American reprints. There are also a smaller number of American Expeditionary Forces maps that were produced using the French GCTA methods but which are American originals. These maps came into the collections of the New York Public Library in 1920 from the American Colonel S.T. Mackall who served with the US Military Intelligence Division of the AEF; the remaining majority of the maps were a gift from the French Ministry of War.

    These highly detailed maps show German positions, including entrenchments, barbed wire entanglements, machine gun emplacements, artillery batteries, airfields, barracks and other positions in blue ink overprinted on the map and, when shown, in red ink for French and Allied positions. One of the most interesting aspects of these maps are the various code names given to the trenches. Trench names were given both for Allied and German positions and were generally applied systematically, e.g. a network of trenches named after prominent Arctic explorers, or British scientists or after other locations, places in Paris or London, etc. Sometimes names given to German trenches by the French were disparaging but one occasionally is given pause when coming across a name such as “Trench of the Valkyries.”

    Maps that include details of French and Allied trenches and other emplacements are often stamped “secret” in red ink, this is often accompanied with the admonition in bold red ink that the map is under no circumstances to be taken into the front line trenches or on aerial reconnaissance missions.

    Map of Etain showing the front lines on August 3, 1918 with symbols denoting plans for artillery mission on August 24. This is one of the Plans Directeurs maps printed by the 29th Engineers regiment of the AEF for the French 2nd Army.

    Some of the most interesting trench maps in this collection are those that depict a location just before and subsequent to some of the major battles of the war. Such as the two maps of Dun-sur-Meuse depicting the area a few weeks before and then after the Argonne-Meuse offensive of September-November 1918, which was the principal military engagement of the American Expeditionary Forces. The contrast between an earlier map covered mostly in blue, German, lines, and the subsequent map in red ink showing Allied victory can be quite affecting.

    The American Expeditionary Forces maps are a fair mix, some being based on the French maps but many are original American cartographic work or were based on British or even captured German maps. A number of these maps show plans for operations including the Battles of St. Mihiel, Soissons, Argonne-Meuse, and others, with details about troop dispositions, artillery barrages and more. Others were printed just after the war and used to plan troop dispositions, display occupation zones, or used to analyze previous battles.
    Other military maps in the collection include various British trench and other military maps that were a gift from the British Embassy, and even a set of seven Russian military maps from 1914-1916 analyzing various battles including the disastrous Battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes.
    Sheet 1. Belfort. Westlicher Kriegsschauplatz. Hubert Koehler. 1914.

    German maps in the collection include a set of thirteen maps from early in the war analyzing the Battle of the Marne which threatened Paris and the Battle of Tannenberg on the Eastern Front but only a couple of German trench maps on the pattern of the highly detailed French and British trench maps described above. There is also a very colorful set of four small scale topographic maps showing French fortification plans on the Western Front from 1914 of which one, of Belfort, is shown here.

    Notice that the map, despite being for military use, has no grid or graticule like that of the French trench maps that would be used for plotting artillery barrages. That they resemble road maps more than trench maps tells us a lot about the expected course of the war in 1914.

    Books about World War I Maps and Mapping

    In addition to the many maps dating from the war, the Map Division has a number of books about the maps and mapping techniques used during the war.

    The American Expeditionary Forces published a book entitled Instructions Concerning Maps which tells you everything you need to know to read and interpret the French and American Plans Directeurs trench maps.

    The British scholar Peter Chasseaud is one of the most prolific and authoritative sources on cartography and World War I and he has written many books on various aspects of the topic:

    Mapping the First World War - Peter Chasseaud

    Mapping the First World War, by Chasseaud makes a great overview of the topic, detailed but not overwhelming. A great place to start.

    If you'd like to investigate the use and mapping of trenches during the war, Chasseaud's Topography of Armageddon: A British Trench Map Atlas of the Western Front 1914-1918, is a key work, along with Trench Maps, a Collectors' Guide: A Cartobibliography of Maps Printed at the Ordnance Survey, OBOS and by Field Survey Companies/Battalions in France, 1915-1918.

     battlefields of the great conflict from above by Simon Forty

    Additionally, his Rats Alley: Trench Names of the Western Front, 1914-1918 is a detailed study and gazetteer of British trench names with extensive notes on French and German trench naming practices can be found in the General Research Division. Chasseaud is also the author of many other books about mapping and the war, with books such as, Artillery’s Astrologers: a history of British survey and mapping on the Western Front 1914-1918, about the British military cartographic organizations and Grasping Gallipoli: Terrain, Maps, and Failure at the Dardanelles, 1915.

    One last recommendation is Simon Forty's altas of the war's battlefields, Mapping the First World War: Battlefields of the Great Conflict from Above.

    The maps described above are all (and then some!) available in the collections of the Map Division. Unfortunately, the majority of the maps in the collection aren't discoverable through our online catalog, nor have they been digitized. If you have any questions about the maps or how to access them, reach out to the staff at

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    Little Red Riding is the story of a girl and a big bad wolf in the woods. The original story was written by Charles Perrault (1628-1703). Here are some recommendations of modern retellings of the classic Red Riding Hood tale:

    Scarlet by Marissa Meyer is a story inspired by Little Red Riding Hood. The story features a girl named Scarlet Benoit and a street fighter named Wolf. Together Scarlet and Wolf join Cinder to try to fight the Lunar Queen.

    Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce is about Scarlett and Rosie March who were almost killed by werewolf. After their near death encounter the sisters become werewolf hunters…

    Princess of the Silver Woodsby Jessica Day George Petunia is the youngest of the dancing princesses. After being attacked on her way to visit a neighbor she and her sisters get a chance at ending the family curse.

    Red Riding Hood film "Valerie is a beautiful young woman torn between two men. She is in love with a brooding outsider, Peter, but her parents have arranged for her to marry the wealthy Henry. Unwilling to lose each other, Valerie and Peter are planning to run away together when they learn that Valerie's older sister has been killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village."

    Crimson Bound(e-book) by Rosamund Hodge was inspired by Little Red Riding Hood and "Girl with No Hands" In Crimson Bound "Rachelle Brinon, who has been trained by her aunt to serve as a woodwife. It's her responsibility to protect the village from the dark magic of the forest. While venturing into the forest, Rachelle is eventually tricked by a humanlike wolf creature, to whom she becomes bound to it by a thin crimson thread that only she can see. The connection is filled with passion and also gives her superhuman skills with the possibility of immortality. Now one of the king's assassins, Rachelle has many responsibilities and soon realizes that there are just as many dangers and threats within the kingdom as they are without. Loyalties are stretched when she's assigned the job of protecting Prince Armand, and a romantic triangle develops among Rachelle, the prince, and the captain of the bloodbounds. Teens will gladly join this quest to find out if there's a happy ever after in this intricate web of friendship, fear, loyalty, love, and hate."

    Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde presents eight versions of Little Red Riding Hood.

    In the TV show Once Upon a TimeRed Riding Hood is a werewolf shapeshifter. Once Upon a Time Season 2 and Season 3 are also available.

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll is a graphic novel of "fairy tales gone seriously wrong, where you can travel to “Our Neighbor’s House”—though coming back might be a problem. Or find yourself a young bride in a house that holds a terrible secret in “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold.” You might try to figure out what is haunting “My Friend Janna,” or discover that your brother’s fiancée may not be what she seems in “The Nesting Place.” And of course you must revisit the horror of “His Face All Red.”

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    It is in part thanks to our many visitors—online, local and from around the world—that the Schomburg Center is proud to receive the National Medal for Museum and Library Service at 11 am on Monday, May 18, at the White House.  And as a thanks, we'd like to invite you to watch the ceremony live via the White House website

    Schomburg Director Khalil Gibran Muhammad will accept the award on behalf of the institution, along with Community Member and Junior Scholars Instructor Tarik Bell (watch his video here), Alvin Starks, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Mary Yearwood, Acting Director of Collections and Services, and Maira Liriano, Associate Chief Librarian of the Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division

    For those of you who will be live tweeting the event, we encourage you to use #NationalMedal in your tweets, and make sure you tag the Schomburg Center on Twitter and Facebook

    Happy viewing!

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    Our reader asked: 

    “Can you recommend any books (realistic fiction—about romance, friendships, family, etc.) with female protagonists who are in their early to mid-20s? I used to be into YA books, but I feel like I've outgrown them and I'm having trouble finding fiction I can relate to, about women who are within my own age range.”

    We can definitely help you with that and thanks for asking.

    Reno, the protagonist of Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers, breaks land speed records. She cuts conceptual art experiments into dry, desert floors. She takes on love and politics in the New York art world. And eventually, she finds herself on the other side of the world, more-or-less floating, through heartbreak and a revolution. Unique in its style, yet immensely readable, The Flamethrowers describes a world of phonies, lovers, players, capitalists, revolutionaries, and geniuses. Which is to say: It describes a world a lot like ours. —Chad Felix, Social Media

    Rebecca, an artist, goes to Athens to find inspiration and meets a man with a talent for language and another who is an archaeologist. Their atypical love triangle is heat drunk, lost, and full of mystery in Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy who writes in a style that will have you dreaming of love. —Jessica Cline, Mid-Manhattan

    How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran is a rollicking story of an English everygirl who remakes herself through rock and roll and self-deprecation. For extra fun, treat yourself to Moran's accent via audiobook. Friendship by Emily Gould has characters who are a little beyond their 20s but I still think it will appeal. Two best friends navigate NYC and their evolving relationship. Sex and the City this is not—and that's a good thing. —Leslie Tabor, East Manhattan Libraries

    The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides is set in 1982 and follows three college friends from Brown University through their senior year and into their first year of life after college. —Stevie Feliciano, Hudson Park

    I'd recommend The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.  It's about a group of friends who first meet at summer camp, but stay friends, for the most part, into adulthood.  The characters are all vividly drawn, and you will relate to them as they struggle with relationships, jobs, friendships, jealousies, and fight to keep life "interesting." —Ronni Krasnow, Morningside Heights

    In Mira Jacob's lovely book The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing we meet Amin as she turns 30. She is dealing with the lingering grief of her brother's death and her father's sudden descent into dementia, while cultivating—and occasionally sabotaging—her own career as a photographer.  The novel moves between New Mexico present and India past. Amina's observant, humorous voice shines throughout as she narrates beautiful, tiny moments of family, friendship and relationships. —Caitlyn Colman-McGraw, YA Programming

    "I’d lived in New York long enough to know that the city was just like a guy I was dating there: shiny and mesmeric as mercury and just as elusive. Slipping away right as I reached for it. I longed to be somewhere I could touch and be touched by." Val Wang's funny, freshly told memoir, Beijing Bastard: Into the Wilds of a Changing China, is about art, history, rebellion and the misadventures of youth. —Miriam Tuliao, Selection Team

    In Jojo Moyes' Me Before You,  26-year-old Louisa Clark lives a small, cautious life when she suddenly finds herself unemployed. With no skills or interests to speak of, she reluctantly takes a job caring for Will, a quadriplegic, formerly of great adventure and success. Befriending Will, Louisa learns what it really means to live life to the fullest. —Megan Margino, Milstein Division

    I suggest Demon Hunting in A Dive Bar by Lexi George. "It's Last Call On Earth" ... Yes, okay, the entire premise is a bit (completely) outrageous, but at no point is the absurdity not unconditionally embraced and well leveraged. If you're looking for a good laugh, you can tolerate the humidity outside New Orleans, and you're open to the idea of love between a demon dive bar owner (okay, half demon dive bar owner) and a demon hunter who are also friends with a piano-playing ghost, then Lexi George has you covered. The situations, the characters, and the plot all go from go from weird to ridiculous as you turn the pages. A fantastic read for summer and a Romance Writers of America award finalist for 2014! Warning: Read at home or be laughing in public. —Jaqueline Woolcott, AskNYPL

    Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan - Three generations of the same family collide (including a young 20-something) when they all spend the summer together at the family's beach house in Maine. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell - Best friends Beth and Jennifer spend their days at their desk jobs at a newspaper trading long emails about their lives and gossiping about their co-workers. Lincoln, the IT guy who monitors the company emails finds himself a peeping tom on their stories and slowly realizes he's falling in love with Beth. This is a love story of emails and missed connections. Well known YA author Rowell finds the sweet, honest humor in this light romance. Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner -The plans of four women--including a college student egg donor, a working-class surrogate mother, a wealthy woman, and her stepdaughter--are thrown into turmoil when the wealthy woman's husband suddenly dies and names the stepdaughter the unborn baby's guardian. Perfect Timing by Jill Mansell - The normally predictable Poppy meets Tom, a perfect stranger, the night before her wedding to her staid fiance, Roy. Unable to forget him she cancels the wedding and moves to London to try and find him. Turns out her new life and fun new friends make Poppy's life anything but predictable. A British author, Mansell's books are always laugh- out-loud funny, sexy, romantic and touching. Luckily, there are a lot to choose from. This one just happens to be my favorite. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan - Before she died tragically in a car crash at the age of 22, recent Yale grad Marina Keegan was about to set the New York theater and literary worlds on fire. Luckily, she left behind a treasure trove of essays and short stories that perfectly articulate the struggle to become the person we want to be and impact the world in a (hopefully) meaningful way.  —Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street

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    Melvin Dewey loved to read, and he made up a system to classify nonfiction books in 1876 that is still used in public and school libraries today. the 0 - 999 system places books with similar subjects together. Look for numbers on the spine of the book to determine which subject area the book is in and where it might be located.

    000s - computer books
    100s - psychology and paranormal books
    200s - religion books
    300s - economics and customs
    400s - language
    500s - science and mathematics
    600s - pets, cooking, fashion and anatomy
    700s - arts and sports
    800s - literature, plays and poetry
    900s - history, geography and travel

    Have journeys through books. You can find books on every subject in the public library!

    Do You Know Dewey?: Exploring the Dewey Decimal System by Brian Cleary, 2013

    I love the illustrations of bookstacks and adventures in this book.

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    Stage Door Canteen
    Stage Door Canteen, NY. Photograph by Florence Vandamm. Image ID: ps_the_4036

    We have received many questions recently about this, the secondary key image for the exhibition. In these months between the anniversaries of VE and VJ Days, there has also been a rise in interest about NYPL and especially LPA holdings on World War II activity comparable to those featured in the Wachenheim Gallery exhibition on World War I, Over Here: The Fight for the American Mind. So, welcome to the Stage Door Canteen.

    We discovered the image when the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts museum staff and summer 2014 interns were asked by our GRAMMY Museum colleagues to document Sinatra’s early 1940s NY career. The photograph appears in the section of the exhibition devoted to his early recordings and fan following. The GRAMMY Curator, Bob Santelli, wanted a photograph of him close to his audience—a physical set-up unsuited to the huge picture palaces in which the big bands played. He liked this image since it shows the young women leaning forward with adoring smiles and the young men leaning away, scowling. There is a low ceiling with a narrow staircase in the back. So where was he? Most of our photographs of Sinatra in this period were in a nightclub, theater or recording studio, but none of those seemed right for this audience. The aprons were a clue. We were especially pleased to discover that the image might show him performing at the Stage Door Canteen below the 44th St. Theater in New York, conveniently close to the Paramount Theater stage door.

    The New York Canteen, and others across the country, were projects of the American Theatre Wing, War Service Inc. Like the World War I era Stage Women’s War Relief, the Theatre Wing developed and funded a variety of activities from fundraising to hospital work, staffed by volunteers. The Canteens had the greatest visibility and were memorialized in popular songs and films. While there were daily performances for the service men/women, the Canteens were best remembered for the stars serving food or clearing dishes. It was good for publicity and undoubtedly lived on in the memories of visiting servicemen. Frank Sinatra was known for his committment to volunteer performances at state-side bond rallies and military camps. Those short aprons worn by the adoring fans made us question the identification briefly. The standard volunteer aprons had a bib section and were decorated with wide red, white and blue vertical stripes. And most of the standard badges, decorated with a variant of the Canteen logo of a comedy mask with wings, cut off the Greek comedy mask under the nose. The male volunteers were given the full face mask. We wondered whether the younger, occasional volunteers were issued the red apron to wear at work. Curators worry about this kind of thing.

    Many of the sources of Stage Door Canteen information in books and on-line bemoan that little primary source material exists. But, we discovered a rich collection here at LPA that included design detail because the papers came from women for whom design details mattered. The theater women volunteering with the Canteens included those in management and technical fields. The Papers of Emeline Clark Roche (*T-MSS 1996-016) , a set designer and technical director, include technical drawings for the New York Canteen, as well as the mobile stage used for the Wing’s Lunchtime Follies, which provided free performances at the NY/NJ docks and factories. The collection also includes the Papers of Jane Cowl, famed actress and dramatist who had been actively involved with both the Stage Women’s war Relief and the American Theatre Wing.

    LPA has a collection of photo scrapbooks documenting the New York and other Canteens, as well as other Wing activities. The key image was there, but, like most of the photographs, are uncredited. There are credited press images images by Florence Vandamm and Talbot (Joseph Abeles). The blog’s second image is a Vandamm showing (left to right) Lynn Fontanne, Alfred Lunt and Tallulah Bankhead serving coffee. It may have been taken at the opening on March 2, 1942, when newspapers reported that they were all present. More of the scrapbook content and a group of small format photographs can now be found in the Digital Collection.

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    This is a story about the oldest library in Texas, the Dr. Eugene Clark Library. This library is over a century old, and it was suffering from disuse due to its old, outdated books. Then, RoseAleta Laurell changed all of that. The new librarian revitalized the library by ordering new books and magazines. People were enjoying the library again! She even led a Christmas parade through the town to advertise the library. However, her fundraising efforts to create a children's room failed to raise enough money. The library needed $40 K.

    However, RoseAleta would not let her dream of children in the library die. She camped out on the roof. People in the community begged her to come down, but she refused until enough money had been raised. In the end, she created a lovely children's room with nice furniture and children's books.

    Librarian on the Roof: A True Story by MG King, 2010

    This is based on the true story of librarian RoseAleta Laurell.

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  • 05/18/15--09:31: Rock 'n' Read: Thee Oh Sees
  • Thee Oh Sees
    Image courtesy of Thee Oh Sees

    "I've always liked how books tend to just fall into your life whether by recommendation or lending or even trash picking."

    Flannery O'Connor The Complete Stories

    Thee Oh Sees, fronted by John Dwyer, are a Los Angeles band whose sound has been described as garage rock, psychedelic rock, post-punk, art rock, noise… am I missing any? It's no surprise Dwyer's literary tastes are just as diverse as his band's sound. The prolific group has released eight full-length albums in six years (how David Baldacci-esque!). Despite this high musical productivity, Dwyer always finds time to read. Check out what books Dwyer is into, and rock 'n' read forever!

    Has any one book in particular had a lasting effect on you?

    That's a tough one, but I'd have to say Flannery O'Connor's collected short stories. I waited 'til I was in my 30s to read her and I'm not sure why but I felt like a fool for putting her off til then. But really, so, so many writers have had lasting impressions it's not really a true answer.

    What is a classic that you've never gotten around to reading but would like to one day?

    Volume 5, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale

    Faulkner's work in general. I've been told countless times I would love it. I tried when I was younger but didn't slip into it.

    What genre do you prefer?

    I've been a classic sci-fi freak as of the past couple years. I'm almost through all of Philip K. Dick's work (which I'm sure you know is an army of stories). But, I'll read anything really. I'm a fan of fiction but I have dabbled in non-fiction. Mostly biographies- Miles Davis, Moondog, even Benny Hill.

    What are you currently reading? If nothing at the moment, what was the last book you read?

    Right now I'm reading a collection of Philip K. Dick stories called We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.

    Are you looking forward to any books to be released soon?

    As much as I read I don't really keep up with current authors or their releases. I've always liked how books tend to just fall into your life whether by recommendation or lending or even trash picking. I do occasionally go out of my way to find new releases like the Alex Chilton [lead singer of Big Star and The Box Tops] book that came out not long ago called A Man Called Destruction. I haven't gotten around to it yet. A huge pile of books await.

    A Man Called Destruction

    While on tour, are you able to get much reading done?

    I read almost every night. Short stories mostly on tour. Exhaustion lends itself well to a brief tale.

    Do you have any tour memories involving books or libraries?

    Honestly, we used to always go to libraries on the road because they were first to have free internet, so we would do all our routing and advancing for shows there as often as possible. Also, free newspaper reading!

    Do you do any other writing aside from songwriting?

    Not really. I wish. I would imagine to get skills as a writer, you'd have to be pretty dedicated to it, and music takes up most of my time.

    Have any specific authors, books, and/or poems influenced your songwriting in any way?

    Absolutely. I am constantly inspired by a line or image in writing. I have a book I keep next to the bed full of seeds for ideas; many are inspired by settings conjured by authors.

    "E-books gives me the creeps. I have to look at a screen enough as it is. A book is a break from that side of life."

     The Autobiography
    "The Miles Davis autobiography is pretty off the chain."

    Do you have any favorite memoirs by musicians?

    The Miles Davis autobiography is pretty off the chain.

    Do you prefer physical books or e-books?

    100% physical books. I'll go to my grave smelling a page and falling asleep with one over my face. E-books give me the creeps. I have to look at a screen enough as it is. A book is a break from that side of life.

    Do you have a library card? If so, which library system are you a member of?

    The last I had was in San Francisco. Sadly I don't have one in Los Angeles…YET!

    Now you know what John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees reads, but do you know what the band sounds like? NYPL currently circulates two albums byThee Oh Sees. Place a hold today!

    Carrion Crawler/the Dream EP
    Carrion Crawler/The Dream - 2011
    Putrifiers II
    Putrifiers II - 2012

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    Want to read the year's best journalism? The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism is given annually to journalists whose books have brought clarity and public attention to important issues, events, or policies. In other words, the award recognizes the earth-shattering, eye-opening, and world-changing.

    The 2015 finalists, chosen by a committee of librarians, are: The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anand Giridharadas, No Good Men Among the Living: America, The Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes by Anand Gopal, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited by Louisa Lim , and Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos. The winner, chosen by a Selection Committee chaired by James Hoge, will be announced May 26, 2015.

    This year, NYPL's Jessica Strand reached out to our finalists by phone to talk about government intrusion on mourning, the man who tried to save his attempted murderer from the death penalty, the publication fears of writers, the new China, and how the United States contributes to the Taliban's hold in Afghanistan. We hope you enjoy the interviews, read the Bernstein nominees' books, and check out our suggested titles for further adventures in nonfiction.

    The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited by Louisa Lim
    In Louisa Lim's The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited, the author shares the stories of witnesses of and participants in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. While speaking with Jessica Strand, she discussed her desire to delve into the legacy of the Tiananmen resistance and the Chinese government's attempts to wipe out the recorded history of the protests. She spoke about one mother who was put under house arrest after laying offerings at the site of her son's death: "In today's China an act of memory like that, remembering someone who died in 1989, who has become such a sensitive topic, a public memorial is almost seen as a public challenge to the state."
    If you liked The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited, try Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in Chinaby Rowena Xiaoqing He.

    The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anand Giridharadas
    Anand Giridharadas is the author of The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas, a book about Raisuddin Bhuiyan's campaign to save the white supremacist who attempted to kill him, Mark Stroman, from receiving the death penalty. The narrative is one that Giridharadas describes as pointing to larger issues in post 9/11 America, even as it zeroes in on two lives: "There are some people who, just by looking at them more closely and inviting a reader to do the same, you are able to in some ways take a biopsy of the world." He spoke with Strand about the class divisions in the United States that have created a fertile ground for violence.
    If you liked The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas, try Peculiar Institution: America's Death Penalty in An Age of Abolition by David Garland.

    The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
    Exploring extinctions past and present, Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History asks the extent to which man-made climate change threatens our flora and fauna. She explained to Strand how the book began with an interest in the amphibian crisis. Strand asked Kolbert about her reaction the critical praise garnered by the book, to which Kolbert responded, "You never know what's going to happen with a book. Your main worry with a book is that you're going to write it and it's just going to drop into the ocean and the waves are going to envelop it and you'll never hear from it again. And I feel very fortunate that that didn't happen."
    If you liked An Unnatural History, try Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

    Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
    From 2005 to 2013, Evan Osnos lived in China, an experience that would lead him to write Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China. "In writing my book, I was trying to encapsulate this extraordinary period of change, but also to frame the fact that China's economy has continued to grow at the same time that its political system has stayed, in many ways, in place," he told Strand. He shared the story that has stayed with him the most since reporting for the book, the story of a young man named Michael who radically transformed his life.
    If you liked Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, try China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa by Howard French.

    No Good Men Among the Living: America, The Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes by Anand Gopal
    Anand Gopal was living near the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Seven years later, he moved to Afghanistan, where he investigated the Taliban. He told Jessica Strand about the eye-opening narratives he heard while reporting: "There was one story after the other about people who they believed had been wrongfully arrested, imprisoned, killed—innocent people who had been killed often times because the U.S. had allied with local warlords."
    If you liked No Good Men Among the Living: America, The Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes, try The Tender Soldier: A True Story of War and Sacrifice by Vanessa M. Gezari.

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    Where I'm Reading From: The Changing World of Books by Tim Parks
    Being a librarian, a book like this is catnip for me. Why should you read it? Because Tim Parks is a witty, thoughtful, and incisive cultural commentator, and these essays on the difficulty of translating, the negative influence of writing programs, and what is wrong with literary prizes, among other topics, will engage you if you care at all about the state of the book world.

    The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
    Poet and critic Nelson has written a memoir about her marriage to fluidly-gendered artist Harry Dodge. In this brave, intellectual, no-holds-barred account, she explores the boundaries and complexities of queer family-making, transgendering, being in love, pregnancy, and the shifting landscape of family arrangements.

    33 Days by Leon Werth
    The book that Antoine de Saint-Exupery (The Little Prince) smuggled out of France is finally being published in English 70 years after the fact (It wasn't published in France until 1992). Werth's account of his exodus from Paris in 1940 just ahead of the German troops is told through a hallucinatory magical-realist prism, but the truth of it is not compromised: an important document of the Nazi occupation of France.

    The World Is On Fire: Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of the Apocalypse by Joni Tevis
    Tevis grew up in the Pentecostal heartland of South Carolina and has always had a dreaded fascination with the Apocalypse. In this collection of essays, which can loosely considered to be an apocalyptic travelogue, she visits the Nevada test site, North Dakota ghost towns, the site of Buddy Holly's plane crash, and the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. Tevis's lambent prose and revelatory insights make this a dark trip well worth taking.

    Lord Fear: A Memoir by Lucas Mann
    In Lord Fear, Mann delves into the life and death of his older half brother Josh, who died of a heroin overdose when the author was thirteen. Although the book is called a memoir, Mann admits that the stories his brother's friends tell and his own memories are subjective and not necessarily the truth. However, that doesn't stop him from trying to examine the various pieces: shards of memory, Josh's poems and journal entries, and reflections of those who knew Josh in order to make some sense of the void that Josh's death created.

    The Ingenious Mr. Pyke: Inventor, Fugitive, Spy by Henry Hemming
    A breezily told, rollicking tale about a brainy Jewish boy who becomes a pseudo-James Bond in order to fight the Nazis. Geoffrey Pyke was many things in his short but remarkable life—journalist, stock broker, inventor, educational theorist, and possible Soviet spy—and Hemming confidently guides the reader through all the hairpin turns of his subject's journey. A perfect nonfiction read for fans of Alan Furst's fiction.

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    Katniss wouldn't have been Katniss without her faithful companion by her side in The Hunger Games.

    But it's been five long years since the final installment of the series came out, and new better halves are taking their places next to Katniss's loyal baker.

    Check out some other young adult books with memorable secondary characters.

    The title character of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick, has an unlikely best (maybe only) friend: his elderly next-door neighbor, Walt. When Leonard plans to kill his former best friend and then commit suicide, Walt plays a pivotal role in the events that unfold.

    The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau, is set in the dystopian aftermath of the Seven Stages War. When Cia is chosen as a candidate to lead society out of its darkest depths, she must figure out whether she can trust Tomas, her longtime friend who's always on her side... or is he?

    Romance is in the warm breeze in Jenny Han's The Summer I Turned Pretty. Belly's two best friends—both boys—start looking at her differently when her appearance changes, and nothing is the same come fall. (First book of a trilogy.)

    Sidekicks, by Jack Ferraiolo, stars a teen sidekick who fights alongside a superhero. But being Phantom Justice's sidekick isn't the glamorous job it's cracked up to be, and Bright Boy starts to consider going it alone.

    Callie takes center stage as a set designer in Raina Telgemeier's Drama, but her best friend Liz is also a major player in the middle-school's musical. A host of lovable young characters populate this beautifully drawn graphic novel about finding your tribe.

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    He's written a memoir called Not My Father's Son. He's Eli Gold on The Good Wife. He's been Nightcrawler in X-2: Men United and Hamlet and Mr. Elton in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. He's Alan Cumming, and we're so pleased to share his recent appearance at Books at Noon in this week's episode of the New York Public Library podcast. Cumming discussed acting and his favorite way to spend time in New York City.

    Cumming has acted in over four dozen films, as well as onstage and on television, yet he didn't set out to be an actor. Instead, he explained, his acting began as an extension of childhood play:

    "I sort of think that acting should be like play, like kids playing. I really think that the kind of spirit you should take into it is exactly about when kids are just making things up and pretending, and if you overanalyze it like a lot of American theater and film practitioners do, then I think that you lose that levity and that honesty and that authenticity. So I guess that I kind of liked acting before I knew you could be an actor. I sort of used it when I was a little boy. I made up stories for myself, running around the woods with my dog. But that was before. I didn't grow up thinking, 'I want to be a movie star.' It wasn't until I was in high school and I did a play and it was really the first thing I was ever good at."

    One of his skills as an actor is his ability to move evocatively. Cumming admitted that it's the first way that he gets into character:

    "I do think of characters in a physical way first, like how they move. I think I get into the character by their physicality first. I don't know why, but that's always something that's been my thing, and I do therefore play much more of a range of types. And also had a bit of dance in my past helps. I think when I look around, it's harder to observe people when you're being observed, but when I do get a chance to people watch, I think I look at people in a very sort of physical way. Very physical manifestations of things  get me first of all."

    Though born in Scotland, Cumming now calls New York City home. He explained that the city is one that offers the possibility of excitement, even when excitement isn't sought:

    "In New York every day when you walk out of your door is an adventure potentially. I really do, and I love that. It's been rare of late because I've been so crazy busy, but now I'm kind of back. I just love going out and just wandering. I don't get to do nothing very often, but doing nothing in New York it's the most exciting place to do nothing in. I just like wandering around and taking my chances."

    You can subscribe to the New York Public Library Podcast to hear more conversations with wonderful artists, writers, and intellectuals. Join the conversation today!

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