Friday, December 14, 2007

A Salty Piece of Land

The foot of snow outside has me thinking about warmer climates so in the spirit of that I thought I'd write about Jimmy Buffett's A Salty Piece of Land. We all know Buffett's music but you might not know that he's also written a few books, the most recent of which is the above mentioned. Like his other books and his music, this is pure escapism. Tully Mars is a cowboy on the lam who packs up his horse, Mr. Twain, and sets out for new adventures south of the border. In his travels he is befriended by lots of interesting characters, including the one I found most interesting, Cleopatra Highbourne, a 101 year old schooner captain. If this book were a movie Katherine Hepburn would be Cleopatra. He also becomes a fishing guide, is pursued by bounty hunters, restores an old lighthouse, and falls in love. There are way too many coincidences and "in the right (or wrong) place at the right time" instances for any of this to be a bit believable, but that's what escapism is all about. This is a fun read that makes me want to head south and meet people just like the people that Tully meets. A Salty Piece of Land, by Jimmy Buffett, is available in the Norton High School Library for anyone who wants to leave the snow behind for a few hours.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass, Book 1 of Philip Pullman's Dark Materials Trilogy, has been made into a movie and is being released this weekend so I thought this might be a good time to talk about it. These books were wildly popular in the late 90s and early 00s but I've only just recently gotten around to reading them and have yet to read The Amber Spyglass (Book 3). The Golden Compass is set in a world that is like ours, but also quite different, in which people are deeply connected to their Daemons, an external, animal manifestation of a soul. Lyra Belacqua is an eleven year old orphan being raised by the scholars and servants of Jordan College in the Oxford of her world. She spends her time playing war with her friend Roger and the other groups of children around Oxford, but all that changes when she overhears conversations about a mysterious substance called dust, and a group called the gobblers who are kidnapping children. After her friend Roger goes missing Lyra embarks on a journey to rescue him from the gobblers and learn more about dust. The alethiometer (golden compass) helps her on her quest. During her journey Lyra also learns about her parents and the existence of other worlds. I don't read a lot of fantasy but I really enjoyed the first two books and look forward to reading the third. Maybe I'll even see the movie during Christmas vacation. If you've read the book or see the movie, tell me what you think?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Do you have a cell phone? Who doesn't? My gradparents are in their eighties and they have one (though it's rarely, if ever, turned on). We've all heard of biological warfare in which superbugs are developed to be released on a particular target, wiping out a large portion of a population. We worry about some countries who might be developing these weapons to use against the United States. But what would happen if a weapon was developed that could be disseminated through cell phones? Perhaps a pulse could be developed that, when transmitted through a cell phone, would reprogram the brain, much like a computer virus plays havoc with a hard drive. This is the premise of Stephen King's book Cell, which I read recently on the recommendation of a student. The book opens with a typical day in downtown Boston but soon the events are anything but typical as people begin to spontaneously and violently attack total strangers and drive vehicles into buildings. Clay Riddell, in Boston on business, manages to stay out of harm's way and quickly deduces that cell phones are causing the people to go crazy. Clay hooks up with a small group of others who managed to avoid the pulse and together they try to survive, figure out what is happening, and travel north in search of Clay's son. I don't read a lot of Stephen King but I did enjoy this, though it has its flaws. It has a very deliberate Night of the Living Dead feel to it and if it were made into a movie I don't think I'd care to see it. The premise is certainly terrifying in light of the prevalence of cell phones in our lives, but King leaves too many questions unanswered. On the plus side, the reader is hooked within the first few pages as the action starts quickly and abruptly. I'm not a big fan of horror but in this case, as with many of Stephen King's books, there is just enough plausibility to make the reader wonder...what if?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Library Field Trip

During Tuesday's professional day I had the opportunity to take a field trip to North Attleborough High School's library media center. I have lots of wonderful colleagues in Norton, but as the only media specialist (or library personnel of any kind) in the district, I have no one in my "department" with whom I can share ideas. So it was a real treat to get out of the building to talk to and share ideas with other media specialists. I won't bore you too much with library shop talk but I would like to share some of the similarities and differences between North Attleborough's media center and Norton's media center.

The most glaring difference is certainly the level of staffing. North Attleborough has two full time certified library media specialists and one full time paraprofession. Norton, as previously mentioned, has just me. Yes, the student population is larger (around 1200 for them and around 700 for us) but they didn't seem to see any more students than I do daily and far fewer than I saw in previous years when we still had studies. One of the nice things about having a larger staff is that there is less waiting for help. There are times when I have several students asking for help, someone else wanting to check out a book, a teacher asking for a video, a jammed copy machine and the phone ringing all at once. An extra person or two would certainly help in a situation like that. They also have a few more computers than our library (NA 15 Norton 12) but ours are newer and, believe it or not, faster. Their collection is larger, but again, they do have more students.

The size of the facilities are similar, though the layout is a little different. Norton's library is much more open with more tables for group work while North Attleborough has tables on one side and individual study carrels on the side. About six years ago the Norton High School library got a face lift. New carpeting and tile replaced the worn and stained avocado carpeting and new paint and furniture completed the look. North Attleborough is still waiting for its turn. Like our library in the not so distant past, damaged carpeting is mended with silver duct tape. One thing they do have that we will never have, however, is natural light. Their media center has windows! What a treat!

Overall, it was a great experience and I wish I could do it more often. It's important to stay in touch with colleagues and share best practices. We talked about student projects, print and electronic resources, schedules, and teaching. You can't help but learn something new when you get out of your own environment and experience something new. I'd like to thank the media center staff at North Attleborough High for taking the time to share their program with me.

Monday, October 29, 2007

It's Great to be a Sports Fan in New England!

Wow, how lucky are we to be fans in New England? The Red Sox didn't just win, but swept the World Series last night (allowing me to finally get to bed at a reasonable hour tonight)!! What a season and what a future we have with our young players. The Patriots are having an incredible season - 52-7, wow! Tom Brady is on pace to smash records and Randy Moss just can't miss. And lets not forget BC football (ranked #2) - what a game Thursday night against Virginia Tech. Being a BU girl I typically don't cheer for BC but since BU doesn't have a football team anymore (another topic for another time), I will gladly support the Eagles in this case. The Bruins and the Celtics are also looking good. Patrice Bergeron had a scare on Saturday but he's been released from the hospital and the prognosos is good. My kids have no idea how lucky they are. They're 10 and 8 and have both been around for two Red Sox World Series wins and three Patriots Super Bowl wins. I asked them how many Super Bowls they thought I'd seen the Patriots win and Colin said 7 or 8. He was quite surprised when I told him that I'd only seen three. Times have changed for Sox and Patriots fans. Congratulations Red Sox and Red Sox Nation!

Monday, October 22, 2007


Yesterday was a beautiful day, sunny, and in the 70s. Unfortuantly, I spent over two and a half hours of that beautiful day at the emergency room with my son, Colin. He and his brother Sean were wrestling, as boys often do, and Sean ended up pushing Colin off his bed, causing him to hit his head on his bookcase. Needless to say there was a lot of blood and it didn't take long to determine that a trip to the emergency room would be necessary. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to grab a few books before heading out. We have been reading Judy Blume's Fudge series together and were close to finishing one so I brought the next one as well. Though he wasn't up to reading himself, he was happy to have me read to him. A young girl who was also waiting to be seen moved closer so she could enjoy the story, too. We had finished Fudge-a-mainia by the time we reached the second waiting area and were well into Superfudge by the time the doctor finally arrived in the examining room. Reading these books really helped pass the time for both of us. I can't imagine how miserable he would have been if he was simply sitting in the waiting room, feeling sorry for himself, with nothing to distract him (not to mention how miserable I would have been in his company). There are many instances in our lives that require waiting and down time. I highly recommend keeping something to read with you at all times, whether in your car or in your bag, so that you can make the most of wait times. Getting your oil changed or waiting to see the dentist is much more pleasant if you can read something you enjoy at the same time. Try it!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Teen Read Week

Yesterday marked the beginning of ALA's Teen Read Week with the theme of lol@yourlibrary. In keeping with this theme I thought I'd write about some funny books that I've enjoyed but it occurs to me that most of the books I read are not exactly laugh out loud funny. I know there are some, but I do tend to gravitate toward heavier subject matter. I will confess that even though it isn't meant to be a comedy, I did find myself laughing out loud at times while reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Some of the things that came out of Christopher's mouth were just hilarious! Another book that comes to mind is the Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin. Though I read this several years ago I do remember laughing out loud at some parts and crying at others. It was recently made into a movie starring Scarlett Johansson (which I did not see, so I won't comment). Jimmy Buffett's books are also entertaining and light. I really wanted to head to the tropics after reading A Salty Piece of Land. Some of his characters are outrageous. I guess I should branch out and start reading some lighter stuff. Does anyone have any suggestions to help me lighten up my reading?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Attleboro's Big Read

Like Norton's One School, One Book, program but on a much larger scale, the city of Attleboro has embarked on a reading program of its own. Called "The Big Read," this town-wide initiative has the town reading and talking about Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Bishop Feehan and Attleboro High Schools have gotten involved, as have many community groups, including the Larson Senior Center, the Attleboro Garden Club, and local churches. A variety of free activities have been developed to accompany the book, including numerous book discussions, guest speakers, and movie screenings. Though I read this book many years ago, I thought it was worth another look and I was not disappointed. The book recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, yet it is as relevent today as it ever was. This futuristic look at the dangers of censorship, the effects of mass media, and the dangers of a too powerful government (to name just a few), is particularly important today in the face of political correctness, reality TV, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you haven't read Farhenheit 451, or if like me, you haven't read it in a long time, it is well doing. Several copies are available in the Norton High School Library.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Why I Love SSR (Sustained Silent Reading)

We've been doing this SSR thing for about a month now and it seems that things have settled down a little. Students and teachers have had time to adjust to the idea and I'm hearing far fewer complaints, laments, etc. than I was hearing earlier in the year. Now I understand that change, even positive change, is often difficult and takes time. That said, let me tell you why I love SSR.

As you know, I love to read. What a treat it is to be able to do something that I already make time to do at home, in the middle of my work day! I have my SSR book that I keep here at school and I have another book that I am reading at home. I'll admit that I haven't progressed very far in my SSR book as I often have customers during this time, but I'm not complaining. I am happy to put down my book to assist students with finding books for themselves. Which leads me to another reason why I love SSR. Kids are reading more! I usually see several students per day during SSR who are returning a book that they have finished and looking for something new. Students also stop by between periods (an even better idea since it doesn't interfere with their reading time) to check out books. I realize that with homework, part-time jobs, sports, and activities, students feel crunched for time and often don't make time to read. Now that they have been given the gift of time, some kids have rediscovered their love of reading for pleasure. Hopefully facutly members are making the same discovery. If you haven't been completely converted to an SSR lover, please keep at it. Don't think of it as "one more thing I have to do," but rather, embrace this time. It's probably the only part of the school day in which you can read whatever you choose, just because...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Summer Reads

Though I love to read and do so all year, I always read quite a bit more during the summer. This happens mainly for two reasons. I have more time, as I am not in school, and I tend to stay up later because I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn. I read quite a few books this summer and will comment on just a few. First, I finally got around to reading Wicked by Gregory Maguire and I'm so glad I did. I've talked to people who didn't care for it or didn't even finish it, but I loved it! I'm not sure there's any point in ever watching The Wizard of Oz again, as my view of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, has been turned completely upside down. Not wicked, but rather, misunderstood, Elphaba is a likable outcast with a passion for animal rights. It is a little difficult to read knowing, as we all do, her eventual fate, but even harder when you realize that she's not so wicked afterall. I would love to see Wicked, the musical, and lookd forward to the book's sequel, Son of a Witch. Wicked is available here in the Norton High School Library.

The second book on which I must comment is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I have been a huge fan of the books since day one and the final installment did not disappoint. All of the questions are answered and the ending is very satisfying. Rowling does not sugar coat things as some of our favorite characters lose their lives along the way but I still came away with a good feeling at the end. Though I will miss reading about my friends at Hogwarts (where I secretly wish I could have been a student) this book, unlike its predecessors, left me with the sense of a journey completed and as a bonus, a glimps of the next geration. I will donate my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to the Norton High School Library after my family has finished passing it around.