North to Alaska

Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Canni...

Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Canning River tributary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is Alaska Day which celebrates the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States in 1867.  Alaska became the 49th state in 1959, the same year MoHi opened.  Yes, our school is as old as the state of Alaska (but nowhere near as cold).  Enjoy a virtual trip to “The Last Frontier” with these books:

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick (FIC Sedgwick) – Fourteen-year-old Sig is stranded at a remote cabin in the Arctic
wilderness with his father, who died just hours earlier after falling through the ice, when a terrifying man arrives, claiming Sig’s father owes him a share of a horde of stolen gold and that he will kill Sig if
he does not get his money.

Do not pass go by Kirkpatrick Hill (FIC Hill) — When Deet’s father is jailed for using drugs, Deet learns that prison is not what he expected, nor are other people necessarily the way he
thought they were.

Into the wild by Jon Krakauer (921 McCandless) — Tells the story of Chris McCandless, a twenty-four-year-old who walked into the Alaskan wilderness on an idealistic journey and was found dead of starvation four months later. The book attempts to discover what led
the young man to that point.

Right behind you by Gail Giles (FIC Giles) — After spending over four years in a mental institution for murdering a friend in Alaska, fourteen-year-old Kip begins a completely new life in Indiana with his father and stepmother under a different name, but has trouble fitting in
and finds there are still problems to deal with from his childhood.

Eagle blue : a team, a tribe, and a high school basketball season in Arctic Alaska by Michael D’Orso (796.323 D’Or) — Follows the Fort Yukon Eagles high school basketball team from its 2004 preseason to the 2005 Alaskan state championship, exploring the lives of its players and coach and examining the six-hundred-person village’s Gwich’in Athabascan heritage.

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen (FIC Mikaelsen) — After his anger erupts into violence, fifteen year-old Cole, in order to avoid going to prison, agrees to participate in a sentencing
alternative based on the Native American Circle Justice, and he is sent to a remote Alaskan Island where an encounter with a huge Spirit Bear changes his life.

Noah’s Legacy

Engraving of Noah Webster, from the frontispie...

Engraving of Noah Webster, from the frontispiece of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, Revised and Enlarged (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Dictionary Day!  Why today? Because it is the birthday of Noah Webster, who wrote the first American dictionary.  Dictionaries are a great reference tool, especially when you come across a word you don’t know, but they aren’t always boring.  Check out one of these out-of-the-ordinary dictionaries :

The dictionary of imaginary places by Alberto Manguel (REF 809 Man) – With more than 220 maps and illustrations that depict the lay of the land, this guidebook takes readers on a tour of more than 1200 realms invented by storytellers from Homer’s day to our own.

The American Sign Language handshape dictionary by Richard Tennant (419 Ten) – Contains illustrations of over 1,600 hand signs used in American Sign Language, with their English meanings, including one-hand and two-hand signs; grouped by initial handshape. Includes an alphabetical index of English words, with a page indication of the related illustration.

Why Eve doesn’t have an Adam’s apple :  a dictionary of sex differences by Carol Ann Rinzler (612.6 Rin) – Identifies and explains over a hundred physiological differences between men and women, arranged alphabetically and including notes and references and an index.

Bob’s your uncle : a dictionary of slang for British mystery fans by Jann Turner-Lord (427.09 Tur)

Or read about the greatest dictionary of all, the Oxford English Dictionary:

The meaning of everything : the story of the Oxford English dictionary by Simon Winchester (423 Win) – Traces the history of the English language while chronicling the creation of the “Oxford English Dictionary“, profiling the key figures in the dictionary‘s compilation.

The professor and the madman : a tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English dictionary by Simon Winchester (423.09 Win) – Explains how the “Oxford English Dictionary” was created and discusses the relationship between the editor and one of his most influential contributors, a psychotic murderer in one of England’s cruelest asylums.

Curiouser and Curiouser

Curious George (film)

Curious George (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is Curious Events Day.  While you are trying to puzzle out exactly what this wacky holiday means, indulge your curiosity with one of these “curious” books:

Unexplained : encyclopedia of curious phenomena, strange superstitions, and ancient mysteries by Judy Allen (001.9403 All) — Examines legends and mysteries that challenge human capacity for belief, including hauntings, parapsychology, superstitions, UFOs, and much more.

Never suck a dead man’s hand : curious adventures of a CSI by Dana Kollmann (363.25 Kol) — Crime scene investigator Dana Kollmann describes life on the job,
discussing investigation processes and science and presenting grisly details.

Thereby hangs a tale : stories of curious word origins by Charles Funk (422 P98) — Gives the stories behind the origins of hundreds of words in the English language.

The disheveled dictionary : a curious caper through our sumptuous lexicon by Karen Gorgon (423 Gor) — A dictionary of more than two hundred unusual English-language terms of international origin.

Packing for Mars : the curious science of life in the void by Mary Roach (571.0919 Roa) — Explores space travel and answers a number of curious questions about what life would be like without gravity.

Stiff : the curious lives of human cadavers by Mary Roach (611 Roa) — Explores how human cadavers have been used throughout history, discussing how the use of dead bodies has benefited every aspect of human existence.

Off the map : the curious histories of place-names by Derek Nelson (910.3 Nel) — Contains a wealth of fascinating and arcane information about maps and cartographers.

“Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman!” : adventures of a curious character by Richard Feynman (921 Feynman) — A collection of often humorous anecdotes about the 1965 Nobel Prize winner for physics.

The curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon (FIC Haddon) — Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor’s dog and uncovers secret information about his mother.

Curious notions by Harry Turtledove (FIC Turtledove) — In the San Francisco of a parallel-world in which Germany won World War I, Paul Gomes and his father are secret agents from our timeline. They run a shop called Curious Notions but their real job is to obtain raw materials for our timeline and guard the secret of Crosstime Traffic.

A Pirate’s Life for Me

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Avast, me mateys!  It’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day!  Aye, ’tis time again to hoist the Jolly Roger and sing a round of “Fifteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest“.

Or, you could just read one of these awesome pirate books.  And if you happen to see Cap’n Jack Sparrow anywhere abouts, send him to the library, please! :)

Pirate by Richard Platt (364.16 Pla) — Explores the world of pirates, from the Viking raiders to the buccaneers of the Spanish Main.

Under the black flag : the romance and reality of life among the pirates by David Cordingly (910.4 Cor) — Examines the popular image of pirates in modern times and compares it with the real world of pirates, who were more often murderers and thieves than romantic heros.

Life among the pirates by Stuart Kallen (910.4 Kal) — Discusses facts and myths about pirates who sailed and plundered on the seas from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.

Women pirates : eight stories of adventure by Myra Weatherly (920 Wea) — Recounts the life stories of eight notorious women pirates, including Grace O’Malley, Anne Bonny, and Cheng I Sao.


The pirate’s son by Geraldine McCaughrean (FIC McCaughrean) — Left penniless in eighteenth century England, fourteen-year-old Nathan Gull and his mousy sister Maud accompany Tamo, the son of a notorious pirate, to his homeland of Madagascar where they are all changed by their encounter with Tamo’s dangerous past.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (FIC Stevenson) — An innkeeper’s son finds a treasure map that leads him to a pirate‘s fortune.

Hello, Miss Kitty


Gunsmoke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On this day in 1955, the classic TV western “Gunsmoke” premiered on CBS.  Westerns were a big deal back in the day, when the TV schedule was full of shows like “Bonanza”, “The Big Valley”, “The Lone Ranger”, “Gene Autry”, “F Troop”, “Hopalong Cassidy”, “The Rifleman”, “Roy Rogers” and “Grizzly Adams.”  You don’t see them on TV much anymore; any ideas why?

Before westerns took over the TV screen, and even before they filled the movie screens, western stories were always one of the most popular genres in the bookstore.  If you’re feeling a little old-fashioned, try one of these western reads:

Daniel’s walk by Michael Spooner (FIC Spooner) — With little more than a bedroll, a change of clothes, and a Bible, fourteen-year-old Daniel LeBlanc begins walking the Oregon Trail in search of his father who, according to a mysterious visitor, is in big trouble and needs his son’s help.

The Ox-Bow incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark (FIC Clark) — A posse captures and hangs three men believed to be guilty of cattle rustling and murder, only to learn later that the men were innocent.

Sunshine rider : the first vegetarian western by Ric Lyndon Hardman (FIC Hardman) — In the late 1800s while on a cattle drive which takes him north from Texas, seventeen-year-old Wylie learns that it is no longer necessary to run from the father he never knew.

A little bit dead by Chap Reaver (FIC Reaver) — In 1876, after interfering with the attempted lynching of a young Yahi Indian named Shanti, eighteen-year-old Reece finds his own life in danger and becomes intimately involved in the future of Shanti’s people.

The righteous revenge of Artemis Bonner by Walter Dean Myers (FIC Myers) — Fifteen-year-old Artemis journeys from New York City to Tombstone, Arizona, in 1882, to avenge the murder of his uncle.

Jim Ugly by Sid Fleischman (FIC Fleischman) — The adventures of twelve-year-old Jake and Jim Ugly, his father’s part-mongrel, part-wolf dog, as they travel through the Old West trying to find out what really happened to Jake’s actor father.

Lonesome dove by Larry McMurtry (FIC McMurtry) — Two former Texas Rangers, Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call, leave their Texas ranch to lead a cattle drive to Montana, encountering outlaws, Native Americans, and ex-loves along the way.

Shane by Jack Schaefer (FIC Schaefer) — Shane rides into a Wyoming valley in 1889 and becomes involved in a feud between big cattle dealers and homesteaders.

by Edna Ferber (FIC Ferber) — Saga of a woman who leaves her home in Virginia to live with her new husband in Texas at the time of the great petroleum discoveries.


City of Angels

English: Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles a...

English: Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles as seen from Los Angeles City Hall. Photographed and uploaded by user:Geographer Category:Images of Los Angeles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The city of Los Angeles was founded on this day in 1781.  What is now a huge metropolis started out as a little village.  If you’ve ever been to Olvera Street or Union Station, you were near El Pueblo Historical Monument, which is the oldest part of the city.  The original name of that little village was El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula (The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Little Portion).  It’s no wonder we shorten it to L.A. now!

Celebrate L.A.’s birthday with some books about the “City of Angels”:

Tattoos on the heart : the power of boundless compassion by Greg Boyle (277.94 Boy) — Gregory Boyle shares parables he has collected during his twenty years as a pastor working in a violent Los Angeles neighborhood, demonstrating the impact of boundless, restorative love and compassion.

Absolutely maybe by Lisa Yee (FIC Yee) — When living with her mother, an alcoholic ex-beauty queen, becomes unbearable, almost seventeen-year-old Maybelline “Maybe” Chestnut runs away to California, where she finds work on a taco truck and tries to track down her birth father.

Sharp teeth by Toby Barlow (FIC Barlow) — Anthony, a kindhearted dogcatcher in Los Angeles, finds himself caught between his heart and his job when he falls in love with a female werewolf who has abandoned a pack of lycanthropes intent on dominating the city.

The waters and the wild by Francesca Lia Block (FIC Block) — Thirteen-year-old Bee realizes that she is a fairy who has been switched at birth with another girl who now wants her life back.

Life sucks by Jessica Abel (GN FIC Abel) — Teen vampire Dave Miller, facing the prospect of eternity stocking shelves at an all-night, vampire-owned convenience store in Los Angeles, becomes involved with Rosa, a mortal with a fascination for the dark side, only to find himself in competition for her attentions with a psychotic surfer-vamp.

Almost home by Jessica Blank (FIC Blank) — Follows a group of teenagers living on the streets of Los Angeles as they deal with the hardships of being homeless. There’s Eeyore, just twelve years old when she runs away from her privileged home, harboring a secret she’s too ashamed to tell anyone. Rusty winds up alone and broke when his older boyfriend ditches him in Hollywood. Quid has gone through too many foster homes to count. There’s Scabius, a rough, delusional punk from Utah. And Critter, a heroin dealer with movie-star looks. Laura, smart and restless, has run to L.A. looking for something bigger than the tiny town she comes from. And then there’s Tracy, the charismatic, damaged thread that ties them all together.

Beige by Cecil Castellucci (FIC Castellucci) — Katy, a quiet French Canadian teenager, reluctantly leaves Montréal to spend time with her estranged father, an aging Los Angeles punk rock legend.

Honey blonde chica by Michele Serros (FIC Serros) — Evie Gomez finds herself caught between two very different friends when Dee Dee returns to town after living a few years in Mexico City.

Life as a poser by Beth Killian (FIC Killian) — After being caught in a school scandal, Eva Cordes graduates early and moves to L.A. to live with her aunt, a top talent agent for teens, but Eva soon finds herself involved in even more scandals and learns that she cannot run for her problems.

Always running : la vida loca : gang days in L.A. by Luis J. Rodriguez (921 Rodriguez) — The author’s account of his coming of age is vivid, raw, fierce, and fearless.

Ball don’t lie by Matt de la Pena (FIC Pena) — Seventeen-year-old Sticky lives to play basketball at school and at Lincoln Rec Center in Los Angeles and is headed for the pros, but he is unaware of the many dangers–including his own past–that threaten his dream.

The Black Dahlia files : the mob, the mogul, and the murder that transfixed Los Angeles by Donald H. Wolfe (364.152 Wol) — Reveals new evidence in the 1946 murder case of wannabee actress Elizabeth Short, whose brutal murder was never solved, despite the efforts of hundreds of police officers and homicide investigators and the arrest of numerous suspects.

One of those hideous books where the mother dies by Sonya Sones (FIC Sones) — Fifteen-year-old Ruby Milliken leaves her best friend, her boyfriend, her aunt, and her mother’s grave in Boston and reluctantly flies to Los Angeles to live with her father, a famous movie star who divorced her mother before Ruby was born.

And still we rise : the trials and triumphs of twelve gifted inner-city high school students by Miles Corwin (371.95 Cor) — Presents the 1996-97 school year of twelve South-Central Los Angeles high school students who qualified for an elite gifted program because of their exceptional IQs, and how they persevered despite challenges from the physical landscape, their home life, and school administrations.

True notebooks by Mark Salzman (808.042 Sal) — Mark Salzman chronicles his first years teaching at Central Juvenile Hall, a lockup for Los Angeles’s most violent teenage offenders, discussing what his students taught him about life.

Zip It!

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Czech Wikipedia for th week, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the 100th anniversary of the patenting of the zipper.  Yes, the modern zipper has been around for a century, although it wasn’t called a “zipper” until 1925 when B. F. Goodrich registered the name as a trademark for the fastener on its galoshes. 

What would the world be like without zippers?  How many zippers do you use in a day?  Think about it : pants, jackets, purses, backpacks, boots, suitcases … there are a lot of zippers out there!

Read more about some of the inventions that we couldn’t do without in these books:

What a great idea! : inventions that changed the world by Steve Tomecek (609 Tom) — Steve Tomecek discusses 45 inventions that really shook up society. These big ideas inspired many other inventions and illuminate the changes that technology has made throughout time. From the hand ax and mathematics to IC chips and the laser, each technological touchstone in human history is described and placed in historical context. Each profile includes the who (if we know it), how the idea developed and how it works, the immediate impact of the idea, and the technological ‘children’ of the idea.

The greatest inventions of the past 2,000 years edited by John Brockman (609 Gre) — Presents answers from approximately one hundred of the world’s foremost scientific and creative thinkers to the question of what they believe is the greatest invention of the past two thousand years and why.

House of invention : the secret life of everyday products by David Lindsay (609 Lin) — The histories of twenty-one everyday items, such as disposable razors, Vaseline, intercoms, Muzak and threaded screws, are presented in this story of inventors.

It’s All Relative

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in ...

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in 1921 (age 42). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On this day in 1955, the world lost one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century (or maybe of any century) : Albert Einstein died in Princeton, NJ on April 18, 1955.  He won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921 and developed the theory of relativity, which changed our perception of space and time forever.  His equation e=mc² is one of the most famous and widely recognized in the world; it states that energy equals mass times the speed of light squared.

Learn more about Einstein and his effect on our understanding of physics in these books:

Albert Einstein by Struan Reid (921 Einstein) — Traces the life and work of the famous physicist, from his childhood in Germany and education in Switzerland through the development of his theories of relativity to his campaign for peace after World War II.

Einstein : a beginner’s guide by Jim Breithaupt (530 Bre) — An introduction to the life and work of scientist Albert Einstein that presents his work in historical context, explains the theory of relativity, and describes the predictions from Einstein’s theories on the future of the universe.

E = mc² : a biography of the world’s most famous equation by David Bodanis (530.11 Bod) — Chronicles the “life” of Einstein’s theory of relativity, discussing the scientific knowledge that led to it and describing its influence on the world, including the scientific discoveries it made possible.

What Einstein didn’t know : scientific answers to everyday questions by Robert Wolke (500 Wol) — Provides easily-understood scientific answers and explanations to everyday questions about how and why things work around the house, in the kitchen, in the garage, in the marketplace, and in the outdoors.

Einstein’s miraculous year : five papers that changed the face of physics edited by John Stachel (530.1 Ein) — Contains translations of the five papers by Albert Einstein that reshaped scientific thought and resulted in the theories of relativity and quantum theory.

Rock On!

English: Mick Jagger (right) and Ronnie Wood (...

English: Mick Jagger (right) and Ronnie Wood (left) of the Rolling Stones in concert in Chicago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Rolling Stones released their first album on this day in 1964 … that was 49 years ago!  The band is still going strong, which only goes to prove that “rock & roll is here to stay.”

Enjoy some books celebrating the cultural phenomenon that is rock ‘n’ roll:

Rock ‘n’ roll wisdom : what psychologically astute lyrics teach about life and love by Barry Farber (782.42166 Far) — Explores how rock and roll lyrics from the 1950s to the present have reflected psychological themes and conclusions such as love, identity, money, sex, religion, aging, and social justice.

The best in rock fiction edited by June Sawyers (FIC Best) — Contains a collection of twenty-one short stories and novel excerpts related to rock music, including selections by Ricky Moody, Don DeLillo, Nick Hornby, Tom Perrotta, T.C. Boyle, and others.

TV-a-go-go : rock on TV from American Bandstand to American Idol by Jake Austen (791.43 Aus) — Traces the history of rock music on American television, profiling shows such as “Saturday Night Live”, “The Ed Sullivan Show”, “American Bandstand”, and “American Idol” and individual television performances from various artists such as Elvis Presley and the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Strum and drang : great moments in rock ‘n’ roll by Joel Orff (GN 781.66 Orf) — A collection of true stories about music presented in graphic novel format.

Sweet nothings : an anthology of rock and roll in American poetry edited by Jim Elledge (811 Swe) — A collection of poems, either about, or influenced by rock and roll music, written by baby-boomers, with a section of contributors notes and comments on how the music inspired them.

The band name book by Noel Hudson (782.421 Hud) — Contains trivia and information on musicians and bands from more than thirty countries, and describes where they are from, the meaning behind the name, a brief history, and other related topics; and includes more than four hundred CD cover illustrations.

Body piercing saved my life : inside the phenomenon of Christian rock by Andrew Beaujon (781.66 Bea) — Examines the growing popularity of Christian rock music and the Christian pop culture in American society, and profiles some of the popular groups such as P.O.D., Switchfoot, Creed, and Evanescence.

Heavy metal Islam : rock, resistance, and the struggle for the soul of Islam by Mark LeVine (306.4 Lev) — Discusses the youth culture in the Middle East and Northern Africa, focusing on influences of Western popular music, which includes heavy metal, punk, hip-hop, and reggae; and describes the growing popularity despite government attempts to censor and control.

Great (F.) Scott!

The cover of the first edition of The Great Ga...

The cover of the first edition of The Great Gatsby (1925) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The great Gatsby  by F. Scott Fitzgerald was published on this day in 1925.  One month from today (May 10), the highly anticipated Baz Luhrmann film adaptation of the novel opens in theatres.  Set in the Roaring Twenties, The great Gatsby is one of the classic American novels.

If you’ve already read Gatsby but still want to read your way into the Twenties, try one of these novels:

The scrapbook of Frankie Pratt : a novel in pictures by Caroline Preston (FIC Preston) — In her scrapbook full of typed notes and a variety of vintage ads, photos, postcards, fabric swatches, and much more, Frankie Pratt describes her life from her graduation in high school in 1920 through her education at Vassar College, her travels around the world, and her efforts to find love and to achieve her dream of becoming a novelist.

Vixen by Jillian Larkin (FIC Larkin) — Seventeen-year-old socialite Gloria secretly longs to be a flapper, but now that she is engaged to Sebastian, she must leave her partying days behind, until her future is threatened by an alluring jazz musician who encourages Gloria to risk everything.

The diviners by Libba Bray (FIC Bray) — Seventeen-year-old Evie O’Neill is thrilled when she is exiled from small-town Ohio to New York City in 1926, even when a rash of occult-based murders thrusts Evie and her uncle, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, into the thick of the investigation.

Witness by Karen Hesse (FIC Hesse) — A series of poems express the views of various people in a small Vermont town, including a young black girl and a young Jewish girl, during the early 1920s when the Ku Klux Klan is trying to infiltrate the town.

Black duck by Janet Taylor Lisle (FIC Lisle) — Years afterwards, Ruben Hart tells the story of how, in 1929 Newport, Rhode Island, his family and his best friend’s family were caught up in the violent competition among groups trying to control the local rum-smuggling trade.

Choosing up sides by John H. Ritter (FIC Ritter) — In 1921 thirteen-year-old Luke finds himself torn between accepting his left-handedness or conforming to the belief of his preacher-father that such a condition is evil and must be overcome.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (FIC Winspear) — She started as a maid in an aristocratic London household, studied her way into prestigious Girton College at Cambridge, then became a front-line nurse in World War I. There she found — and lost — an important part of herself.  Now she has set up on her own as a private investigator, one who has learned that coincidences are meaningful; and Fate brings her a case that will force her to confront the ghost that has haunted her for over ten years.

An ocean apart, a world away by Lensey Namioka (FIC Namioka) — Yanyan, having always wanted to be a doctor, makes a difficult decision to leave the exciting Liang Baoshu behind in China and moves to New York to attend medical school.