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Thursday, May 31, 2012

A First Time for Everything

We get so many new books here that I often have a hard time deciding which ones I want to dive into first! This week I chose Robertson's Book of Firsts: Who Did What for the FIRST TIME by Patrick Robertson and I'd thought I'd share some of the interesting things I learned!

  • Remember those chain letters we used to pass to each other under desks in middle school (my mom still sends me these via email...)? Well the first known chain letter began circulating in September of 1888. It was sent from Ella A. Keagen in Hartford, VT to Helen E. Wood of Lebanon, N.H. The letter asked that the receiver send a dime to a Mrs. Geo. O. Haman in Sherwood, TN for the "education of poor whites" and then forward the letter to four friends.  While this chain letter was for charity, there were others later that asked for a pint of bourbon or $100. There was even a "panty chain" (how scandalous!) and "dating chain" at the University of California! (p. 103)
  • The first children's fiction was a set of fairy tales published in Paris in 1697 by Charles Perrault. The collection contained Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, Tom Thumb, Bluebeard, and The Fairies. Isn't it amazing how long these stories have been around? (p. 111)
  • I'm a huge fan of mysteries, so this final tidbit of information was right up my alley. The first Identikit was used in Los Angeles County in February of 1959.  The Los Angeles county police were able to succesfully identify the man responsible for the armed robbery of a liquor store! The kit consisted of master foils of 37 noses, 52 chins, 102 pairs of eyes, 40 lips, 130 hairlines, and and variety of mustaches, eyebrows, beards, glasses, wrinkles, and headgear. Witnesses would then select the items that matched the suspect and a drawing of the suspect could be made. (p. 245)
This book is full of tons of other interesting firsts! Want to know when the first double-dip ice cream cone was served? Curious who the first magician was? Dying to know just where pantyhose got their start? You'll have to come by and check the book out for yourself! Stay tuned for more interesting trivia we learn from books in our collection! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Adult Summer Library Program Announced

The Mississippi Library Commission (MLC) announces the start of the Adult Summer Library Program. This year’s theme, “Between the Covers,” has a two-part format and will begin Friday, June 1, 2012. One is the traditional Adult Summer Program with adults participating in reading programs at the library. The second format is an Early Literacy Program in which adults assist in introducing literacy skills to pre-school age children from birth to age five (5) through books and activities.

The adults in both programs are eligible to receive prizes. Eleven Mississippi casinos donated prizes for the Adult Summer Library Program. Participating casinos include Bally's Casino Tunica - Robinsonville; Boomtown Casino - Biloxi; Gold Strike Resort & Casino, Tunica; Grand Casino, Biloxi; Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Biloxi; Horseshoe Casino & Hotel, Tunica; Isle of Capri, Natchez; IP Casino Resort Spa, Biloxi; Riverwalk Casino Hotel, Vicksburg; Silver Star Hotel & Casino, Philadelphia; Golden Moon Hotel and Casino, Choctaw; and Treasure Bay Casino and Hotel, Biloxi. Among the prizes are free rooms, complimentary meals and activities certificates.

Winners will be selected in a statewide drawing from participants in the Adult Summer Library programs at local public library systems. Some library systems will provide additional incentives. Check with your local library for Summer Library Program dates, locations and times for programs in your area.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summertime Reading!

This comic called “The Neighbors,” published in the The Clarion-Ledger on July 3, 1954, pretty much sums up most of us book lovers (and hoarders):

The woman says, “Put those books you plan to read this summer here with the ones you meant to read last year,” as the gentleman is about to haul two stacks of books (I counted about 7 books in each stack) to the trunk of their car for their summer vacation.  Maybe it was a bit of wishful thinking on his part.  Do you ever feel like you have a ton of books you want to read, but too little time?  If you ever get a chance to visit us you should check out our current display case of Mississippi authors and other Mississippi fiction titles (I’m not helping, I know) in our Mississippi Collection!  Here’s a peek:

So, what's on YOUR summer reading list?  Do you need suggestions?  Let us know!  There's nothing like going on a mental vacation with a good book!

Clark, George. “The Neighbors.” Comic strip. The Clarion-Ledger [Jackson] 3 July 1954, CXVII ed.: 4. Print.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

¿cómo se llama, llama?

This morning, I received a reference text question about llama sounds. (Yes, we text. Haven't you been paying attention? The number is 601-208-0868.) I happen to be fascinated by llamas; I have been ever since I saw this clip on Sesame Street as a youngun':

Do you see the appeal? And who does own a llama as a pet?! That aside, they completely entrance me. I found these fun facts while looking for llama sounds:
  • A llama has a cleft upper lip. That lip can waggle around and grasp at things--it's prehensile. (I suppose that's what makes them look like they've just had plastic surgery a la Joan Rivers.)
  • Llamas live about twenty years. (That's longer than most cats and dogs. Ahh, I'm seeing the advantages to owning a llama.)
  • Llamas are herbivores. (Advantage number two!)
  • Llamas do spit, but rarely at humans. They mainly expectorate at other llamas to warn them away from their food. (I'm not sure if this is an advantage or disadvantage, but it sounds like one wouldn't want to own multiple llamas.)
  • Male llamas fight amongst one another to determine the dominate animals. They spit, shriek, and throw themselves into each other, all to prove they're number one. The female llamas don't carry on like this. (Smart ladies!)
  • Female llamas reach sexual maturity about six months to a year before the males. (This is probably because the males are too busy fighting!)
  • Male llamas make a gargling sound before and during mating. (I suppose this is very attractive to the lady llamas, but every time I think about it, I start to laugh. A lot.)
  • Female llamas only release an egg when they're about to procreate. (This seems very sensible to me.)
  • Llamas are pregnant for eleven months. (I expect the mama llamas don't appreciate this. Silly gargling males.)
  • A llama baby is called a cria.
I did manage to track down llama sounds, too. These are a blast. Have a llamalicious listen!

Llama. (2006). In McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. Retrieved from
"You ASKED." Wild 5.5 (2001): 34. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 22 May 2012.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy Birthday, Margret Rey!

Margret Rey and H.A. Rey

Curious George was one of my favorite literary characters with whom, as a child, I could relate.  Inquisitive by nature, mischievous, and always up for an adventure, Curious George has continued to be a classic for new generations of young readers.  Margret Rey was a full collaborator for these wonderful stories with H.A. Rey, but was originally left out of the credits due to an already overflowing field of children’s books authored by women.  Here are some facts about Margret:

v  Margret Elizabeth Waldstein, born May 16, 1906 in Hamburg, Germany, had an artistic education as a young woman attending Bauhaus in 1927 and Dusseldorf Academy of Art from 1928 to 1929.  She was a professional photographer in London, Berlin, and later Rio de Janeiro where she became reacquainted with Hans Augusto Reyersbach, or H.A. Rey. 

v  Supposedly, H.A. Rey was dating her older sister in the early 1920’s and first met her at a party at her parents’ house.  A catalog that we have here at the MLC mentions he first saw her at this party sliding down the banister!

v  While in Rio de Janeiro, Margret convinced H.A. Rey to leave his job at an import-export firm to start an advertising agency.  They were successful as the first advertising agency in that area!

v  A short honeymoon to Paris eventually became their home for four years.  H.A. Rey worked on illustrations while Margret wrote the stories for their first books.  They continued to collaborate on their stories throughout their lives together.

H.A. Rey and Margret Rey

v  The couple fled Paris, with their children’s stories, in June 1940, just hours before the Nazis entered Paris’s borders.  They finally settled in New York in October 1940, and their first book starring Curious George (originally named Fifi in France) was published in 1941 by Houghton Mifflin.

v  Pretzel, published by Harper in 1944, was the first book in which Margret’s name appeared as author.

v  Among many of her creative skills, Margret also designed functional and decorative pottery in the 1960s and 1970s, and stitched many a design through needlepoint.

v  Margret Rey continued the legacy after her husband H.A. Rey died August 26, 1977, collaborating with Alan Shalleck.  She also taught creative writing at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

v  The de Grummond Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi was founded in 1966 and the Reys were among the first to be asked for contributions to the collection.  More and more materials were sent over the years by the Reys and eventually the entire literary estate was given to the de Grummond Collection following the death of Margret.

v  Margret Rey died at the age of 90 on December 21, 1996.

If you, like myself, remember the stories and lively drawings of Curious George then you may be interested in viewing the current exhibition, lent by the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, at the Mississippi Museum of Art!  I haven’t seen it yet, but I have plans to see it before it leaves!  Who’s coming with me?

“Curious George Saves the Day—And His Creators.” USA Today Magazine 140.2799 (2011): 16. Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 May 2012.
Jones, Dee.  Curious George Comes to Hattiesburg: The Life and Work of H.A. and Margret Rey.  Hattiesburg, MS: Hattiesburg Arts Council and The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation , 1999. Print.
"Margret Rey 1906-1996." Publishers Weekly 27 Jan. 1997: 33. Literary Reference Center. Web. 16 May 2012.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Confessions of a Grown-Up Zindel Fanatic

Paul Zindel

Paul Zindel was born May 15, 1936. I read a lot of Paul Zindel in (what is now referred to as) my tween years. There were no perfect blonde twins wafting across the pages of Zindel's books. (Take that, Francine Pascal!) Everyone didn't end up with a happy ending. (Sorry, Eleanor Porter.) I lumped him into a group of YA authors of the same ilk as Robert Cormier and Judy Blume--those who produced gritty characters who were honest, and true-to-life, and dealt with actual problems. I consider him one of the true pioneers of the vibrant YA genre we have today.

Zindel may have been influenced in his writing by his less-than-happy childhood. His father left when he was two, and his mother raised Paul and his sister on her own. It was a silent, oppresive household and the future author must have thought he was jumping out of the frying pan and into the proverbial fire when he was committed to a sanitorium at the age of fifteen for tuberculosis. Upon his return to a healthy society, he won his first prize for writing--a play for a contest sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

I enjoy the fact that Zindel didn't focus on writing in school. Instead, he majored in chemistry, and actually taught high school for ten years. Perhaps another reason he was able to translate the life of teens so easily to the printed page? Zindel went on to write several more plays, and even won the Pulitzer for one called The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. In 1968, wrote his first book for young adults, The Pigman. (I've always enjoyed the absurdity of his titles. How can you beat My Darling, My Hamburger? Or Pardon Me, You're Stepping on My Eyeball!?)

Mr. Zindel passed away in 2003, but his legacy goes on in his writing. There is also an excellent website dedicated to him. He once said, "I write for the people who don't like to read, as a rule." It's a good thing rules are made to be broken, Mr. Zindel, because readers and non-readers alike needed your books. Well done, and happy birthday!

"Paul Zindel." Authors and Artists for Young Adults. Vol. 37. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 15 May 2012.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Happy Children's Book Week!

Today marks the beginning of Children's Book Week, "a national celebration of books and reading for youth." Children's books have come a long way, and there are more options now of books to read than ever before--for babies to teens and every child in between. Here are a few of our favorite children's authors:
  • Madeleine L'Engle won a poetry contest in fifth grade, but a teacher claimed that she wasn't smart enough to have composed the poem on her own. L'Engle's mother was forced to come to the rescue, bringing a pile of her daughter's writing to the school.

    Favorite Madeline L'Engle books? A Wrinkle in Time, And Both Were Young, The Arm of the Starfish
  • Lois Lowry learned how to read when she was three. She tells of an experience in first grade, where she refused to participate in a childish game of pretend, preferring instead to read. She was subsequently skipped to the third grade.

    Favorite Lois Lowry books? The Giver, Number the Stars, Anastasia Krupnik
  • Theodor Seuss Geisel had a high school art teacher who told him, "You will never learn to draw, Theodor. Why don't you just skip this class for the rest of the term."

    Favorite Dr. Seuss books? Horton Hears a Who, The Butter Battle Book, Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?
Why not pick up one of your favorite books from childhood for a quick re-read? Better yet? Share it with your favorite child!

"Lois Lowry." Authors and Artists for Young Adults. Vol. 32. Detroit: Gale, 2000. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 7 May 2012.

"Madeleine L'Engle." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Vol. 18. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 7 May 2012.
"Theodor Seuss Geisel." Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults. Gale, 2002. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 7 May 2012.
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