Susan’s Best Reads of 2019

I don’t read as much as I wish I could; I just don’t have time at the moment. It doesn’t help that I wind up with sometimes 600 page books in my hands, and those take longer.  I never know what I’ll read next, and I read a bunch of good ones last year. Here are some of my favorites:

One of the two best books I read this year, I’ve already blogged about: Creativity, Inc, by Ed Catmull, was amazing. Not just a history of Pixar films, it’s also the best darned, most entertaining book on business and employee management you will read. Pixar is a 5-star company for a reason.

The second of my Best Reads this year is The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James.  From approximately 1898 to 1912, a serial killer traversed the US by train – coming through New Haven’s Union Station on the way – with an MO of bludgeoning his victims with the back of an axe. Because of communications at the time, few people were able to connect the murders. James painstakingly, with the utmost detail, traces the dozens of murders and examines them, deciding if they were likely by the same killer or not, and why. He traces the paths through the states and the seasons, chasing the trail to a man who was most likely the killer. By the time he’s done, you are convinced and amazed. I could not stop reading this book. I read it while waiting for the school bus. I read it while cooking. I would have read it in the shower if I could have. If you love a mystery, if you love history, if you love crime stories, this book is a must.

I’m only 30 years late in reading Neuromancer, the Hugo-winning cyberpunk novel by William Gibson. I can see why it is held as one of the greatest novels of our time. Gibson predicts and writes about today’s modern computers and internet and gaming – long before they existed. The scenarios he describes are both familiar and futuristic at the same time. While not only visionary, it’s written in  a flawless style and with realistic, interesting characters. If you loved Ready Player One or The Matrix (which has to have been influenced by this book), you will love Neuromancer.

If you’re aware of social and racial issues, I strongly recommend Survival Math, by Mitchell S. Jackson. A professor of writing, in achingly beautiful prose worthy of Martin Luther King Jr., with the voice of a preacher without being preachy, Johnson breaks down the issues faced in his own family, examining how he came to where he is, how racism played into it without even being visible, and how despite all the odds, it’s possible to thrive. He covers harsh topics without flinching. The book is brilliant, spellbinding, and a superb read from a voice that soars with truth.

Far more than I expected, I loved Total Recall, an older door-stop of a biography on Arnold Schwarzenegger. From his birth in a tiny town in Austria (which still has only 2500 people) to his divorce from Maria Shriver, Arnold is witty and candid and down to Earth. No matter what you think of his politics or his movies or his personal life, this book may be older, but it was highly entertaining. His best friend just died in September of this year.

Not my favorite, but worth mentioning because of its local importance, is Frog Hollow  by Susan Campbell. Campbell, a former reporter with the Hartford Courant, digs into the history of the notorious Frog Hollow section of Hartford, and through tireless research shows the former glory of the neighborhood as not only an important area in Colonial times, but once a major manufacturing center (in 1898, Pope automotive made half the cars in the US). I was hoping for a deep sociologic dissection of the issues, but instead Campbell gives us an upbeat view from street level about the good aspects of Hartford and the people who live there, not just the doom and gloom of ad-selling news clips.

Last but not least, I’ll throw in a kid’s series you probably missed; with 18 years between my last two kids, I certainly did, but my youngest is so hooked on the British easy reader series Urgency Emergency! by Dosh Archer, I wound up buying most of them. The series is so witty and enjoyable you don’t mind reading them over and over again. Doctor Glenda, Nurse Percy, and the Pengamedics, in predictable melodrama, assist the maladies of Humpty Dumpty, The Big Bad Wolf, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, and many more. They are a delight. The library has several of the stories; be sure to read them all!

The Fourth of July – How Much Do You Know?

Our Head of Adult Services, Bill, has some Fourth of July facts for you:
The Fourth of July –  also known as Independence Day – is the day we celebrate our country’s birthday. Think you know all there is to know about it? The library’s here to help you celebrate with some fun facts and other ways to learn about democracy and the founding of our nation!

Did you know?

Yankee Doodle” is a well-known American song, the early versions of which date to before the Seven Years’ War and the American War for Independence.  It is the official state anthem of Connecticut. The melody can be traced back to folk songs of Medieval Europe.

In a bizarre coincidence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826 — the nation’s 50th birthday. The two founding fathers and political adversaries died within five hours of each other. 

Americans consume roughly 150 million hot dogs on the Fourth of July enough to stretch from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles five times!

More Fourth Fun Facts:

 

The Declaration of Independence:

The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776.
On July 4, 1776, Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence, and as a result the date is celebrated as Independence Day. Nearly a month would go by, however, before the actual signing of the document took place. Most of the delegates signed on August 2, but several signed on a later date. (Two others, John Dickinson and Robert R. Livingston, never signed at all.)
One signer of the Declaration of Independence later recanted. On November 30, 1776, delegate Richard Stockton from Princeton, New Jersey was captured by the British and thrown in jail. After months of brutal treatment, a broken and sickly Stockton renounced his signature on the Declaration of Independence and swore his allegiance to King George III.
There is something written on the back of the Declaration of Independence.
In the movie “National Treasure,” Nicholas Cage’s character claims that the back of the Declaration contains a treasure map with encrypted instructions from the founding fathers, written in invisible ink. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There is, however, a simpler message, written upside-down across the bottom of the signed document: “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.” It’s thought that the text was added as a label.

Read more about it!

ADULTS:

KIDS:

 

Cap off your Independence Day celebration with some fireworks! Here’s where to find them:

Helping Your Young Child Become a Successful Reader

Today’s post comes to us from Ali, Head of Children’s Services.

 

Many people assume that there isn’t much they can do to help their child learn to read until they are of a certain age. Believe it or not, you should start at birth.  The five core practices to help prepare children for reading are Reading, Writing, Talking, Singing, and Playing.  These practices are taken from the Every Child Ready to Read Initiative. You may already be nurturing these pre-reading skills at home, but it is important to use these techniques everywhere you go with your child. To learn more about these practices, you can ask any children’s librarian for suggestions or attend an early literacy program or storytime at the Cheshire Public Library.

Early literacy programs at public libraries have changed significantly over the years. Early literacy is everything a child knows about reading and writing before he or she can read or write, typically between the ages of 0-5. Traditionally, children’s library programs focused on the education of children.  Today, these programs focus on the education of the parent or caregiver.  If you attend storytimes at the public library, you may hear the children’s librarian state an early literacy tip or model a specific behavior during their programs.  This is done intentionally to encourage caregivers to use these tools at a later point.

Here are some ideas on using each of the 5 best practices in your everyday life.

  • TALKING is the most critical early literacy skill because it helps children learn oral language. You can talk to your child about things you see or ask them open-ended questions to encourage a response from them.
  • SINGING develops language skills by slowing down syllables and sounds that make up a word. You can sing in the car whenever you’re traveling and you never have to worry about other people hearing your singing voice.
  • READING together not only develops vocabulary and comprehension, but it fosters a love of reading.  Try to pick a time to read when you are both in a good mood and never force it. It is a good idea to establish a reading routine at bedtime when your child is most relaxed.
  • You can start to practice WRITING as soon as your child can grip anything. Even if they are only making scribbles, they are getting those small hand muscles ready to hold a pencil.
  • Children also learn language and literacy skills through PLAY by helping them put thoughts into words as they talk about what they are doing.

Caregivers have the most important role in developing a child’s reading skills, so it is important that you practice these techniques as often as possible. I encourage you to visit the library and check out some of the early literacy programs and resources that we have.  To see our full events calendar, you can go to https://cheshirelibrary.libcal.com/.

Check out  our Parenting section for more on early literacy and school readiness:

 

And don’t forget to sign up for our summer reading program for kids and adults : Summer Adventure! The program runs from June 21 through August 17. Raffles, prizes, and giveaways will be available to those who complete the activities. Who will take home the crown for the most minutes read? Will it be the kids, or will it be the adults?

 

In Dog We Trust

Today’s post comes to us from our Teen Librarian, Kelley:

It’s not just a snappy title – I really do have enormous faith and trust in a dog. My husband is blind and he (and I) depend every day upon the amazing skills of his guide dog Becca to help him navigate his world. I can go off to work and not worry about him, because I know he and Becca will manage perfectly well. They’re not stuck at home and are never bored. They go on long walks, golf, visit friends… at this point they actually have a much richer social life than I do! I am filled with wonder every time I see the two of them working together – she warns him of curbs, cars, and dangers both underfoot and at head height, she finds doors, counters, empty seats, and me (!) whenever needed and with great determination and enthusiasm.

Once we were shopping at the grocery store, and a family with children walked by. The parents conscientiously cautioned their kids about not distracting Becca while she was working, telling them that she was a service dog. The littlest child wasn’t quite sure what a service dog was, but he used his own best judgement, and looked out for us for the rest of our shopping trip. He alerted everyone: “Don’t bother that dog- she’s a serious dog!” every time we crossed paths. It was adorable, but he was absolutely correct- Becca is a very serious dog when she is working.

Other dogs besides our Becca do serious work that truly helps others too. These dogs all have natural talents that are carefully perfected with exhaustive training. Detection dogs have exceptional senses of smell. A detection dog is trained to sniff out a particular substance or group of substances such as currency, illegal drugs, explosives, blood, insects, and even cancer. Herding dogs work with various types of livestock, such as cattle, sheep, goats, reindeer, and even poultry. Military dogs assist members of the military with their operations. Police dogs, often called K-9s, are trained specifically to assist police and other law-enforcement personnel in the line of duty. Search and rescue dogs have high energy, great stamina and focus. These highly trained animals serve in many different fields, including tracking, specialized search, avalanche rescue, and cadaver location. Therapy dogs offer emotional support to sick or injured persons, often visiting hospitals, schools, hospices, nursing homes and more.  Service dogs are working dogs that have been specially trained to assist persons with disabilities.

There are many other types of working dogs out there who have real jobs that they take very seriously, and new types of jobs for dogs are being developed all the time. You can read more about them with our doggone good list of books about inspiring dogs who love to work. Good dogs!!

From the Children’s Room:

Screen-Free Week is coming – can you go a week without screens?

Today’s post is by Children’s Librarian Lauren:

“Have I told you all about the time that I got sucked into a hole through a handheld device?” So goes a lyric on the Arctic Monkeys’ technologically ambivalent album Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino. This line repeats in my head every time I find an hour of my life has been lost to compulsively scrolling through Instagram or following clickbait articles. So much of our lives is mediated through screens, and the side effects aren’t always as light as lost time and an earworm. Night-time screen use has been linked to insomnia, and studies are linking excessive social media use to anxiety and depression.

For kids too young for Snapchat, studies have tied screen use to developmental delays. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for kids under 18 months and 1 hour max for kids under 5 years old. The more time toddlers spend silently watching screens, the less time they spend talking, playing, moving, and learning. Likewise, the more time parents and caregivers spend with screens, the less time we have to facilitate those crucial experiences for our kids.

To combat the negative effects of screen-based entertainment, some folks came up with Screen-Free Week, an annual week of unplugging and re-discovering the joys of real life fun. From Monday, April 29 to Sunday, May 5, families and individuals will be closeting the iPads and shutting off the backseat DVD players. Sound like something your family could try? Here’s some ideas on how to amuse yourselves while the screens are away:

Be bored! Boredom provides kids with an opportunity to get creative. Lin-Manuel Miranda – the creator of Hamilton and one of the most creative folks around – fondly recalls being left to his own non-screen devices. If you’re not up to writing an award-winning musical, though, provide your family with open-ended materials like art supplies, the contents of the junk drawer, and your backyard. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Clash your clans in a fantasy book! Look in the kids section for the blue sticker with a unicorn. Magic Tree House and Percy Jackson are classics that work as family read-alouds, or check out a new book like The Cryptid Catcher. We also love us some Neil Gaiman, especially Coraline, a delightfully creepy tale that begins with a super-bored girl who, to put it mildly, finds a way to amuse herself.

Go outside for a walk! This is one of the best times of year to hang out around the canal trail, when birds who migrated south are coming back and starting to make nests for the spring. You can see turtles, beavers, and snakes at Lock 12, and in the last couple weeks I saw diving kingfishers, big herons, and colorful wood ducks in the new section of trail north of West Main Street. Sleeping Giant State Park is still closed from tornado damage, but nearby Brooksvale Park has salamanders, frogs, and even farm animals, as well as easy hiking trails. The library has free maps of local trails, as well as wildlife guides for kids and adults to borrow.

Take advantage of the spring birds & blooms that are popping up all over this time of year, as close as your own back yard! Ask little kids to point out colors, compare sizes, and count petals on flowers. Explain pollination and photosynthesis to big kids – or, better yet, let them explain it to you. See how many different kinds of birds you can spot.

Take a break from Allrecipes and Epicurious, and follow a recipe from a book! Whether tacos or teiglach are more your speed, you can find a ton of family-friendly recipes in cookbooks designed especially for kids. Some cookbooks specialize in classics and others offer a history of food. Wherever your interests lie, head to the 641s for your cooking needs.

After you’ve cleaned up the kitchen and the kids are busy writing their own history-based raps, you might have a few minutes during Screen-Free Week for some adults-only reading:

Will you be participating in screen-free week from April 29 to May 5?