Monday, November 16, 2015

National Book Finalists!

A few days ago, the National Book Foundation announced the finalists for the 2015 awards. This is pretty big doins 'round these parts! We have quite a few of the books in our collection, so if you want to show off how avantguarde you are and read them before they become NBF winners, come on in and check them out. Winners will be announced on November 18, so stay tuned!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara  [FIC YAN]

"Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. Truly an amazement—and a great gift for its readers." (Amazon)

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisis Coates    [305.8009 COA

 "Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States” 
(The New York Observer)

Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann  [770.92 MAN

"Richly compelling and evocative.... An unforgettable memoir. But it's more than that.... The abiding and precious gift of this book is precisely this: Mann's highly personal exploration of her passion, and her perseverance." (Bookforum)

Ordinary Light: A Memoir by Tracy K. Smith  [818.6 SMI

“Smith is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, a talent evident in every line of this crystalline memoir. Hers is not the dysfunctional family story we've grown accustomed to reading; in fact, Smith recalls her family of seven as ‘steady, steadfast, happy, and whole.’ In loving detail, she recalls both the happiness and the complex questions of her childhood. Religion is a force to be reckoned with again and again [and] questions about race are also ever-present . . . Smith’s honest, unflinching book offers an inspiring model for seeking the light in an ‘ordinary’ life: ask the tough questions, look in the hidden corners, allow yourself to understand, and never stop searching for faith.”  
(Oprah Magazine)

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby [FIC RUB]

"The story of Roza, a beautiful girl who is taken from a quiet midwestern town and imprisoned by a mysterious man, and Finn, the only witness, who cannot forgive himself for being unable to identify her kidnapper. As we follow them through their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures, acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are." (Amazon)

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman   [FIC SHU]

Caden Bosch lives in two worlds. One is his real life with his family, his friends, and high school. There he is paranoid for no reason, thinks people are trying to kill him, and demonstrates obsessive compulsive behaviors. In his other world, he's part of the crew for a pirate captain on a voyage to the Challenger Deep, the ocean's deepest trench. There he's paranoid, wary of the mercurial captain and his mutinous parrot, and tries hard to interpret the mutterings of his fellow shipmates as they sail uncharted waters toward unknown dangers. Slowly, Caden's fantasy and paranoia begin to take over, until his parents have only one choice left. Shusterman's latest novel gives readers a look at teen mental illness from inside the mind of Caden Bosch. He is a credible and sympathetic character, and his retreat into his own flawed mind is fascinating, full of riddles and surrealism. Shusterman based the novel on his son's mental illness, and Brendan's input regarding his diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and psychiatric care makes the novel ring true. Teens, especially fans of the author's other novels, will enjoy this book. VERDICT This affecting deep dive into the mind of a schizophrenic will captivate readers, engender empathy for those with mental illnesses, and offer much fodder for discussion. (School Library Journal)

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson  [GN STE]

“Those of you who haven’t read Nimona yet are lucky, because you can buy the fantasy comic in book form instead of waiting for Noelle to post an update twice a week. Seriously, that wait was always excruciating.” (

“If you’re going to read one graphic novel this year, make it this one.” 
(Kirkus Reviews)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Birthday Mark Twain!


"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. dream. Discover."

Happy Birthday 

Mark Twain!

This month we celebrate the birth of one of America's comedic and literary geniuses - the iconic Mark Twain. Born on November 30, 1835, in Missouri, Samuel Langhorne Clemens would become the small town of Hanibal's most legendary figure. After Samuel's father died, when he was only 13, he went to work in a printing press and discovered his love of writing. In 1856, he left home (at age 17) and headed to St. Louis, to become a river pilot. In this period he adopted his pseudonym of Mark Twain, which is the term used when the depth of the water is safe for a boat to navigate. Once the Civil War began, much of the river trade began to slow and thus Samuel Clemens went looking for work off the Mighty Mississipi and landed jobs reporting for multiple newspapers around the country.  In 1870 He married Olivia Langdon and they had 4 children only one of which survived over the age of 20.

It wasn't until 1865 when a piece entitled, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County" got picked up by the Saturday Evening Press, that Twain began to receive acclaim for his writing. "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" was published in 1876, and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" in 1885. He wrote 28 books and numerous short stories, letters and sketches. 

Here in the library we are honoring Twain with a November display of his most famous works and quotes. Come on in for a visit to pay homage to the printer, pilot, soldier, miner, reporter, lecturer, editor, humorist, author, businessman, publisher.

"Good Friends, good books and a sleepy conscience : this is the ideal life."

And remember, "Never put off til tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow!"

If you still can't get your fill of all things Twain, check out the following sites and online exhibits:

Monday, November 02, 2015

A.P. Story Hour

If someone claims that being read to aloud isn't something you do past childhood, you'll certainly hear me yell, "Balderdash!" 

When I mentioned hosting a Story Hour for 'big kids', (ie Govs students), 
I didn't know whether the idea would be viewed as a bit fruity or brilliant. Fortunately, as we have such a hip and cool staff in the library, the latter held true. The premise of "AP Story Hour" is quite simple. Most of us were read stories as children, but as we get older, this ordinary and magical experience becomes virtually extinct. So why not reintroduce the tradition in a modern adolescent setting? Bring young adults back to their respective carpeted squares in the children's section of their local libraries. Genius, right?

In an age dominated by the electronic dissemination of information and social networking, the art of reading aloud seems essential for so many reasons. Reading aloud allows young people to experience literature together. As in, what together used to imply - face to face, in the same room, no snapchat or twitter - togetherIt also seems as if reading aloud taps into some part of our subconscious, like a long forgotten part of our history, that we can still feel. It is communal in an age where so many experiences seem computerized and surreal.

Let us not forget that reading aloud also has quite a regal history. Before the creation of the printing press, storytelling was an essential part of both royal life and the common man. Bards, poets and storytellers were venerable and sometimes wealthy people. While I am certainly not in the library business for the money, reading aloud is very much a favorite pastime of mine and I enjoy doing it for people of all ages. Near the end of my grandmother's life, I read aloud (and stomached) a Harlequin romance novel for her.

After announcing the first Story Hour, I fretted that no one would show. I must confess I offered candy to tempt some, (because the currency of candy in a boarding school is always off the charts!) So, happy was I when 10 of you arrived for our first spooky short story night! We would all agree that we had a fun and creepy literary adventure together.

I look forward to reading aloud to you soon. Join us this Tuesday night, November 3, @ 8 PM in the library for a continuation of our spooky tales from last week.

For further suggestions for reading aloud, check out this N.Y. Times list:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

On college and what matters most

Listening to Govs seniors these days , I am hearing much about the common application and college applications in general. In conversing with you all about your choices and why, I like to ask students about what really matters most for college. The general response entails quite a bit about desirable locations, great sports teams, the reputation of the programs, and of course, how your parents weigh in on the matter. Last week, I read an article in the New York Times by Frank Bruni that revolved around this very subject. While going to a reputable college is a wonderful accomplishment in and of itself, can one school give you things like fulfillment and happiness whereas another can not? 
Check out Bruni's article here and let us know what you (really) think about higher education and what matters most.
How to Measure a College's Value
Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly) a name brand college doesn't amount to much of a differential in terms of overall satisfaction from any other college. The reality unfurled is this  - it is up to the individual to push him/herself. 
As Bruni writes, “What college gives you hinges almost entirely on what you give it.” So keep that in mind, young Jedis and know that there is always room to grow.
And if you're still contemplating the virtues of one school or another check out these library books to set your course straight:
The truth about getting in : a top college advisor tells you everything you need to know / bCohen, Katherine.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Believe it or not?

Do you sometimes receive "news" via email, facebook or twitter that you just can't quite believe? Sometimes I worry if young people (or older people!) are getting the story straight. You know when you play telephone and the story just keeps getting more and more convoluted as it makes its way round the circle? It seems more and more that the information we receive on the internet is trickling down to us in a similar fashion. So, what's my point? My point is that we don't know what or who to believe anymore. Are you familiar with the  Pig Rescues Goat video? 

I admit that I thought it was sweet and authentic when I first watched it. Fortunately, I did not embarrass myself by perpetuating the myth and forwarding it on to family and friends, but still, I bought it! I do love heroic (and talking, but that's another story) animals and perhaps the video is just slightly unbelievable, as we all know how socially intelligent pigs are, but where has our innate sense of telling fact from fiction heading? Down the drain, I say, or in the bottom of that man made feeding pond where the whole video was staged with multiple animal trainers and videographers on hand! There is so much raw and unfiltered information on the ether, how can we teach our students to navigate and search for truth in 2015? 

To begin with, make your librarians happy and check out the following sites to fact-check what you read:

Last week on the N.Y. Times Learning blog they covered this very topic.
Below you will find the article from the link:

Yours in truth,
A Pesky Librarian

Tools and Strategies: How to Tell Fake News From Real News
Worst Twerk Fail EVER — Girl Catches Fire
Mexican Red Rump Tarantula Missing in Brooklyn
Post a Facebook Copyright Status to Protect Your Information
These stories all went viral on social media, but if you click the links, you’ll see all of them turned out to be hoaxes. And yet, sometimes something that sounds fake — like this story about West Point cadets who “weaponized” a pillow fight — isn’t.
How can you tell? Before you hit “share,” what questions should you ask?
First, suggests Chad Lorenz in a piece for Slate that explores the need for news literacy curriculums, consider the places from which you routinely get information:
Today a tour through your social media news feed might take you to Mental FlossDadavizColossalCracked,Dangerous MindsUproxx. How is a reader to know what from this assortment of blogs and webzines can be trusted? What about a site like Inquisitr? (Approach with caution.) What about Before It’s News? (Trick question: That one is definitely not to be trusted.) While it might seem easy to distinguish real news from fake news, many people, including experienced journalists,get suckered more often than you would think. Students, as heavy users of social media, where fake news and hoaxes proliferate, should think about their own responsibility to share reliable information and not perpetuate misinformation.
Once you’ve done that, you might next consult the Newseum’s popular Believe It Or Not? lesson plan that walks teachers and students through basic news literacy. Students learn to ask these six “consumer questions” when vetting a story:
  • Who made this?
  • How was this made?
  • Why was this made?
  • When was this made?
  • What is this missing?
  • Where do I go from here?
Another method for questioning sources of information is the mnemonic the students at Intermediate School 303 in Coney Island use: IMVAIN.
  • Independent sources are preferable to self-interested sources.
  • Multiple sources are preferable to a report based on a single source.
  • Sources who Verify or provide verifiable information are preferable to those who merely assert.
  • Authoritative and/or Informed sources are preferable to sources who are uninformed or lack authoritative background.
  • Named sources are better than anonymous ones.
Watch a video and learn more about how they use this technique, from the Center for News Literacy, here, then try it yourself with this checklist.
Finally, here are some guidelines specifically about breaking news from NPR’s On The Media:


Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Still Growing Up

I'm a big fan of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Ever since they put out Same Love, I listen closely to what they produce and say in their music. Their recent single 
Growing Up has me emotional and grateful for another beautiful piece they have co-created. Growing Up is a letter to Macklemore's daughter Sloane, that he wrote a month before she was born. It's a reflective and emotional ode to parenthood, childhood and the path in between.

I've been thinking a lot about the culture of Govs and the boarding school community in general, and how easy it is to get caught up in the ups and downs of our shared experiences (like what we all went through last week). And although we may go through them together, independently, or on very separate terms, in the end, we come together as a community - somehow. So, if you are harboring some pain or ill feeling towards elders, authorities, parents or peers, listen to this song and know that we are all groping our way through the dark spots of life. The truth is, we're ALL still growing up and have miles to go before we sleep.

Here are a few of my favorite parts:

They say boys don't cry
But your dad has shed a lot of tears
They say I should be a strong man
But baby, I'm still filled with fear
Sometimes I don't know who I am
Sometimes I question why I'm here

Get back to community that raised you up
Read Langston Hughes, I suggest A Raisin in the Sun
Listen to Sam Cooke, a change gon' come
You put the work in, don't worry about the praise, my love
Don't try to change the world, find something that you love
And do it every day
Do that for the rest of your life
And eventually, the world will change

I'm still growing up

I recommend that you read The Alchemist
Listen to your teachers, but cheat in calculus
Tell the truth, regardless of the consequence

Don't wake your mom up,do yoga, learn 'bout karma
Find God, but leave the dogma
The quickest way to happiness is learning to be selfless
Ask more questions, talk about yourself less
Study David Bowie, James Baldwin and 2Pac
Watch the sun set with best friends from a rooftop
Wear a helmet, don't be stupid,jaywalk, but look before you do it
If it snows, go outside, build a jump, get some help
Get a sled, thrash the hill with your friends, 'til it melts
Go to festivals, camp, fall in love and dance
You're only young once, my loved one, this is your chance
Take risks, 'cause life moves so fast
You're only young once, my loved one, this is your chance

Times are changing, I know, but who am I
If I'm the person you become
If I'm still growing up.

And if music is not the anecdote for you, perhaps a book that Macklemore suggested can offer a similar remedy. You can find the following in our stacks!

The Langston Hughes readerby Langston Hughes. [810.81 HUG] 

The alchemistby Coelho, Paulo.  [FIC COE] 

Another countryby BaldwinJames. [FIC BAL] 
Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust : off the record with the Beatles, Bowie, Elton & so much moreby Scott, Ken; Owsinski, Bobby. [620.209 SCO] 

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Awe Some!

This week in the library we have been polling students, faculty and staff about the "little things that make life awesome." You gave us some fantastic answers!

Here are some of my favorites:

  • CHOCOLATE (obviously!)

  • Throwing something from far away and it lands in the trash (So true - feels more like a slam dunk than a slam dunk!)

  • Jade & Aya  (no explanation needed)

  • Iced coffee on a Monday morning (start the week off with a bang, but PLEASE do not take into the library!)

  • Sleep-ins (even the thought of a sleep-in is dreamy)
  • The Library (Fist bump!)

  • Life on Mars (because hey, if things don't work out as planned in Byfield, we will have options)

  • Always having someone who cares (perhaps the biggest smallest thing)

Don't just be awesome yourself, but make someone else on campus feel awesome. It's Thursday, Hurricane Joaquin is going to hammer us with wind and rain for a few days and there is no kale salad in the dining hall, so take this as your call to awesomeness!

Better yet, awe someone with a new book. See what's red hot here!
New Books at Pesky