Monday, September 25, 2017

Book Discussion Questions:

Why do the two stories make sense together?

In comparing Burnham and Holmes what are some similarities/differences?

  • both handsome and blue eyed
  • Burnham tall, Holmes small and slight
  • Both able to gain trust of others with relative ease
  • both self-made men
  • Both created great facades: the castle and the white city which is is to evoke sheer awe. The facades of the fair buildings are meant to appear as marble and are in fact painted staff. 
In what ways is the Columbian Exposition, as the subtitle to Larson's book claims, "the fair that changed America"?
  • Shredded Wheat cereal, Cracker Jacks, Aunt Jemima's pancake mix, Juicy Fruit chewing gum
  • choosing Westinghouse over General Electric, Burnham established the superiority of AC power over DC
  • clean water 
  • Preventing crime
  • A carpenter named Elias Disney was among the thousands of men who helped build the White City; he would later share memories of that experience with his son, Walter (p. 153). Readers who have visited Disneyworld will undoubtedly see echoes of the White City in Walt Disney's vision: in the lake that flanks the park, in the careful landscaping and utter devotion to cleanliness, in the proliferation of carefully engineered, but "seemingly accidental moments of charm" like those Olmsted recommended for the White City (p. 276). The White City also shaped another magical city: L. Frank Baum visited the fair and patterned his Oz on it (p. 373). It is in these idealized cities, perhaps, that those of us less attuned to architectural history make our closest emotional contact with Burnham's vision and with the legacy of the fair.
Do you think a fair of this size could happen in today’s America? What advantages or disadvantages can you foresee with such a project?

What did you learn about architecture? What do you think the fair contributed to the architectural landscape in the United States?

What is the relationship between the White City and the Black City that surrounds it?
  • The White City was Burnham's dream of what a city could be
  • The White City is a dream, offered so much to Chicago when it was in operation but the black city took over after it closed 
  • The White City became the black city-many buildings burned
What do the "secondary characters" contribute to the primary story?
  • Frederick Law Olmsted, George W. G. Ferris, and Patrick Prendergast
How does Larson’s description of the time period help set the mood for the story? Did any of the descriptions surprise you?

What narrative techniques does Larson use to create suspense in the book?

At the end of The Devil in the White City, Larson writes "The thing that entranced me about Chicago in the Gilded Age was the city's willingness to take on the impossible in the name of civic honor, a concept so removed from the modern psyche that two wise readers of early drafts of this book wondered why Chicago was so avid to win the world's fair in the first place" [p. 393]. What motives, in addition to "civic honor," drove Chicago to build the Fair? In what ways might the desire to "out-Eiffel Eiffel" and to show New York that Chicago was more than a meat-packing backwater be seen as problematic?

How was Holmes able to get away with so many murders without becoming suspect? Were you surprised by how easy it was for him to commit crimes without being caught?
  • Could this many murders and/or disappearances have gone undetected in a different city?What about today?
At the end of the book, Larson suggests that "Exactly what motivated Holmes may never be known" [p. 395]. What possible motives are exposed in The Devil in the White City? Why is it important to try to understand the motives of a person like Holmes?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Book Discussion: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

Did you find one narrator to be more reliable than the other?

Was Captain Pollard a coward?

What do you think happened to the african american crew members?

What would have you done within the first few hours of the shipwreck.

Would Chase have been a better captain than Pollard?

Were there any moves that the survivors made that you would have done differently?

If you were a survivor would you have stayed on Henderson Island or gone on to sail?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Book Discussion: Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Which story did you enjoy most? Was there one you didn't care for?

Throughout the book characters intersected in interesting ways. What are some that you made note of?

Which characters story allowed you to connect with Eva the most?

Food is one of the main themes in this book. What are examples from the book where food brought people together or apart. Do you have any examples from your own life?

There are times where the author seems to be poking fun at foodie culture. Can you find some examples of this commentary?

Eva remains very mysterious throughout the novel. What is it about her that draws people to her?

Cindy has always claimed she would never be a good mother. Why does she insist on this and do you believe her? Do you think Eva was better off without her?

The recipes prepared in Eva's feast at the end of the book chronicle her memories and life. How do foods or recipes play a role in your own memory or life story?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Gilmore Girls Trivia Night

I love doing my annual trivia night at my library. They are always a bit of work but totally worth it. I had a feeling I would get a big turnout with this one and boy was I right. I had 57 adults show up and had to cap registration at 65 people! I probably would have had even more register but 15 teams showed up and that was plenty!

I had myself MC, a friend do the scoring and another friend do the greeting, checking-in and seating of participants.
After looking at the answer sheets at the end of the night it looks like many of my questions were really tough, even for die hard fans. The most popular round was number 5 (fashion timeline.) I invited teams to bring their own food and they went all out (as you can see in some pics.)

I encourage everyone to do this program. It was a great group and not our regular patrons either. I spend about $15 to boost the event posting on FB to females ages 18-65 in the local area. This seemed to go a little viral and was the reason we had such good attendance.

Please feel free to use and adapt any of the materials in this posting for your library. If you end up presenting at a conference with this program or an article appears in a professional journal please give me due credit: Leah LaFera.

Thanks and enjoy the below narrative and materials.

Grading Sheets
Team Table Signs
Gilmore Girls Font - The handouts below won't appear right without installing this font on your PC

ROUND 1-Fill-in-the blank
PowerPoint with the Questions (and answers at the end)
Blank pages and answers, what I read from but your could also forgo the powerpoint and hand this out instead)
In this round I project on the screen quotes where they have to give the correct answer for the word or words that are missing.

ROUND 2- Trivia
Handouts and answer key
This is a traditional trivia round. I read each question twice through and only twice through.

ROUND 3-Music
Handouts and answer key
I play 30 second clips from songs that appear in the show. They must name the band or artist who sung the song. This was a tough round. I used Quick Time on a Mac to clip the original MP3's down to smaller files.

ROUND 4- Dialog
Handouts, scripts, and answer key
One of my favorite rounds. At the beginning of the night I ask for volunteers to write their name and team number on  a piece of paper and put into a basket to earn one bonus point for their team. In the dialog round I give each reader (A, B or C) a script for short dialog and they perform it in front of the room twice through. Each reader gets 1 bonus point for their team. The audience must correctly ID all the readers in the scene in whichever order they choose.

ROUND 5-Fashion Timeline
Blank Timelines
In this round I cut out photos from the show depicting different fashions. They get the timeline and an envelope with the pics and a gluestick. Their job is to put the photos with the season they come from. Each season has 2 photos. Each correct photo is worth one point.

I gave out little piles of GG themed prizes all purchased from Etsy. The 1st place team got first pic, 2nd got second pick and third got the prizes left. I also gave a box of pop tarts to the best team name.

Here are the prizes I purchased. There were a huge hit!

The team names were especially on point: Hep (illegal) Alien, Copper Boom, The Kirkettes, One Night in Paris Geller, Babette Ate Oatmeal, Luke's Diners, Mrs. Slutsky's Neighbors, Firday Night Dinners, Tie Your Tubes, Idiot!, Luke-alikes (all dressed like Luke,)DAR Darlings, Pop Tarts, In Omnia Paratus, A Team by Kirk and Coffee Coffee Coffee!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Book Discussion: Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

Discussion Questions:

What is the significance of the crow? What does he represent?

On page 16 the crow states "I find humans dull except in grief. There are very few in health, disaster, famine, atrocity, splendor or normality that interest me but the motherless children do. Motherless children are pure crow. For a sentimental bird it is ripe, rich and delicious to raid such a nest." What does the crow mean when he says they are pure crow?

On page 35 Dad is remembering a tender moment with his wife where she states "my body is no bird-like." With all the bird symbolism in the novel, what do you think she meant by this?

In several stories including the one on page 37 the boys tell partial truths to the reader. What is the significance of that?

On page 98 Dad states "Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project." Have you found this to be true?

Representations of crows: death, destiny, personal transformation, intelligence, trickster, fearless, bad omen,

What are some other famous crows in literature?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book Discussion: Homegoing by Yaa Guasi

Who is the firewoman that Akua sees in her dreams? Or what does she represent?

The black stone necklace is passed down Effia's family line. Esi loses hers in the dungeon at the Castle. What is passed down among Esi's family line?

Scars emerge as a theme in this book.  Does the author believe that scars can be inherited or passed down from one generation to the next?

Who was your favorite character and why?  Which chapter did you like best?

What effect do the British have on Africa as slave traders?  as missionaries?

How is race defined in different ways within the novel? How do we define race in our country currently? By skin color, by speech?

Yaw is a teacher of history.  What does he teach his students about the learning of history?  How is the theme of storytelling important within this chapter as well as throughout the novel?

James seems to be a turning point in the Effia story line where he is realizing that "everyone is responsible" for the slave trade in Africa. What do you think would have happened if the peoples of Africa stood united against the Europeans?

Which family storyline did you enjoy more? Esi's or Effias?

Akua says the curse of enslavement, is “like a fisherman casting a net into the water. He keeps only the one or two fish that he needs to feed himself and puts the rest in the water thinking that their lives will go back to normal. No one forgets that they were once captive, even if they are now free.” What are your thoughts on that quote?

Explore the theme of belief. What forms of belief are depicted in the book and what purpose do these beliefs seem to serve for the characters? Does the author reveal what has shaped the characters' beliefs? Do these beliefs seem to have a mostly positive or negative impact on the believer and those around them?

Evaluate the treatment and role of women in the novel. What role does marriage play within the cultures represented in the novel and how are the women treated as a result? Likewise, what significance does fertility and motherhood have for the women and how does it influence their treatment? How different would you say the treatment and role of women is today?

Would this novel have changed much if it was not written in the point of view of so many narrators? Would it be as impactful?

Why does Akosua Mensah insist to James, "I will be my own nation" (99)? What role do patriotism, heritage, and tradition play in contributing to the injustices, prejudices, and violence depicted in the book? Which other characters seem to share Akosua's point of view?

Explore the theme of complicity. What are some examples of complicity found in the novel? Who is complicit in the slave trade? Where do most of the slaves come from and who trades them? Who does Abena's father say is ultimately responsible (142)? Do you agree with him? Explain why or why not.

Examine the relationships between parents and children in the book. Do the children seem to understand their parents and have good relationships with them and vice versa? Do the characters' views of their parents change or evolve as they grow up? How do the characters' relationships with their parents influence the way that they raise their own children?

What significance does naming have in the book? Why do some of the characters have to change or give up their names? Likewise, what do the characters' nicknames reveal both about them and about those who give or repeat these names? What does this dialogue ultimately suggest about the power of language and naming?

Sonny says that the problem in America "wasn't segregation but the fact that you could not, in fact, segregate" (244)? What does he mean by this? What does Sonny say that he is forced to feel because of segregation? Which of the other characters experience these same feelings and hardships? Does there seem to be any progress as the story goes on? If so, how is progress achieved? Alternatively, what stymies and slows progress in this area?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Blind Date with a Book

This year I am trying out at our Central branch a Blind Date with a Book display the first 2 weeks of February. We have RFID at our libraries so this will work particularly well so that we do not have to make a cutout in the wrapping for a barcode.

Lots of great colors to choose from
I purchased regular sized sandwich bags from in Magenta and Black. Hardcover books can be placed in these bags and then the top folded over and stapled, glued or taped shut. This eliminates having to wrap up each book (flashbacks to paper bag wrapping my textbooks in Elementary School!)

Once the book is wrapped I printed out, filled out and glued these cute book profiles to the outside. I made these to look like the dating profiles on OKCupid (a popular dating website.) The 3 questions are even right from the website. Please see below for my list of book profiles. Here is the link to the public Canva document I made for all the profiles below.

For the cover of each bag
Here is the 8.5 x 11 sign to go with the book display as well.

To find good titles I used Novelist but Goodreads can be great too. The reviews on Goodreads can help you get to know a title a little bit better in order to fill out the profile for each book better. I also tried to select titles we owned multiple copies of or that were not in high demand (since they can't be found for holds.)

Book Profiles:

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
My self summary: I'm an amusing story of starting over and finding your passion when you least expect it.
On a typical Friday night I am: Experimenting with new dough recipes
You should take me home if: You are looking for a delicious mental vacation

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My self summary: I create technological virtual utopias so I don't have to deal with the real world of famine, poverty and disease.
On a typical Friday night I am: Playing Space Invaders at the arcade by my house
You should take me home if:  You like to solve a good puzzle

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
My self summary: I know my name is a little unorthodox for a teenage girl but you'd get it if you lived in the world I do.
On a typical Friday night I am: Searching for a cure to save my brother (I like to party too, but not much time for that these days.)
You should take me home if: You want to join my band of nomads

The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
My self summary: It is hard for me to trust you at first. I have demons in my past but I am working through them.
On a typical Friday night I am: Looking for the next big scoop
You should take me home if: A little suspense and secrets do not scare you

Homer & Langley by EL Doctorow
My self summary: I live with my brother in New York City in our 5th avenue apartment. But don't worry, my parents are out of the picture.
On a typical Friday night I am: Working on my newspaper and hosting tea dances
You should take me home if: You loved the film Grey Gardens as much as I did

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
My self summary: We've all seen it happen -- someone makes a bad decision in the public eye and people pile on in judgment.
On a typical Friday night I am: Trolling the comment sections of You Tube
You should take me home if: You own your shame and don't enjoy public humiliation. Let your freak flag fly!

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
My self summary: I'm no guru but I do have a lot of sweet wisdom I will impart on anyone who asks.
On a typical Friday night I am: Sitting down to my Macbook and catching up on emails
You should take me home if: You need some down to earth advise on some of life's hardest questions

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My self summary: Sometimes I lay awake at night wondering if there is a world beyond this place. I dream about the world my parents told me existed before my birth.
On a typical Friday night I am: Traveling with my musical theater troupe across the wasteland
You should take me home if: You can get down to "It's the End of the World as we Know It" by REM

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
My self summary: I was left for dead, I was the one who got away. No, seriously.....
On a typical Friday night I am: Not answering the phone and making sure the deadbolt is locked
You should take me home if: You like a fast paced thrillers that span a lifetime

Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Judd Trichter
My self summary: Single white male seeks Android for long walks on the beach
On a typical Friday night I am: Wandering the streets of this cesspool of a city that I loathe but could not live without
You should take me home if: You are a fan of the TV show Westworld

Say You're One of Them by Akpan Uwem
My self summary: I a collection of short stories as intense as Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart."
On a typical Friday night I am: Working to make enough food to feed my brothers and sisters
You should take me home if: You enjoy haunting, gritty and complex stories

Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education  of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton
My self summary: I'm working on building my career as a writer and working kitchen jobs on the side.
On a typical Friday night I am: Peeling potatoes and scraping plates
You should take me home if: You enjoy witty behind-the-kitchen memoirs

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
My self summary: My son and I are always on the move looking for food and shelter. It would be nice to have a special partner to share that burden with.
On a typical Friday night I am: Scavenging the wasteland for food, same as everyone else
You should take me home if: When the end of the world comes, you are one of the good guys

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
My self summary: I'm darkly funny, and very heartfelt living in Newfoundland.
On a typical Friday night I am: Hopefully finding a sitter for my girls and going on a date with you
You should take me home if: You welcome a little melodrama at a leisurely pace

Fool by Christopher Moore
My self summary: Looking for NSA fun. Rodent-faced muck-suckers need not apply.
On a typical Friday night I am: Entertaining a court of hypocrites and buffoons
You should take me home if: Offbeat British humor and wordplay turns you on

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
My self summary: I may have a degree from Yale but I never forgot the streets I came from
On a typical Friday night I am: Hanging out with my friends, smoking, joking
You should take me home if: You like a good gritty story about a young man's rise to the top and eventual descent

Lost Girls: an Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker
My self summary: I may not be as famous as Jack the Ripper but we do have something in common
On a typical Friday night I am: Trolling Craigslist for my next victim...
You should take me home if: You are a fan of true crime novels

The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black
My self summary: I'm a straight talking PI that don't take no poppycock from nobody
On a typical Friday night I am: Hanging out in the parking lot of the Motel 6 with my zoom lens
You should take me home if: You are a fan of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe private eye novels

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
My self summary: I am the story of two women from very different backgrounds that forge a friendship in an unlikely way.
On a typical Friday night I am: Cooking a pot of Beef Vindaloo to share with my friends
You should take me home if: You find flawed but likable female characters compelling

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
My self summary: I am new to your country. I find much of it very strange. Could you help me?
On a typical Friday night I am: Helping Charlie fight the baddies
You should take me home if: You see scars as beauty

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
My self summary: I just moved to this town to live with my grandfather and am looking for new friends.
On a typical Friday night I am: Exploring this new town by moonlight
You should take me home if: Big family secrets, romance and a touch of magic pepper this novel

Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My self summary: There is something a little different about me. I am a pond as big as an ocean
On a typical Friday night I am: Keeping the dark and the light balanced
You should take me home if: You want to help harvest kitty turnips (just promise to not let go of my hand)

This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff
My self summary: It is amazing I turned out the way I did after the childhood I had!
On a typical Friday night I am: Going on bad dates with women who are no good for me (hopefully you can change that)
You should take me home if: If you like memoirs about dysfunctional families

In the Garden of Beasts: love, terror, and an American family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larsen
My self summary: I have taken this high power job in a new place with a new language. I am wondering if I am cut out for this
On a typical Friday night I am: Staying up late waiting for my daughter to return home. Teenagers! Am I right?!
You should take me home if: You are interested in a long distance relationship. I may be in Germany for a while

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
My self summary: I am a single librarian and I love my job but am a bit of a misanthrope
On a typical Friday night I am: Trying to decipher this book my father left behind to me
You should take me home if: Do you know anything about Tarot? I'll pay for the drinks

Third Angel by Alice Hoffman
My self summary: Why am I always finding the wrong men at just the right time!
On a typical Friday night I am: Haunting the halls of foreign hotels
You should take me home if: Stunning, simultaneous stories with a common thread is something you can get down with

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
My self summary: If I were a flower I would be a Rhododendron. I can help you figure out what you would be too
On a typical Friday night I am: In bed! I have to get up super early on Saturdays to make it to the flower market in time
You should take me home if: You may enjoy a fairy tale in parts with a sprinkling of  grit

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
My self summary: I cannot stand these rich, pretentious people around me
On a typical Friday night I am: Reading Tolstoy and Kant
You should take me home if: You might like a leisurely paced, reflective novel with quirky characters