Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jen’s Top Ten Alphabets All Around

Animalia by Graeme Base (Penguin, $7.00)

Alphabet City by Stephen Johnson (Penguin, $6.99)

Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert (Sandpiper, $7.99 in paper; Harcourt, $6.99 or $11.99 as board books of different sizes)

Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman (Chronicle Books, $19.99)

Alphabet by Matthew Van Fleet (Simon & Schuster, $19.99)

Q is for Duck by Mary Etting (Houghton, $6.95)

I Spy: An Alphabet in Art, devised and selected by Lucy Micklethwait (HarperCollins, $10.99)

Jambo Means Hello: Swahili Alphabet Book by Muriel Feelings
(Penguin, $6.99)

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals
(Random House, $15.99)

Alligators All Around by Maurice Sendak
(HarperCollins, $5.95 alone, $16.95 as part of the Nutshell Library)

August 2010, Jennifer Sheffield

Kate's Top Five Favorite Kids’ Chapter Books with Plucky Heroines

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
(Random House, $5.99)
One of the most well-loved heroines of all time, 12-year-old orphan Anne Shirley captures hearts with her stubborn optimism and indomitable spirit in the face of harsh life circumstances.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spear
(Yearling Books, $6.99)
This book tells the story of Kit Tyler, a 16-year-old girl living in 17th century colonial America who is forced to take matters into her own hands to save herself and those she cares about from an unjust fate.

Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
(Trophy Press, $6.99)
14-year-old Catherine is the daughter of a knight in 12th century medieval England who is determined to marry her off against her will. But spunky Catherine has other ideas, and sets about foiling her father's plans at every turn.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
(Penguin Books, $5.99)
Life is one big adventure for Pippi Longstocking, a charmingly irreverent and outrageous heroine who takes her neighbors Tommy and Annika along for the ride on her crazy escapades.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
(HarperCollins, $6.99)
Ella of Frell was saddled with a terrible curse at birth: she must obey every order given to her. But that won't stop spirited Ella from setting out on an adventure to save a prince, his kingdom and herself in the process!

August 2010, Kate Musliner

Sheila’s Picks: On Beyond Heather Has Two Mommies! -- Picture books featuring LGBT themes or family members

1. Mini Mia and her Darling Uncle by Pija Lindenbaum

2. The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein

3 & 4. Mommy, Mama, and Me, and Daddy, Papa, and Me, two board books by Lesléa Newman

5. In Our Mother's House, by Patricia Polacco

6 & 7. King and King and King and King and Family by Linda de Haan

August 2010, Sheila Avelin

Monday, August 30, 2010

Five of Kasey's Favorite Poetry Collections

Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems by Mark Doty (Perennial, $15.99)
Mark Doty writes both memoirs and poetry, and consequently his memoirs are full of gorgeously poetic images, and his poems of moving narratives from his life. His partner's death from AIDS, finding new love later in life, relationships with dogs and with the natural world--these subjects, and many others, fill the pages of Fire to Fire and make reading it an unforgettable experience.

Otherwise: New and Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon (Graywolf, $16.00)
There are so many things I love about Jane Kenyon's poems: her quiet, plain-spoken voice; her powerful relationship with the plants in her garden, her cats, her New Hampshire town; her deeply emotional, mysterious, sometimes ambivalent spiritual life. This book, my favorite of hers, combines the best poems from her first four books, and is the perfect place to begin to explore her world.

After by Jane Hirshfield (Perennial, $14.99)
Jane Hirshfield has been one of my favorite poets for as long as I can remember, and I've read this collection, her most recent, over and over again, falling a little more in love with it each time. Hirshfield's subjects are love, longing, impermanence, the natural world; her poems are some of the most gorgeous and moving ones I know.

New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver (Beacon, $17.00)
Mary Oliver is a wonderful poet for everyone, but especially for people who are intimidated by poetry or feel that it's going to be too hard or obscure for them to enjoy. Oliver's work is full of depth and beauty, but it's also incredibly accessible and open. She writes largely about the grace and healing powers of the natural world.

The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe (Norton, $13.95)
Marie Howe is much like Mary Oliver in the sense that her work is wonderfully accessible, but her subject matter couldn't be more different. Her second (and also amazing) book, What the Living Do, is mostly about her beloved brother's death from AIDS; The Kingdom of Ordinary Time deals with the deaths of loved ones, too, but also with relationships, mothering, friendship, movies, and spiritual life. It reads both like a fabulous memoir and like the evocative, moving poetry it is.

August 2010, Kasey Jueds

Friday, August 27, 2010

Poetic License Horoscope for August 27-September 2

“Art is the center of the real world. Philadelphia is the center of the art world.”-various mosaics

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): Happy birthday month, fellow Virgos, and thanks for being good sports about however I decide to self-soothe on any given week. Anyway! Number of years I’ve been going to clubs: 20! Amount that house music has changed: 0. Appreciate your patterns, your looped samples, the comfort of your constant beats.

Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): Today my therapist gave me a note card that says this: “Don’t fight with yourself. Let yourself be wrong and sometimes stupid.” She knew it was the right advice when I started laughing my ass off.

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): This is what the fortune cookie that came with my iced coffee says: “You will make many changes before settling satisfactorily.” It makes me a little antsy, but it might work for you.

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): There’s a pop song stuck in my head. I just Googled it, it’s by La Roux. It goes “This time baby/I’ll be/bulletproof.” That is a silly but very appealing idea. Indulge it!

Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): This month I’ve resolved to be less Allison and more Peggy. In case you don’t watch Mad Men, allow me to translate: let’s be less the brokenhearted secretary and more the arty copywriter in the midst of a consciousness-awakening.

Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19): Have you ever been to The Blue Grotto in Philadelphia? Conceptual artist Randy Dalton wanted to give Philadelphia a blue ribbon for its arts contributions, so he made these beautiful environments of found objects bathed in varied blue lights. Give yourself a prize like that. Light up the color of swimming pools. Send the message to landing planes.

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): Draw a map of your childhood home. Be very specific—don’t forget the lilac bush, the sauce-stained sink, the rough wallpaper. Open the door and start redecorating, or at least wash the dishes.

Aries (March 21-April 18): The other day my wife and I were walking to the store when a drunk man started hollering at us, yelling comments about our asses and such. Usually I’d just scowl and walk away, but this time, it was very satisfying to swear back at him.

Taurus (April 19-May 18): According to The United States of Tara, we sometimes package our vulnerable parts and jettison them. Find and open all of these pretty little pathos-packages. Save the ribbons.

Gemini (May 19-June 21): In the words of Lucille Clifton, for my brother who’s leaving college soon: “may you/open your eyes to water/water waving forever/and may you in your innocence/sail through this to that.”

Cancer (June 22-July 23): I generally take advice from the poetry quotes in the church bulletin: "One day the sun admitted, I am just a shadow. I wish I could show you The Infinite Incandescence that has cast my brilliant image! I wish I could show you, When you are lonely or in darkness, The Astonishing Light Of your own Being!"-Hafiz

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): Sometimes you can decide that you are quite edified enough, thank you very much, and that all you want to do after all these weeks of making beautiful things is to go home and see how things turn out with the Diamond Power of Veto on Big Brother. Your soul wants junk.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Janet’s Picks: What to Do with Your Toddler When It's Too Hot to Do Anything

Sandra Boynton has withstood the test of time for favorite toddler reads. Her animals are whimsical, colors tend toward the primary, and text remains simple and humorous. After twenty years, I still sometimes catch myself going to bed with the words, "Moo, Baa, LA LA LA", running through my head. So when the heat index again reaches 110 degrees, bring your toddler into our air-conditioning and take your time enjoying our collection. There is joy awaiting on the back cover of each board book. Eight covers of other Boynton books are displayed. Hear exclamations of which books are owned and at home, which were bought for a present, and which might be bought in the future. Below are a few old favorites, bath helps, and newer additions:

Moo, BAA, LA LA LA! (Little Simon Books, $5.99)

My Piggy Book (Little Simon Books, $16.95)
Ideal for car rides, My Piggy Book is a plush toy to cuddle complete with six padded pages and a snout that oinks.

Barnyard Bath (Workman Publishing, $7.95)
A perfect bath toy for getting through the dreaded shampoo. Your toddler can read away, turning pages as you scrub and rinse.

Philadelphia Chickens (Workman Publishing, $16.95)
Complete with a CD, pages of lyrics, musical scores, and dance steps, Philadelphia Chickens is one of a series of musicals that will delight all.

Big Box of Boynton (Workman Publishing, $18.95)
This set includes Barnyard Dance...Pajama Time...Oh My Oh My Dinosaurs! Sets make a perfect new baby gift.

August 2010, Janet Elfant

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mo’s Five Books That Relate to Cities and Ecology

(3 of which are about projects to make your home sustainable, and 2 of which are children’s books about urban gardens to inspire you)

Toolbox For Sustainable City Living by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew
(South End Press, $16.00)
This book gives detailed instruction on how to carry out various sustainability related home projects--from passive solar, to grey water recycling, to small turbines.

Dam Nation: Dispatches for the Water Underground edited by Cleo Woelfle-Erskine (Soft Skull Press, $19.95)
This book discusses in-depth the ecological devastation caused by dams and modern water systems and then gives detailed instructions on building grey water systems.

Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System by Mary Appelhof (Flowerfield Enterprises, $12.95)

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
(Little, Brown & Company, $16.99)
This book is based on the Highline in Manhattan, a garden made on old elevated railroad tracks. My favorite line is “The garden was especially curious about old, forgotten things.”

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart (Square Fish, $6.99)
A girl moves from the country to the city and brings her garden to the rooftop of a row-house and a smile to her Uncle’s face.

[Editor's note: The Curious Garden and The Gardener are also among Maleka's June picks.]

August 2010, Mo Speller

Monday, August 23, 2010

Erica’s Five Last Lines That Seal the Deal

Oh, you know you’ve done it. You open a book and flip right to the end. You read the last line first, you impatient, spoiler-loving son of a gun! I do it because I like an author who knows how to close. If you can nail the end, then at least I know you’re good for a beginning and a middle.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
(Harper Perennial, $14.99)
“Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west; then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the left. South-south west, south, south-east, east…”

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
(W. W. Norton, $13.95)
“And so farewell from your little droog. And to all others in this story profound shooms of lipmusic brrrrrr. And they can kiss my sharries. But you, O my brothers, remember sometimes thy little Alex that was. Amen. And all that cal.”

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
(Riverhead Books, $15.00)
“He wrote that he couldn’t believe he had to wait for this so goddamn long. (Yab√≥n was the one who suggested calling the wait something else. Yeah, like what? Maybe, she said, you could call it life.) He wrote: So this is what everybody’s always talking about. Diablo! If only I’d known. The beauty! The beauty!”

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
(Little Brown & Company, $6.99)
“If you want to know the truth, I don’t know what I think about it. I’m sorry I told so many people about it. About all I know is, I sort of miss everybody I told about. Even old Stradlater and Ackley for instance. I think I even miss that goddam Maurice. It’s funny. Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
(Harper Perennial, $14.99)
“Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes. She called in her soul to come and see.”

August 2010, Erica David

Friday, August 20, 2010

Poetic License Horoscope for August 20-26

Spending Warm Summer Days Indoors, Like the Smiths

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): Once you pointed out that when the contestants on, say, The Next Food Network Star, are talking about how the camera makes them freeze up, they are, IN FACT talking to the camera, it kind of turned my world upside-down.

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): Make no mistake: Sometimes we are all just Mad Men secretaries, crying in a Pond’s focus group about the fleetingness of the muse’s attention. Nothing to do but wash your face, smash a vase, and wait.

Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): This week, inspired by the hack-bot that stole my email contacts, I am meditating on imperfection. Please take all implosions, sick days, and the way things are collapsing like an Inception cityscape as signs that the universe loves you and wants you to start fresh.

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): Last weekend I went camping with my family. One of the highlights was sitting around reading with my little niece. She was reading an incredibly well-loved copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix. Love something/someone so much that the pages come out, the edges furl, the binding unglues, but the story is still legible.

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): From Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: “It is pretty clear that the creator itself did not know when to stop. There is not one pink flower, or even fifty pink flowers, but hundreds…this creator looks suspiciously like someone who just might send support for your creative ventures.”

Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): In The New York Regional Mormon Singles Dance, Elna Baker hilariously weighs the dilemmas which arise between her secular self and her Mormon self. In the end, though, she can’t see the moon without saying “Hi, God.”

Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19): In Sloane Crosleys’ book I Was Told There’d Be Cake, she writes about working in the Museum of Natural History’s butterfly exhibit. Once, she didn’t check her coat well enough before clocking out—a tiny rare blue butterfly had ridden her lapel to freedom.

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): Feng Shui your life. Recycle you recyclables. Remove all old bosses, famous strangers, and nemeses from your email contacts. Return the stagnant Chi of unread library books.

Aries (March 21-April 18): Every time I watch The Real L Word, I think these three things: 1. This show is mostly about emptiness, and that’s okay. 2. I’m very grateful that my wife is accepted and loved as a member of my family. Shame on you, Tracy’s mom. 3. Natalie: run!

Taurus (April 19-May 18): One summer not too long ago, my friend Ty and I decided to fill plastic Easter eggs with various talismans: love notes, drawings, chess pieces, mini tarot cards, etc. We hid them all around the city of Syracuse, NY. Give random and unexpected gifts, preferably to strangers.

Gemini (May 19-June 21): My mom says that when she dreams about camping, it’s not the recreation, but the cooking. Try a new recipe for campfire eggs. Eat bacon out of a foil pan. Be flexible about what can be called coffee.

Cancer (June 22-July 23): Go to the stillest body of water you can find. Find some round, flat stones. Practice your skipping technique. Meditate on gravity, water, erosion.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Poetic License Horoscope, August 13 to August 20

Your Horoscopist Is Kind of an Emo Girl

(Thanks to Jake Lamanna, whose record collection this is.)

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): This week is my wife’s birthday. I would like to give her all of her wishes: a comma in the bank balance, a job closer to home, time to rest. She’ll have to settle for Wednesday shows, cheesecake, and a nice long letter.

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): Here’s some very practical advice: never go on the Facebook when you are feeling fragile. Everything you scroll past will look like a party you weren’t invited to. Worst of all, you’ll get comment-itis.

Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): Look at all of the “Back to School” signs, all the emo commercials with mothers (always mothers) waving sadly at school busses. Take them as a sign that it’s time to purchase huge stacks of notebooks at discounted rates. I got my year’s worth, 10 for a dollar.

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): All you can see are sunsets, the lavender tint in the sky, the filigree of light at the edges of the clouds. Go ahead and let this be the end of something. It’s the sun. It generally comes up again.

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): “It’s too late to change your mind. You let loss be your guide.” say the Broken Bells. I guess it’s as good a guide as any, though.

Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): You are like the Map Collection Room at the Philadelphia Free Library; hundreds of wide, flat drawers with every possible expanse and measurement. Find your longitude and latitude.

Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19): I want to say once and for all that heartbreak is a terribly inefficient fuel for creativity. It burns up everything, bright and fast. It’s time find something more sustainable, if less sparky.

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): An old pal of mine posted a picture of his massive, hot, sexy record collection. Beneath that, another friend had sent a link to an episode of Hoarders. Decide what’s riches and what’s trash, before you get swallowed up.

Aries (March 21-April 18): The stars are taking requests this week, Aries. What would you like? Concert tickets? An opulent stroll through Longwood Gardens? An ill-advised dinner with an old flame? It’s up to you, and it’s all yours.

Taurus (April 19-May 18): Remember the episode of The Office where they’re all at the beach for some reason, and Pam does the firewalk? The adrenaline rush and burnt feet give her the courage to call out Jim in front of everybody for ignoring her. She kind of gives everyone the what for. Be like that.

Gemini (May 19-June 21): In her wonderful writing book Bird by Bird, Annie Lamott says “After a few days at the desk, telling the truth in an interesting way turns out to be as easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat.” But do it, no mater how much the truth wriggles and spits.

Cancer (June 22-July 23): You said my answering machine is a bad audience, but go ahead and tell it everything. I want to hear about the catch in your voice, the stitches in your chest, the wine under the bed. But I hope I have the phone on next time.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Quote: M.T. Anderson

Feed is a dramatic and disconcerting futuristic look at the pervasive effects of the media on our brains and on society, and I'm looking forward to discussing it at our September Young Adult Book Discussion (Thursday, September 23, 7pm). The following exhortation doesn't appear in the story; it's from an interview with the author in the back of the book:

    What would you say to kids today who are aware of being manipulated by the media? How can they avoid being sucked in?

    First of all, I know that going against the norm can be very isolating. When I was a teenager, I listened to really obscure music. In some ways that isolated me, because teens tend to watch and engage each other very, very harshly when it comes to questions of taste. In fact, I think musical taste among teenagers is often more about self-definition than it is about the actual music.
    Even so, I'm clearly in favor of trying to extend your knowledge into areas that are obscure and eccentric, as a way of exploring your self and your place in the world. Instead of responding to media messages by getting anxious -- thinking you need to get some piece of clothing that suddenly comes into fashion, or that you need to gain or lose weight or change your musculature in order to look like the romantic lead from some movie you've just seen -- start exploring all the peculiar corners of the world that are out there. Because that's the one thing the media does not encourage: a real sense of curiosity. Ultimately, in writing Feed, I wanted to say to kids who are already doubting what they see around them, "You already think in ways I'll never be capable of, and are dreaming things I can't conceive of. Keep it up. We're counting on you."

- M.T. Anderson, Feed, Reader's Guide

Friday, August 06, 2010

Poetic License Horoscope for August 6-12

Starring Arcade Fire, Dancing Sufis, and Don Draper

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): This is your time to rest. Turn the volume down on your chattering spouse. Put aside all talk of revenue and email lists. Listen to the soft hum of fans, the murmur of televised baseball.

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): You don’t have to be inspired every single minute. Relax. Reread old novels. Get caught up on your history. Take a nap in the blank spaces, you’ll be busy soon enough.

Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): When I told one of my most favorite Libras that I was sad not to be at the National Poetry Slam this week, he told me he’d call my voice mail with disappointing poems so I’d feel less left out. It did make me feel better, but I still wish I was at Nationals.

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): The Arcade Fire song “Keep the Car Running” is a wonderfully paranoid song about always being vigilant, but as I continue my decades-long struggle to learn the clutch, the song sounds to me like a struggle-and-determination anthem/pep talk. “It’s coming but when/is it coming/ keep the car running.”

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): The House on the Rock, outside Madison, WI not only contains the most berserk collection of calliopes, musical machines, models ships, crazy-looking Santa Clauses and so much more, it is also a labyrinth you can’t easily leave if you get claustrophobic. Stay calm and avoid the Doll Carousel. Just trust me.

Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): You’ve been collecting sea monsters, and why shouldn’t you? I thought of you last month when I was photographed next to a giant squid. As we learned in the movie Inception, the unconscious is hard to control, least of all yours.

Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19): The other night while I was blissfully whoh-oh-ohing with thousands of fans at the Arcade Fire concert, I though of my Aquarius friend who’s visiting Istanbul right now, trying to get tickets to watch the Sufis dance, about how empathic experience helps keep life from becoming claustrophobic, just like having a well-travelled friend does.

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): In Nick Hornby’s book How to Be Good, the protagonist has the following epiphany: “The plain state of being human is dramatic enough for anyone; you don’t need to be a heroin addict or a performance poet to experience extremity. You just have to love someone.”

Aries (March 21-April 18): Last summer I worked at a summer camp. Every morning we had a singing and dancing time called Harambee (Swahili for “all together) during which no one was allowed to be shy. I thought this was unfair to introverts so I tried to add a meditation, quite unsuccessfully. But this week, be like those sing-alongs—belt it out, dance your heart out, never mind who might be laughing.

Taurus (April 19-May 18): It’s August, but on Mad Men, it’s Christmas. Mix yourself a holiday martini, pass an orange from chin to chin, engage in some secretarial role play. Walk around with you archetypal armload of gifts. Spare no expense.

Gemini (May 19-June 21): “Children wake up, hold your mistake up, before they turn the summer into dust.” says Arcade Fire. Mistakes can either disappear in the rearview or crack you open. Let’s confess and move onto the next thing, shall we?

Cancer (June 22-July 23): The beginning of this summer broiled my garden. The only flourishing things were the tenting spiders who seemed to be eating all the flowers. When the weather broke, though, everything started blooming again—now there are lobelias, red butterfly flowers, zinnias, and two Carefree Delight roses I can smell from inside.

-by Jane Cassady