Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lessons of Yore - A Staff Pick

Evelyn Fischel, readers' services staff member at Bernardsville Public Library, has written the following comments about this recent memoir:

In the Christmas rush to clean the house and hide extraneous stuff, I came upon more extraneous stuff I had hidden from an earlier time. Surprise! I forgot I even had some of these things, including this book which I had started to read last year about this time - before it got the bum's rush into a closet.

This sort of behavior would never happen in Mildred Armstrong Kalish's memoir, Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression, selected by the New York Times as one of the ten best books of 2007. There would not have been any extraneous things and nothing was "stuff": everything had value and was used up, worn out or made to last...good words to live by once again in these times.

This is a charming recollection of multi-generational family life during the Depression, which was made a bit easier by the family's self-sustaining farm. Great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings all banded together for support, entertainment, worship and work. Neighbors and townspeople added flavor and variety to a simple, but rich life.

Filled with numerous stories about childhood in Iowa, Little Heathens also provides good insight into the self-reliant, but selfless attitudes of that time. Everyone had chores to do, lessons to learn, meals to prepare from scratch, farm animals to care for, and thrifty values to practice. For instance, the story about how socks were used up is most impressive, starting with the first hole in the toe. After numerous darnings and resizings of the sock by cutting off the toe and sewing it up for a smaller foot, the author's grandmother would cut off the ribbed end to sew onto coat cuffs for added warmth and then the rest of the sock was cut into little squares for polishing. Think about that.

If you're in the mood for a folksy, pleasant memoir with great spirit and inspiration, borrow this book from Bernardsville Public Library. You'll already be practicing thrifty ways!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Seeing Stars at Saturday Crafters

Saturday Crafters, Bernardsville Public Library's craft group, will defy the odds and meet at 3:30 p.m. this Saturday, December 20th, the final shopping weekend before Hannukah and Christmas. O come all ye faithful! I don't want to be the only one there, but I'll console myself with Hershey kisses, so you might as well join me. Bring along a project you are working on OR learn how to make Moravian paper stars with me. Years ago I made a huge quantity of them for my tree, and they really do look nice as an ornament. I will be attempting this feat of dexterity after a long spell of not making them, so we'll see how neat and tidy they look. It's like pancakes - the first few you throw out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And That Makes One Hundred

We've all been busy making our "lists and checking them twice," but here's a list that might help you with your other holiday gift lists - the New York Times 100 notable books of 2008. Are you looking for a recommended book of poetry, a great new piece of fiction, nonfiction or a biography for yourself or someone else? Simply click on the link above to see the annotated list from the NYT's Web site. It could make shopping and reading decisions that much easier. As usual, I was horrified to see all those books I hadn't read yet. Oh, well, that's what the year 2009 is for!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bernards High Madrigals to Perform

Bernardsville Public Library will once again host the Bernards High School Madrigal Ensemble performing here this Tuesday, December 16th, at 3:00 p.m. This annual visit by the ensemble has become a beloved tradition at the library. Patrons, guests and staff always feel uplifted by the glorious polyphonic music soaring within our high ceilings as the high school students sing a variety of holiday songs. The performance is free, no sign-up is required, and refreshments will be served.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Knit Up a Storm This Winter And Help Others At The Same Time

photo source - Bernardsville Public Library

With winter just waiting to blast its way into our lives, it's time for all you knitters to whip out your needles and start the great cast-on! Bernardsville Public Library is here to help you find pattern books and great ideas. Just visit our display of knitting books in the nonfiction wing to find inspiration and instruction. You'll find a wide selection, including Nordic and Andean pattern books, as well as project ideas such as felted purses and doggie outfits.

If you love to knit, but have a closetful of woolies, why not turn your talents to great use by knitting projects for charity? A local group that gladly accepts knitted items for merchant mariners entering the Port of New York and New Jersey is the
Seaman's Church Institute. They will provide you with patterns via their Web site. Another great site is The Daily Knitter which lists many charities for which you can knit. If pictures help to spur you on, here are a few

from another organization, FireProject, based in Flagstaff, Arizona. They are promoting a hat knitting project for children in Mongolia and they provide free patterns on their Web site.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You Can Still Donate to the Giving Tree

Bernardsville Public Library is collecting donations of new books until December 15th to be given to children in need throughout New Jersey. As you enter the library you will find not one, but two "giving trees" decorated for the holidays, and at the base of each tree is a collection box for your donations. Please consider developing a child's interest in life-long reading by providing an unwrapped book or two appropriate for children from toddlers to teens. You will be giving a very powerful and magical gift. Thank you so much.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

About Neil Gaiman

photo source - Kimberly Butler, 2005
Neil Gaiman will be the featured author at this month's meeting of Saturday Samplers, a Bernardsville Public Library book discussion group, taking place today at 3:30 p.m. The book group will be discussing Neverwhere, which the author turned into a novel after first writing the story as a screenplay for the BBC. Gaiman started his writing career in England as a comic book writer who developed a world-renowned graphic novel series, The Sandman, based on the earlier D.C. comics character of the 1930's and 40's. He collaborated with Terry Pratchett to write the wildly hilarious apocolyptic book, Good Omens, and he has branched out to write both adult and children's books which have been critically acclaimed. Among these publications are Coraline, a frightening children's story, as well as American Gods, Stardust, and Anansi Boys. Neil moved from England with his wife and children to settle in Minneapolis where he said he wanted to live in a Charles Addams-style house. He found one complete with turret and possible ghostly history!