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Big Hearts


Rescue Ink book coverI know that we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I admit a cover caught my eye recently. It belonged to Rescue Ink, written by Rescue Ink and Denise Flaim. Not a viewer of the TV show on the National Geographic Channel, I had never heard of this unique group of volunteer animal rescuers. Behind the curve, that’s me.

 

Based in Long Island, New York, the group consists of ten men who are street tough but who have a soft spot for animals. They are not afraid to knock on the door of the local nasty who’s known for abusing his pit bull, and tell him to cut it out. They educate those who are willing to learn about the responsibilities of pet ownership, in order to turn neglect into care. They organize searches for lost or stolen animals. They accepted a donated vehicle that didn’t run and turned it into a full-service animal ambulance. Together, these guys have helped or rescued hundreds of animals, mostly dogs and cats,  but some horses, pigs, and other animals, too.

 

The story of the group’s founding and the men’s personal histories were fascinating. I learned a lot, too, about some forms of abuse that I’d never heard of before: the inhumane practices of Mexican slaughterhouses that buy unwanted American horses for meat, to get around the law banning the practice in the US.  Also, I didn’t know that Amish country is the location of so many puppy mills. The Rescue Ink website is currently down, but I did find a Facebook page

 

This book got me thinking about animal rescue awareness. Most kids naturally love animals, so picture books such as Fleabag, Finding Susie, and The Dog Who Belonged to No One have a natural appeal. They encourage empathy with the additional message that there are unwanted animals out there who need homes. There is a series of chapter books called Vet Volunteers, and a whole host of other fiction for kids. And, of course, there are fun library visits by Furry Friends and Canine Companions, many of whom are rescued, with their "reading to dogs" events at West Valley, Willow Glen, and Santa Teresa branch libraries. Pets certainly enrich our lives. If a family is looking for a special pet, the San Jose shelter is a good place to go. Spread the love!



The Tie That Binds, by Kent Haruf


Book cover of The Tie That BindsSet in fictional Holt, Colorado, The Tie That Binds is an evenly paced narrative that chronicles the difficult frontier life of 80 year old Edith Goodnaugh. Haruf is masterful in his manner of painting characters and their surroundings: Roy Goodnaugh (Edith's 'hickory stick' husband), daughter Edith, son Lyman, neighbor Sandy, and their 19th century plains existence. Rough, hard, and sparse yet heart-warming, uplifting, Haruf is a wonderful storyteller.



To Read or to Listen? That is the Question.


I recently had a conversation with a colleague in which we agreed that movies based on books, no matter how good, are virtually never as good as the book itself. However, I've become a big fan of audiobooks, and I believe that many audiobooks are as good or even better that the print version of the book. Listening to books instead of reading them has obvious benefits for people who have a vision impairment or who want to enjoy a book while driving, walking, or exercising. But beyond that, some books seem especially cut out for the audio format because there are multiple narrators, each of whom can be supplied with a distinct voice. A well-read (acted?) audiobook can add intonation, accents, and other elements that enrich the story. Case in point: The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

 

Cover of The Help audiobookSet in the early 60s during the civil rights era in Jackson, Mississippi, the book is told through the viewpoints of two black maids and a young white woman who wishes to write a chronicle of the maids' stories. Listening to the book, I find it hard to imagine that I could enjoy it any more in print format (although, with the book's bestseller status, the print version is doing just fine, thank you). Another book I found particularly suited to audio format is The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger -- again, because the book is told from the standpoint of more than one narrator. San José Public Library has an increasing number of audio options available to customers. In addition to books on CD, you can download audiobooks with your library card via Overdrive, MyiLibrary, and NetLibrary. I was able to download The Help from Overdrive with no waiting, and transferred it to my iPod. I'm looking forward to the movie scheduled for release in August... but I doubt it will be as good as the (audio)book!



Computer Help @ Your Library


Internet Cafe Computers.The library has a lot of ways to help you with your computer-related questions and problems. Various programs and services are available to all San Jose Library users free of charge.

 

For basic help, attend one of our free one-on-one computer tutoring sessions, where you will get personalized assistance with most any computer-related matters, like email, typing a resume, searching the Internet or other related tasks. You may also like to try a free class in Computer Basics. These classes cover various topics, such as Typing & Mousing, Microsoft Word and email. You will get all the basic information you need to tackle these and other computer tasks, all for free!

 

Computer users who have already mastered the basics but want to learn about a specific application will benefit from CustomGuide’s tutorials. Go to our databases page and click on “CustomGuide Online Software Training.” Create an account (just takes a minute to do) and then you have access to tutorials for various versions of many Microsoft applications. When the library upgraded its computers to Office 2007 I used CustomGuide to learn how to use Word and Outlook, since there were a lot of changes to these programs.

 

More advanced computer users will find all kinds of computer help topics covered in our collection of electronic books from Safari. Go to the library’s downloads page and click on “Computer Books from Safari Books Online.” Topics covered include Apple development, Windows server administration and Java development, in addition to many more.

 

If you can’t find what you need on these pages, don’t hesitate to ask a staff person at your local library – we’re happy to help! 



How Do I Get There?


magnifying glass and mapI love my portable, electronic, navigation device. It got a work-out recently while visiting family back east. Besides local attractions and friend's addresses it also listed local libraries for me to visit. If you are wondering how to locate a San Jose library near you and do not have such a device we got you covered. Just go to our homepage > http://www.sjpl.org/ and select Locations. Once you're there you can input your address and find a branch closest to your location. Clicking on the branch, then on the more info link will take you to the branch page where you will find a Google map, driving directions, and bus routes. We hope to see you soon.



Willow Glen Wags (Churro)


Churro too

One of the great appeals of the Willow Glen area is that it is such a pedestrian-friendly and canine-friendly neighborhood! Resident dogs enjoy strolling the downtown sidewalks with their owners and sniffing noses with friends old and new. If they get to linger at the table of one of the many sidewalk cafes, or step into a shop with a bowl of water by the door and a jar of dog treats on the counter, that's even better! The adorable Churro is one of those resident dogs. This Chihuahua/Dachshund mix is five years old and started her puppyhood in an animal shelter before her forever family found her.

 

Did you know that both the Chihuahua and the Dachshund are listed in the top ten dog breeds for children by the American Humane Society? So it's perfect that Churro now belongs to youngsters Sora and Lucas and their doting parents. One sunny but cold spring day, little Churro visited the Willow Glen Branch Library with her family, showing off a pink jacket which protects her from the weather. Pets are not allowed inside the library, but they do occasionally accompany their people here. It's not unusual to see a dog leashed to the bike rack on a sunny afternoon while a customer runs inside to pick up a request--maybe something to read relaxing at a Lincoln Avenue cafe or Willow Street Frank Bramhall Park.



Classic Literature with The League!


Cover of The League of Extraordinary GentlemenReaders may recall the popcorn flick lead by Sean Connery, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). The film did atrociously in theaters, receiving an embarrassing 17% 'rotten' rating over at www.rottentomatoes.com. I am here to profess that the original graphic novel by known-eccentric author Alan Moore is actually worth your time! I just recently finished Volume I for a class, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. For those unfamiliar with the graphic novel series, Moore takes a rag-tag group of Victorian era literature's greatest characters (including The Invisible Man and Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) and blends them together to create a group of elite mercenaries for British Intelligence.

 

The book is decidedly steampunk in aesthetic, which compliments the source material nicely. It's ripe with references to classic literature that the reader is sure to get a kick out of. One of the most engaging aspects of Alan Moore titles (Watchmen, Batman: The Killing Joke) are the morally ambiguous natures of a lot of his characters. Even if the protagonists of the The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen aren't necessarily virtuous, Moore has a knack for keeping the reader interested and invested in the plot and how these characters interact. It's refreshing to read stories where the players straddle the line between moral and immoral.

 

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is definitely worth a read, and it's still going! Moore is currently finishing Volume III as I type this!



A Long Way From Chicago


Book cover of A Long Way From ChicagoA really good children's book can be enjoyed as much by adults as it is by children. A Long Way from Chicago is such a book... in fact, it's one of my favorite children's books of all time. Set in the Depression era, the book is about a brother and sister who take the train from Chicago to a hick town south of the city to visit their grandma every summer from 1929 to 1935. That first summer Joey and Mary Alice are only age 9 and 7, and they soon find out that "what little we knew about grownups didn't seem to cover Grandma." Grandma Dowdel is a no-nonsense, hard-working woman with little tolerance for people who put on airs or stick their nose into others' business. She's not afraid of using unorthodox means to put fools in their place, often with hilarious results. The short chapters, each a story unto itself, coupled with the book's country charm and ever-present humor, make it a fast read and a good pick for a historical fiction assignment for students fifth grade and up. When you've finished with this book, pick up the equally good sequel, the Newbery-Medal winning A Year Down Yonder, in which 15-year-old Mary Alice goes for an extended stay with Grandma. You may also enjoy the many other books for children and young adults written by author Richard Peck.



Poetry in Willow Glen


Cover of Remembering Poems Read at Willow Glen Books, with photo showing the window of Willow Glen BooksFor several years, Willow Glen Books hosted a poetry group. As a memorial to this group, editor Pushpa MacFarlane assembled 107 of the poems read over the years, and put them together in the book Remembering: Poems Read at Willow Glen Books: An Anthology. The poems run the gamut from funny to sad, from realistic to romantic, mirroring the human experience. Willow Glen Books was a fixture in the community, and it's fitting that a book like this commemorate the well-loved store. 

 

But local poetry lovers in need of camaraderie, weep not!  A successor group, Poetry Center San Jose meets at the Willow Glen Library on the third Thursday of the month at 7pm. So if your soul could use a dash of poetry and good fellowship, join in!  Who knows, maybe in time to come, there will be a sequel to "Remembering"! How's "Keep on Remembering" for a title? Willow Glen Library staff members, if you have any more information about this or a related topic which you would like to share with the big wide Internet world, please chime in!  

 

For a bit more information, here is a San Jose Mercury News article about the book.



Posted by Timothy Collins on Apr 19, 2011 | Comments: 3 |
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Meet Mary Ann Singleton


Cover of Tales of the CityRight now I’m reading Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin in preparation for the upcoming musical at the American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco. If you’re not familiar with it, the Tales of the City series is comprised of eight books set in San Francisco and centered on Anna Madrigal’s apartment house at the fictional 28 Barbary Lane. The first book opens with 25-year-old Mary Ann Singleton phoning her mother to say she won’t be returning to Cleveland, as she has fallen in love with San Francisco. The reader understands why she loves the city – Maupin shows us the eclectic quirkiness that endears the city to so many. Mary Ann has contact with a diverse cast of characters, including Anna, her pot-smoking landlady; Mona, a bohemian neighbor; and Michael, Mona’s roommate who’s dating Jon, a gynecologist.

 

The first five books in the series were originally serialized in San Francisco newspapers, and this style makes the books quick reads as the chapters are short and the plot lines are lively. The first book in the series came out in 1978 and while three decades have passed since then, the characters and stories are still fun and engrossing. Since these first novels came out before HIV/AIDS, the characters still frequent bath houses and have lots of indiscriminate sex. However, later books in the series were some of the first to deal with the AIDS epidemic.

 

I’m eager to get on to the next book, More Tales of the City and I can’t wait to see what the ACT does with these stories and characters. 




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