Saturday, March 31, 2012

‘Who Let the Blogs Out?’

Cover shot of Biz Stone’s book, “Who Let the Blogs Out?”
Spontaneous finds characterize the time I spend volunteering at the Middletown Library. Whenever I shelve non-fiction returns, I never know where I’ll end up.

Today’s discovery: Biz Stone’s “Who Let the Blogs Out?” in 006.7.

I’m fairly new to blogging; I’ve been given the privilege of posting to blogs that were maintained by other people. An original homily, “The Lesson of the Sorting Hat,” is archived at I also blog about the “Book of the Month” at a small church lending library at

But you are now reading an entry in what is the first blog that I have created and maintain for myself.

Because I’m new at blogging, I look forward to reading what is sure to be an informative book. I look forward to gaining its insights and I’ll share my impressions when I’m further along reading it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Summarizing takes practice. Thanks, work-Tweets!

Screen-capture of thAutcast logo from

In his March 25 entry, blogger Landon Bryce (thAutcast) emphasizes summarizing as an extremely important skill after identifying similarities and differences:

“Because it can be especially difficult for people with autism, it is especially important that we work on it.”

Bryce offers practical suggestions for exercising this crucial skill:

“You can practice summarizing often:  try doing it during the commercials while watching TV or talking a few seconds to summarize the YouTube video or blog post before moving on the next one. 
“Summaries do not have not to be in words: try drawing a picture or a map.”
My work as social media curator for the Lake County Record-Bee ( affords me a daily opportunity to practice this important skill.

A post on Facebook allows the viewer to read a story's opening paragraph but when I promote a story on Twitter, I am limited by the number of characters.

My objective: try to communicate as much information from that story's opening paragraph in my Twitter post.

Summarizing takes practice and I exercise it daily. Thanks, work-Tweets!

To read Bryce's complete post and view an accompanying video, go to

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Does this yarnbombing tag make you want to visit a library?

“746.43” crocheted yarnbombing tag
Photo by Cynthia Parkhill
One of my classes this semester has me studying what is called Cataloging-in-Publication (CIP), specifically, data about the book's classification via Dewey cataloging and the Library of Congress schedule.

The publisher prints this information on an inside page called the “verso,” just after the title page.

So I was savoring “Yarn Bombing” by Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain on my second check-out from the library and looking at its CIP gave me a cool idea:

Make a yarnbombing tag with a book’s Dewey number and put it up at a public library. Patrons can then go inside and check the non-fiction stacks.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Middletown Library

Yarnbombing tag: “New Library” on fence surrounding construction site for Middletown Library
Photo by Cynthia Parkhill
What a great view I have from the Middletown library each Saturday as I shelve returned books: the new library and senior center directly across the street. Steel frames have been erected and make a dramatic sight.

My husband and I have walked over for closer views of the new Middletown Library. We can see the outline of what will be a parking lot, as well as molds for pouring the foundation.

David Petri, president, Friends of the Middletown Gibson Library (FMGL), calls the new library a “soon-to-be-realized 10-year effort by county officials, grant writers, volunteers, countless book sales and the constant and steady support of our beloved current library by FMGL.”

As a volunteer shelver, I will be glad when the library collection will have room to grow. There simply isn’t enough shelving available in the current library, which means books and audio resources are stacked where we can make space.

Gehlen Palmer, Middletown Library director, notes in “Library News” for February, that it is hoped the new library will be finished in time for Thanksgiving. He also reports that Calpine has presented the new library with a circulation desk, work table, office desk and two storage cabinets.

Published March 27, 2012 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Stars should honor supporters of arts

With the posting of the annual Stars of Lake County nomination form for the year, I am perplexed anew at the discrepancy in treatment toward supporters of the arts compared to similar categories.

Whereas Youth Advocate and Organization of the Year have sub-category distinctions for paid/professional and volunteer, the Arts Award is divided into “amateur” and “professional.”

The purpose of the award is to recognize a “Person(s) or organization who promotes, participates or supports the arts.”

I think the word “participates” detracts from what ought to be the focus of this award: people or organizations that promote and nourish the artistic community. Its focus shouldn’t be to evaluate the quality of Lake County art.

Youth advocates do not have to compete against the young people they serve for recognition as Stars of Lake County. But that is the position into which benefactors of the arts are being placed with the treatment of this award.

If Lake County wants to honor its talented practitioners of visual and performing arts, perhaps that should be the subject of another set of awards. We certainly have enough practitioners to field a number of categories.

Please, organizers, revise the wording and qualifications of the Stars of Lake County Arts Award. Allow supporters of Lake County arts — professional and volunteer, not professional and “amateur” — to be honored for their accomplishments without having to compete against local artists.

Published March 27, 2012 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Monday, March 26, 2012

YA book blog: Game Boys

Cover: Game Boys
Cover: Game Boys

New York Post entertainment features writer Michael Kane takes an investigative look at the world of competitive computer gaming: profiling top teams and the financial interests that have a stake in player tournaments in Game Boys: Professional Videogaming's Rise from the Basement to the Big Time (New York: Viking, 2008).

I think this book would be of interest, particularly among teen boys who enjoy playing first-person shooter or Massive-Multiplayer-Online-Role-Playing-Games.

(While the author concedes that some "gamer guys" are actually girls, he identifies elite-level players as young men in their early 20s).

 Kane admits that when he originally set out to cover computer gaming, he assumed that he would play it for laughs. Instead, "what I saw turned my cynicism into appreciation ... In gaming, I found a microcosm of all that's good -- and most of what's bad -- about modern sports."

The book is fast paced and is presented as a struggle between two top teams. I think the subject would appeal to teens, particularly to the gamers among them.

Originally submitted to a class discussion board for Cuesta College LIBT 118: Connecting Adolescents with Literature and Libraries.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

“Autism Society Responds to Tragic Death of George Hodgins”

Editor's Note: This letter was published March 20 on the Autism Society website. The original can be viewed at
“March 20, 2012
“By Autism Society
“(In response to the March 8 article, Sunnyvale mom kills autistic son, self, police say).
“A letter from the Autism Society called “Cuts to adult disability support are devastating,” was published in the San Jose Mercury News on March 17 in response to reports of a woman murdering her son with autism and then killing herself. Since the article was published, some individuals have questioned the Autism Society’s motives for not mentioning the victim of the story, George Hodgins, 22. We apologize if our letter offended anyone. 
“It was wrong of us to not mention Mr. Hodgins by name, but this in no way was intended to lessen the value of his life or justify the killing of an innocent individual. Killing is wrong without a doubt, regardless of whether stress or pressure on a family is the culprit. If parents are dealing with stress and in a desperate state of mind, they should call their local police department or local crisis hotline for immediate help. We stand with those who mourn the tragic death of Mr. Hodgins and encourage all to remember the valued life of Mr. Hodgins in their thoughts.
“The Autism Society is here to help. Call us at 1-800-3autism.”

Erased from his own murder

A letter dated March 17 on the San Jose Mercury News website is signed by two presidents of the Autism Society of America. And nowhere in their letter do they mention by name, George Hodgins, a man with autism who was killed by his mother in a murder-suicide.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

‘House Rules’ by Jodi Picoult

Book cover: House Rules by Jodi Picoult. Cover image depicts a child kneeling at the shoreline of a lake
My feelings about House Rules by Jodi Picoult are mixed. First of all, the protagonist — a young man with Asperger syndrome — is 18 years old, but the cover art depicts a child.

The choice of cover art is symptomatic of a society that addresses autism as if only children had it. Its awareness of adults seems limited to those children who are aging out of services.

I experienced the novel as an audio recording, which enhanced its use of multiple narrators.

The story itself was entertaining — primarily a mystery/crime drama — but the mother interjects political tirades promoting a belief that vaccines cause autism.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Save a valuable life

Word cloud from letters published between Feb. 11 and 22 in the Lake County Record-Bee
From letters and columns published between Feb. 11 and 22 in the Lake County Record-Bee, I chose a single word that I thought summarized the writer’s concern.

The “word cloud” I created via showed concern about feral cats second only to debating the U.S. Constitution during that 11-day span. Words were given a larger size relevant to the greater frequency that they appeared among input text.

I was glad to see that so many readers share my concern for Lake County’s high rate of euthanizing cats. This is a distinction to be ashamed of: highest rate in the state.

I think Lake County’s adoption fee amnesty program and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) will go a long way toward addressing the rate at which cats are killed.

The adoption fee amnesty will be conducted up to four times a year, for one week at a time, according to a memo from Lake County Animal Care and Control Director Bill Davidson. The Lake County Board of Supervisors approved this department policy addition on Feb. 21.

I hope that with the adoption fee waived, people who would not otherwise afford to adopt an animal will consider giving one a home. Cats and dogs can bring so much enrichment to a person’s home.

With this writing, I have been encouraged by the proximity of my family’s sweet cat Starfire. Her presence makes an enormous difference toward our apartment truly feeling like “home.”

Lake County Animal Care and Control supplies me with photos each week of one of its cats and dogs who are available for adoption; these are publicized on Facebook and in Saturday’s print edition of the Record-Bee. Other animals in the agency’s custody can be viewed on its website.

Lake County veterinarians are sponsoring the “Cat-Snip” TNR program for feral cats. I am glad to see a program like this finally come to Lake County.

The purpose of this free program is to responsibly spay or neuter cats who do not belong to a caregiver. As explained by program coordinator Victoria Chamberlain in her letter to the editor, published online Feb. 9 by the Record-Bee, “Cat-Snip cats need to come to a vet in a trap. They will be spayed, neutered, given a rabies shot and the right ear is tipped to identify as to the fact that they are altered and have a rabies shot.”
Feral colonies have their origins when cats are discarded by humans. Ultimately this attitude needs to be erased; the dumping needs to stop.

Cats are not throwaway merchandise. They are living beings. If you are not willing to accept a commitment that lasts for the lifetime of an animal, you have no business adopting a cat or dog.

Published March 13, 2012 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Sunday, March 11, 2012

YA book blog: Summerland

Cover art: Summerland by Michael Chabon
Cover image: Summerland
In  Summerland by Michael Chabon (New York: Miramax Books for Children,  2002), Ethan Feld is on the verge of quitting his Little League baseball team because he is “The Worst Ballplayer in the History of Clam Island, Washington.”

Ethan is recruited by Chiron Brown, a scout for heroes, to prevent an attempt by Coyote to bring the world to an end.

The fairy realms that Feld and his companions travel through construct their societies around baseball. Feld faces a series of individual and team challenges and discovers the position of catcher is what he is destined to play.

I don’t follow baseball. I’ve been disinclined toward team sports ever since being chosen last every single time in PE. But that doesn’t matter. Chabon makes baseball captivating and understandable. This is an excellent story and I think its subject matter will encourage boys to read.

A strong female character, Shadowtails pitcher Jennifer T. Rideout, makes the story accessible for girls and I relate to Feld’s early frustration toward the sport of baseball. The book is shelved in the Young Adult collection at the main branch of my library.

Originally submitted to a class discussion board for Cuesta College LIBT 118: Connecting Adolescents with Literature and Libraries.

Makerblog: Evolution of a yarnbombing tag

A multimedia tag for the main branch of the Lake County library is my most ambitious yarnbombing tag to date, embarked upon to honor the Summer of Peace and the Charter for Compassion in the County of Lake.

In keeping with my emphasis upon Yarn Bombing @ Your Library, the tag was attached to the peace pole at the Lakeport library. The story of its assembly is highlighted in social media and curated with Storify.

YA book blog: Hungry by Alethea Eason

Book cover: Hungry by Alethea Eason
Book cover: Hungry by Alethea Eason
Upon learning of my YA book blog project for my Cuesta College course in connecting adolescents with literature and libraries, Middletown Library director Gehlen Palmer recommended Hungry by Alethea Eason (HarperCollins Publishers, 2007).

Deborah and her parents are aliens masquerading as human, living on Earth as part of a planned invasion. They exist by once-a-year killing and feeding upon humans’ “essence.”

At the story’s beginning Deborah partakes of anonymous fare provided by her parents. Deborah is horrified when her parents demand that she eat her best friend, a human named Willy, to prove her maturity.

In spite of its science fiction trappings, I see this story similar in many ways to others depicting inter-generational conflict between members of immigrant families. The parents cling to the traditions that define their culture while the child wants to be a part of the dominant society.

I think teens will enjoy and be able to relate to the conflicts faced by Deborah: having her own ideas about what is right, becoming aware and acting on them but not wanting to disappoint her parents.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Gary Dickson departs Record-Bee

You’re a really good person, Gary. I look up to and respect you. From Lake County Record-Bee publisher Gary Dickson’s farewell column for the Record-Bee: “My dad is suffering from terminal cancer and I am heading back to Wichita, Kan. to be there with him and for him.”

Originally posted to Facebook

Sunday, March 4, 2012

TED News live-Tweets Susan Cain presentation

Curated in Storify: Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts,” makes a presentation during Technology Entertainment Design 2012.

YA author profile: Rick Riordan

Book cover: "The Lightning Thief" by Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan’s first Young Adult novel, The Lightning Thief, debuted in 2005. According to New York Times reviewer Polly Shulman, the book casts its hero in the “Harry Potter” model: “an ordinary boy who at first seems set apart from his peers, not by any special talent but by his painful home life and his difficulties fitting in.”

Percy, or Perseus, Jackson learns he is the half-human offspring of a Greek god and mortal. He is brought to Camp Half-Blood, where he meets demigods like himself. An oracle’s warning sends him and campmates on a quest to retrieve the god Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt. The quest takes the teens to various locales around the United States.

Riordan works full-time as a freelance writer (Gale). He worked as a middle school English teacher from 1990 to 1998 and lives with his wife and two sons in San Antonio, Texas. Reviewer Bob Minzesheimer, in his review for USA Today, states that “Riordan, a former teacher, blends page-turning action with mini-lessons in mythology and history.”

Riordan has been honored both as teacher and as writer: he was given the Master Teacher Award by Saint Mary’s Hall in 2002 and inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in 2003 (Gale). The Lightning Thief was a New York Times Notable Book for 2005 and in 2011 the Children’s Book Council honored both Riordan and his book The Red Pyramid with Author of the Year and Book of the Year for Fifth to Sixth Grade respectively (Gale).

While The Lightning Thief was his first YA novel, Riordan is also the author of the Tres Navarre mystery series, the most recent installment being Rebel Island in 2007 (Gale). The series has been awarded the “top three awards in the mystery genre” according to jacket-flap publicity for a first-edition hardbound copy of The Lightning Thief.

The Lightning Thief is the first in the five-book Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which tells the story of Percy and his campmates at Camp Half-Blood.

A second series, Heroes of Olympus, introduces the gods in their Roman aspects. The Roman gods’ offspring have traditionally warred with the Greek demigods so they have been kept ignorant of each other.

The goddess Hera/Juno believes the Greek and Roman demigods must unite to defeat a common enemy so she causes a hero from each camp to lose his memory and then sends him to the other camp. The two heroes’ stories form the basis of the first two books in Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero and Son of Neptune. The second book closes as the two camps are on the verge of meeting for the first time — brought together by the two heroes, their respective memories restored but each with friendships he has now made in the other camp.

The Kane Chronicles, a series that centers upon Egyptian gods and mythology, opens with The Red Pyramid. The protagonists, Carter and Sadie Kane, are descended from Egyptian mages and can thus wield magic relics, decipher hieroglyphics and serve as avatars to particular gods.

The brother and sister have been raised separately: Carter with their father in Egypt and Sadie with their mother’s parents in London. The two are brought together after their father disappears during a failed spell-casting and their quest includes “London, New York, Paris, Washington, D.C., Memphis, New Mexico and Cairo” (Minzesheimer).

While the books draw upon different mythologies, there are key similarities in plot. Both involve quests to prevent the unleashing of destructive forces. In The Red Pyramid, matters are further complicated by the Egyptian mages’ order seeking to assassinate the Kanes.

In her review of The Red Pyramid, Anita Burkam identifies the “Riordan magic” as “equal parts danger, myth, and irreverence.” I think this an apt description. The teen protagonists are, first and foremost, teenagers who are very much part of the modern world.

The modern and mythological worlds blend in unique and original ways: Medusa is the owner of a lawn statuary emporium and is, as the name suggests, operated by the Amazons, female warriors of legend, with magical objects and animals among their inventory.

With his three series for young readers, Riordan has contributed fast-paced and entertaining stories. The Lightning Thief was adapted for film and released in 2010 by Twentieth-Century Fox (Gale), which may add further interest in Riordan’s YA series.

According to reviewer Vicki Donoghue, “Action-packed films featuring strong male heroes have a particular appeal for teen boys, who are notoriously hard to choose books for.” She credits fantasy stories such as Riordan’s with helping boys make the jump from film to books: however, I believe teen girls will also enjoy Riordan’s books, populated as they are with strong female leads who quest as equals alongside their male counterparts.

The third book in the Kane Chronicles series will be available this spring and the third book in Heroes of Olympus will be available this fall (Riordan). As Riordan says in his FAQ page online, “I’m trying to write two series at the same time, two books each year, so you guys don’t have to wait any longer than necessary for the next installment in either series.” This avid reader considers each new installment worth the wait.

Works Cited

  • Burkam, Anita L. “The Red Pyramid.” Rev. of The Red Pyramid [Kane Chronicles] by Rick Riordan, Disney/Hyperion, 2010). Horn Book, July-August 2010. Gale Cengage Learning: Literature Resource Center. Napa City-County Library. Web. 13 Feb. 2012
  • Donoghue, Vicki. “A Good Read: Teens can try a variety of fantasy book series.” Tri-City News [Port Coquitlam, British Columbia], 29 Nov. 2011: 22. Gale Cengage Learning: Infotrac Newsstand. Napa City-County Library. Web. 13 Feb. 2012
  • Gale, Cengage Learning. “Rick Riordan, American Novelist (1964 - ).” Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2011. Gale Cengage Learning: Literature Resource Center. Napa City-County Library. Web. 13 Feb. 2012
  • Minzesheimer, Bob. “Pyramid: It’s another towering Riordan tale.” Rev. of The Red Pyramid [Kane Chronicles] by Rick Riordan, Disney/Hyperion, 2010). USA Today, 4 May 2010. Gale Cengage Learning: Student Resources in Context. Napa City-County Library. Web. 13 Feb. 2012
  • Riordan, Rick. “Frequently Asked Questions — About Me.” Welcome to the Online World of Rick Riordan. Web. 14 Feb. 2012
  • Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief. New York: Miramax Books, 2005. Print.
  • Riordan, Rick. The Lost Hero. New York: Disney/Hyperion Books, 2010. Print.
  • Riordan, Rick. The Red Pyramid. New York: Disney/Hyperion Books, 2010.
  • Riordan, Rick. Rick Riordan (camphalfblood) on Twitter. Web. 14 Feb. 2012
  • Riordan, Rick. The Son of Neptune. New York: Disney/Hyperion Books, 2011. Print.
  • Shulman, Polly. “Harry Who?” Rev. of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Miramax Books, 2005). New York Times Book Review 13 Nov. 2005. Gale Cengage Learning: Literature Resource Center. Napa City-County Library. Web. 13 Feb. 2012.

Compiled for Cuesta College LIBT 118, Connecting Adolescents with Literature and Libraries