Great Books and more

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon, Lakeview Book Club Notes


Hello Everyone,

 What a great meeting about Telegraph Hill by Michael Chabon!

 There were 10 of us and our leader did a great job! She had done research on Michael Chabon and told us about his early life in Columbia, Maryland in an almost utopian middle class Black and White community. This background gave credence to his depicting a multiracial/multicultural world on Telegraph Avenue. One member told us that she knows Michael Chabon, because their children attended the same school. She said he is a really nice person. Other members have heard him speak at other venues and thought he seemed shy, almost childlike, but seemed really nice.

 Our discussion leader set the stage for us by finding a play list of 126 of the 128 musical mentions in the book. We sat down to the background music of sweet/funky jazz played on an Ipad. We were provided with a long list of Chabon’s awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. Our leader’s assessment of reviews was that Telegraph Avenue was critically acclaimed, but regular readers either loved it or hated it.

 Her first question of our members, who have lived in Oakland for a long time, was whether the depiction of Telegraph Avenue in the past actually was correct for the time. The group discussed how the Bay Area has changed demographically over the last 30ish years. One member pointed out that Oakland used to have a 50% Black population and now Oakland is 25% Black, 25% White, 25% Asian and 25% Hispanic/Other. In other words the Black population has gone down in the recent years. There was "Black Flight" to Atlanta and Antioch due to the difficult conditions here. Overall the members of the group, who were in Oakland in the past, thought Chabon's depiction was accurate.

 Discussions next were of the structure of the book, the character development and themes. We figured the themes were Shared Community, Fatherhood and Racism.

 People liked the relationship between Gwen and Aviva. Gwen and Aviva had the most stable relationship of the characters in the novel. The character Gwen questioned her relationship to the community she lived in. She wondered if she should be with her own community. She did, however, feel she was not supported by members of her own community. The book club members disagreed as to whether the two women were the main characters of the novel. One member pointed out that women are the foundation of every society. This might mean that if they were not the main characters of the book, they were the foundation, the stability, of the book.

 Members thought the description of childbirth was really accurate. As various times during the discussion a member mentioned a page number and read a passage she thought to be outstanding. The childbirth passage was one of these. One member said that WAS her childbirth experience. Members thought that the character, Gwen, was justified in telling off the racist doctor.

 Another passage that members liked was where Gwen talked about enduring life's difficulties, and there is no way that you can prevent those negative perceptions from being passed on to the next generations. We thought her comment on marriage being based on deception and lies to be profound. People are all flawed, but look for a unit to belong to.

 One member commented that it was passages like these that kept her reading, although she found it difficult to stay engaged throughout the novel. This member liked the second half the book best. Another liked the beginning better.

 The character, Luther, is a tragic person in the novel. He never reached his dreams, yet never gave up on those dreams, unlike most people who become disillusioned and, therefore, adjust their life views to be resigned to what life has given them.

 Regarding the style, the group discussed chapter 58, which has no period. Most people didn't care. One compared it to James Joyce. That person said that Oakland was to Michael Chabon as Dublin was to James Joyce (or vice versa). Another member strongly disagreed to a comparison of Chabon to James Joyce. That member said that Chabon was no James Joyce. She could read James Joyce all day and love it and she could not make it through Telegraph Avenue. She thought the endless "guy" details about records and comics and other such minutia was an insurmountable barrier to continuing with the book. Others agreed. Several couldn't finish the book. They thought that Chabon was "full of himself" and his choice of words. They thought he was intellectual, i.e. left brained, and unable to catch the reader emotionally the way that James Baldwin did for us in Another Country.

 One member didn't like the characters, couldn't keep them straight and generally got bogged down in the details. Other comments on style had to do with stream of consciousness passages and another chapter of 30-40 pages without a period in it. A comment was made about there being a "little pomposity," and another member immediately said, "A LOT." Members of the group who had trouble staying engaged, who are in their 50's, 60's and 70's, felt life was too short to push through this book. One mentioned that she might have liked it better if she read it in her 30's.

 Several mentioned that the reader couldn't tell what race the characters were. Some thought that was a good thing and others thought it was a problem. We all wondered what Black people would think of this book, in fact, would Black people even read this book?

 One comment was that Chabon was trying to write the Great American Novel. Many thought he did not succeed. One thought that maybe with the passage of time, this book would be considered as the Great American Novel. Someone asked what is considered The Great American Novel. Two suggestions came out, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Moby Dick.

 Several comments on the use of jargon which they thought very accurate, such as the use of the words Shameless and Scand'lous. One comment was the beauty of the dedication of the book to Chabon's wife, referring to phonograph records, "from the drop of the needle to the innermost groove."

 Regarding the symbolism and plot devices one member pointed out the clever choices of Chabon such as the owner of the Blimp, who was as big as a blimp, that the book begins with a death and a birth and ends that way...that the theme is about the cycle of life which is set is a record store...where records are round.

 We discussed the locations cited in the book and commented that there really is a record store on one of the locations.

 So the consensus seemed to be just as predicted, Michael Chabon is a brilliant writer, who uses words and plot and style in ways others have not quite done. His insights are true and places in this novel shine beautifully, yet around half of the group, though understanding why people really like Chabon, or even this novel, could not expend the energy to stick with it. The clever writing wasn't enough. Those people wanted to connect with the characters emotionally and just were never able to do so.

 So often we agree overall as to the merits and general enjoyment of a book we have chosen, yet for this title we were almost equally divided, but loved to hear what our friends thought. This is a wonderful group!

 Thank you all for sharing.


 (Any misinterpretation of anything found in my notes or memory is all mine. Please accept my apology if I misheard, misunderstood and/or misquoted any of you.)

 Happy Reading,

 Mary Farrell, Branch Manager, Lakeview Branch



Full Steam Ahead: Picture Books about Trains

Here’s an understatement for you: train books are popular at the library. They have the power to capture the attention and imagination of wiggly toddlers, curious preschoolers, and knowledgeable school-aged kids alike. They inspire squeals of delight when discovered and, sometimes, tears of despair when returned! Come find these tried-and-true books at the library for the train lover in your life:

Trains book coverAnd the Train coverFreight Train book coverDown by the station book cover Steaming! Pulling! Huffing! book coverCaboose who got loose book coverLittle engine that could book coverI saw an ant on the railroad track book coverSeymour Simon's book of trains book cover

Trains / Byron Barton

And the train goes-- / William Bee

Freight train / Donald Crews

Down by the station / by Jennifer Riggs Vetter ; illus. by Frank Remkiewicz

Trains : steaming! pulling! huffing! / by Patricia Hubbell ; illus. by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy

The caboose who got loose / Bill Peet

The little engine that could / retold by Watty Piper ; pictures by Loren Long

I saw an ant on the railroad track / by Joshua Prince ; illus. by Macky Pamintuan

Seymour Simon's book of trains / Seymour Simon


The Right Book for the Right Reader: Introductions

Greetings! Many of you already know me as Miss Amy, especially if you are under three feet tall and have attended a storytime at Montclair Branch, the Main Library Children's Room, or Eastmont Branch in the last six years. I'm one of your friendly children's librarians, and in this series I will discuss a topic that drives children's librarians and keeps us invested in our profession. A thing that keeps us hard at work, hour upon hour, day after day, and I'm not talking about googling "is Kadir Nelson married*"-- no, it's our guiding principle, the beacon we follow when all else is dim.

It is the concept of the right book for the right reader.

What does this mean?

Well, basically, the "right book for the right reader" means that for every person out there, there is a book that they will love so much that they will become convinced that reading is fun, and they will seek it out as an activity to engage in by choice. Children's librarians work with a lot of what we call "reluctant readers"-- kids who can read, but don't like to, and won't do it unless compelled to by a teacher, parent, or other adult. In theory, there is a book out there for every reader, no matter how reluctant, that they will love.

I'm not sure I believe in "the right book for the right reader."

I sure believe in matching everyone with the best books possible for their tastes; book + person matchmaking is one of my favorite tasks as a librarian. But I don't know if it's true that every single person would become a reader if they found just the right book. Some people don't like to read, and that's cool.

And yet for every child who comes to us with crossed arms, a stormy face, and mumbles of "have to read something before school starts," we start up the chase. It's kind of our white whale-- the right book for that reader may or may not be out there, but we'll pursue it until one or both of us dies from exhaustion or the kid's parents take them home.

A children's librarian perishes in pursuit of the perfect book for a child

I have a collection of memories that make me think this white whale exists-- times when I've seen a child (or adult) connect with a book in a way that changes everything. These are the stories I'll be sharing here, and my spyglass is trained to the sea for more**, so feel free to leave your own stories in the comments. What was the book that made you a reader? Mine was TROUBLE IN DEVIL'S BAYOU, which I remember looking at while lying on the living room floor at age three (or so they tell me) and suddenly all the words made sense. Yarrr, a fine book, that.

--Miss Amy

*Yes he is

**CONFESSION: I have never read MOBY DICK

Chef Memoirs and Other Delicious Titles

During the past six weeks the library has been hosting food related programs and events for adults as part of our Reading is So Delicious Summer Reading Program.  In keeping with this theme, I've highlighted memoirs written by chefs and food writers.

Yes, Chef     Four Kitchens     Nine Lives     Life, On the Line

Heat     Spoon Fed     Steal the Menu     Cooked

Yes, chef : a memoir / Marcus Samuelsson
Marcus Samuelsson was a young child when his mother fled her Ethiopian village for Addis Abba with her two children in tow to seek a cure for tuberculosis.  His mother died and Samuelsson was adopted by a Swedish family.  He developed a love of cooking from his Swedish grandmother who he helped in the kitchen on Saturday mornings.  Samuelsson's memoir explores the chef's journey from his grandmother's kitchen in Sweden to his adventures in New York at Aquavit  and eventually to the opening of his restaurant, Red Rooster, in Harlem.  Committed to creating a diverse kitchen and dining room, Samuelsson works with young people from various backgrounds to help them develop a place in the kitchen and welcomes jazz musicians, presidents and ordinary people into his restaurant.

Four kitchens : my life behind the burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris : a memoir / Lauren Shockey
At the French Culinary Institute, Lauren Shockey learned to salt food properly,
cook fearlessly over high heat, and knock back beers like a pro. But she also
discovered that her real culinary education wouldn't begin until she actually
worked in a restaurant. After a somewhat disappointing apprenticeship in the
French provinces, Shockey hatched a plan for her dream year: to apprentice in
four high-end restaurants around the world. She started in her hometown of New York City under the famed chef Wylie Dufresne at the molecular gastronomy hotspot wd-50, then traveled to Vietnam, Israel, and back to France.  Shockey shows us what really happens behind the scenes in haute cuisine, and includes original recipes integrating the techniques and flavors she learned along the way.  -From Publisher's Description

Nine lives : a chef's journey from chaos to control / Brandon Baltzley
At twenty-six years old, Brandon Baltzley was poised for his star turn as the
opening chef at Chicago’s hotspot Tribute. People called him a prodigy—the
Salvador Dali of cooking—and foodie blogs followed his every move. Instead,
Brandon walked away from it all and entered rehab to deal with the alcohol and cocaine addiction that had enslaved him most of his adult life.  Nine Lives serves up a raw and riveting memoir about food, rock-and-roll, and redemption.  -From Publisher's Description

Life, on the line : a chef's story of chasing greatness, facing death, and redefining the way we eat / Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas
Achatz, "one of America's great chefs" ("Vogue"), shares how his drive to cook immaculate food won him international renown--and fueled his miraculous triumph over tongue cancer. "Life, on the Line" is also a book about survival, about nurturing creativity, and about profound friendship. -From OPL Catalog Summary

Heat : an amateur's adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta maker, and
apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany / Bill Buford
Expanding on his James Beard Award-winning New Yorker article, Bill Buford gives us a richly evocative chronicle of his experience as “slave” to Mario Batali in the kitchen of Batali’s three-star New York restaurant, Babbo.  In a fast-paced, candid narrative, Buford describes three frenetic years of trials and errors, disappointments and triumphs, as he worked his way up the Babbo ladder from “kitchen bitch” to line cook . . . his relationship with the larger-than-life Batali, whose story he learns as their friendship grows through (and sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters . . . and his immersion in the arts of butchery in Northern Italy, of preparing game in London, and making handmade pasta at an Italian hillside trattoria. 
-From Publisher's Description

Spoon fed : how eight cooks saved my life / Kim Severson
Somewhere between the lessons her mother taught her as a child and the ones she
is now trying to teach her own daughter, Kim Severson stumbled. She lost sight
of what mattered, of who she was and who she wanted to be, and of how she wanted
to live her life. It took a series of women cooks to reteach her the life
lessons she forgot-and some she had never learned in the first place. Some as
small as a spoonful, and others so big they saved her life, the best lessons she
found were delivered in the kitchen. -From Publisher's Description

Steal the menu : a memoir of forty years in food / Raymond Sokolov
When Raymond Sokolov became food editor of The New York Times in 1971, he
began a long, memorable career as restaurant critic, food historian, and author.
Here he traces the food scene he reported on in America and abroad, from his
pathbreaking dispatches on nouvelle cuisine chefs like Paul Bocuse and Michel
Guérard in France to the rise of contemporary American food stars like Thomas
Keller and Grant Achatz, and the fruitful collision of science and cooking in
the kitchens of El Bulli in Spain, the Fat Duck outside London, and Copenhagen’s
gnarly Noma. -From Publisher's Description

Cooked : a natural history of transformation / Michael Pollan
In his newest title, Pollan makes a case for reclaiming cooking rather than relying on corporations to provide us with overly processed foods.  Pollan uses each of the four elements -- fire, water, earth, and air -- to master a recipe, a task that he accomplishes with a barbecue pit master,
a baker, a group of brewers, and a Chez Panisse trained chef.
Posted by Rebekah Eppley on 7/26, Dimond Branch

What Are We Reading Right Now?

Children’s librarians tend to hold in our hearts a deep and abiding love of children’s literature. We read kid's books for work, but we read them for pleasure too! Check out the variety of books that Oakland Public Library’s Children’s Librarians are reading, and let us know which books you're excited about right now:

Amy Martin, Eastmont Branch

Center of Everything book coverThe Center of Everything / Linda Urban

Andrew Demcak, Golden Gate Branch

City of Gold and Lead book coverCity of Gold and Lead / John Christopher

Annabelle Blackman, West Oakland Branch

I kissed the baby book coverOld Black Fly book coverOld MacDonald book cover Voices from the Disaster book cover

I Kissed the Baby! / Mary Murphy

Old Black Fly / Jim Aylesworth ; illustrations by Stephen Gammell

Old MacDonald / retold and illustrated by Jessica Souhami ; designed by Paul McAlinden

Titanic : Voices from the Disaster / by Deborah Hopkinson

Anne Lennon, Melrose Branch

Another Brother book coverGoblin Secrets book coverPart-time Princess book coverPig Parade is a Terrible Idea book cover

Another Brother / Matthew Cordell

Goblin secrets / William Alexander

Part-time Princess / Deborah Underwood ; illustrated by Cambria Evans

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea / Michael Ian Black ; illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Dayni Kuo, Asian Branch

Grandaddy's Place book coverGrandaddy's Place / by Helen Griffith; illus. by James Stevenson

Janet Cheung, Asian Branch

Emily of Deep Valley book coverEmily of Deep Valley / Maud Hart Lovelace; illus. by Vera Neville

Laurie Willhalm, Main Library

Throne of Fire book coverThe Throne of Fire / Rick Riordan

Nina Lindsay, Main Library

P.S. Be Eleven book coverP.S. Be Eleven / by Rita Williams-Garcia

Ted McCoy, Cesar Chavez Branch

Aliens on Vacation book coverAliens on Vacation / by Clete Smith; illus by Christian Slade

Comic-Con is on!

The 44th annual Comic-Con International is underway in San Diego.  The winners for the Will Eisner awards, considered the Oscars of the comics industry, will be announced today.  Nominees for titles published in 2012 are truly exceptional.

Titles with the most nominations are:

Building StoriesBuilding stories by Chris Ware with nominations for Best Graphic Album–New, Best Writer/artist, Best Coloring, Best Lettering, and Best Publication Design.

This work, made of many small books, posters and cards, and encased in a box the size of a large board game, tells the story of the residents of an apartment building in Chicago.  At times sad and at others forward-looking we peer into the lives of a single and lonely young woman, a couple, on the verge of a break-up and other inhabitants.  This work has also been honored with spots on the top ten lists of the New York Times Book Review, Time Magazine, and was named Publishers Weekly’s Best Book of the Year.

FataleFatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, nominated for Best Continuing Series, Best New Series, Best Writer, Best Penciller/Inker, and Best Cover Artist.

Fatale is the story of a mysterious and beautiful woman who has been in hiding for 80 years.  She seems ageless, perhaps immortal.  In the present day, a reporter, Nicolas Lash, is pursuing her.  In a parallel story line, a reporter in San Francisco is pursuing this same woman in the 1950s.

HawkeyeHawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja, also nominated for Best Continuing Series, Best New Series, Best Writer, Best Penciller/Inker, and Best Cover Artist.

In this on-going tale, Clint Barton, or Hawkeye as he’s known as part of the Avengers team, fights the dirtiest criminals in New York City along with his sidekick, Kate Bishop.

Find the full list of nominees (and winners, tonight) in all categories here

What are some of your favorite comics and graphic novels?  Geek out in the comments.

Posted on: July 19, 2013, by Jenera Burton, Piedmont Ave branch



Mysteries of the Unknown

Come explore real-life ghost stories and other paranormal mysteries at the library…if you dare! They’re shelved together at the very start of the non-fiction section – look for the 001s and 133s or ask a staff member to point the way.

Ghosts book coverAre you afraid yet? book coverHaunted Histories book coverBeastly Tales book coverMystery of the bermuda triangle book coverAre you psychic? book coverMystery of UFOs book coverEncyclopedia Horrifica

Ghosts: a nonfiction companion to A good night for ghosts / by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce; illustrated by Sal Murdocca

Are you afraid yet?: the science behind scary stuff / written by Stephen James O'Meara; illustrated by Jeremy Kaposy

Haunted histories: creepy castles, dark dungeons, and powerful palaces / J. H. Everett and Marilyn Scott-Waters

Beastly tales: Yeti, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster / written by Malcolm Yorke

The mystery of the Bermuda Triangle / Chris Oxlade

Are you psychic?: the official guide for kids / Helaine Becker; Claudia Dávila, illustrator

The mystery of UFOs / by Judith Herbst; illustrated by Greg Clarke

Encyclopedia horrifica: the terrifying truth! about vampires, ghosts, monsters, and more / Joshua Gee

Mysteries of the Unknown

Come explore real-life ghost stories and other paranormal mysteries at the library…if you dare! They’re shelved together at the very start of the non-fiction section – look for the 001s and 133s or ask a staff member to point the way.

Ghosts book cover  Are you afraid yet? book cover  Haunted Histories book cover  Beastly Tales book cover  

Mystery of the bermuda triangle book cover  Are you psychic? book cover  Mystery of UFOs book cover  Encyclopedia Horrifica

Ghosts: a nonfiction companion to A good night for ghosts / by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce; illustrated by Sal Murdocca

Are you afraid yet?: the science behind scary stuff / written by Stephen James O'Meara; illustrated by Jeremy Kaposy

Haunted histories: creepy castles, dark dungeons, and powerful palaces / J. H. Everett and Marilyn Scott-Waters

Beastly tales: Yeti, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster / written by Malcolm Yorke

The mystery of the Bermuda Triangle / Chris Oxlade

Are you psychic?: the official guide for kids / Helaine Becker; Claudia Dávila, illustrator

The mystery of UFOs / by Judith Herbst; illustrated by Greg Clarke

Encyclopedia horrifica: the terrifying truth! about vampires, ghosts, monsters, and more / Joshua Gee

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford is considered one of the best 100 best novels of all time. One reviewer called it the "finest French novel in the English language." This alludes to the complex plot, fascinating involvements and constant surprises. It recreates the difficult relations between two "perfect" Victorian couples who leisurely travel and stay at the finest European luxury gathering places.
While "weeding" our collection, I came across this title. I was unfamiliar with it, but the preface sounded fascinating. I thought I'd give it a try that weekend while I went up the coast to bask in the beauty of the ocean crashing on the cliffs. My weekend went totally differently than I had planned. I holed up in a bed and breakfast and read nonstop. I could not put this book down. Sometimes a classic is a classic for a reason! The story is timeless in many ways, but definitely of-and-in the Victorian upper class world.
Don't be misled by the title. It is not about war. This book was to be published right at the end of WWI and the publisher didn't want Ford's title, The Saddest Story Ever Told, because everyone was dealing with sadness of The Great War To End All Wars. The main character had been soldier, liked and respected by all, hence a "Good Soldier." The publisher thought the public would be more willing to pick up a book featuring such an attractive person. This was a wildly popular book when it first came out and is considered Ford's best work.
Ford was a fascinating character and friend of many major writers of the era, including Joseph Conrad. After you read this title you'll want more from Ford and his friends.
I recommended this as a title for our book club at Lakeview. Below is the update to our group after the meeting:
The seven of us who were there really liked the book. A couple mentioned that at times it was confusing, because the narrator would jump forward and back in time. This was something the author did intentionally and we agreed that it helped build the suspense and sense of danger around this gathering of mostly unlikable people with mostly useless lives, deceiving and mistreating and emotionally torturing each other. There was something for everyone :>
We briefly wondered at the hormone level of the husband who never consummated his marriage. We agreed we actually knew people like this and didn't really understand it. We could see why this book has stayed popular.
One member mentioned that Ford's other most popular novel, Parade's End, is now in serial form on HBO.  BBC did a mini-series of the Good Soldier, (I believe only two episodes) and it is available at Main. I watched it eagerly and found it very good, but by no means as stunning as the novel.
Oakland Public Library currently has three copies of this novel. If those copies are checked out, be sure to reserve a copy from our Link+ system. Link+ allows us to borrow books that Oakland Public Library may not have available. You just need your card number and pin number to place a hold. There are many, many copies available through Link+. Call Main or any Branch if you need help placing a Link+ hold. ,,,or call me. 510-238-7344 at Lakeview :>
Mary Farrell, Branch Manager, Lakeview

75 years of the Caldecott Medal

Caldecott Anniversary LogoThe Caldecott Medal turned 75 this year, and the Association for Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association) celebrated last week at the ALA national conference in Chicago, where the 2013 Caldecott Medal was presented to Jon Klassen for This is Not My Hat.

You can celebrate at home or at your library!  Free resources at the Caldecott 75th Anniversary webpage include downloadable bookmarks with clues and answers about the special anniversary logo created by Brian Selznick, and pictured here.  Can you identify the 10 Caldecott honored titles pictured in the logo?  (The answers are here.)

Also be sure to check out  for multimedia resources about your favorite Caldecott winning books, including interviews and videos with the illustrators.   Do you want to know how to pronounce "Chris Raschka"?  Or "Jon Scieszka"? They will tell you.  See how Bryan Collier creates his collage illustrations, or browse a collection of video and audio interviews with Maurice Sendak.  

Which is your favorite Caldecott winning book?  

The Caldecott Award is administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The 75th Anniversary illustration and logo copyright © 2012 by Brian Selznick. Used with permission of ALSC/ALA