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Showing posts from November, 2013

Why Writing Prompts?

How is it that so much hemming and hawing is done when it comes to writing a report, a diary entry, a thesis, or a work of fiction?  We do not find a million other things to do when it comes to eating, but when it comes to writing we will find any number of distractions.  The connection between mind and hand is a strange one, useful when we are eating soup or buttoning a shirt, but put pen to paper and procrastination ensues.  I am a writer.  I know other writers.  I know we all encounter the same difficulty.  That is why there are writing prompts.

Writing prompts encourage and cajole us into creativity.  There are no rules.  You write whatever the prompt suggests for you, in any style, in any genre, in any person, using any point of view with whatever characters you can fathom.  Prompts free a writer.  They jog a writer’s puzzle-solving self.

John Gardner is still the master of writing prompts, although I am sure he would have referred to them as writing exercises, as in pushups.  In…

November is Military Family Month

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The 11th day of November, always important because it is the day we recognize our veterans and their courageous service to the nation, will take on a special significance in the coming year as we observe the centenary of the beginning of the First World War.  November 11th, 1918 marks the cessation of hostilities in what was to be called, all too briefly, the ‘war to end all wars.’  Several books by noted historians on the causes and initial prosecution of  World War I (Catastrophe 1914and The WarThat Ended Peace) have appeared recently and been added to the substantial collection of literature that includes such titles as Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August and Sidney Bradshaw Fay’s The Origins of the World War.  Joseph Persico, in 2004, published an entire volume just on the subject of that fateful November 11th, entitled 11thMonth, 11th Day, 11th Hour: Armistice Day, 1918 – WorldWar I And Its Violent ClimaxIn a single day, the combatants suffered an additional 11,000 casualties…

Inspector Foyle

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Trying to fill the void left by the departure of Inspector Morse - yes, I have seen the entire British mystery series, all thirty three episodes, more than once - I discovered another splendid British drama on Masterpiece Mystery! entitled Foyle's War. Those of you who have seen the show will agree with me when I say it is outstanding. Those of you who have not seen it, read on...and once you have finished reading, hurry to your local branch of the Mercer County Library System and check out the first set. You are in for a treat!


Foyle's War follows the course of the Second World War from 1940 to 1945 and we witness the terrible toll the war takes on the home front. In the charming coastal town of Hastings, on the Southern coast of England, Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Christopher Foyle battles crime at home while World War II rages across Europe. Clever, honest and methodical, Christopher Foyle - a man of few words - is a dedicated policeman who is committed to maintaining l…

Prepare Yourself to Survive the Holidays

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It is hard to believe another year is almost over and that another holiday season is closing in on us.  Whether you celebrate a specific holiday or just enjoy the season, you might be interested in keeping these handy websites bookmarked to save time and your sanity.  Note that most of the sites feature information that can be used all year, as the content on each is updated to reflect the season or holiday.

First, take a look at two guides that are geared toward making sure you keep yourself, your family and even your pets healthy amid the festivities.  Health and Real Simple magazines both have Holiday Survival Guides on their websites.  Each one features articles, how-tos and tips for avoiding illness, stress, weight gain and child or pet hazards of the holidays.

If you need comprehensive guides to holiday information, there are a few websites to look into regardless of subject – so take your pick of the following for everything from a quick recipe to decorating tips to gift idea…

A Plea for Picture Books

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As a librarian in both a public library and an elementary school library, I am in the unique position of watching both parent s and teachers help their students choose books to read.  As a result I have noticed a trend toward moving children away from picture books into chapter books at younger and younger ages.  Most recently I had a preschool teacher ask me to recommend a chapter book to read aloud to her preschoolers.
My question to her, and to everyone, is, what is the rush?  I told her I would be happy to show her some possible chapter books to choose from, but I didn’t understand why she would move her students away from picture books so soon.  With all the wonderful picture books that are being published every year, why are we pushing our small children away from these books and into chapter books , that even though they may be equally well written, don’t have the quality and quantity of pictures to add to the understanding and the overall reading experience of a small child?
Par…

Books To get You Thinking 2013 Holiday Edition I

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The lengthening shadows of evening and glistening early morning frost signal the inevitable change of seasons. Along with the first signs of winter comes the excitement of the approaching Holiday Season - a time to take a step back from the humdrum of daily life and reconnect with friends and family over food, laughter and  wrapped-up presents. To help ease that nagging panic about what gifts to get for all your favorite people, here is a collection of great book titles that are sure to delight just about everyone on your list. This month the suggested titles cover nonfiction as well as biographies and memoirs. In December come back to Books To Get You Thinking Holiday Edition II for exciting titles in fiction, food and entertainment.

Non Fiction 

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovationby Jon Gertner
Jon Gertner  provides a fascinating look into the origin of the modern communications industry through the compelling history of Bell Labs and the experiences …

My Favorite Place in the Fall and Winter

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About an hour away from Mercer County is one of New Jersey’s own national parks – or “National Recreation Area” to be exact – the Delaware Water Gap.  Visiting the Water Gap in the Fall and Winter is especially satisfying as the scenery becomes even more beautiful when covered by autumn leaves or snow.
The Gap is caused by the Delaware River cutting down through the Kittatinny Ridge (NJ) and Blue Mountains (PA), both areas part of the Appalachian Mountain range.  The River’s erosion has created a dramatic landscape – Mount Tammany rises vertically on the New Jersey side with Mount Minsi in Pennsylvania.  If it has been a wet time of year, it is possible to see mini-waterfalls along many areas of Route 80 on the way to the park itself.  In the winter, these waterfalls freeze into fantastic shapes.
The drive on Route 80 gives a broad view but you need to leave your car behind for the woods and a true appreciation of the area.  One of the best overall routes (albeit one of the busiest) …

Trust Me, It Is Not Harder Then Getting Socks On A Rooster

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Meeko, Bubbles and Buffy (pictured left to right) are three of my girls – my wife, daughter and I picked them up (along with the non-pictured Annie, Willow, Blossom and Buttercup) at the local farm store in late February of 2013. Yes, I, the part-time librarian, decided to take on chickens!
It was not an overnight decision – we moved into a property a few years ago that has some land, and for years I always thought chickens were “cool” or a “neat thing to have” – but when you have a toddler and a nearby Tractor Supply that has “Chick Days” (where they have tubs of little squeaking chicks for sale), a parent receives a lot of pressure to bring chicken ownership to reality!
I am happy to report that I received nearly all my chicken knowledge and know-how by simply utilizing the Mercer County Library System catalog.
You have to consider the living quarters, or coop – there are no two coops that are alike.  I had the luxury of having a beat-up storage shed attached to my pig barn, so I …

Singing Stories

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Are you ready to sing? Why not try a sing-along picture book that uses the words of a song as text? Many popular nursery rhymes and folk songs have been illustrated and presented in this format. Even if you are not a great singer, sharing the books with young children is a wonderful way to introduce reading. Babies and toddlers love to hear rhyming words and music. As they grow older and more familiar with the rhymes, children will join in and sing along.
Sing-along picture books provide various opportunities to engage children in early literacy activities. For example, while singing the book, encourage children to identify the sounds that are the same or different in rhyming sequences. After finishing the book, ask children to create a new rhyme or verse to add to the song. Additionally, children can create actions and hand movements for each verse. Together you can sing and move to the rhythm.
When you are ready to create your own sing-along, try one of these terrific books:
He’s Got…