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Aye or Nae?

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Should Scotland be an independent country?

Flag of Scotland

The Flag of Scotland (Bratach na h-Alba in Scottish Gaelic, Banner o Scotland in Scots)

You may have missed it—it’s only recently begun showing up in our major news outlets—but on Thursday, June 18 (yes, this week!), Scotland is holding a national referendum on independence.

In our house, we have followed the question longer and with more interest than most Americans. We’re part Scottish on my side of the family, for one thing; and our middle daughter spent a semester at the University of Aberdeen (where we had the pleasure of visiting her) and visited the country again this summer. She’s pro-independence and brought me home a mug like this one

Yes Scotland mug

… which says “Scotland’s Future in Scotland’s Hands” on the other side.

If Scots vote “Yes”—the “no,” or union, side was slightly ahead for months, but now The Telegraph reports that polls are too close to call—a union that has lasted for over 300 years will be dissolved.  At least the decision this time will be made at the ballot box and not on a battlefield.

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“The Battle of Culloden,” by Mark Churms

If you’d like to get some background on all of this, you can read about Scottish history –understanding that that history is about to change– or just watch some of our many films set or produced in Scotland.  Maybe you’ll decide you want to visit!  I highly recommend it!  Check out our travel DVDs or guidebooks (I like the Lonely Planet series myself, but you may find Fodor, Frommer, or Michelin more to your taste).  Whether you end up visiting an independent country or a semi-autonomous part of the United Kingdom, I think you will find Scotland friendly and hospitable and will enjoy your stay in one of the most interesting and beautiful (in my opinion) places in the world.

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Highland coos (cows)

  
Books

Life Abroad

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The memoir Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults explores the post-graduate lives of best friends and twenty-somethings Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale. Every week, they write detailed, brutally honest emails to each other as they experience life abroad. From Beijing and Australia to France and England, these young women share their ups and downs and derive comfort and wisdom from one another. As a recent globetrotter myself, I identified with many of the coauthors’ stories and recommend it to anyone interested in living and working internationally.

If my description intrigues you and you want to learn more before picking up the book, take a look at the coauthors’ website. Here you’ll find a plethora of additional information, such as blog posts from the two ladies detailing where their lives are now, advice on traveling and living abroad, and a neat promotional video trailer for the book.

  
Books

New Blood

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Those of us who enjoy reading mystery novels know the thrill of discovering a series that we haven’t come across before. You find a book, fall in love with the setting and the characters and then get ready to settle in for several more adventures with your new sleuthing friends.

But mystery series do not arrive on the library shelves all at once. There is often a wait of a year or two between books and patience is a useful companion for mystery lovers.

That is even more true when you read and love the first book in a proposed series which has been written very recently. Now anxiety begins to creep in. Will they write a second one? Can we even hope for a third?

In this spirit of cautious optimism here are some recent debut mystery novels that hold out the promise of many hours of reading pleasure to come:

 

Bone Dust White by Katherine Salvalaggio

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In a remote part of Montana a young girl, Grace, witnesses the murder of her mother. State detective Macy Greeley, who is eight  months pregnant, worked on a shocking case eleven years ago that involved the dead woman. Now Macy must try and uncover what Grace might know and she must get the job done before the baby decides to arrive.

 

The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian

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It’s 1882 and when her father dies March Middleton is invited to go and live in London with her godfather Sidney Grice. Sidney turns out to be what he calls a ‘personal’ detective of considerable intellect and since March is no slouch in the brains department she insists on being allowed to help. It’s not really respectable for a young lady to go traipsing about the grimy underbelly of Victorian London but that’s not going to stop her. She likes the occasional swig of gin too.

Fun Fact: fans of the TV series Sherlock will notice that the above new mystery series is called The Gower Street Detective. Gower Street in London is where the Baker Street scenes are shot for Sherlock.

 

Muzzled by Eileen Brady

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The show dog business can be a cut throat world but the murder of a well known dog breeding couple comes as a big shock to veterinarian Kate Turner, especially as she is the one who finds them dead. The incident is ruled a murder suicide but Kate disagrees, especially when another dog breeder is shot and wounded at a show. With the phoned in help of her grandfather, who used to be an NYFD arson investigator, Kate is determined to find the guilty party, event though she may be putting herself in danger.

 

 

  
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1,000 Books Before Kindergarten – 1K Club

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Logo_BGOver Labor Day Weekend I walked in the Buffalo Grove Days Parade with staff, trustees and volunteers from the Library. It was great to get out into the community and talk about the library and a new program that I am passionate about, 1000 Books Before Kindergarten.

The program was created to promote reading to babies, toddlers and preschoolers. It was based on a statement made by literacy expert and children’s author Mem Fox. In her book Reading Magic she states that, “Children need to hear 1,000 stories read aloud before they begin to learn to read for themselves.”  At the Indian Trails library we want to encourage parents and caregivers to read aloud with their children, to create a lifelong love of books, reading and stories and to help children get ready to read on their own.

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten kicks off on September 13th in the KidZone. Come to the Kids Desk to sign up and receive a folder and your first log. Indian Trails cardholders can apply for a special 1K Club library card. For every 100 books read your child will receive a new log. Prizes will be given out along the way to celebrate the completion of levels.

 

It’s easyLior and grandma to do!

Read 1 book a day for 5 years = 1825 books

Read 1 book a day for 3 years = 1095 books

Read 3 books a day for 1 year = 1095 books

 

 

What books count toward the 1000 books? Any book, including books from the library, from home, from anywhere! You can count a book each time you read it. Attending library storytime is a great way to add books to your log!

To help you along the way the library has suggested book lists and thousands of books available for checkout.  Special 1K Club programs will be held throughout the year.

Register for the program on Saturday September 13th and stay for Wiggle Jiggle Jam and Read at 11 am. Miss Michelle (Hunter) will lead everyone in singing and dancing fun. Her upbeat songs make stories come alive. We will start with a story that you can count in your 1K Club log. There is a limit of 100 people. Free tickets will be distributed 30 minutes prior to the start of the program. 

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Author Emilie Buchwald says, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” If you have a child age birth through pre-k join us on this wonderful journey.

 

 

 

 

  
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Moved. Must Get Library Card. Today.

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Post office change of address? Done. Moving company? Yup. New veterinarian for the cats. Check.

The DMV offers proof positive that I’m no longer living in Chicagoland and only the boxes

Proud owner of my Champaign Public Library card

Proud owner of my Champaign Public Library card

Champaign Public Library

My new library – Champaign Public Library

scattered around my new place remind me of my recent move. But I won’t feel at home until I’ve got a library card tucked into my wallet. It’s my ritual.

I moved from New York to Florida to Georgia and then to several cities in Illinois. With each relocation, one of my first “to-dos” was sleuthing out the address of the nearest library and running over there to apply for a card.

I love the sense of anticipation when I walk into a new library – what books, classes and films will I discover. Which staff member will learn about my fondness for obscure documentaries and lead me to something I’ve never heard about?  Inside the library, a sense of community pulses. These are my people – the readers, the writers, the thirsty-for-knowledge thinkings.

Moving to a new place, even when you have family and few friends is unsettling – another reason I seek the familiar shelter of a library.  Inside there are friends waiting to be met, programs to experience and learning to enjoy. As I settle into my new neighborhood and discover fascinating things all around me, I’m happy to say I’m a proud card-carrying member of the Champaign Public Library.

 

About our guest blogger

Gail Cohen is a writer who recently left Chicago for Champaign, Illinois, where her children and grandchildren live. She writes for several websites, including her own blog, 100 Wicked Words. 

  
Movies

Wanna See Something Really Scary?

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Generally, I don’t.  I must admit I am not a big fan of horror films.  There are some, though, that I think are exceptionally good films, and recommend them to anyone who can take it.  Have you the intestinal fortitude?

Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – One of the best of the genre, Mia Farrow stars as a young pregnant woman who begins to believe that her kind elderly neighbors have a satanic interest in her unborn child.  Chilling!

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Exorcist (1973) – It took me a long time to be able to make it through this terrifying film, but I have to admit it is brilliantly done.  Linda Blair plays an innocent young girl whose body becomes possessed by a terrifying entity.  Two priests and her mother battle to save her life and her soul.  Watch this one with the lights on.

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The Haunting (1963) – Based on the classic novel by Shirley Jackson, this psychologically unsettling film tells the story of a parapsychologist and two mediums who spend a weekend in a haunted house.  Julie Harris turns in the performance of a lifetime.  Not to be missed.  (Remade, rather badly, in 1999 – starring very expensive special effects and co-starring Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.)

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Legend of Hell House (1973) – To me, this is the ultimate ‘haunted house’ movie.  A third team of psychic investigators has one week to uncover the secrets of a haunted house which destroyed the two earlier teams – if they can survive the week themselves.  There are plenty of twists in the story to keep you on the edge of your chair.  Starring Roddy McDowell, Pamela Franklin and Clive Revill, put this one on your must-watch list.

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The Devil’s Backbone (2001) – This Spanish language film, set during the final week of the Spanish Civil War, is the tale of a young boy who is sent to a haunted rural orphanage full of terrible secrets.  Director Guillermo Del Toro does a brilliant job of combining gothic ghost story with murder mystery to show that sometimes the scariest monsters are often the human ones.  Very creepy, but fascinating.

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Dead of Night (1945) – A group of strangers gathered at a country estate each tell a chilling (or humorous) tale of the supernatural.  This anthology of ghost stories include stories about a haunted mirror, a ghostly child’s appearance at a party, a supernatural game of golf, and possibly the most frightening of all – an ventriloquist’s dummy who wants to control the act.  But even after these frightening stories are told, one final nightmare awaits them all.  These disturbing tales will stay with you for quite a while.

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Also for the brave of heart:

Poltergeist (1982) – Never build your house on an old graveyard.  Trust me.  Don’t.

Jaws (1975) – Stay out of the water!  (And avoid the sequels.)

Psycho (1960) – You will probably never take a shower again!

Dracula (1931) – Bela Lugosi became a star from this classic vampire story.

Frankenstein (1931) – Boris Karloff’s great performance, under incredibly heavy makeup, as the Frankenstein Monster is still powerful.  Deleted scenes (considered too intense at the time) have been restored.

Nosferatu (1922) – Silent film classic; a great vampire story that is still creepy today.

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Books

Johnny-Come-Lately

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Being in communications and public relations, I pride myself (arrogantly sometimes) on being culturally aware. I may be fuzzy on geographic boundaries and economic theory, but when it comes to American culture – especially “hot” books – my finger is on the pulse of what’s trending.

This is not the same as hopping on the proverbial bandwagon.

Case in point: Fifty Shades of Gray. Yes, this book was H. U. G. E. I know what it’s about, but I never even considered reading it.  When the book came out, you couldn’t pick up a magazine without seeing a headline about FSoG. Tell me something is popular and is selling four zillion copies a day in Costco and my literary snobbery kicks in. Popular, mass market fiction = poorly written fiction

I judge myself.

I judge myself.

This is, of course, a subjective, unsubstantiated, stupid opinion. I know it, but can’t help turning my nose up at popular fiction while I read highbrow, literary fiction (sometimes to the detriment of my enjoyment).

Does reading (and struggling through) Middlemarch make me a more enlightened reader than a Maeve Binchy novel? It certainly makes me feel superior. After all, I’m doing something that is “good” for me, like cutting out sweets and exercising more. How righteous I can feel after plowing through 800 pages of Les Miserables (unabridged) instead of devouring Gone Girl or Outlander. The New York Times Sunday Book Review is my barometer for quality. How quickly I forget the books I’ve chosen to read based on a NYT review that turn out to be duds.

When you are perched so high on the ladder of literature, the fall can be quite painful.

Restless and wanting to read something new, a staff member suggested I read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. Wonders abounded when I read and enjoyed what was well written and entertaining. She steered me next to The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. Staggering — also popular and well written.

The Life of Pi showed me popular fiction could also be outstanding.

The Life of Pi showed me popular fiction could also be outstanding.

The final coup d’état came in the form of a book published in 2001 about an Indian boy who finds himself adrift at sea in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. The movie version of the book (I haven’t seen it) won numerous awards. My education was complete with The Life of Pi, a book I found charming, exquisitely written, humorous and so profound as to leave me speechless – and humble.

There will always be books that get published that are not well written and are formulaic and demonstrate such a profound lack of storytelling and basic writing skills as to be embarrassing. But my error was in believing ALL popular (i.e. bestselling, hyped) fiction is poorly written, when in truth, each book must stand on its own merits. If I’ve learned anything from this experience – it is that books can be gems or lumps of coal and popularity has nothing to do with quality.

I will never read Fifty Shades, and I won’t feel guilty about that. However, I also won’t shake my head at my mother or two sisters who only read Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel and other assorted struggling-feisty-woman-meets-gorgeous-lonely-man-with-a-heart-of-gold tomes.

I still prefer to read literary fiction – novels that make me work for the moment of awareness and understanding, but a book review in People magazine won’t turn me off either.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, and certainly, don’t judge it by its popularity.

 

  
Books

It’s About Nothing!

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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne is probably the funniest novel you have never read. It has hardly any plot, wanders off topic for pages at a time and eventually comes to a stop at nowhere in particular. Tristram, the narrator of the story, starts to tell us about himself at the beginning of the book but gets sidetracked almost immediately by the various members of his somewhat chaotic family. His father Walter seems to be in a perpetual bad temper. His sweet-natured Uncle Toby, who used to be a soldier until he was wounded in an unmentionable place, spends much of his time digging up the garden in order to re-create the battlefields he fought on in the past.  When Tristram does manage to get around to telling us about some incidents from his own life they are generally unlucky ones. His nose was squashed at birth by the incompetent Dr. Slop and then we learn that Susannah, who is maid to Tristram’s mother, accidentally let a sash window fall on a very delicate part of Tristram’s anatomy when he was a just a toddler.

This comic gem was originally published in seven parts, beginning in 1759 and had been in print all over the world ever since. It is written in a surprising modern style that is usually described as a ‘stream of consciousness’. In other words it seems like you are listening to the author say whatever pops into his head. The humor in the book takes aim at all that is pompous and pretentious and may even remind you of the sublime silliness of Monty Python.

If you feel that a two hundred year old book may not be your cup of tea I suggest that you try listening to it instead. We have a wonderful audio version in our collection and if the narrator John Moffatt doesn’t make you laugh I will be astonished.

 

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These books, piled on a dresser, wait to be read, given away or returned to the library.

Congratulations to all Summer Readers!

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SRP2014We had 1730 kids and teens from over 30 schools participate in “Paws to Read,” the 2014 Summer Reading Program.  These fantastic kids and teens read over 13,500 hours during 8 weeks, earning “s-pup-tacular” prizes and helping their schools in the Summer Reading Trophy competition!  We’d like to say thank you to our 70 Teen Volunteers, who registered participants and handed out prizes.  With their help, the Paws to Read program was a barking success!

As much fun as the Summer Reading Program was, all good things must come to an end.  We closed out the summer in style with a wild and wonderful show from Deb Krohn, the Frog Lady!  Deb amazed us with amphibians and rendered us speechless with reptiles, including the adorable Dirk and Diesel.  It was definitely a show to remember!

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Stay tuned for the announcement of this year’s Summer Reading Trophy winner and information on upcoming reading programs for kids of all ages.  Happy reading!

  
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Back to School Blues

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For those of you readers under 18,  at what point does reality hit you that summer is almost over? For me it was looking at my calendar, realizing that school starts in less than a week, and that I have nothing that I need for school. As summer comes to a close, I’ve assembled some tips to make the start of school slightly less painful than it can be.

 

1) First day back

The first day (for me) is the toughest because I really have no desire to get out of my bed. What I recommend is to have things ready to go the night before. Lay your outfit out and leave your backpack by the door so you can just roll out of bed, change and go. You could also make a special breakfast for yourself to get you going through the day.

 

2) School Supplies

A lot of high schools don’t give out school supply lists until the first day when teachers tell you what is required for their class. However, many teachers will require things like binders, notebooks, lined paper and things of that nature. You’ll always need pencils, erasers, paper clips, and post-its.

Things that you think/know you will need this year should be purchased before school starts so you can avoid the problem of not getting an item you need in time. Worst comes to worst you can always return unopened supplies if you end up not needing them later.

 

3) Parking

If you are an upperclassman who drives to school, being early is always best. The earlier you are, the better parking spot you will get. Check the night before to make sure your parking pass is in your car to avoid having your car towed. Other key things to keep in your car (but out of sight) are insurance cards, registration, and extra money.

 

4) First day in a new school

Whether you be entering 6th, 9th, or a new school in general the best thing to remember is that it’s everyone’s first day of school too. Don’t be afraid to ask a teacher or a fellow student for help if you have questions or get lost.

 

5) Getting help at school

One of the nicest aspects of school is that there is a lot of help, in a lot of places and all are very available. Friend problems? See a counselor/psychologist. College stress? Schedule a meeting with your counselor. Struggling in a subject? Talk to your teacher or if your school offers a tutoring program, take a few minutes to check it out. Utilizing what the school offers is one of the best ways to survive school.

If the thought of school is still causing you dread just think: Football season is just around the corner and not too long after comes Winter Break. Happy first day of school!

  
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