Embracing the Stereotype: The Modern Cat Lady

Growing up I had zero love for cats. In my defense I had every reason to keep my distance. None of my extended family had cats, and all my cat-loving friends tended to house whatever the feline equivalent of Cujo is. One friend in particular seemed to have an aversion to cleaning the litter box, so as a result the house just reeked. I thought that was how all cats smelled. I thought that was how all cats behaved. All of that changed in 2007 when in one afternoon I found myself with two kittens of my very own.

Over the ensuing years the number of cats in my house has fluctuated. Now my husband and I share our home with three, yes three darn cats:

  • The Dude, his name a blatant The Big Lebowski reference meant to win over my father-in-law, does indeed abide, though he can be a total spaz, too.
  • Tonks, named after my favorite Harry Potter character, is fiercely obsessed with all humans.
  • Gypsy, who was named after the squeaking heroine of MST3K, is the stereotypical ‘fraidy cat.

And stereotypes are what we’re talking about today, people. For one day I woke up and realized one giant truth about myself: I’m a cardigan-wearing, library-working, crazy cat lady. And I’m totally owning it! If you, like me, want to embrace the crazy cat lady stereotype, you’ll want to check out these books stat.

67 ReasonsFirst, let’s establish that cats are better than dogs. Don’t believe me? You definitely need to read 67 Reasons Why Cats are Better than Dogs by Jack Shepherd, who is responsible for launching the Animals section of BuzzFeed. Did you know that cats are better engineers, won’t eat your baby, comfort the afflicted, face their adversaries head-on, and are extremely hard workers? It’s true! Much like the website, this book is packed with imagery that proves point after point.

CHNA7291*catlady_case_1stPROOFS.inddat Lady Chic by Diane Lovejoy showcases dozens of glamorous, stylish, and posh women and their cats. These portraits range from classical paintings to iconic black-and-whites from Hollywood’s heyday to full-color photographs from the last few years. Marilyn Monroe, Ali MacGraw, Lana Del Rey, Lauren Bacall, Keira Knightly, Eartha Kitt, Twiggy, Ursula Andress, Eva Longoria, and of course Lee Meriwether dressed as Catwoman. These women embrace the stereotype and challenge it at the same time.

Cat PersonCat Person by Seo Kim is a collection of comics that started out as the author’s challenge to herself to create one new comic each day. I can tell she’s a true cat lady at heart because her cat, Jimmy, is featured in many comics in the front and back of the book. My favorites include the ways to hug a cat, different cat charades (imagine what chicken nugget and slug look like; if you have a cat this should be easy), and the horrible fate of unattended food left in front of a computer screen, Skype call in progress. Sometimes the panels so reflect my own life that I do a double-take. I’ve definitely found a kindred spirit in Seo Kim.

CatificationOnce I realized that being a cat lady isn’t so bad, I decided to see what more I could do to make life as a cat under my roof more enjoyable. That’s when I picked up Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for your Cat (and You!) by Jackson Galaxy and Kate Benjamin. I don’t have TV any more, so I hadn’t heard of Jackson Galaxy or his TV show, My Cat from Hell. But now I realize that Jackson is a genius. Yes, this book is packed with projects you can make to keep your cats happy and healthy inside your home. But it’s also got some great tips on recognizing your cat’s mood. You’ll also learn how to ensure your indoor-only cat can still have his animal instincts met (hunting, climbing, and so on). A happy cat is a happy cat lady. If this isn’t already a saying, I’m making it one.

PetcamSo what holiday gifts do you buy the modern cat lady in your life? Start with Petcam: The World Through the Lens of Our Four-Legged Friends by Chris Keeney. Any cat lady will appreciate all the trouble the three cats in this book went to in order to take some snazzy pics of their daily lives. Botty, Fritz, and Xander each wore small cameras around their necks and took photos of the places they traveled, the things they did, and the faces they saw along the way. If you think you’d like to get your cat lady a pet camera for her furry friend you may want to check out the back of the book before wrapping it. There are all kinds of tips and resources that will get you started.

Does your modern cat lady also work with customer service and/or social media? She’ll appreciate opening up QR Codes Kill Kittens by Scott Stratten. Scott was named one of the top five social media influencers in the world by Forbes, and his author photo on the dust jacket includes an adorable black cat. Consider:

If you knew that your terrible business decisions could cost a kitten its life, would you still do it? Of course not. No one wants to hurt a kitten, and no one wants to damage their own business through easily avoidable mistakes. But the trick is knowing which things are the wrong things to do.QR Codes

That’s where this book shines. Using real-life examples and plenty of illustrations, your modern cat lady will learn just what ideas that might seem great are actually hurting her image, both online and in real life, or IRL if you’re nerdy like me. Give your modern cat lady this book and she’ll thank you. In hashtags.

This year we at the library are participating in a Secret Santa game. Whoever is my Secret Santa knows me pretty well. I’m still not sure if this is a coincidence or killer intuition. But on the day I planned to write this post I received this little gift.

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You don’t have to live life avoiding the cat lady stereotype. Embrace it. Own it. Be it. Love it. You can thank me in hashtags and/or catnip.

Give Homemade: The DIY Guide to Gift-Giving

Don’t let this holiday season get the better of you! I say start now, gather supplies and ideas, and get to crafting the perfect DIY gifts for friends and family. The library is a great place to start looking for inspiration. No matter the recipient, I guarantee you can find a great DIY gift idea at the library.

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Whether you’re looking for your baby’s first holiday gift or you want to dazzle a mom-to-be, you need to check out Cutest Ever Baby Toys to Knit by Val Pierce. For adorable toys, check out Tusker the Elephant (cover image; project starts on p.86), Rainbow Butterfly (p.92), and Freddy Fox (p.78). For other cute baby items, try Little Bunny Bag (p.39), Goody Two Shoes (newborn booties-p.36), and Under-the-Sea Mobile (p.83). My favorite project by far has to be the Soft and Squishy Playbook (p.22). It’s a knitted play book with a different object (car, teddy bear, etc.) on each page. Research shows it’s never too early to introduce children to books and this is a sweet way to begin.

If you’ve always wanted to dabble in chemistry look no further than Homemade Nail Polish by Allison Rose Spiekermann. I’d never really considered what would go into making your own nail polish at home, but apparently it begins with a good face mask so the solvents don’t send you face-down on the work bench before you even get to the color mixing part. And speaking of colors, I learned you can use eyeshadow as a color base for nail polish and that there are many different types of glitter. Who knew?! There are sections in the back for troubleshooting and perfecting your mixes as well as tips for applying the perfect manicure and designing your own nail art. So maybe if you don’t have time to make your own nail polish you can at least set up a lavish manicure to pamper your BFF.

Do you know your away around a pair of pliers? Have you always wanted to use your butane torch on something other than crème brûlée? Then you’ll want to check out The Jewelry Maker’s Design Book: an Alchemy of Objects by Deryn Mentock of Something Sublime. The first section of the book contains descriptions of all the tools you’ll need, as well as techniques you’ll want to become familiar with before you start selecting beads. The bulk of the book, however, is packed with specific projects to help focus your efforts on a balanced and beautiful piece. I was really thrilled to see old pieces of jewelry, like brooches, used in designs for necklaces. I have a large amount of inherited jewelry that I don’t know what to do with–but now a plan is forming, and I think I like it.

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The pouches, bags, blankets, clothing, and accessories in Project Teen: Handmade Gifts Your Teen Will Actually Love by Melissa Mortenson definitely appeal to me, someone who hasn’t been a teen since The Cranberries were popular. Melissa is the genius behind The Polka Dot Chair, one of my favorite DIY blogs. Even if her book is checked out you can always hit up her blog for an amazingly creative selection of projects that range in both difficulty and time required. And, much like her book, there’s truly something for everyone. In particular, who wouldn’t want one of her Swim Bags (p.20)? The wide opening and flat bottom make this tote bag ideal for book lovers as we cart home our latest selection of library books each week.

Not ready to take up a needle and thread or put the pedal to the floor with a sewing machine? No Sew Love by Ashley Johnston of Make It, Love It is just what you need. There are 50 projects that require zero sewing and the finished products look stellar. The Fabric Wristlet Key Fob (p.122) is a cheery, practical gift that you could personalize for pretty much anyone on your gift list. The Leather Fringe Necklace (p.110) looks simple and chic enough to make for my entire gaggle of girlfriends. But the project that really has me sold is the Basic Skirt (p.130). It’s a skirt that requires no sewing, has an elastic waist, and is a decent length. Not only could I make a bunch for my friends but I could totally practice my technique on skirts for myself. Total win-win!

Bibliophiles and librarians alike will adore something from the Little Book of Book Making: Timeless Techniques and Fresh Ideas for Beautiful Handmade Books by Charlotte Rivers of Lottie Loves. From simple binds to complex fold-and-cuts, there are a wide variety of projects inside this book. You’ll not only learn the skills to bind books, but you’ll also find beautiful and sometimes quirky designs for the cover. There are also interviews with artists where you’ll find even more inspiration. The one that really caught my eye was Cathy Durso (p.84) who specializes in embroidered book covers. If you’ve ever done embroidery or know someone who has, you understand how very special this is. The cutest image of one of my favorite animals, the narwhal, is featured on the opposite page. Mom, are you reading this? I would love a book embroidered with a narwhal, please!

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Got Sharpies? I have dozens of colors at home and plan to use them all to create projects found in Make Your Mark. Before diving in, you should pay attention to the suggestions for testing your pens on different materials before you get rolling. What looks great on glass may bleed like crazy on wood. For those of you experienced at what I call free-handed doodling, you shouldn’t have any problems. People like me, however, who dream of being an artist but tend to not quite have a brain for creating patterns will enjoy the pattern templates scattered throughout the book. I’m dying to make something like the Kitchen Word Canvas (p.32) because it looks like it could be a quick, simple, and inexpensive project that will cheer the home. The best part is that it’s completely customizable, so I could make a holiday-specific one, one for a guest bedroom, and the list just goes on. The ornaments on page 52, with their stark white-and-blue color combination and modern patterns, look like something someone would have hanging in their home year-round.

No DIY or crafting post would be complete without mentioning gifts created from mason jars. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know mason jars have made a huge comeback in recent years as the popularity of home canning has grown. However, you may be unaware that there are so many cute and creative ways to use them, including as gifts. DIY Mason Jars by Melissa Averinos and Mason Jar Crafts by Lauren Elise Donaldson cover everything from soap dispensers to terrariums. I feel like these are crafty gifts that will hold up over time, as that mason jar silhouette is just simply timeless.

In fact, you should really pay attention to this terrarium idea and check out the episode of DIY Dammit where Joselyn Hughes and Tyler Oakley made these adorable and portable pieces of earth. You’ll really get a feel for the technique, as well as how important it is to keep your sense of humor whenever crafting.

UCU

If for some reason your best-laid plants don’t come to fruition or if you have to give gifts on a large-scale, you may want to check out the Urban Craft Uprising winter show, December 6th and 7th at Seattle Center. My friends and I go every year and I usually end up buying gifts for everyone on my list (and way too many for myself). Everything at UCU is handcrafted by artists and designers, most local to the Pacific Northwest. You can support the indie craft revolution happening in your own backyard!

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to unearth my hot glue gun, spray paint, and torch. It’s gift-makin’ time, and I mean business!

Knitters Unite, Together they Stitch

knittedtree (3)They’re out there and they are coming to a location near you! Wielding and working their needles, knitting communities worldwide have been gathering annually on the second Saturday in June since 2005. The occasion has been dubbed World Wide Knit in Public Day. Unaware of this phenomena and taken quite by surprise,I shot the photo above while on a trip to Richmond VA.

spud and chloeThis happening event has sparked staff at the library: from the hands that brought you the knitted Royal Family, Everett Public Library knitters have been at it again.Their inspiration primarily comes from library books such as Spud and Chloe at the Farm and Knitted Nursery Rhymes. This  industrious group of knitters has been stitching away for months on break time and after work hours. Cute characters and creatures are shaping up to make their debut in June at both locations. In addition, to commemorate World Wide Knit in Public Day, the Evergreen Branch will host a gathering “Drop everything and knit”, at 6:00 pm on June 18th.

Not a knitter myself, I thought it might be interesting to learn a bit about the knitters behind the needles. I posed the question to a few staff knitters, “How long have you been knitting and what got you started?” I’ve enjoyed each response and thought you might as well.

Linda told me it was the Vietnam War that got her started. She explained that during the war her mother had generously opened up their home, inviting her friend and family to stay with them while her husband served overseas — in effect their household size doubled. Linda in turn sought out tranquility and became friends with an elderly neighbor who welcomed her company and taught Linda how to both knit and crochet. This lifetime skill has led to placing her work and winning awards at the Evergreen State Fair For the past 7 years Linda has volunteered several evenings a month at the Evergreen Branch where she leads a Crochet and Knit group.  ‘Spud and Chloe at the farm’, currently on display at the Evergreen Branch, gives tribute to her talent and most recent work.

Kim shares that around the time she finished college and started her first “real” job at the Everett Public Library 25 years ago, she began to knit. Considering knitting to be a fun hobby, but with no experience, Kim began taking classes at Great Yarns just north of 41st on Rucker Avenue. The instructor was pleased with Kim’s lack of knowledge and told Kim “You won’t have to unlearn anything.” I found it interesting to learn that Kim uses the Continental style of knitting which means in knitting language she is a picker not a thrower. In this method one holds the yarn in the left hand compared to the majority who hold the yarn in their rightSince her early years at the library, Kim has always managed to connect with other knitters and is the person behind the collaborative display that will be in the children’s display case at the Main Library.

veryhungrycaterpillarNalmes grandmother’s enthusiasm for knitting, not shared by her own mother, got passed down to her. Influenced by her grandmother she learned basic technique; terminology would come later since she was just 9 years old. After a decade or so Nalmes picked knitting back up last year inspired by the many knitting books here at the library. Today she is self-taught. Between how-to-books and YouTube videos she feels confident and believes she can pretty much do anything she puts her knit and crochet needles to. Recently she made a Seahawk scarf as a birthday gift and a newborn sleeper designed to look like the Very Hungry Caterpillar. You can see her contribution to the knit display at the Evergreen Branch Library.

knittingstitchesJulie wanted to try something no one else in her family had mastered, so at the resourceful age of 12 she visited her local library and borrowed a children’s picture book on knitting. Through trial and error, mostly error, Julie taught herself. The most challenging project Julie has taken up was the knitting of a fisherman sweater.The process took a months time and involved managing multiple needles, converting a pattern to do ‘in the round’ and an additional four months to knit. If you are up for the challenge Knitting Stitches Visual Encyclopedia is good  resource. Subsequently, Julie has successfully taught her mom to knit dishcloths and has helped out many others along the way. She confides the process of knitting is more rewarding than the final product. Currently she has been working on features that will be on display at the Evergreen Branch library as well as dishcloths as a wedding gift for her cousin’s wedding.

Chris says she has been knitting for as long as she remembers, at least 45 years. It was so long ago she cannot recall the learning of it but remembers a mustard-colored yarn, strange as that sounds. She credits her mom who taught Chris at 8 years old how to sew along with her two sisters. Consequently, her mom had to create a schedule so the girls wouldn’t fight over who got to use the sewing machine while making back-to-school clothes. You can see her contribution to the Knitted Nursery on display at the Main Library.

Leslie admits she hasn’t had much time to knit lately. She was about eight when her god mother bought her some blue plastic needles and some furry black and white yarn. She made a scarf and has been knitting ever since. She typically knits more in the winter months than the summer. Leslie is currently working on Christmas stockings for her granddaughters.

toystoknitEven though I don’t know one needle from another or the difference between crochet and knitting, I must say that the books on this subject seem endless. I browsed over a few that looked inviting. Learn to Knit Love to Knit is by Anna Wilkinson who is a leading designer among a new wave of young knitters. She offers basic illustrations and instructions for the beginner. The book then dedicates the last half to serious skilled knitters with beautiful designs. If you would like to try something along the lines of what library knitters are creating, you might find some ideas in Toys to Knit, by Tracy Chapman or Amigurume: Make Cute Crochet People, by Allison Hoffman.

These are just a small sampling of the many books available on crochet and knitting at the Everett Public Library. Who knows, I may start stitching myself one of these days. 

Crafty Double-take Titles

Cover image of I Felt AwesomeFuture me is an amazingly crafty and talented person. I owe this predicted success to the hours I’ve spent hoarding craft ideas on Pinterest. Unfortunately the current me is pathetically unskilled and can only dream of making the upcycled t-shirt tank tops, tiny felted owls, and clever Chicago map quilts my heart desires. Nevertheless, this momentary setback doesn’t stop me from trolling the craft section when I’m on my lunch break. During my most recent foray to the 746’s I found my attention grabbed again and again by book titles. More specifically, I kept doing double-takes at book titles written by authors who clearly shared my slightly off sense of humor. My conclusion? Crafters are a funny, sometimes naughty, group of people.

Here are my top ten favorite crafty book titles found at the EPL:

10. Wild with a Glue Gun by Kitty Harmon and Christine Stickler. My idea of getting wild with a glue gun involves frustration, cursing, burnt fingers, tears of rage, and a half-finished pompom snowman; thankfully the ladies who wrote this book are far more creative and coordinated than I am. Once I’ve acquired some welder’s gloves I’d love to try out their scallop shells party lights idea, or the tin art that’s featured.

Cover image of Men in Knits9. Men in Knits by Tara Jon Manning. If this was a tumblr, I’d subscribe to it. This title gives handy tips to more experienced knitters (or shoppers) about what kinds of patterns are most suitable to different male body types. Patterns featured in this book are best suited for experienced knitters, but the eye candy is nice for the rest of us.

8. Socktopus by Alice Yu. Though I love the name, this is written for experienced knitters. There are loads of really elegant knit patterns, but Socktopus is short on pictures of how to do the actual stitches. Some day.

Cover image of Stitch and Bitch7. Stitch ‘n Bitch by Debbie Stoller. Aside from the catchy title (or perhaps because of it), this series is pretty popular with people looking to learn how to knit and crochet (I purchased their crocheting title, The Happy Hooker, when it was featured in BUST Magazine). Featured within these pages are trendy styles, easy to follow diagrams, and amusing banter.

6. Sensual Crochet by Amy Swenson. This may be more of an unintentionally-funny title than deliberate, because there’s not much that seems sensual about crocheting, or the contents of this book. What it does have to offer are sophisticated, current styles that crocheters can try out. These elaborate patterns are best suited for more experienced hookers.

5. I Felt Awesome: Tips & Tricks for 35+ Needle-Poked Projects by Moxie. This book is useful for beginners and more experienced crafters alike. Early sections explain the equipment needed, and provide loads of great close-up color photos to illustrate step-by-step directions. For the experienced felter, there are many fun, offbeat project ideas, such as scarves that look like racetracks (complete with felted cars) and martini olive necklaces.

Cover image for Joy of Sox4. Sweaters from Camp from Meg Swansen’s Knitting Campers. Aside from the hiking name, this book is more or less window shopping for me until I develop some skills. For advanced knitters, there are many detailed patterns to explore.

3. Too Hot to Handle? Potholders and How To Make Them by Doris L. Hoover. Enter the fast-paced world of potholders, mitts, and other skin-savers with this helpful how-to title. Readers will learn a bit about the history of potholders, as well as where the potholder industry is headed. Later sections of the book are dedicated to a variety of unique pattern ideas, as well as tips on how to upcycle old clothing to make new potholders.

2.The Joy of Sox by Kinda Kopp. This saucy number is ideal for inexperienced knitters who may be interested in adding some pep to their sox life. Early chapters are dedicated to explaining terminology, demonstrating techniques with clear drawings, and helping knitters navigate patterns.

Cover image for Still Stripping1. Still Stripping After 25 Years by Eleanor Burns. This title coaxed an embarrassingly loud snort-laugh from me in the stacks. From the homey cover shot of the author saucily tossing a fabric strip over her shoulder, to action shots of her working her sewing machine in the company of her labs – I feel like I want to get to know Ms. Burns. Thankfully I can in a way because she has a YouTube channel that hosts a large collection of her ‘how to’ videos.

I hope this list has given you the motivation to bust out the pinking shears or home-spun yarn, or at least given you a chuckle or two.

Did You Know? (Egg Edition)

Eggs contain almost all vitamins except C and are a wealth of minerals including iodine, phosphorous, sulphur, zinc, iron, selenium and potassium?

eggsI found this information on page 9 in the book How to Boil an Egg by Rose Carrarini. The author shows how versatile eggs can be. You can eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner and they are also used in snacks and desserts. The book gives tips for cooking this humble ingredient as well as some yummy looking recipes. For more egg recipes look at Eggs by Michel Roux. There are all kinds of ideas and recipes in this book, from crepes to custards & quiches.

joyofchickensDigestive Wellness by Elizabeth Lipski Ph.D. tells us that it is best to eat eggs that have not been oxidized (exposed to oxygen) to keep your cholesterol level down. Examples of eggs cooked this way are hard-boiled, soft-boiled or poached. It is also best to eat organic eggs, whether you buy them or raise your own.

The Joy of Keeping Chickens by Jennifer Megyesi and Raising Chickens for Dummies by Kimberly Willis are dinosaureggs“must have” references if you are going to raise your own eggs by keeping chickens. Everything you want to know about keeping poultry and more are in these two books.

And, keep in mind that chickens aren’t the only ones to lay eggs! Eggs, Nests, and Baby Dinosaurs by Kenneth Carpenter is a fascinating book about dinosaurs and how they reproduced. It shows fossilized decoratingeggsdinosaur eggs and excavations sites of nests. Eggs by Marilyn Singer, also shows us many other different kinds of eggs. Bird, snake, frog and insect eggs are all pictured. She also shows some bird nests and the way eggs hatch.

Finally, once you have used all those eggs, take a look at Decorating Eggs: Exquisite Designs with Wax & Dye by Jane Pollak for some lovely ways to decorate eggs either for yourself or as gifts.

Linda

Reading Every Day, In Every Way: a Bibliovore’s Dilemma

I have a problem. No, it’s not one you can help me with. If I went to a psychiatrist, they wouldn’t know what to do with me either. Book club? Maybe that’s the ticket—though I have to admit to an avoidance of assigned reading ever since Animal Farm in high school. Regardless of the solution, my problem is this: at any given time I have too many books I want to read. 

I also have too many varying reasons for wanting to read in the first place. Sites like GoodReads are amazingly great for reading and sharing book reviews, as well as discovering new and emerging authors. But sometimes I think maybe as a reading resource it’s almost too good. I also have a cataloging job in a public library. This means that there are days I am literally pulling myself away from my work in order to get it all done.

Me: THIS BOOK SOUNDS AMAZING!
Book: Um, I’m on hold for someone else right now.
Me: Oh.
Book: Yeah, you need to get it together, girl. You don’t have time for this.

Up until now I’ve never been one to read more than one book at once. I have friends who do this, and I would be completely baffled by their behavior. I’d harass them: Won’t you get confused? What if you get the characters mixed up? Who reads a cookbook cover-to-cover anyway? Does your husband (and father of your children) realize how obsessed you are with true crime, the gorier the better?

These ponderings almost landed me on the doorstep of a closed friendship door. Reading, be it method or content, is an innately private matter. But I’m going to take you book by book into my new-found obsession with reading multiple books at once. Why? I’m hoping you won’t make the same mistakes I’ve made: both in not getting through my TBR stack quicker, and in hounding my friends for answers where there are no good responses outside of, “Mind your own business!”

Bad motherFirst up is Bad Mother: a Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman. This is a particularly difficult book for me to read, mainly because I am not a mother so it can be tricky at times to relate to the material. It covers aspects of parenthood and feminism, and includes autobiographical passages to help tie it all together. However, the over-arching point of the book isn’t something you need to be a mother to appreciate. Mothers have been judged, often unfairly, by strangers since the dawn of time. But it’s like anything else really: a stranger observes part of an interaction and makes a snap judgement about the people involved based solely on what they saw (or think they saw).

This is a book I pick up and put down every month or so, due to the deep intellectual aspect of the content. I own the e-book, so it’s pretty easy to find where I left off. This is good, because I can only take so much heavy reading material in one sitting. I really need to be in the right mood to take it all in, ponder the facts and anecdotes, and feel like I’m actually getting something out of the experience.

InvisibilityI’m also reading Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan. This is a compelling YA novel about Stephen, a boy who was born invisible—and the one person to ever see him, his new neighbor Elizabeth. Love, magic, friendship and adventure await me every time I crack the spine. I thought I would devour this book exclusively when I checked it out. But it turns out I am becoming a slave to many stories at once, so this one I save for bedtime reading. If nothing else, it makes for very bizarre dreams—one more added bonus of reading such impossible stories.

Dad is FatMany months ago, my favorite comedian Jim Gaffigan announced he was releasing his first-ever book, called Dad is Fat. His publisher announced a pre-order special: if you pre-ordered the book by a certain date, not only would you be guaranteed to receive it on release day, but you would also receive many extra perks, including a signed letter from Jim himself. My husband and I have been huge fans of his for almost a decade, so we were thrilled to hook ourselves up with all of these extras.

Later, I realized that the library was purchasing the audiobook on CD, read by the author. What?! Jim Gaffigan reading Jim Gaffigan? It would be like getting to hear an as-yet-unreleased standup show. The book came out in early May, and after a month of waiting for the CD and a stellar review from Alan, we decided to just take turns reading it out loud to each other. The book, a humorous look at parenting his 5 small children in New York City, is proving to keep us busy in the evenings, laughing our way through it. Sharing the experience is part of the fun. Of course, when the CD comes in, we will undoubtedly listen to it. We know the author will do a better job of reading it than we have. And no one does voices quite like Mr. Gaffigan.

Tao of MarthaTwo days before writing this, I received the audiobook CD for The Tao of Martha: My Year of LIVING; or, Why I’m Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog, read by the author Jen Lancaster. I have read many of her autobiographical—and humorous—books, most fondly Pretty in Plaid, a story of growing up in the 70s and 80s in New Jersey. I’ve even met her in person and had a great time. While her stories always made me laugh, I found myself not really identifying with her experiences in a compelling way: they were just a little off the mark from my own experiences. So I’d laugh, but not have the satisfaction of laughing at myself.

This book changed all of that–I feel like she is describing my disorganized home life! The Tao of Martha is all about Jen making a conscious decision to make her New Year into a great year by actually doing something to bring about the change she wanted. How did she do this? By immersing herself in the words and deeds of one Martha Stewart (you may have heard of her). The hope is that she’ll become organized and crafty, and thereby happier than she had been the previous year. I’m only about halfway through the first disc, but I have high hopes for Jen and her quest for happiness via Martha.

I know that if I sat down and focused on just one book at a time I may be able to finish one book quicker. But my moods are always changing, and I’m discovering that I like keeping my options open. And this way, I’m kind of killing 4 birds with one stone. Take that, TBR stack!

Carol

Celebrate National Poetry Month with a Friendly Competition

The Ode Less TravelledCalling all creatives! The Everett Public Library would like to hear you wax poetic about the things we love the most: books, reading, writing, our library, or just libraries in general. Throughout the month of April, aka National Poetry Month, we’ll be asking you to send in your original haiku or limericks with library-related themes. Why haiku and limericks? Because both forms are short and governed by pretty specific rules, so that makes our jobs as judges slightly easier.

If you haven’t had (or wanted) to write poetry since high school, that’s all right – I can help refresh your memory on how it’s done.

Haiku

How to HaikuWhen writing haiku, poets are restricted to a set number of syllables (or distinct units of sound) in each line. Haiku are made up of three lines: the first line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7, and the third line has 5. These lines do not have to rhyme, and more often than not, they don’t. Just to show you how it’s done, a couple of our librarians gave it a shot:

Turn this page and read—
A new chapter, a new idea.
This book is like Spring.

Reading quietly
Hail pounding on the roof
Glad to be inside

Limericks

There Once was a Very Odd SchoolFor those of you who like a good chuckle, the limerick may be more your style. These short rhyming poems are generally nonsensical, and sometimes a little bit naughty. Because we’re an all-ages establishment, we’re going to ask you to keep your entries family friendly, but we’d still like to see if you can crack our judges up. Here’s the how-to:

Limericks consist of five lines written in what is sometimes referred to as an aabba rhyming scheme, with the punch line of the poem landing on the last line. There is also a distinct skipping pattern that puts emphasis on specific words (many nursery rhymes follow this pattern). Confusing? Thankfully there are some really great teaching tools online that help explain how to write limericks. Also keep in mind that your lines don’t have to follow this pattern exactly; the most important thing is where you place your rhyming words.

The bare bones of a limerick can be broken down into dots and slashes to show where the emphasized words fall (source: Academy of American Poets):

The pattern can be illustrated with dashes denoting weak syllables, and back-slashes for stresses:

1) – / – – / – – /
2) – / – – / – – /
3) – / – – /
4) – / – – /
5) – / – – / – – /

Next you can fill in the dots and slashes with sounds to get a better feel for the rhythm (source: Poetry4kids.com):

da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM

Finally you get to the fun part. Think of a topic or sets of rhyming words you want to use and see how you can fit them into the framework. To illustrate the aabba rhyming scheme I mentioned earlier, check out how I label my lines. Rhyming words fall at the end of each line, with all (A) lines rhyming with each other, and all (B) lines rhyming with each other.

There once was a trickster librarian (A)
Who delighted in being contrarian (A)
You’d ask for a book (B)
She’d give you a cook (B)
And suddenly you’re eating vegetarian (A)

Please, hold your groans – I never claimed to be a pro! Hopefully you get the point because now I’m asking you to give it a try.

The Competition!

To enter our competition, email your entries to me at llabovitch@everettwa.gov. There is no limit to the number of entries that you can submit. The deadline for submission is April 26th at noon. From there our judges will select their favorites and allow you all to vote for your top pick. The winner of the competition will get to see their poem printed in our newsletter, featured on our electronic sign outside, announced on the A Reading Life blog, and will have the awe and respect of the rest of us poetry novices. For more inspiration and examples, click on some of the book covers in this post to check out some books on poetry. Happy writing!

Lisa