Archive | February, 2012

John Carter, Oldest New Hero

John Carter movie posterHappy Leap Day!  Speaking of leaping, if you’ve been to the movies recently or watched this year’s Super Bowl ads, you’ve probably seen the trailers featuring a guy in leather-and-loincloth getup, jumping sky high while battling giant multi-armed monsters in the desert.  That would be John Carter, hero of the upcoming Disney film of the same name.

If we learned anything from last week’s Oscars, it’s that the book-turned-movie is alive and well (The Help and Hugo, to name just two).  So it shouldn’t surprise you that John Carter is also born from books.  But it may surprise some to learn that the newest movie hero is actually 100 years old!

A Princess of Mars book cover imageIn 1912 (also a leap year, coincidentally), Edgar Rice Burroughs released his first works of fiction.  The very first was a pulp fiction serial called Under the Moons of Mars, which was later novelized and retitled A Princess of Mars.  In the story, Virginian John Carter is a captain in the recently-defeated Confederate Army who, while on a prospecting trip to the Arizona desert, finds himself transported to Mars.  Owing to the low gravity, he possesses superhuman strength and agility and with his military skill rises among the Martian warrior people that discover him.  Eventually he meets the princess Dejah Thoris and finds himself thrust in the middle of an ages-old conflict between rival Martian clans.  For today’s reader, it may be interesting to see how elements of modern science fiction and adventure stories still take cues from turn-of-the-century literature.  I personally like to think about how the readers of the time might have reacted to some of the fanciful, outlandish ideas that we have come to view as science fact (or fallacy).

A Princess of Mars is the first book in Burroughs’ Barsoom (the name of Mars in the Martian language) series.  Due to the movie release, it’s likely that you’ll soon see many copies for sale online and in bookstores.  But the book is old enough that it is now in the public domain, which means it can be copied and shared freely.  Why buy when you can get it for free (legally)?  If you search in the library catalog or click this link, you will find that we have connected to Project Gutenberg.  PG is a free website that makes public domain works available in as many digital formats as possible, or in other words, totally free eBooks that work on any computer or eReader, anytime.  A Princess of Mars is also included in our e-Discover the Classics collection.  This is a list of nearly 500 of the very best public domain titles, all available for free download.  Sara wrote about the e-Discover the Classics collection in her recent post here.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention Burroughs’ second work from that year.  It was Tarzan of the Apes, who just barely beat “older brother” John Carter to the silver screen by a little more than 90 years.  Supposedly there are plans to make two more books into movies, so perhaps 2012 will be the year Captain Carter makes his first leap to catch up.

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Today I’d like to salute our Teen Volunteers!

We have many volunteers at the Sunnyvale Library, but my favorites are the teens, who give up their after-school
time to help other students.

We have two programs, both staffed by our volunteers:

Homework Help CenterHomework Help Center is on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 to 6 pm.

Students in grades 3 to 8 come to the Sunnyvale Library,
and work on their homework in our program room.


There are teen volunteers  scheduled to be there as well,
who help the younger students when they need it.


Homework Help Center


The We Read program is on Thursday afternoons from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

First and second grade students come to the library to read with our teen volunteers.

Each of these programs has an excellent adult coordinator, but it’s the teens who are the ones helping younger students to succeed.

Hooray for our teen volunteers! And if any teens who are reading this would like to volunteer, they can email the Teen Librarian!

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Spring Cleaning

According to the calendar, it’s not officially spring, but judging by the flowers in my garden, you’d never know.  So, why not play along and get a head start on your spring cleaning?  In my mind, cleaning also includes organizing and decluttering, both of which are highly satisfying.   If you need some motivation or guidance, read some of the many books the library has on how to clean faster, cheaper and more effectively.  There’s even one about contemplating the meaning of life while you clean.  Find these and others in the 648.5 section of the library. You’ll feel pleased and satisfied with the results.

Spring Cleaning   Spring cleaning      Spring Cleaning      Spring cleaning

You’ll probably want to recycle many of the items you no longer need.  Visit the City of Sunnyvale’s recycling website, which lists places to recycle just about anything.


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Maybe You Remember This Book…

Many of us have a favorite childhood book. A favorite story can leave an imprint not unlike a favorite flavor or aroma that pulls us back to another place or time. We remember where we read the book, who read the book to us or if we read it alone. The memory is there but sometimes the details get a little fuzzy. It is not unusual for an adult to approach the Children’s Desk with the request, “I hope you can help me, I’m trying to find a book that was read to me when I was a child.” I love those questions because people are looking for books that they once loved and they want to share the book with their child and create new memories.

Sometimes the clues are sketchy but Children’s Librarians, with our knowledge of Children’s Literature, instinct and the internet,  attempt to locate the desired book. Even if it’s a title no longer in our collection we may be able to provide the title and author and possible sources for a used copy or we may find a neighboring library with an available copy. Sometimes the remembered details are not sufficient but we enjoy trying because when we find the right title it makes people very happy.

There are of course childhood classics in our collection. Through the years the demand for these titles has remained high and publishers have kept these books in print. Do you see any favorites? Do you have any special book memories?

Picture Books

E  Carle         The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969)


E  Leaf            The Story of Ferdinand (1936)

E  Mayer       There’s a Nightmare In My Closet (1968)

E  McCloskey               Make Way For Ducklings (1941)

Chapter Books

J  Atwater                Mr Popper’s Penguins (1938)

J  Henry              Misty of Chincoteague (1948)

JP  L’Engle                A Wrinkle In Time (1962)

J  Lofting                    The Story of Doctor Dolittle (1920)

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Burden of Dreams: The Dark Side of Cinema

Werner HerzogI am completely delighted by the destructively dark cinematography of
documentarian and film director Werner Herzog. As the narrator for many of his films, Herzog’s voice represents the stark reality of this grim human existence. His documentaries are my favorite because his studies are of true characters and strange slices of life. And although I never really agree with his bleak position on human nature, I truly appreciate the brutal yet beautiful scenes that he captures.

Denver: Liz & Alex's WeddingYou can see the the light-hearted side of Herzog in the film Werner Eats his Shoe by Les Blank. Basically Werner bet aspiring filmmaker Errol Morris to make his first film and if Errol succeeded, Werner would eat his shoe, and so he did. Herzog boiled the leather shoe with duck fat, rosemary, and garlic and then he ate it. Check it out! The consequence of this bet was Errol Morris’s excellent documentary Gates of Heaven about the closing of the Los Altos Pet Cemetery.

NTGIf you like film and documentaries check out the films of Werner Herzog: Grizzly Man (one of my ultimate favorite films), Cave of Forgotten DreamsAguirre, the Wrath of GodRescue Dawn,  The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and Encounters at the End of the World.

To all Cinephiles: You should also consider attending the annual Cinequest Film Festival in downtown San Jose an excellent place to discover new independent films and documentaries.

Take a look at the film guide! The Cinequest films I find interesting are: Close to HeavenCode 2600Bel Borba Aqui, and Mariachi Gringo

Also, Sunnyvale Library will have
Double-Feature Movies for Silicon Valley Reads on Monday,  February 27th at 6pm.
Here is the lineup:
Talking through Walls, is a one-hour film that documents the stuggle of Zia Rahman to build a mosque in Voorhees, N.J. with the support of a coalition of Jews, Catholics and others.  Allah Made Me Funny, an 82-minute film that follows comedians Mo Amer, Azhar Usman and Preacher Moss in revealing the humorous truth of what it is like to be Muslim in America.
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