Archive | April, 2012

Bike to Work Day

Bike to Work Day, sponsored by Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, will roll into Sunnyvale and adjacent cities May 10. Almost 40 percent of Bay Area commuters live within just five miles of their workplace, a bike-able distance for even inexperienced cyclists. Consider cycling to work for a change. If you’re new to cycling, the Sunnyvale Public Library has books to help you get started with this enjoyable and healthy means of transportation. We also offer free bike maps; please ask at the Information Desk if you’d like one.

Visit the Bike to Work Day website for more information from Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.

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Family Day Trips in the Bay Area

There is no denying it – summer is coming! With the arrival of this beautiful weather our thoughts turn to enjoyable activities and good times with family and friends. It’s the perfect time of year to load up the family vehicle and take a day trip. With a little bit of planning most day trips can be turned into an event with a literary connection. A simple trip to the beach can produce a long list of picture book and chapter book titles  as well as an assortment of nonfiction ocean related topics.

Now let’s plan a few other trips. Some of these will require admission fees and others will be free. Click on the website links to get all the details and plan the perfect family day.

If there is an aspiring astronomer in the family you may want to make plans to drive up the Peninsula to the College of San Mateo to attend an evening astronomy program. Children must be at least age 5 to attend these free events.

Young stargazers will find a great selection of fiction and nonfiction titles at the Library.


If history and adventure appeal to your family then  travel to Alameda and tour the aircraft carrier, USS Hornet, distinguished to have participated in World War II, the Vietnam War and the first moon missions. Children 4 and younger are admitted free; fees for older children and adults.

A visit to the USS Hornet could inspire curiosity about a variety of topics. A general list of aircraft carrier materials might be a good way to prepare for your trip and then a return visit to the Library to find materials specific to your child’s interests after the trip.

Next up in our list of family excursions, takes us to Fairfield and is sure to be a hit with the whole family – a tour of the Jelly Belly Factory!! If the kids are excited about seeing how these famous jellybeans are made then mom and dad will be thrilled to learn that everyone gets in for free!

The Library has many books about candy (and some of them are quite sweet.) Take a look at this selection of books that include a variety of informational topics. There are of course some classic stories that celebrate candy and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a must read for chapter book readers. Younger readers and listeners will giggle along with Curious George Goes to the Chocolate Factory.

Our last trip takes us back to San Mateo County for a visit to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach. At low tide the rocky shoreline becomes an extraordinary center for observation of marine life. Admission is free.

Explore these titles to learn more about tide pools before or after your trip.

What is your favorite Bay Area family day trip destination? Remember that the Library has books on a wide variety of topics and Children’s librarians love matching the perfect book with just the right kid! Happy travels!

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A Fistful of Pennies

six shooter found at Musee Mechanique My lust for
old coin-operated machines began as a little girl going to pizza parlors, local carnivals, and Chuck e Cheese.

Since then, I always stop dead in my tracks for vintage pinball machines, Zoltar style fortune tellers, skee ball, coin-operated pianos, mechanical carnivals, record-playing jukeboxes, penny cartoons, black and white photobooths, and pretty much any old automated machine that takes coins. When I get an itch to find these mechanical beauties I usually head to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Arcade which has many good oldies. Then I run over to the best roller coaster in the west, the Giant Dipper.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The other day I came across a young boy named Caine Monroy who took this love for arcades to a deeper level. He created his very own arcade out of cardboard boxes. He used his old hot wheels and toys from Shakey’s Pizza to use as prizes that kids could buy when they gathered enough tickets. To see the whole story unfold watch this video, Caine’ s Arcade by Nirvan created by his first customer, Nirvan Mullick!


My favorite arcade is the Musee Mechanique located on Pier 45  in San Francisco. This place is a dream come true! Grab a fistful of quarters and watch the player organs, the band of chimps, and the carnivals come to life before your eyes. These antique penny games were collected by Edward Galland Zelinsky , many of which came from Playland at the Beach San Francisco by the Cliff House.

If these delights enchant you, you may also like the film King of Kong: a fistful of quarterswhich is a documentary about a novice King Kong player vying for top score.


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Whales in the Desert

The Atacama Desert in northern Chile is the driest place on earth.  In fact, there are many parts of it that have never received any rainfall in human memory.  It is so dry that it has been used to simulate the surface of Mars for the Mars Rover.

It lies in the Chilean highlands (altiplano) between the Andes mountain range and the Pacific Ocean; the Andes average about 13,000 ft. in height, and the cold Humboldt Current is right off the coast (it’s right off the coast of Northern California, too; that’s why the ocean water in Santa Cruz is so cold).

The country looks like  a long skinny finger on the west side of South America; Atacama is the third section (orange one, from the top of the finger).

We tend to think of deserts as hot and sandy, but in fact the Atacama is cold – temperatures average between 32 degrees (that’s freezing!) and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. And the air is so clear -no dust and no light pollution- that 10 universities and other agencies have formed a consortium to build the Giant Magellan Telescope there.

There is now very little in the way of life in the Atacama Desert.  But  late last year news came out about 75  ancient whale skeletons, 20 of them in perfect condition, that showed up in the Atacama Desert, half a mile from the ocean.  The whales all apparently died at the same time – about 2 million years ago.

Whales?  In the driest desert on earth?

It’s not often that whole fossilized animals are discovered.  More often it’s pieces – a few vertebrae, a humerus (arm bone), a claw.  But these fossils of ancient marine mammals are complete and recognizable, as you can see from the picture below.  The skeleton that you see here is a prehistoric dolphin; whales, dolphins and porpoises are closely related to one another.

There are other skeletons, very close to each other.  Some are relatively small, like the dolphin, but some are enormous, like the one below.

It’s not clear what happened in the Atacama, but we DO know that land can be raised abruptly out of the sea.  Charles Darwin was in Chile in 1835, when a huge earthquake devastated the coast from Valdivia to Concepción.

Darwin saw beds of mussels lifted several feet above the sea where they had been previously.  If one earthquake could produce such effects, what would happen over time, with hundreds of earthquakes (when Darwin traveled in the Andes later, he found mussel beds hundreds of feet above sea level)?

Is that happened here?  Was there an enormous earthquake that produced a tsunami, and the tsunami carried dozens of whales and dolphins into the desert, where they died together?  Paleontologists studying them say there may be hundreds more waiting to be discovered.  Did these marine animals die off simultaneously?

Or was the Atacama Desert the bottom of the sea millions of years ago?

So many questions!  We can examine them at our leisure – unlike the paleontologists, who are being told to hurry it up so the widening of the Pan-American Highway can continue.

Here are some children’s books about Chile, a marvelous country:

Chile. Enchantment of the World

Chile in Pictures

And if you want to visit, the best guide book is the Rough Guide to Chile.

The geology of Chile and how dangerous it can be:

Trapped.  How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert

Here are some books about Charles Darwin, who was fascinated by South America before he headed out to the Galápagos Islands:

What Mr. Darwin Saw

Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure

And of course the ever-intriguing fossils:

100 Things You Should Know About Fossils

Fossils: A True Book

Fossils of the World

Be sure to ask your librarian if you want more information about these wonderful topics.

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The Bard

April 23 is William Shakespeare’s birthday (and also his death day, coincidentally).  A one-name celebrity on par with Madonna and Oprah, no other English-language writer has so thoroughly engaged our imaginations or provided us with such enduring stories.  (Actually, this might be a fun point to debate, but out of respect for the bard’s birthday will save the arguments for another time.)

Whether you mean to be or not, you’re surely familiar with Shakespeare. Perhaps you read his plays in school or saw a live Shakespeare production.  Or maybe you’re a Shakespeare fan and don’t even know it. The musical Kiss Me Kate, and the movie/TV show 10 Things I Hate About You? Those are both adaptations of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Or how about the musical West Side Story, which is a take on the tragedy Romeo and Juliet? Shakespeare shows up just as frequently in modern fiction; Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning A Thousand Acres, for instance, puts Shakespeare’s King Lear on an American farm.

But whether you’re an avowed or accidental fan of Shakespeare, there’s no better way to experience his magic than to speak his words yourself. That’s why we host Read Along Shakespeare each month at the Library. At 7 pm, on the first Monday, you can come play a part (or three) in one of Shakespeare’s plays. From the tragedies to the comedies, come unleash your inner dramatist and see why Shakespeare’s words have endured for so long. No costumes required.

Upcoming dates for Read Along Shakespeare

Monday, May 7, 7 p.m. King Lear (the second half).

Monday, June 4, 7 p.m. The Tempest

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