Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Eclipse Mania

In case you hadn't heard, the United States will be treated to a front row viewing of a Total Solar Eclipse on Monday, August 21. Here in Dubuque, we'll be a bit too far north to see the full eclipse, but the show should still be impressive (weather permitting). The eclipse will begin around 11:48 a.m., reach its peak around 1:13 p.m., and end by 2:37 p.m.

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to the eclipse is that you should NEVER look directly at the sun as this can cause irreparable damage to your eyes. Unfortunately, the library does not have any eclipse glasses available, and while many local retailers had pairs for sale, it sounds like many locations are currently sold out. If you've already purchased a pair of eclipse glasses, you can make sure that they are reputable and learn more about eclipse viewing safety from NASA:

If  you happen to have an empty cereal box, you can bring it into the Maker Space here at Carnegie-Stout and staff will show you how to create your own pinhole viewer for the eclipse. You can also watch a live stream of the eclipse in the Maker Space starting at noon on Monday, August 21.

We've put together a few links below with more tips and tricks to enjoy the eclipse and to learn more about astronomy.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Staff Review: Cat Castles: 20 cardboard habitats you can build yourself by Carin Oliver

Gathering Materials

When I saw Cat Castles: 20 cardboard habitats you can build yourself by Carin Oliver on the cart of new books, I knew I needed to check it out immediately.

"Look at how happy that cat in an airplane is!" I thought. "Obviously my kitty Dexter needs a cat castle to be truly happy."

Dexter selects a box.
Luckily, my boyfriend was in agreement and had a stash of cardboard boxes waiting for recycling day. We looked through the projects in the book, which vary from fairly simple reinforced and decorated boxes for your cat to hide in to elaborate designs like trains and even the castle of the title. I asked Dexter for his opinion, but he was busy napping on a tote bag we'd left on a kitchen chair. Instead we decided to wait until we were babysitting my boyfriend's niece and asked for her help. She decided that we would make Dexter the largest cat castle we possibly could.

User Testing
The first step was to gather our supplies: cardboard boxes, hot glue gun and glue, box cutter, ruler, twine, and decorations. Unlike the designs in the book, we did not plan on elaborate painting or carefully applied craft paper. Dexter loves to destroy cardboard boxes, so we wanted the design to be something that he could enjoy chewing into little pieces. So we put our elementary student in charge of interior decorating and design elements, while the grown-ups took care of cutting and gluing. We found that the hot glue gun did not have enough power to hold the larger boxes together and ended up using non-toxic wood glue.

One of the best design elements are two cat toys attached from high points of the castle with twine for Dexter to attack (though my favorite is probably Dexter's name spelled out in felt letters on one of the towers). This gives us a way to interact with Dexter and the castle and has encouraged him to engage in active play in his new castle, rather than just napping (although he is definitely getting some good naps). Overall, this was a fun and easily customizable project that I can recommend as an entertaining weekend activity for cat lovers of all ages.
King of the Castle
~Sarah, Adult Services

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Staff Review: The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

I was living in Maine in 2013 when the North Pond Hermit was apprehended. He was caught 29 miles from my house. His arrest was a big deal because Christopher Knight, the hermit, had subsisted in the wilds of Maine, undetected, for 27 years largely by burgling empty vacation cabins. For decades the home owners had no idea who was taking their stuff. According to Knight himself, he broke into about 40 cabins per year for 27 years for a grand total of 1,080 break-ins. He did no damage, took only what he needed to survive (food, tarps, books, etc.), and always felt remorse.

How Knight wound up in the woods -- and survived 27 Maine winters without once building a fire -- is the subject of journalist Michael Finkel's book The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit. I couldn't put the book down.

Knight grew up in Maine, the son of quiet, self-sufficient, live-off-the-land Mainers. Chris took the family's characteristic reticence to an extreme and after finishing school and quitting a dead-end job, he drove up to Moosehead Lake, abandoned his car, and began trudging south through the dense Maine woods. He eventually found a spot near North Pond (within earshot of civilization) -- a small clearing ringed by thick foliage and huge boulders -- and here he hunkered down for the next 27 years.

Knight's arrest and the incredible unfolding story of his life in the wild caught Finkel's attention, and, through sheer determination and persistence, Finkel was able to launch a correspondence with the man. He also visited Knight in jail several times, never expecting or receiving a warm welcome. His resulting book sheds as much light as can be shed on Christopher Knight.

Some reviewers have dinged the book because they find Knight to be a cipher with nothing deep or interesting to say about his strange existence or his motivations. I disagree. While the hermit is not the most likable guy in the world, I actually grew to like him. He's smart, droll, nuts about books, and eccentric, which is not such a bad thing. He often struck me as insightful and profound. Above all, I found his outdoor survival abilities astounding. He maneuvered through the woods, and in and out of area camps, for decades without being found, and he survived 27 bitter winters through a carefully-honed schedule of meticulous practices (never sleeping past 2 AM on the coldest nights, for instance, so he wouldn't succumb to hypothermia in his sleep). So, Hermit of North Pond: hero or villain? Read this riveting book and decide for yourself.

~Ann, Adult Services

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

#ComicsWednesday: Heartthrob by Christopher Sebela & Robert Wilson IV

None of us will live forever, but Callie, who was born with a congenital heart defect, has never been able to escape the awareness that her time is limited. Throughout her childhood she was either hospitalized or kept wrapped in cotton wool by her parents. But after Callie hears about the first successful heart transplant in 1968, she decides to take a chance on living. She leaves her family, moves to California, gets a job in an insurance company, and saves her money for heart transplant surgery.

The story of Heartthrob starts with Callie just returning to work after months of recovering from her successful heart transplant. She feels different, healthier, stronger, though she's well aware that the still experimental transplant has only extended her lifespan by years. But if Callie was tired of hiding from life before, now she is determined to live. And then she meets a mysterious and handsome stranger at a bar, a stranger with a dangerous past who leads Callie into a life of crime and romance.

This fast-paced story is written by Christopher Sebela, drawn by Robert Wilson IV, and colored by Nick Filardi. The story has enough sex and violence that it is clearly an adult series. I enjoyed the 1970s setting, and Filardi's use of color worked well to capture the vintage mood. Without going into spoilers, I would've enjoyed more focus on the heists and less on the unusual romance. It's an interesting premise, and the first volume ends on a heck of a cliffhanger.

~Sarah, Adult Services

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

#ComicsWednesday: Goldie Vance Vol. 1 by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams

If you grew up on a steady diet of Nancy Drew and Scooby-Doo, and are particularly drawn to stories about plucky girl sleuths, I highly recommend Goldie Vance Vol 1. by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams.

Marigold "Goldie" Vance lives with her father at the Crossed Palms, the resort hotel that he manages. Her mom works at a mermaid club downtown. Goldie valets cars and helps the in-house hotel detective solve small mysteries. Charles, the in-house detective, encounters a case he can't crack, so he agrees to mentor Goldie in the art of sleuthing if she helps him solve the mystery.

This comic is set in the Sixties, the heyday of girl detectives. Goldie is the child of an African American father and a Caucasian mother. Goldie's friends and coworkers at the hotel, as well as hotel guests, are refreshingly diverse. The color scheme is light and fresh, and it lends well to the relative innocence of the setting. Both Larson and Williams have said that they are planning to keep this series lighthearted. They will not explore the racism and difficulties of that time period.

This comic is recommended for ages 11+ by the publisher, though I think younger kids could enjoy it as well. You can find Goldie Vance Vol. 1 and Goldie Vance Vol. 2 in the Teen Zone Graphic Novel section here at Carnegie-Stout.  I would definitely recommend Goldie Vance to any readers who like a good mystery, miss Veronica Mars, or wanted to be Nancy Drew when they grew up.

- Libby, Youth Services

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Staff Review: Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney

Ever since I saw the 2004 romantic comedy The Prince & Me in theaters, I have been a sucker for the "ordinary girl + prince" plot
combo. I have read my fair share of romance novels revolving around that plot and I have watched all of the made-for-TV movies. I watched the live stream of the royal wedding in 2011. When I saw Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney on our cart of new YA books, I knew I had to read it.

Charlotte and Libby are sisters who are different in lots of ways. Libby is studious, serious, and artsy. Charlotte is popular, fashion forward, trendy, and oh, yeah, she's dating Prince Edward, heir to the British throne. When Libby ends up switching from her all-girls school to Charlotte's elite boarding school, she is thrown into a world she has a hard time understanding. Charlotte and Edward break up, and he seems to be spending more and more time with Libby. Two sisters should never fall for the same guy, but sometimes love grows where you least expect it.

I enjoyed this book immensely, and it's probably only partially because I'm biased about the plot. Having the book told from Charlotte's point of view brought in a perspective about this rom-com plot that I hadn't previously thought about. What happens to the family of the person dating royalty? This book was about that "ordinary girl + prince" trope, sure, but that seemed secondary to the sisters' relationship. It reminded me of The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan or The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright.

If you like romantic comedies and are intrigued by modern royalty, this is definitely one to check out. I'm not just saying that because there's a character named Libby either. :D

-Libby, Youth Services