Category Archives: From the Library – A Weekly Column

Beyond Dr. Spock – by Charlotte Canelli

Charlotte Canelli is the library director at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Read Charlotte’s column in the May 1, 2014 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Before becoming a professional librarian and library director, I was blessed to have spent nearly twenty-five years raising my three daughters. They were in the midst of their college careers when I finished my master’s degree, after figuring out just what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Now, I watch one of my daughters in that incredible role of motherhood – the job I once had.  I marvel at the ease and care at which my daughter navigates the fresh and sparkling (and treacherous) waters of motherhood.

As one of the Baby Boomer Generation, I didn’t have much to go by, other than our own parenting and grand parenting examples. I referred to Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare (handed down by my own mother) for help for diaper rash, fever, or infectious diseases. For serious parenting advice, however, I admit I simply flew by the seat of my pants most of the time.

New parents today have an overabundance of books (and relatives, peers and colleagues) to advise, overwhelm and confuse them. If I found Dr. Spock’s tiny print and numerous chapters more than I could handle, I sympathize with the poor parent today who has a billion pages on the Internet to digest.  From online magazines, guides and websites, most questions are answered.  At least in a billion different, confusing ways.

Luckily, there is amusement and playfulness to be found amongst this all-too-serious topic. And some of the funniest parents write online blogs, many of which have been transformed into books.

Robin O’Bryant began writing Robin’s Chicks, a mommy blog meant to bring tears to your eyes –either through sarcasm and wit, or poignant, sincere stories.  Her first book, “Ketchup is a Vegetable: And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves” (2014) is considered a memoir, or compilation of essays about her own experiences – the joys and distresses of motherhood.  A collection of reader’s favorite blog entries, “A Second Helping”, is available only in digital format for the Kindle.

Pediatrician and mother Wendy Sue Swanson began writing a blog for the Seattle Children’s Hospital website in 2009.  She ascribes to the philosophy that parents only “want to do what’s right” and they want honest help. In March 2014, her book “Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Parenting, Child Health, and Work-Life Balance” hit the book and library shelves.  Swanson shares her combined education, practice, and experience in guiding parents through the maze of medical advice.

Three very funny and irreverent books on library shelves also began as hilarious online blogs. The first, “Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures” by Amber Dusick (2013) focuses on both the sweet and heartwarming moments and the not-so-cute and “unpleasant surprises.”  You can also begin any morning with a smile if you ‘like’ the Facebook page.  The cartoons are very basic – one might say there is very little artistic quality to them.  But they are designed not to impress but to make you laugh.

“I Just Want to Pee Alone: A Collection of Humorous Essays by Kick Ass Mom Bloggers” (2013) asks just why parents can’t get a bathroom break without interruption and other profound questions of the overwrought, underslept crowd. Essays by 37 bloggers are included in the book. If you are finding yourself awake a midnight rocking a toddler back to sleep, keep this book close at hand.  But be careful not to laugh out loud.

The most recent addition is “I Heart My Little A-Holes: A Bunch of Holy-Crap Moments No One Ever Told You about Parenting” by Karen Alpert, author of the blog, Baby Sideburns (2014).

Of course, Dave Barry (Pulitzer-prizewinning author of a plethora of humorous non-fiction books, essays, and fiction) began writing about parenthood in 1984 with “Babies and Other Hazards of Sex.”  17 years later (in 2001) he wrote “My Teenage Son’s Goal in Life is to Make Me Feel 3,500 Years Old.”  Barry turned 50 in 1997.  This year, at age 67, he added “You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About” to his humor repertoire.

Of course, there is a lot more serious advice to consider in parenting, to be sure. In this precarious day and age of being constantly plugged-in, Catherine Steiner-Adair offers “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age” (2013). It’s more difficult than ever parenting in 2014 (take it from me with a teenaged grandson in the house).  My own daughter and her husband have taken a vow to limit my granddaughter’s online presence; yet, I still have the amazing opportunity to FaceTime with little Phoebe several times a week and kiss her sweet image on an iPad screen. Steiner-Adair attacks the issues: our online lives and when and where to unplug.

Noël Janis-Norton offers “Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting: Five Strategies that End the Daily Battles and Get Kids to Listen the First Time” (2013) which may sound impossible when the battles are raging. Problems with mornings, homework, screentime, mealtimes, bedtime and chores can all be less stressful claims Janis-Norton.

There are dozens more books like these, including new additions by SuperNanny “Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules: Your 5-Step Guide to Shaping Proper Behavior” (2014) and “The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom About Children and Parenting” by Alfie Kahn.

I’m glad I get to watch my granddaughter grow up under someone else’s watchful eye. Bedtime or no bedtime, screen time or none, I’m relieved I don’t have to make the decisions that I would agonize over. I admit I stumbled and tripped, often second-guessing myself along the way.  I’d like to think I made it through successfully in spite of my 1951, dog-eared, yellow-paged copy of Dr. Spock.

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Book Tips Across the Atlantic: Love from Jane – by Charlotte Canelli

Charlotte Canelli is the library director at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Read Charlotte’s column in the April 24, 2014 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.     

At times I wonder if you are fatigued of my writing. Lately, my columns seem to include too many stories about disaster and loss. I’ve tried to tie those discussions to books in the library that might benefit one of our readers who might be intrigued by the topic or those who are journeying through experiences much like I have. I’ve tried to share stories that might strike a chord, touch a place in your own heart, or encourage you to read what I’ve shared with you.

This week I lost a very special colleague who was a Massachusetts librarian for 25 years.  Her death came as a shock.  How could someone younger than me and one so inspirational to others leave so quickly and unexpectedly?

I must admit, I don’t know many personal details of Jane Dutton’s life before I met her.  I do know she was raised up in California just as I was. I know that she received her master’s in library science from Simmons College in Boston and her first years as a professional librarian were spent in the children’s room, much like mine were.  Nine years after becoming the children’s librarian in Holden, Massachusetts, she was promoted to library director.  For another 12 years she was much loved in Holden where her enthusiasm for the community and her love for reading became legendary across Massachusetts.

When I relocated back to Massachusetts to take on the directorship in a central Massachusetts town, a group of local, caring librarians took me under their charge and shepherded me through my first years as an administrator. One of those amazing librarians was Jane Dutton. They provided guidance while I tackled bureaucratic and confusing reports.  They encouraged me while I battled difficult library scenarios.  They were undeniably the finest resource for insider information in Massachusetts.  They were also the definitive proof that librarians are the most valuable friends on the planet.

Jane Dutton was a voracious reader.  Over the years, I relied on Jane’s Picks – her monthly book reviews and recommendations. In breakfast meetings, with her usual wicked wit, Jane would recall the latest episode of the television series that she was watching and she would leave us in stitches.

Jane watched it all, she read it all, and she shared it all.

Jane retired from the Gale Free Library in Holden, MA and ended her official library career earlier than expected in 2011.  On a wing and a prayer (and an enormous belief in the great things that would come) she moved to The Netherlands to live with her newfound partner (and future wife), Natasha. From the town of Utrecht, twenty miles from Amsterdam, Jane quickly began writing blog posts that described her unique experience of a retired-American librarian in The Netherlands.  I wasn’t alone in loving to read Jane’s blog. Two years after writing her first post, Jane announced that she was receiving 30,000 web hits from all over the world.

True to Jane’s form, each of Jane’s posts was headed by a movie title.  The posts usually finished with some kind of recommended reading or watching. Some posts were poignant and most were hilarious.

One of my favorites was “The Breakfast Club” written on April 15, 2011.  She explained the Dutch love of Nutella and sprinkles (as large as ‘ants on steroids’) - a touch of sweetness simply spread on bread for breakfast.  She described omelets eaten for any meal, any time. She ended that “Breakfast Club” post with Jane’s Boekentips (translated from the Dutch to English as “book tips): Breakfast with Scot by Michael Downing, Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo and Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast by Bill Richardson.

In another early blog post named Up, Jane described the years she spent as the tallest girl in school in California.  As an adult, she stood 5’8” and felt as if she towered above most people.  In Holland, however, the Dutch (the tallest people in world) often made Jane “feel like a Smurf in the land of Avatar.” Her recommended reading?  The Giant’s House by Elizabeth McCracken and The Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker.

In February, Jane described how she had just received a jury summons from Massachusetts, three years after she had departed the Commonwealth for Holland.  “I guess word of my exit had not reached the courthouse,” she wrote.  She then explained that there are no juries in The Netherlands.  The judge decides the case.  Her post ended with a recommendation to watch 12 Angry Men.

Jane wrote her last post from The Netherlands just three years after her first.  On April 15, Jane’s wife Natasha posted for her; Jane could no longer type or write. It was a dictated description of her last journey with The Mary Tyler Moore Show - hilarious, American 70s television that was helping her to ease the pain of liver cancer. As usual, Jane was remarkable. She was funny and honest, and she shared her love of all 168 episodes.

When Jane Dutton lost her not-quite-three-month battle on April 17, I sat in disbelief.  A group of her friends, myself included, had just gathered the week before for a photograph meant to humor and heal her. While the photo touched her deeply when it reached her online through the magic of Facebook, how could she have lost her battle so quickly? My heart broke for her wonderful new family and her host of friends around the world.  How would we never read another post, another book or movie recommendation, another bit of wicked wit from a woman who spent her life sharing her wisdom with others?

I will always be inspired by Jane Dutton, the quintessential librarian.   If I could have, I would have told her: “Rest in peace, Jane, knowing that I will reread your blog posts and “boekentips” with the same smile – but this time with a tear in my eye.”

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Going to the Dogs – by Kate Tigue

Read Kate Tigue’s column in the April 17, 2014 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin. Kate is a Children’s Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library.

The library’s current community program, Norwood Reads: Following Atticus, kicked off with a fabulous author event at the end of March and is now in full swing! After reading the book and reflecting on Tom Ryan’s thoughts on dog ownership, I started to reminisce about dogs in my life. When I was a young child, I was deathly afraid of dogs. I blame Honeybun, a yappy dachshund with no love for small kids and overindulgent owner. If a dog was being walked down the street, I had to be on the other side, wailing while clutching the leg of a bewildered parent. My dad often had to carry me into dog owners’ homes. My two dog-loving parents didn’t get it and set out to find a permanent solution to my canine phobia. (more…)

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Boston Stronger – by Charlotte Canelli

Read Charlotte Canelli’s column in the April 10, 2014 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Many of us remember where and when we first learned that President Kennedy was assassinated, that the Twin Towers had been struck on September 11th and that kindergarteners were murdered in cold blood in the classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  We hold that coffee cup again, we shake our heads in disbelief, we stare at the television screen or the words on a computer monitor. We wonder how we will face the world we now know and we mourn for the lives of childhoods that have lost their innocence. (more…)

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