Tag Archives: From the Library – A Weekly Column

Blizzardous – by Charlotte Canelli

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column each Thursday in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Unfortunately for everyone the Morrill Memorial Library has been closed several days this winter.  While we make every attempt to stay open on snowy days we sometimes close in the best interest of our patrons and our staff.  Icy roads or quickly-accumulating snow are two conditions which make for this determination because it simply isn’t always possible to keep our parking lot and walks safe.

Believe it or not, the online “know it all” Wikipedia already lists this month’s recent storm on February 2 as “The Ground Hog Day Blizzard of 2011”. The storm affected five provinces of Canada, a huge chunk of the United States and Northern Mexico.

By definition a blizzard is a snow storm with high winds and diminished visibility lasting three hours of more.   Definitions aside, we know that a blizzard is a storm that cripples our snowplowing capabilities or the ability of the busses to get to school. It’s the kind of snow that causes a nightmare of a commute and one that takes hours to creep a few miles.

Besides their devastating effects, these mega-storms can be lucrative for snow blower sales, for handyman work and for the chiropractic business.  They also make headlines, baby booms and good stories.

And so, February 2 was a snow day for both me and my 12-year old grandson.  It was a perfect day to introduce Colin to one of my favorite movies, Ground Hog Day. That movie never ceases to make me smile and chuckle, to believe in romance and to marvel in brilliance of actor Bill Murray.

Screenwriters aren’t the only talented writers who use blizzards to their best advantage.  Journalist-turned bestselling author Jon Katz included one is his story about a dog in “Rose in a Storm” (2010).   Rose is a hard-working sheep dog who, in the midst of an epic blizzard, helps save a farm and every creature that lives there.

Another bestselling author, Richard Paul Evans, set his latest book, “Promise Me”, in the middle of a Christmas Day blizzard. He included all the elements – a widow, a sick child and the perfect stranger she runs into in a 7-eleven in the midst of a raging winter storm.  These essentials also converge in Barbara Delinsky’s 2010 novel “Montana Man.”  Single mom, infant daughter, handsome stranger.  And a blizzard, of course.

It seems romance abounds in the middle of blizzards.  In “Winter Lodge” by Susan Wiggs, Jenny Majesky is trapped with the local police chief in the middle of a crippling snowstorm.   In “Chill Factor” Lilly Martin is stuck in a remote cabin with a handsome stranger unable to leave.  Author Sandra Brown sets a scene where roads are impassable and Lilly has nowhere to go but spend time with the handsome stranger.  Why the problem?  He is the primary suspect in the disappearance of five local women.

Diana Palmer includes two stories in “The Winter Man.” In one of them, “Sutton’s Way”, we find a single dad, a beautiful city woman and a ranch.  Oh yes, and the blizzard.

If you are looking for a realistic story, however, you can find one quite comical one in Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” in which the author writes of his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail.  One humorous chapter recounts the time when Bryson got caught hiking in a blizzard with his friend Katz. After the storm they woke to “the kind of stillness that makes you sit up and take your bearings.”

In “Ten Hours Until Dawn: the True Story of a Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do”, local author and Franklin resident Michael Tougias details the story of that small boat and its crew during the 1978 blizzard that assaulted the Massachusetts coast.  Tougias reports the tragedy and the failed mission of the Can Do to assist two other boats. It sank only miles from the shore.

I was living in California at the time of the Massachusetts Blizzard of 1978 but I feel as if I lived through it due to the stories of my family and friends living here.  Recollections of peaceful walks down the middle of the streets, cars abandoned on Route 128, high tides and pounding surf made memories for several generations of New Englanders.  Michael Dukakis wrote the introduction to Alan R. Earl’s “Greater Boston’s Blizzard of 1978”. The book is illustrated with over 200 photographs and readers can relive the storm or experience it for the first time.

The Boston Globe published “Great New England Storms of the 20th Century”, edited by Janice Page. The book not only includes the infamous blizzard of ’78 but also the 1938 hurricane, devastating floods of 1936 and the “Perfect Storm” of 1991.

Larry B. Pletcher writes of the blizzard of 1888 which occurred nearly a century earlier before the one in 1978.  Pletcher writes about other disasters such as Lizzy Borden, the Curse of the Bambino and the Cocoanut Grove Fire in his book, “It Happened in Massachusetts”.

Several more very complete accounts have been written about the 1888 blizzard commonly referred to as the School Children’s Blizzard. “Blizzard! The 1888 Whiteout” by Jacqueline A. Ball is one of them.  Another is “Blizzard: The Storm that Changed America” by Jim Murphy.  Murphy is the author of other wonderful books for middle-school readers such as “The Great Fire”. “American Epidemic”, “The Boys’ War”, and the “Long Road to Gettysburg, I often suggest reading non-fiction written for younger audiences and Murphy’s books are fine examples.

An adult version of the epic tragedy is “The Schoolchildren’s Blizzard” by Donald B. Lemke.  This devastating prairie snowstorm killed hundreds of newly-arrived settlers in the western plains among them children who had walked to school that morning of January 12, 1888 without coats and gloves because the weather was very mild. Without much warning the storm approached and the rest, as they say, is the history of the deadliest blizzard to hit the American heartland.

For help searching in the Minuteman catalog for these titles or for placing requests for books, please visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website, www.norwoodlibrary.org.

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood.

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Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers – by Margot Sullivan

Margot Sullivan is a retired Adult Services Librarian who still works part-time as a Reference Librarian and leads two popular book discussion groups. Read Margot Sullivan’s in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Abraham Lincoln is my very favorite president! Why- you might ask? One reason is that I was born on his birthday, February 12th! I always thought that day along with Washington’s birthday should also be a national holiday for him, of course, not me! The few times I have been to Washington D.C. my first destination is the Lincoln Memorial to contemplate a most remarkable man in our nation’s history. He guided this country through the divisive Civil War and his Proclamation Emancipation ending slavery is one of our most sacred documents. The library has a huge selection of materials on Abe Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, his family, the Civil War and his assassination. Three titles I highly recommend are Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: the political genius of Abraham Lincoln” (973.7092), David Herbert Donald’s Pulitzer Prize biography “Lincoln” (B Lincoln), and Philip Kunhardt’s “Lincoln: an illustrated biography” (B Lincoln). I especially enjoy the last recommendation as photographs often can tell a story better than words!

Truthfully I thought I knew a lot about Abe Lincoln but just this year became aware of a real event in his life regarding his whiskers. Grace Bedell, an eleven year old child from Westfield, New York, wrote a letter to Mr. Lincoln part of which reads “if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them (her brothers) to vote for you. You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you”. Grace mails the letter hoping that Mr. Lincoln would answer and he did! A. Lincoln responds in part “As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin now?” Abe Lincoln won the election and traveling to Washington stops in New York and Grace sees his whiskers. A wonderful picture book entitled “Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers” by Karen Winnick is in the biography section of the children’s room! A facsimile of Grace’s letter is on the back pages of the book. The majority of the photos we see of Abraham Lincoln have his “whiskers”.

While researching material on Abe Lincoln for a cable show I came across the slender volume “Lincoln at Home: Two Glimpses of Abraham Lincoln’s Family Life” by David Herbert Donald. (B, Lincoln) and learned another wonderful snippet about Abe Lincoln in the White House! First of all Americans were trying to get use to children in the White House. Lincoln’s boys were active and venturesome. They especially loved two small goats Nanko and Nannie who were allowed around on the grounds and tended to destroy the gardens. But they also had the run of the White House! Mischievous Tad harnessed Nanko to a chair and gleefully interrupted a reception in the East Room as Nanko pulled him around on a sled in and out of the hoop skirts! Later Abraham writes to his wife Mary that “Nanny” disappeared probably much to the gardeners delight. I enjoyed reading about these antics of the children. I imagine Mary Lincoln had her hands full! Come to the library and read about Abraham Lincoln.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln!

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Discover Yourself on a Bookshelf – by Charlotte Canelli

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin each Thursday.

When I married my husband in 2007 I decided that it was important to keep his grandson, Colin, in the only home he had ever known in his young nine years and the one that Gerry himself has lived in it for over a quarter of a century.

Combining households, however, was a “traumatic adventure” for both of us. I use the word “adventure” because it was a delightful beginning; a new life for Gerry who had lost a wife to cancer after many years of marriage. It was also a romantic fresh start for me after a painful divorce in 1999.

I use the word “traumatic” because we both brought utterly complete and cluttery lives to one combined house. It was an over-abundance of furniture and stuff, some of which we managed to give away and sell that first year. Most we crammed into available space.

On a whim this past weekend, Gerry and I decided to take a look at an antique farmhouse in Norfolk that had been on the market for some time. In the end, we decided against the farmhouse, but this impulsive peek at real estate and the reality of moving struck me with intense panic. I realized then that it will take us years to go through the houses, the garages, the basements and the attics of two homes in order to even begin the process of thinking of moving.

Arriving home that day I moved into position. Impulsive but refreshingly decisive, I decided to begin the process. And so it was that I started at a logical place, the bookshelves.

In “Howard’s End Is On the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home”, author Susan Hill recounts the story of spending a year reading through the countless books that filled her home. Some books had been long forgotten, some had never been read. Her journey includes memories of the libraries, the book-givers, the stories and the physical books that defined her life of over sixty years. Hill has advice for those of us who accumulate books. Sort out those travel books from trips completed or the definitive guide to owning a pet that has long-ago died. “Pass the thrillers on to a friend.” You rarely read a thriller twice. Keep those books that speak to you in some way – those that you simply can’t let go.

I had “weeded” my bookshelves many times in the past decade since selling my family home in 2001 and moving multiple times. Last week, however, I finally parted with thick volumes of encyclopedias of quotations and literature. I packed up bestselling current literature that I’d always hoped to have time to read and haven’t. I painfully removed books of Soviet history. Those books were simply old news and the world and I have both moved on. In addition, I work in a library surrounded by many of those same books. Given the whim, I can simply pluck the book from the shelves that are steps from my office.

More importantly, of course, this column must include the story of the books that I simply cannot let go. As a former children’s librarian, many of those books are children’s books and some of them are books from my own childhood.

My mother was given books for her birthdays and these were the Children of America Stories and Children of All Lands Stories published in the 1940s. The stories formed my love of adventure and the inscriptions inside the books include my mother’s name.

My mother began giving me the Illustrated Junior Library Classics when I was eight. The first was “The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew” and “Heidi” and “Little Women”. Many others joined those in the years that followed. My own daughters weren’t interested in those classics but I can’t part with them.

Years later I discovered The Whole Story series of classics which contain unabridged text, annotations and lavish illustrations. My favorites are “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Treasure Island” – stories I had somehow missed as a young girl.

Later on I fell in love with Maria Tatar’s and Michael Hearn’s richly annotated versions of the “Brothers Grimm”, the “Wizard of Oz” and “A Christmas Carol” and more. Reading those books on a lazy weekend (which are editions for adults) I can get endlessly lost.

Of course “Make Way for Ducklings” and “Goodnight Moon” will always stay on my shelves along with “Six by Seuss”, “Charlotte’s Web” and ten beautiful versions of “Alice and Wonderland”. I can’t part with any of the volumes of Lemony Snicket, the poetry of Shel Silverstein or a 1950 version of the “The Bobbsey Twins” that I ordered through a used-book dealer. When the book arrived I immediately read the first chapter for the umpteenth time. In it Freddie and Flossie furnish tiny houses made from cardboard boxes. I probably owe some of my imaginary sense to author Laura Lee Hope.

After a few hours I had packed 6 boxes and bags of books to donate to the Friends of the Library. These hardly made a dent on the shelves although most of my rearranged books seem to be breathing fresher air. I have temporarily loaned my collection of pop-up books to a display in the foyer of the library. They are marvels of paper engineering and they will forever intrigue me. They will remain there throughout the rest of January and the entire month of February.

Spend a day with your own bookshelves. You might discover yourself on them.

For help searching in the Minuteman catalog or for placing requests for books, please visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website, www.norwoodlibrary.org.

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Time Among Friends

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin each Thursday. Read past columns here.

In my childhood, sometime in the years of the first through the sixth grades, I began to find a special seat at lunchtime. I placed myself along the outer edge of the cafeteria at the LeConte Elementary School.

You see, this room doubled as the school library. What seemed like miles of book shelves lined the perimeter of this multi-purpose room.

I have always managed to multitask well. During lunch I often scanned the shelves for books that I had not yet read. I have an indelible visual memory. This is of finding one of my favorite childhood books on those shelves. Bottom shelf, halfway across the left side of the cafeteria beginning with authors A and B.

“Best Friends” was written by Mary Bard in 1955. It was a whimsical story that features a girl named Suzie and her best friend, CoCo who had moved from France to the house next door. Eventually, in this book, Suzie’s mother marries CoCo’s father and the best part of the story is about their blended family. A romantic at heart, and a child of a broken home, this story enchanted me.

When I was twelve years old we moved from the city to a new house in the suburbs. It was there where I found my best friend who lived in the house next door. Our parents never married – they had spouses of their own, of course. And neither of us was from an exotic place like France. We were the only girls in families of unruly boys. We became inseparable best friends within months, if not weeks.

As young teens we shared wardrobes, record albums and term papers. We complained bitterly about our brothers and we shared annoying babysitting jobs. As young adults we declared our loyalty with sisterly acts like standing up for each other in our respective weddings. We gave our firstborn daughters each other’s names. Over the years and throughout the ensuing decades we weathered life’s losses, we endured separations of thousands of miles and we reconnected again after a very painful, many-years friendship storm.

A few weeks ago, a colleague in the library recommended Gail Caldwell’s recent book, “Let’s Take the Long Walk Home.” In it Caldwell recounts her extremely close friendship with another author, Caroline Knapp. For many years Caldwell and Knapp walked together with their dogs through Massachusetts woods. They swam and rowed together on the Charles River. They confessed their deepest fears and hopes and shared the secrets and rituals of their lives. It is a memoir of life and death and a bittersweet tale of a friendship found and lost. Knapp, the author of “Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Their Dogs” died of lung cancer in 2002. Devastated, Caldwell works through her grief in this beautiful story of the journey of their attachment.

Last summer I was drawn to the book written by Martha Stewart’s estranged friend, Mariana Pasternak. “The Best of Friends: Martha and Me” is a poignant, sometimes rewarding but mostly bitter description of a twenty-year friendship which ended in a schism caused by Pasternak’s testimony in Stewart’s high-profile trial. It is, in the end, a long, tedious, painful and sad tale of friendship lost.

One of my favorite books about friendship was written in 2004 by Paul Newman and A. E. Hotchner. While “Shameless Exploitation In the Pursuit of the Common Good” is the story of the Newman’s Own brand of salad dressings and the testing and marketing of many gourmet grocery items, it is also about the story of a friendship. Paul Newman and writer A. E. Hotchner created a successful brand, made tons of money for charity and made miracles happen with their “Hole in the Wall Gang” camps for critically-ill children around the world. (Hotchner followed up with a memoir of this friendship in 2010 entitled “Paul and Me: Fifty-three Years of Adventures and Misadventures With My Pal Paul Newman.”)

Last October a book was published in which woman golfer Kris Tschetter recounts her deep friendship with golfing champion Ben Hogan. “Mr. Hogan, the Man I Knew: An LPGA Player Looks Back on an Amazing Friendship and Lessons She Learned From Golf’s Greatest Legend” is a lovely story. Beginning in 1980, when Kris was a collegiate golfer, her relationship with the formidable Mr. Hogan lasted several decades until his death in 1997.

In 2009 Jeffrey Zaslow, Wall Street Journal columnist, wrote about the power of the friendship of eleven childhood friends who grew up in Ames, Iowa. “The Girls From Ames” is the special story of young women who scattered across the country, who married, divorced and died, as one of them would. Bittersweet, tearful and witty, Zaslow successfully captures the amazing bond of women friends into their forties – especially those inspirational bonds which were formed in those tender years of youth.

On a recent trip to a conference in Southern California I was stranded due to the weather emergency that closed airports across the Midwest and East coast. It was my sister-friend, this bonded friend of childhood, who immediately purchased a ticket to Northern California and invited to me sit out my unfortunate layover in her home. It was her husband, my ‘brother-in-law’ by nature of our sisterly relationship, who made sure I had a confirmed flight home two days later. Nurtured and amused, the hours and minutes of my long sequestered time passed in comfort among the best of friends.

For help searching in the Minuteman catalog or for placing requests for books about special friendships, please visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website, www.norwoodlibrary.org.

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