Miss Letting-Go-Getting

You Can Judge a Book by its Cover
December 6, 2008, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Books | Tags: ,

I love book covers! As a child and young adult I chose books primarily on the content of the cover. If it had animals or kids in peril, that book was coming home with me in the basket of my banana seat dirt bike.

As I grew older, covers containing feather haired bad boys with motorcycles or surfboards totally came home with me in my denim purse.

These days, my taste is much better all around. Gone are the days of stone washed jean purses, bubblegum drama and the lure of the bad boys (aka jerks). I certainly care more about the inner workings of a book, and I can really appreciate a great cover design. Often a lovely cover can pull me in without (god forbid) even reading a review!

Joseph Sullivan at the BDR (Book Design Review) posts his top designs of the year.

I want to devour every single one of them!

Miss LGG


Gabe Levinson, let me be your side-kick! Ox-Bow, here I come!
August 16, 2008, 4:38 pm
Filed under: Books | Tags:

This is absolutely fantastic! Chicagoan cyclist and book lover, Gabe Levinson, solicits free books from publishers and other donors, then rides around Chicago parks giving them away. My kind of hero. Mr. Levinson, if you come across this while googling yourself, pick me as your side-kick. I’m a cool chick and there’s nothing I love more then spreading the joy of reading, and riding my bike. I would also dress up in any ridiculous costume you want. I have no shame when it comes to sharing the book love.

Read the Chicago Trib interview with Levinson and check out his Something to Read website which includes information about contributing to the cause. If you send in a postcard with your favorite literary quotes, he will put it on the book bike!

Tomorrow, I’m off to Ox-Bow, an artist’s retreat in beautiful Saugatuck, Michigan for a week-long class on the art of paper/book making!

Course Description for Book Structures: A book is an intimate object that can be alluring and surprising. A book structure brings together bookbinding techniques, ideas, and form. As we contemplate our ideas, we will investigate several bookbinding structures, how to use various tools, adhesives, and cloth, and will create unusual papers. Students will also learn how to paper back cloth and manipulate difficult paper, as well as several binding techniques, including pamphlet, Japanese stab, accordion, and coptic.

In an effort to get with nature, I am going to try my hardest to curb technology addictions. I do promise to blog all about it when I return!

Miss LGG

PS. Thanks to Polly for knowing just how excited the book bike would make me!

Librarians: Censorship Superheroes! Battling One Closed-Minded Person at a Time!
August 3, 2008, 5:34 am
Filed under: Books, Library Land | Tags: ,

Hello darling readers! I am alive and better than well and ready to start blogging again! I’ll regale you with adventures and discoveries of the past weeks in my next post, but first…check out this amazing letter written by a librarian in response to a patron asking that Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, a children’s book with a gay marriage, be removed from the shelves.

Dear Ms. Patron:

Thank you for working with my assistant to allow me to fit your concerns about “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding,” by Sarah S. Brannen, into our “reconsideration” process. I have been assured that you have received and viewed our relevant policies: the Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read, Free Access to Libraries for Minors, the Freedom to View, and our Reconsideration Policy.

The intent of providing all that isn’t just to occupy your time. It’s to demonstrate that our lay Board of Trustees –- which has reviewed and adopted these policies on behalf of our library — has spent time thinking about the context in which the library operates, and thoughtfully considered the occasional discomfort (with our culture or constituents) that might result. There’s a lot to consider.

Here’s what I understand to be your concern, based on your writings. First, you believe that “the book is specifically designed to normalize gay marriage and is targeted toward the 2-7 year old age group.” Your second key concern is that you “find it inappropriate that this type of literature is available to this age group.” You cite your discussion with your daughter, and commented, “This was not the type of conversation I thought I would be having with my seven year old in the nightly bedtime routine.”

Finally, you state your strong belief, first, “in America and the beliefs of our founding fathers,” and second, that “marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman as stated in the Webster’s dictionary and also in the Bible.”

You directed me to the SarahBrannen.com site, which I also reviewed. I got a copy of “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” today, and read it. I even hauled out my favorite Webster’s (the college edition, copyright 1960).

First, I think you’re right that the purpose of the book is to show a central event, the wedding of two male characters, as no big thing. The emotional center of the story, of course, is Chloe’s fear that she’s losing a favorite uncle to another relationship. That fear, I think, is real enough to be an issue for a lot of young children. But yes, Sarah Brannen clearly was trying to portray gay marriage as normal, as not nearly so important as the changing relationship between a young person and her favorite uncle.

Your second issue is a little trickier. You say that the book is inappropriate, and I infer that your reason is the topic itself: gay marriage. I think a lot of adults imagine that what defines a children’s book is the subject. But that’s not the case. Children’s books deal with anything and everything. There are children’s books about death (even suicide), adult alcoholism, family violence, and more. Even the most common fairy tales have their grim side: the father and stepmother of Hansel and Gretel, facing hunger and poverty, take the children into the woods, and abandon them to die! Little Red Riding Hood (in the original version, anyhow) was eaten by the wolf along with granny. There’s a fascinating book about this, by the bye, called “The Uses of Enchantment: the Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales,” by psychologist Bruno Bettelheim. His thesis is that both the purpose and power of children’s literature is to help young people begin to make sense of the world. There is a lot out there that is confusing, or faintly threatening, and even dangerous in the world. Stories help children name their fears, understand them, work out strategies for dealing with life. In Hansel and Gretel, children learn that cleverness and mutual support might help you to escape bad situations. In Little Red Riding Hood, they learn not to talk to big bad strangers. Of course, not all children’s books deal with “difficult issues,” maybe not even most of them. But it’s not unusual.

So what defines a children’s book is the treatment, not the topic. “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” is 27-28 pages long (if you count the dedication page). Generally, there are about 30 words per page, and each page is illustrated. The main character, and the key perspective, is that of a young girl. The book is published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, “a division of Penguin Young Readers Group.” The Cataloging in Publication information (on the back side of the title page) shows that the catalogers of the Library of Congress identified it as an “E” book – easy or beginning reader. Bottom line: It’s hard for me to see it as anything but a children’s book.

You suggested that the book could be “placed in an area designating the subject matter,” or “labeled for parental guidance” by stating that “some material may be inappropriate for young children.” I have two responses. First, we tried the “parenting collection” approach a couple of times in my history here. And here’s what we found: nobody uses them. They constitute a barrier to discovery and use. The books there – and some very fine ones — just got lost. In the second case, I believe that every book in the children’s area, particularly in the area where usually the parent is reading the book aloud, involves parental guidance. The labeling issue is tricky, too: is the topic just homosexuality? Where babies come from? Authority figures that can’t be trusted? Stepmothers who abandon their children to die?

Ultimately, such labels make up a governmental determination of the moral value of the story. It seems to me – as a father who has done a lot of reading to his kids over the years – that that kind of decision is up to the parents, not the library. Because here’s the truth of the matter: not every parent has the same value system.

You feel that a book about gay marriage is inappropriate for young children. But another book in our collection, “Daddy’s Roommate,” was requested by a mother whose husband left her, and their young son, for another man. She was looking for a way to begin talking about this with son. Another book, “Alfie’s Home,” was purchased at the request of another mother looking for a way to talk about the suspected homosexuality of her young son from a Christian perspective. There are gay parents in Douglas County, right now, who also pay taxes, and also look for materials to support their views. We don’t have very many books on this topic, but we do have a handful.

In short, most of the books we have are designed not to interfere with parents’ notions of how to raise their children, but to support them. But not every parent is looking for the same thing.

Your third point, about the founders’ vision of America, is something that has been a matter of keen interest to me most of my adult life. In fact, I even wrote a book about it, where I went back and read the founders’ early writings about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. What a fascinating time to be alive! What astonishing minds! Here’s what I learned: our whole system of government was based on the idea that the purpose of the state was to preserve individual liberties, not to dictate them. The founders uniformly despised many practices in England that compromised matters of individual conscience by restricting freedom of speech. Freedom of speech – the right to talk, write, publish, discuss – was so important to the founders that it was the first amendment to the Constitution – and without it, the Constitution never would have been ratified.

How then, can we claim that the founders would support the restriction of access to a book that really is just about an idea, to be accepted or rejected as you choose? What harm has this book done to anyone? Your seven year old told you, “Boys are not supposed to marry.” In other words, you have taught her your values, and those values have taken hold. That’s what parents are supposed to do, and clearly, exposure to this book, or several, doesn’t just overthrow that parental influence. It does, of course, provide evidence that not everybody agrees with each other; but that’s true, isn’t it?

The second part of your third point was your belief that marriage was between a man and a woman. My Webster’s actually gives several definitions of marriage: “1. the state of being married; relation between husband and wife…; 2. the act of marrying, wedding; 3. the rite or form used in marrying; 4. any close or intimate union.” Definitions 2-4, even as far back as 1960, could be stretched to include a wedding between two men. Word definitions change; legal rights change. In some parts of America, at least today, gay marriage is legal. If it’s legal, then how could writing a book about it be inappropriate?

Finally, then, I conclude that “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” is a children’s book, appropriately categorized and shelved in our children’s picture book area. I fully appreciate that you, and some of your friends, strongly disagree with its viewpoint. But if the library is doing its job, there are lots of books in our collection that people won’t agree with; there are certainly many that I object to. Library collections don’t imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life.

As noted in our policies, you do have the right to appeal my decision to the Board of Trustees. If you’d like to do that, let me know, and I can schedule a meeting. Meanwhile, I’m more than happy to discuss this further with you. I do appreciate many things: your obvious value of reading, your frank and loving relationship with your child, your willingness to raise issues of importance to you in the public square, and more. Thank you, very much, for taking the time to raise your concerns with me. Although I suspect you may not agree with my decision, I hope it’s clear that I’ve given it a great deal of thought, and believe it is in accordance with both our guiding principles, and those, incidentally, of the founders of our nation.

Best wishes to you and your family.

I love to imagine that the woman requesting the removal of this book read this eloquently written letter, and actually did think about marriage and parenting and the rights of every individual to be happy. I love to imagine that she rescinded her removal request, checked the book out again, reread it to her daughter, then talked about the many different viewpoints in the world and the many different kinds of love and family. I am going to shed my cynical ways, for this one moment, and not let myself believe that she could have reacted in any other way.


Miss LGG

Miss LGG’s Book of the Week: The Culture Code
July 12, 2008, 4:31 pm
Filed under: Books, Videos, Web Resources | Tags:

The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille, 202 pgs.

The Culture Code by cultural anthropologist (and French ex-pat) Clotaire Rapaille explores the unconscious meanings we apply to products, relationships and our country through the lens of the culture in which we are raised. Below are some of the codes discussed in the book; some of which are incredibly obvious, and others, somewhat shocking. You’ll have to read the book to find out more…

Some American Culture Codes explored in the book:



Love=False Expectation



Beauty=Man’s Salvation

Fat=Checking Out



Work=Who You Are


Quality=It Works


Luxury=Military Stripes



Shopping=Reconnecting with Life

Culture Codes for countries:

France=IDEA/French code for America=Space Travelers

England=CLASS/English code for America=Unashamedly Abundant

Germany=ORDER/German code for America=John Wayne


“The Culture Code offers the benefit of great new freedom gained from understanding why you act the way you do. It gives you a new set of glasses with which you can see the world in a new way. We are all individuals, and each of us has a complex set of motivations, inspirations, and guiding principles–a personal Code, if you will. However, seeing how we think as a culture, how we behave as a group in predictable patterns based on the survival kit we received at birth as Americans, or English, or French, enables us to navigate our world with a vision we’ve heretofore lacked.” — Clotaire Rapaille

Fast-paced, easy to read and peppered with examples from Ropaille’s extensive marketing work, The Culture Code is A fascinating read for anyone interested in how we as a culture operate, our reasons for doing so and how others view us.

If you’re at all interested, you can also check out the Frontline episode “The Persuaders” part of which features the work of Monsieur Rapaille.

In a similar vein, check out this awesome on-line project by Noah Brier, “a collective experiment in brand perception.” I think the brand clouds for American Apparel and Fox News are my personal favorites.


Miss LGG

Miss LGG’s Book of the Week: The Post-Birthday World
June 28, 2008, 4:14 pm
Filed under: authors, Books | Tags:

One down…twenty-three to go! Remember my personal summer reading program in which I pledged to read two books a week? Yeah, that’s not happening, or at least not at the pace I had hoped. Many of the books I chose are over 500 pages, and I have been sleeping on the bus a lot these days, and it’s summer and all I want to do is ride my bike and sit outside and hang out with friends, and make-out with a certain handsome man and, and, and….

I did, however, finish one of the books on my list…

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver, 517 pgs.

I first learned about this book from Entertainment Weekly’s yearly recap of the best media. They named this novel by British author Lionel Shriver as their top fiction book of the year which was intriguing to me because it didn’t exist on any other best of the year lists. Here’s what EW had to say:

In a year when nearly everyone was caught up in the story of a young wizard, an ensorcelling book about a mortal adult woman went virtually unnoticed. The heroine of Lionel Shriver’s extraordinary novel The Post-Birthday World is Irina McGovern, an illustrator living in London with her longtime partner, Lawrence Trainer, an earnest policy wonk. They share values and routines, if not a world-beating sex life. As the first chapter ends, Irina finds herself alone with a roguish acquaintance, pro snooker player Ramsey Acton, whom she’s always found dangerously attractive.

Here, the novel branches into two competing narratives. In the first, Irina kisses Ramsey. In the second, she resists. Chapter by chapter, these two richly imagined scenarios play themselves out, eventually meeting up again some 500 pages later. Which was the better choice for Irina — the steamy lover Ramsey or the steady companion Lawrence? Shriver playfully suggests answers, only to snatch them back again.

Before it was co-opted and trivialized by chick lit, romantic love was a subject that writers from Flaubert to Tolstoy deemed worthy of artistic and moral scrutiny. This is the tradition into which Shriver’s novel fits. In 50 years, we’ll still be wild about Harry. And a lucky handful of readers may stumble across The Post-Birthday World and wonder why they’ve never heard of it.

Right on–so true, I have steered clear of any fiction dealing solely with love and relationships because I can’t stand to read formulaic, trite happy-ending crap, which tends to be most of the chick-lit genre. I’m not a total cynic about love, but the fluff love genre of recent years never delves deeply into the workings of romantic relationships or characters’ psyches in general. Shriver’s novel is down and dirty honest, brutal, heartbreaking and so very very real.

Shriver is quickly becoming my favorite contemporary author. Her incredibly thought-provoking We Need to Talk About Kevin had me pondering parent/child relationships and the root of evil for nearly a month. Her writing style is incredibly elegant and dense, yet very easy to read and ultimately her books are impossible to put down.

Seriously, check her out. Good stuff.


Miss LGG

Miss LGG’s Summer Reading Program
May 19, 2008, 12:36 am
Filed under: Books, Web Resources | Tags:

Remember this…

Once upon a time, long, long ago I loved a man who rarely cracked a book open, well actually never cracked a book open. Fortunately, he was extremely skilled at cracking me up. In fact, I don’t think I stopped laughing until the very, very end of us, which made it easy to overlook this normally unforgivable deal breaker. I felt that maybe all he needed to get into reading was some good old motivation, so I started a “Book It” program just for him, in which if he read a certain number of books (they had to be at least 100 pages–no Choose Your Own Adventure allowed) he would get something a little more exciting than a personal pan pizza. I think he read four books–which was a monumental accomplishment for him, but certainly not prize worthy. Anyway, I’ve never needed motivation to read, but I do fondly remember the library summer reading programs of yore and I do feel a need to read with more purpose these days…so I’ve designed my own summer reading program.

The goal is:

  • Two books a week, eight books a month, 24 total.
  • 6  literary fiction, 6 non-fiction of any style, 6 genre fiction or Young Adult (sci-fi, romance, mystery, thriller), 6 classic

Here is my reading list compiled on the awesome book-sharing site Shelfari:

I haven’t decided what I will reward myself with if I complete the list…perhaps a stay at the Sylvia Beach Hotel, a hotel for book-lovers in beautiful Newport Oregon…

What are your reading goals for the summer?


Miss LGG

Almost a librarian!
May 2, 2008, 7:47 am
Filed under: Books, Library Land, Life | Tags: , ,

Five semesters down, one more to go and I am a full-fledged librarian! Look out world!

What I learned this semester in a nutshell…

  • Lots of people don’t read (Literacy and Library Involvement)
  • Lots of people don’t know how to read (Literacy and Library Involvement)
  • Read to your kids dammit (Literacy and Library Involvement)
  • Lots of people who do read like to read romance novels and the impossibly prolific James Patterson (Reader’s Advisory)
  • I shouldn’t judge people for reading romance novels or the impossibly prolific James Patterson (Reader’s Advisory)
  • My life these days closely resembles that of a character in a chick-lit novel (my least favorite genre), sans the fancy shoes and high-power career (Reader’s Advisory)
  • I shouldn’t judge myself for my chick-lit novel resembling life (Therapy)
  • I should spend more money on shoes (Random note to self)
  • I really need to take a break (Therapy)

I have decided to take the summer off to process all of this.

Let the bike riding, camping, vacation taking and guilt free relaxin’ ensue!


Miss LGG