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  • October 2011
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Teen review: No and Me by Delphine de Vigan

Caroline – I am a 16-year-old from Point Breeze and a junior in high school. Along with reading and listening/singing along to music, my hobbies include journaling, chemistry, and fencing.

No and Me by Delphine de Vigan

begin blog:

As the weather gets cooler (well, it’s not yet, although it should be!), we open up our drawers to reveal stacks of sweatshirts, jeans, and bright fuzzy socks. We toss on our Northfaces, pull on our Uggs, and turn the heat up. We dread waking up for school in winter because it means getting out from under the covers.

Imagine if you had none of that. No heat, no fresh pair of socks, no nothing.

Thirteen-year-old Lou is your everyday girl on the surface. She’s shy, English presentations give her chills, the boy sitting next to her, Lucas, fills her with that warm excitement of love, and she dreams of the day when being popular will seem like second nature. Deep down, however, quirks abound. Analyzing peoples’ emotions at the train station, keeping her things in order, and comparing the labels of frozen food packages are only a few of her hobbies. These quirks come into play when she decides to do her English presentation on the homeless. At the train station that day, a girl who calls herself No (short for Nolwenn) unexpectedly strikes up a conversation with Lou, who realizes that No is homeless. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Lou talks almost every day with this girl to get the information she needs for her English project. Gradually, the girls become friends, and No reveals her day-to-day life – having to constantly move about, the trouble with soup kitchens and emergency shelters, the difficulty finding a place to sleep, and even doing nothing all day. Lou begins to mull over the fact that, despite how incredibly advanced the world is, even with all our fascinating scientific discoveries, we can still let people live and die, freezing on the street. Recognizing her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Lou takes the leap and invites No to live with her. Permanently.

I’m sure you can guess how the rest goes. Everything goes well – No gets a job, Lou’s overly depressed mother starts to come back to life – until something goes wrong. No, having no experience, is struggling with her horrible new job and constantly loses hope. Lou’s father tells No that she has to leave, so Lou sneaks her over to Lucas’s house, and No stays there until she loses her job. Afterwards she does nothing but sleep, drink, and grow more depressed. Eventually she runs away and Lou never sees her again. Feeling abandoned, Lou has to come to grips with the fact that you can’t do everything. You can’t save the world, and it will never be perfect. You can’t force people to go against their nature, and it’s hard to change their habits. Lou did the best she could and that’s all she could have, but she learned a valuable lesson in a unique way. It’s a lesson that could have been pounded into her head, but she had to see for herself to believe it.

A few notes: first of all this book is set in France, and there were a few things that I noticed. For instance, there was mention of an abortion law – apparently if you are past your first trimester you aren’t allowed to get an abortion in France. There were also plenty of mentions to Parisian landmarks that I had never heard of before. It was a great aspect of the book though because it knocked you slightly out of your comfort zone without the usual references to Rockefeller Center and such.

Also, I thought the best part of the book was the characterization and portrayal of emotions: When someone was upset, you could picture exactly what it was like, and it was easy to bond with the characters. I especially loved Lou’s quirks and almost wish I had them. If you like non-shallow characters, definitely take a look at this book. Even if you prefer shallow characters with no emotion or personality (umm….) check out this book, as it is highly enjoyable.

So the next time you find yourself groaning because you have to get out of your deliciously cozy bed, think of No. Step outside your own world and do it for her.

end blog.

It’s all history

People tend to forget that the word “history” contains the word “story”. 

~Ken Burns

I have always been horrible at history.  I’m no good at memorizing dates and names to get good grades on history exams.  My brain just doesn’t work that way even if I would like it to.

The funny thing is though, that I’ve always read Historical Fiction.   I love to learn about the lives of people from the past.   Their stories have always fascinated me.

Reading fantastic tales with ghosts, vampires and magic is just fine, but really when it comes down to it, I feel most at home with realistic stories and settings I can relate to.  Historical fiction always seems to fit the bill.  A lot of times I’m drawn to a story without even thinking of it as historical fiction.   That’s the trouble with genres.  If it’s a really good book it doesn’t matter if its fantasy or horror or graphic novel.  It’s just a good read.

If, like me, you enjoy books with action and adventure minus some of the more far-fetched aspects of Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Dystopian literature give Historical Fiction a try with some of these great titles…

The Book Thief
Macus Zusak
In a story narrated by Death himself, Liesel Meminger finds herself in a tight knit German village during WWII.  Her foster parents, friends, neighbors, and a Jewish brawler hiding in the basement band together as the bombs fall over their city and Liesel learns about the most beautiful and horrible parts of human nature.

Shades of Gray
Ruta Sepetys
Lina, her mother and brother are deported to a Stalinist work camp following the Russian invasion of Lithuania.  A talented artist, Lina hopes beyond reason that the pictures she sends in secret to her imprisoned father are enough to keep hope alive for both of them.

Moon Over Manifest
Clare Vanderpool
After a life of riding the rails Abilene Tucker has settled in Manifest, KS (at least for now).  Amidst the poverty, and depression she makes friends and goes on a “spy hunt” to learn the story of a mystery from the town’s past.

A Northern Light
Jennifer Donnelly
At 16 Mattie is largely responsible for her father’s failing farm and for her young siblings.  In 1906 Mattie has few choices but to follow the will of her parents, settle down and marry a man she doesn’t love.   But after a true life tragedy strikes at the summer resort where she is working, Mattie’s perspective on duty and loyalty is changed forever.

You say you like a little Fantasy/Sci Fi in your Historical fiction?  Check out Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan Trilogy ably reviewed by Joshua right here on this blog.  Its an alternate reality version of the epic stories of WWI.

And for a little local historical fare…

Macaroni Boy

Katherine Ayers
While Mike Costa struggles with the prejudice and poverty of the depression era in Pittsburgh’s “the Strip” neighborhood, he begins to notice a mystery developing around his Grandfather’s illness and the rats dying on the streets.

Three Rivers Rising
Jame Richards
Set against the back drop of rural Western Pennsylvania, wealthy and privileged Celestia falls in love with Peter the son of a mining family from a shanty town down river.  Their love story is intertwined with details of the real events of the Johnstown flood that killed 2,200 people in the Spring of 1889.

Happy Reading!


CLPTeaser Tuesday

It’s time again for Teaser Tuesday.  What’s Teaser Tuesday?  It’s a game.  (Based on pageturnsblog.)  How do we play?  I try to convince you to pick up and read the book I’m currently reading by posting two “teaser” sentences.  You in turn try to convince me to pick up the book you are reading by posting two teaser sentences from your book.  Here are the rules:

  • Pick up what you’re reading.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Post two sentences from somewhere on the page.  (Don’t choose sentences that will give away too much, you don’t want to ruin it for others.)
  • Include the Title and Author so that others can start reading it.

My teaser this month is:

 Selkie Girl by Laurie Brooks

“My eves have adjusted to the dim ocean light, and a powerful sense of ease washes me clean of fear.  I have always felt at home in the sea, an expert swimmer among nonswimmers, but I could never have imagined the speed that shoots us through the currents.”

Now, it’s your turn.  Post two sentences along with the Title and Author of the book.


Apply to Help Create The Teen Center @ WYEP Radio

Want to learn how to project your voice and opinions via the radio?

Do you care about issues in your community, and want to do something about them, other than just complain to friends?

Want to be a part of something bigger than just yourself?

Apply to help create The Teen Center @ 91.3 WYEP Radio!

Here – I’ll let Alexa tell you more about it…

So, hurry!  Apply here.  They’re only accepting applications until October 23rd, which is just right around the corner.

In case you miss the deadline, but still want to be involved in radio, take a look at one of these books are your library!

The Sexy Kitten Shakedown: Happy Halloween

Halloween was originally a Celtic (Druid) holiday, called Samhain (pronounced Sow-in), celebrated more than 2,000 years ago. It was a festival to celebrate the death of the earth, taking place at the end of summer, and its eventual rebirth, in spring. The Celts celebrated by creating huge bonfires, which were said to discourage the sun from disappearing, as well as burning crops and performing animal sacrifices. The Druids also believed that the veil between the worlds was at its thinnest on this day, leading to more accurate divinations, and to more ghosts and spirits roaming the countryside.  For the latter reason, the Druids dressed in costume to prevent being possessed by any of these meandering spirits. By dressing as ghosts, witches, goblins, as well as sporting animal skins and heads, they were said to fool the spirits into believing they were already one of them.

This celebration has persevered through the millennia. In the 19th century, Halloween was a day for skullduggery, mischief-making, and general scariness. Eventually, in the early to mid-20th century, Halloween evolved into a community oriented event (ala trick-or-treating). The country started seeing more block parties and community events associated with this holiday. It became a day for children, teens,  and adults to celebrate youthfulness and fun (Halloween party at the library, anyone?).

Which brings me to my next point, or not…really, but I still need to ask– where did the sexy kitten come from?  Today’s Halloween has this uncanny knack for turning things that aren’t typically attractive into something suggestive. For example, pirates. What is sexy about a group of people who lived on a ship, didn’t bathe regularly, surely didn’t brush their teeth (if they had any) and habitually came down with bouts of scurvy?—not much.  Then why does nearly every costume for women, and even men now, turn into sexy witch, sexy devil, sexy gangster, sexy nun (wait, nun? NUN?!?).

One of the best things about Halloween is the chance to use your creativity to its max! So put away the ears, tail, and eyeliner whiskers, because there are tons of really groovy costumes out there that just require some time and TLC.  Here are a few of my personal favs (click on then for DIY instructions).


Of course this post wouldn’t be complete without me telling you how awesome and gratifying it is, to me as a librarian, when people go dressed as their favorite literary character. If you’re finally sick of dressing like Edward Cullen or Hermione Granger, check out this awesome article (thanks Joseph!) which tells you how to channel your inner Clay (from 13 Reasons Why) or Katniss Everdeen: Girl on Fire. If none of these grab your attention, try one of the books below that can be found at or ordered to your local Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh!


Happy Hauntings– Julie, CLP Beechview

Madden, Skrillex, Cupstacking, and reCAPTCHA: A (Surprisingly) Literary Journey

On August 30th, like a lot of people, I walked down to my local video game store over my lunch break and forked over some change for the next iteration of EA Sport’s Madden NFL, which we now have available at the Main library for any of our gaming programs!

I turned it on, ready to whoop some serious Raven tailfeathers, when I was greeted with a very interesting musical collaboration: Korn and Skrillex.

The song between 90s nu-metal angst-rockers Korn and the polarizing newly-christened wunderkid of electro/dubstep Skrillex “Get Up” debuted at Spin.com and reminded me to revisit his most recent EP Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites (coming soon to your TEEN library music collection).

While listening to the song, you might notice a very enthusiastic “OH MY GOD!” sample and be wondering where it comes from. According to Skrillex in an interview with the Nashville Nights blog:

This girl on youtube who does this cup stacking thing. She filmed herself breaking her record and freaking out saying “OMG OMG OMG” a thousand times. One of the best videos on youtube for sure! It was the perfect sample before the drop. Her voice really pumps you up! Here’s the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j54yGxuk0yo

So then I was left wondering what in the world she was doing, which led me to the world of sport stacking and the website http://www.speedstacks.com/. Speed stacking is the process of arranging a set of cups (with holes cut in the bottom to decrease air resistance) as fast as possible; according to Speed Stacks:

Sport stacking originated in the early 1980′s in southern California and received national attention in 1990 on a segment of the “Tonight Show”, with Johnny Carson. That was where it first captured the imagination of Bob Fox, who was then an elementary classroom teacher in Colorado.

It even has its own Association, the World Sport Stacking Association, where you can find all the official rules.

When I searched for and tried to download the song, I was greeted with an image that should be familiar to you all:

This gateway to Internet fun is, as you probably know, called reCAPTCHA. But did you know that by filling these out, you’re actually helping in a massive book digitization project? Thousands of books written before the internet are now in the public domain and being digitized by Google through a process called “optical character recognition” (OCR for short) in which after books are scanned, they are analyzed and automatically converted into a word processing document.

However, there are cases in which the machine can’t analyze a word properly. And that’s where you come in:

reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.

But if a computer can’t read such a CAPTCHA, how does the system know the correct answer to the puzzle? Here’s how: Each new word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is given to a user in conjunction with another word for which the answer is already known. The user is then asked to read both words. If they solve the one for which the answer is known, the system assumes their answer is correct for the new one. The system then gives the new image to a number of other people to determine, with higher confidence, whether the original answer was correct.

Little did you know that just by surfing the web and signing onto websites, you are helping to make information more accessible to the world! Little did I know that by firing up Madden to throw TD passes to Mike Wallace I would end up learning all this stuff!

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main – Teen

POW: Zachary Schomburg

Last time in my POW post I talked about poems using thee and thy. Today I’m going more modern… I’m going to discuss a poet we don’t  have in the library catalog.  Just because I love his stuff so much that I can’t not share it. (Don’t worry, though, I”ll give you links to his stuff and readalikes for books you CAN find in the library).

If you’re a fan of surreal images, repetitions of phrases, reimaginings of the lives of historical figures, and mysterious vagueness, you may also like Zachary Schomburg as much as I do.  Two separate friends urged me to read his book Scary, No Scary.  So I did.  It was filled with simple language, little stories that were funny and, yes, scary.


He does a good job of explaining why he writes poetry (and what attracts me to his work) in this interview from Oregon Live’s blog:

“Mostly I want my poems to generate their own energy through confusion. I want my poems to confuse the reader. Not a confusion in a cognitive or narrative sense, but in an emotional sense.

In one of my poems in particular, a bear mauls a young performer on stage, which makes me laugh. It’s a bit absurd and unusual. But when she has to pick up all her pieces and put herself back together in front of the audience, we feel bad for laughing. We’re hyper-aware of our emotional choices.”

Here’s a video Schomburg made for one of his poems, entitled Your Limbs Will be Torn Off in a Farm Accident:

All of them are here.

The poet that Schomburg reminds me of most is Russell Edson.  He also writes little surreal, funny vignettes.  His bio on the Poetry Foundation site quotes fellow poet Donald Hall as saying of Edson’s work: “It’s fanciful, it’s even funny—but his humor carries discomfort with it, like all serious humor.” Edson’s preferred poetic form is the prose poem.

Schomburg, in this interview for How a Poem Happens, cites his influences for Scary, No Scary as

“some French poets, Breton, Eluard, Reverdy, Char. And I was reading Graham Foust. It looks like a Foust poem, if you blur your eyes a bit. And Simic and Tate and Mary Ruefle. And I remember listening to a lot of Neutral Milk Hotel, Beirut, Magnetic Fields, Smiths, and Richard Buckner (and Godspeed, like I said earlier) that summer.”

Simic is Charles Simic, former Poet Laureate, and another occasional writer of prose poems. Interestingly enough (not really), one of the first books of poetry I read was Hotel Insomnia by Simic.

available at the library!

As it happens, Schomburg has written some prose poems, such as The Last President of  a Dark Country, published in La Petite Zine. And these 2 poems, from the DIAGRAM.

There’s something about the prose poem that takes you into the moment and spins you out to so many absurd possibilities. That’s why I like reading prose poetry – I am also the type of person who likes hearing about other people’s dreams.  Check out some of these books or read some of Schomburg’s work online, and see if you are too!

-Tessa, CLP East Liberty

Dorito Inventor Dies – Dorito Sandwich Eaten to Honor the Deceased.

Greetings, Pittsburgh Teens!  I’m blogging live from the Pennsylvania Library Association’s conference in sunny State College, PA!  While away from home, I tend to eat too much “road food,” such as cajun fries with ranch dressing, milk shakes, and onion rings.  So in the spirt of eating junky road food, I present this collection of short tales of  not-so-good-for-you-but-can-be-hard-to-resist foods, and junk food for thought.

The inventor of Doritos, Arch West, recently passed away, and Doritos were sprinkled on his grave.  One blogger also ate a Dorito sandwich to pay homage.

If you could sprinkle one food item on your grave, what would it be?

(I think I would go with black olives.)

Over at Laughing Squid, someone recently created a pizza-flavored pizza. That’s right, they made a pizza out of pizza flavored foods.  It looked like this -

(Special thanks to Denise for the heads-up on the pizza-flavored pizza!)

If you were to make a food-flavored food, what would it be?  Buffalo wing-flavored buffalo wings?  Cheese-flavored cheese? Ranch-flavored ranch dressing?

And at Thatsnerdalicious, they recently made a dessert out of potato chips dipped in chocolate.  Hey, if it works for pretzels, why not chips?

What salty snack do you think needs some chocolate?  Doritos?


So, if you enjoy looking at pictures of strange and interesting food, you have some options at the library.  (Click on the covers to link to the catalog records.)

Happy junk fooding!

Holly, CLP-Main

Get help with the SATs and college apps

Are the SATs and college applications in your future?  If even thinking about them is a little overwhelming, you’re not alone.   But don’t panic!  The library can help you get ready.

Our S.A.T. and College Preparation Resources workshop will show you what digital tools the library has to offer.  Did you know you have access to a free online SAT prep course, with flash cards, practice tests, and even essay scoring?   We’ll show you how to use it.  Are you taking an SAT subject test?  We can get you materials for everything from Biology to World History.  We’ll also show you a private database of scholarships, and a tool that lets you search and compare colleges by criteria such as size, cost, and majors offered.   The next session is Saturday, October 15.  Space is limited, and registration is required, so if you’re interested, call soon.

Of course, if you’re one of those people that prefers good old printed books, we’ve got that covered too.  Your local library should have some study guides on hand, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for there, you can also request books from – or visit – the Teen department or the Job and Career Education Center at Main.




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