March 2011 calendar

Dog Days in March promises to be lots of fun.  Hope to see you there!


What Do You Love? Salsa Dancing with Tony & Alvine!

February’s program had a LOVE theme.  Not, “WHO do you love?”  but, ” WHAT do you love?”  What are you passionate about?  What shakes you to your core or fills you up like nothing else?

For Adrian, it’s writing.  She gave us a tour — of sorts — that took us from the kernel of an idea to the manuscript to the published book .. in English, Italian, Japanese, and French.

Then Tony and Alvine talked about how they had come to love dancing.  Continue reading “What Do You Love? Salsa Dancing with Tony & Alvine!”

Trip to China compliments of Craig

Craig teaching some Mandarin phrases


The January program took us to China with Craig Reeder arriving in proletarian garb.  He taught us Chinese characters, shared pictures and postcards, gave a chopstick lesson, and read a harrowing tale.  We also signed kids up to be pen pals with students in China.  Stay tuned!

Craig aquainting us with the written language of China

Continue reading “Trip to China compliments of Craig”

Book Review – The Chronicles of Prydain

The Chronicles of Prydain  by Lloyd Alexander are five different books that follow the life of Taran, a young Assistant Pig-Keeper. In the first book, The Book of Three, Taran is just a small boy who helps keep watch over a magician’s magical pig. But when the magical pig runs away to avoid the evil Queen Achren, Taran finds himself in an adventure. From the dungeons of Spiral Castle to the underground land of the Fair Folk (enchanted beings like elves and fairies), Taran must use his wits and be brave to survive. Along the way, Taran makes new friends like the young and fearless, Princess Eilonwy; the heroic knight, Gwydion; and the strange but adorable creature, Gurgi.    Continue reading “Book Review – The Chronicles of Prydain”

A List with Legs

Last week at the library, we asked the kids to help plan for the year ahead.  They brainstormed and recorded the list you see above.  We’re going to start with some cooking.  Maybe making pizza again from scratch — making the dough, grating the cheese, the whole shebang.  It has been a year and a half since we last did that and we have almost an entirely new group of kids now.





This post comes from Adrian’s blog — Slow Dance Journal — about the beginning of The Front Porch Library.

I’ll start this blog about LIFE with something that happens every Sunday around here: cupcakes. Sunday cupcakes are part of my justification for owning two houses, ours and what used to be my Dad’s. These modest homes would be Baltic and Mediterranean Ave. on the Monopoly board—the two cheapest properties. Still, two houses? But when my dad died I didn’t have the heart to sell his place. I needed to be able to walk into his old house and say “Good morning, Dad!”

I thought that if I used the house for the Greater Good I could keep it. So my neighbors and I created The Front Porch Library. I thought it was about putting books into kids’ hands. It turned out to be about all the things that happen when kids, who normally appear as quick flashes as they ride bicycles around the block, walk through your door and you get to know them.

Today the library will be open from 4 to 6 p.m. Although the cupcakes will be the most popular part of library time, I bet I’ll read aloud, and kids will draw on the long roll of fax paper we keep for that purpose, and the girls will get huffy with each other and need to be reminded to “be nice,” and I will closely watch the brother and sister whose father recently died and try to guess how they are doing.

While she is at the library, one of my girl’s homes will be visited by her brother’s parole officer.

A group of three cousins, all neatly dressed, will arrive together. These three come from families that are distressingly poor in both money and education. All three are struggling readers, but good kids.

Sometimes I feel like a starry-eyed do-gooder standing in the wind tunnel of my kids’ difficult lives, holding out a tray of cupcakes. But cupcakes, books, and adult attention are what I have to offer.

And the cupcakes are always good. Going out the door at the end of library hours, A’Miracle will say, “Can I take one of those cupcakes home for my mom? She likes cupcakes.”

In the Works

As the front porch becomes more and more crowded and the stacks of The Autobiography of Meatball Finklestein grow ever loftier, we’re looking for ways to transplant our success to other spaces.

Currently under consideration is a lending/donation hybrid program with the Big Bend Homeless Coalition’s Hope Community. It seems like a good fit: books we can’t use get passed on to another charitable group and are ultimately read by children encountering homelessness. Kary envisions sending small collections home with families when they transition to permanent housing, the books acting as a parting gift to the children of these families, and giving them a foundation upon which to build literacy with their own small home library.

A Role Model: Access Books

Children need access to high interest, enjoyable books.

Children who read for pleasure, read more.

Pleasure reading provides the foundation for all reading – including academic.

Access Books, a nonprofit supplementing low-income school libraries to increase literacy among student library users

Nothing But the Truth (Avi)

Last night I read Nothing But the Truth by Avi (#527 in the FPL collection). Somehow, I’d made it years without reading Avi, a YA staple, and I whizzed right through this one in a couple hours.

I was surprised by the subject matter, wondering if some of the adult concerns (budget woes, tenure, etc.) might go over the head of the book’s intended readers. Still, I enjoyed the somewhat gimmicky epistolary/dialogue format, and respected Avi for writing a protagonist at times both pitiable and frustrating (A Wrinkle in Time’s Meg Murray comes to mind).

In short, I don’t know if the 1991 cover (and complete absence of a back-cover blurb!) would make this book a natural choice for the older readers of our library, but its complex dealings with moral issues make it one I might recommend.

looking back on opening day

It was probably a terrible idea to set our opening date before we’d finished all our processing, arranging and cleaning.

It was probably a terrible idea, but through mild panic, a mighty force of volunteers, and yards of book tape, it worked.

Though in the days preceding our June 13 opening, we felt trepidation indeed, all worked to the good and the opening day was a smashing success. Most of our nightmares blessedly failed to materialize. We weren’t left alone with dozen of hot dogs and hundreds of books, nor was a run made on our little Marcia Street enclave, reducing us to an overwhelmed heap. Sure, calamities we couldn’t have expected befell the opening event (most memorably, a little boy peeing onto our fresh-scrubbed but thankfully cement porch floor!), but on the whole, opening day left us energized for the summer ahead. Important conversations were had, hot dogs got gobbled energetically, and books set off on adventures across the neighborhood. It’s only now we recognize how lucky we were.

Pictured, above right: A section of the chapter books and our politically nostalgic, obsolete old globe.

Pictures, above left: Adrian explains the library to a mother.