What to Read and Watch While Awaiting Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman

Every so often, a moment occurs in the literary world that is so remarkable and so unexpected that one wonders if this isn’t the stuff of fiction.

I’m talking, of course, about last week’s news that a new (sorta) novel by Harper Lee is scheduled to be published this July.

Yes, that Harper Lee, the same one of To Kill a Mockingbird fame.

I can’t speak for everyone here at the Library, but my sentiments are in line with those shared by my colleagues Don Wentworth and Miguel Llinas (“Western Pennsylvania literary community weighs in on Lee news” Pittsburgh Tribune Review, 2/3/2015).

Of course, this announcement has its own plot twist with some accompanying controversy and speculation, which I’m not going to get into here today.  Despite being an English/Communications major in college, I’m just an admirer and appreciative fan of TKAM and Harper Lee — not an expert. Nor do I play one on the Internet.

Instead, what I — and the Library — can offer are some thoughts on what you can read and watch while you’re awaiting Go Set a Watchman.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Chances are, it has been a few years since you’ve picked up To Kill a Mockingbird.  Maybe you never read it in school. Perhaps you don’t remember reading it, or perhaps some aspects of the story have gotten a little fuzzy over the past 55 years. Doesn’t matter. A July publication date means that there is plenty of time to revisit this classic and say hi to your old friends Atticus, Scout and Boo.

To Kill a Mockingbird - DVD

There’s the movie version, which I admit I’ve never seen. (I know. I know.) Must remedy that soon.

Mockingbird - Charles Shields

In my view, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles Shields is required reading for everyone who loves To Kill a Mockingbird.  So much of Harper Lee’s life is written into the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird, which I never realized until reading this.  Shields’ well-written biography is based on at least 600 interviews with people connected to Harper Lee, who is referred to as Nelle, her given name, throughout the book.

Other titles that look intriguing:

Scout, Atticus and Boo

Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird, by Mary McDonagh Murphy

The Mockingbird Next Door

The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, by Marja Mills

What are your thoughts about To Kill a Mockingbird and the publication announcement of Go Set a Watchman?

And what else Mockingbird-related should I be reading (or watching) to hold me over until July?

~ Melissa F.


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M is for Mischief

My children, now 12 and 10, have been library power users since birth. I decided to write a post about our very favorite picture books, the ones that they requested over and over. When I perused this section in the Children’s Department at CLP-Main, it was like taking a trip down memory lane. Each of these books was like a friend. I wanted to hug them. They reminded me what my children were like when they were very young more than any photo.

I have noticed some themes and similarities in our favorites:

  • trying new things or going on an adventure, being fearful, then returning to your comforting home and mother
  • amusing mischief-making
  • visually rich and detailed illustrations, sometimes presenting the reader with a puzzle to solve

Some are all of these things put together; mischief, mystery and fantasy.

I can’t bear to pare this longish list down any further, so I will just say a few words about what we loved about each one.

owl Owl Babies by Martin Waddell. An owl mother goes out to get food for her babies, but when she is gone they start to worry. The pictures are endearing. My children liked to take turns saying the lines of the different owls. They would fight over who got to be Bill.

hondo Hondo and Fabian by Peter McCarty. Hondo the dog has an adventure, while Fabian the cat stays home with the baby. The parallels in the events of the day for each pet highlight the differences between cats and dogs. The soft focus on the cute animals and the pearly paper make this book a tactical experience as well as a visual delight.

lola All of the Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child. The patient older brother watches out for his imaginative younger sister. Lola’s speech patterns are quirky and memorable. Our family adopted some of her turns of phrase into our personal lexicon, like calling something “my favorite and my best,” or saying something is “easy peazy lemon squeezy.”

kitten Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue by Peter Catalanotto. Sophia’s 16 kittens get adopted by neighbors, each one helps out with a different job and gets a different colored collar. My kids liked to point out what made each picture amusing. All the kittens come back to visit Sophia in the end, giving her kisses. My kids would reenact this with me. Sigh.

m is for M is for Mischief : an A to Z of Naughty Children by Linda Ashman. This book is simply brilliant. Each letter of the alphabet gets a clever and alliterative rhyming verse about a naughty child like Untidy Ursula or Rude Ruby. The illustrations are extremely funny. This was a huge hit with the kids. They would love to take turns reading the verses themselves.

museum Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman. A wordless book about a boy who goes on a field trip to the museum, but gets lost. He then goes on a special adventure into a secret room where he is able to leap into pictures and go through increasingly difficult mazes. The art works in the museum are famous, and I had fun telling my kids about each one.

stella Stellaluna by Janell Cannon. One of our very favorites. Mother bat, who is holding Stellaluna, is attacked by an owl. Stellaluna falls into a birds nest. The book shows the similarities and differences between the bat and the baby birds, all the while in smaller illustrations at the top, Mother is looking for Stellaluna. Mother Bird’s reaction to her babies who try hanging upside down is memorable.

night One Dark Night by H. J. Hutchins. I was never able to get through this sweet book without a catch in my throat. A boy helps a stray cat and her kittens by giving them shelter in an intense storm. The writing is lyrical and poetic.

new cat New Cat by Yangsook Choi. This story is about a Korean immigrant who opens a tofu factory in NYC, and his best friend named New Cat. New Cat takes her mouse catching job very seriously, and accidentally saves the factory.


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It Was the Best of Books, It Was the Worst of Books

One of the benefits of working in a library is the constant stream of books coming across your desk. One of my favorite parts of the day is when the delivery of books comes in and I get to see the new titles and holds that people are currently reading. I have read so many new and interesting things…and so many terrible things… because of those shipments. Last week a co-worker came to pick up her hold and showed me the book she had been waiting for, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley.bookcover

This book was right up my alley… an adult fiction book where the main character is a murder-solving 11-year-old chemistry whiz in the 1950’s English country-side? Count me in. Flavia de Luce is the youngest sister in the de Luce household; headed by a philatelist father, the memory of an adventurous dead mother, and two older sisters’ set on making her life miserable. Flavia often slinks away to the comfort of her chemistry lab to conduct experiments with things she has nicked from the pantry. Alan Bradley has written a character similar to the lead in your average children’s book; bright, witty and a little fearless. But unlike your average children’s fiction Bradley has placed his character in the real world along side adults who are knowledgeable and useful if not a little put off by Flavia’s precocious nature at times.

Alan Bradley has written a whole series based on Flavia and her talent for getting herself into and out of trouble using her old friend, Chemistry, along with her Sherlock-like observational skills. Often times when I am reading mysteries I can quickly guess where the plot is going, but Flavia tends to notice things that should have been obvious to me from the onset and by the end of each book I understand how Inspector Hewitt, her contact on the police force, feels being outsmarted by an 11-year-old.

bookcover9N2PR5RIOn the other hand there have been several books I have grabbed out of our daily delivery that utterly disappointed me. A recent example was another Sherlock-inspired mystery novel; Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz. All of the successful mystery components were there…London in the 1880s, Scotland Yard, veiled threats… but Horowitz throws in a HUGE plot twist at the very end that you would have needed to be clairvoyant to guess, or at least that was how I felt. I spent most of the day shushing my children and telling them “mommy is trying to read” while hiding in the closet so when the book ended with a giant “screw you” from the author I got really frustrated and threw the book against the wall. I then gave a book talk to my 6 year old daughter discouraging her from reading it. Although she was swayed by my argument it seems like most other people love the book since it was on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Whether I loved it or hated it, thought it good or bad, finding new titles is still one of the best parts of this job!



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Blame it on the rain (or Mercury retrograde)

Last week, I was hit with the biggest case of the winter blues. For no reason at all, everything was impossible. My daughter turned into a threenager overnight. I slipped on some ice while running. The muffler on our car broke and the day I was supposed to take it to the shop it snowed and there was nowhere to park so I had to drive my noisy car around and around the block. There were no seats on the bus. And it is cold! And snowy! And dark! Remind me never to move to Sweden.

On the day when I was feeling the worst, I figured out a couple of things:

  1. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing! I remembered that I feel awful every winter. Time for me to start stalking the sunset times again and looking forward to the end of the month when it will still be light out when I leave work. And in only one month it will be daylight savings time!
  2. Mercury is in retrograde. This has never, ever meant anything to me, but articles started popping up on my Facebook feed and it’s as good a reason as any to explain how I was feeling. Supposedly during times of Mercury retrograde, things break, appointments get missed, and everything is just generally awful. I hear from Taylor Swift that this Mercury retrograde is particularly awful. Astrology says I’m supposed to feel this way! (I’m also supposed to be compassionate, creative, idealist, escapist and oversensitive according to astrology. Guess my sign!)
  3. My “problems” are really not so bad. A dear friend of mine, who underwent an actual tragedy not long ago, contacted me to see if I would help proofread a grant she was writing. The combination of doing something to help someone else, and the realization that even in her bad times she was working to improve things for others, really went a long way towards putting my funk in perspective. It’s such common advice that it’s almost cliche, but helping others truly does benefit us as much as it does those on the receiving end of our help.
  4. Spring is coming! I’m keeping my eyes on the prize by planning my garden and dreaming of sunny, ice-free runs. Our Seed Library’s annual seed swap is even happening this month, which is a great harbinger of springtime.

Finally, yesterday Maria wrote a wonderful blog post with some ways that she’s been handling some major life changes. Check it out if you missed it!


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I’m going through an extremely stressful period in my life right now. My little old lady cat died of old age, my dear husband and best friend asked for a separation, and my beloved father passed away on Monday. To say I have way too much on my plate right now is a grand understatement.

How to deal? One day at a time. One step at a time. One breath at a time.

I’ve been journaling, keeping in constant touch with friends and family back home, exercising, trying to continue to eat well and, oh, yes, meditating, every single night.

These wonderful guided audio meditations by K.R.S. Edstrom have been helping to empty my mind each night so that I can try to sleep. Edstrom has a very soothing voice and, what is unique about her technique is that, instead of pushing stress and tension away, she shows you how to train your mind to find it in your body, recognize it, acknowledge and accept it, and then let it go:


Conquer Stress: Meditations to Take You From Tension to Tranquility


Relax Mind and Body: Meditations to Soothe and Center: Two Guided Meditations


Sleep Through Insomnia: Meditations to Quiet the Mind and Still the Body

How about you? How do you you cope with stress? I welcome your suggestions.

-Maria A., striving for the mundane and peaceful


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Throw Yourself a Library Dance Party

One of the perks of working in the Music, Film & Audio department of the library is that I’m always discovering new music to check out and listen to on my daily commute. Unfortunately, the CD player in my car stopped working sometime last year, and so I was stuck listening to the radio—or so I thought.


That was until I discovered the library’s streaming music services, and I started checking out new music for my commute again via my smartphone. One of my favorite online library services is called Hoopla. Before I share some of my current music picks that you can check out from Hoopla right now, here’s a little refresher on what Hoopla is all about:

  • Hoopla has a large collection of movies, TV shows, documentaries, music albums and audiobooks, all available for checkout with a current CLP or ACLA library card. A nice thing about Hoopla is that all content is available for streaming, but can also be downloaded on most mobile devices, and there is never a waitlist.
  • You can check out up to 10 items a month, and downloads are automatically re-set at the first of the month.
  • Most movie and TV content is available for 3 days after borrowing (a very small number of movie titles are available for 2 days). Music albums are available for 7 days, and audiobooks are available for 21 days.
  • The first time you sign up for Hoopla, you will be asked to choose your local library and enter your library card number. You will then be prompted to enter an email address and create a password. This will be your user name and password that you will use to log into your account in the future.


  • Hoopla has been making improvements to its app so that on some devices it will be easier to rewind/fast forward audio files, or listen to them at variable speeds. Also, Kindle Fire HDX users will now be able to find the Hoopla app in their app store.
  • Did you know that Hoopla can also be viewed on some TVs? If you want to project Hoopla onto a larger screen using your notebook, tablet, or smart phone, this is now possible on TVs that have screen-casting capability.

And now, here are a handful of (newish) albums I’ve checked out recently and enjoyed:


What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World / The Decemberists


No Cities To Love / Sleater-Kinney


St. Vincent / St. Vincent


Wine Dark Sea / Jolie Holland


I Never Learn / Lykke Li


Here And Nowhere Else / Cloud Nothings


Sunbathing Animal / Parquet Courts


They Want My Soul / Spoon

Happy listening,


PS – As you can probably tell, my tastes tend towards the pop and indie-rock genres – rest assured, there are plenty of great albums in genres as disparate as hip-hop, country, jazz and electronica. Just tell us what you’re looking for, and we’ll be happy to make a recommendation!


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Take a Book on a Blind Date

We’re librarians. We like nothing more than introducing you to your next crush. Book crush that is. This Valentine’s Day we on the First Floor at the Main Library are poised to introduce you to your next blind date.


Each book is putting its best face forward with attractive decorations and an enticing description. The barcode that is needed to check the book out is on the outside of the covering, so you can wait until you get your date to the privacy of your own home to unwrap it.

Maybe it’ll be true love and maybe the book will be over before it even begins. But you’ll never know until you try. C’mon, be adventurous. Let us pick out your perfect match. You can trust us!

-Melissa M.

P.S. See something you like?  Visit the Main Library to check it out. If you do take out one of our books, please tell us how the date went in the comments below!


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