Sunday, January 23, 2011

Discover Yourself on a Bookshelf

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,

Sunday, January 16, 2011

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.

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,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Story for Martin

Shelby Warner is a part-time Reference Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. She is a guest columnist. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Mattie Mae was eleven and I was nine. Though I was nearly as tall as she, we were very different. That never bothered us. A lot of times I wished I had her beautiful chocolatey-brown skin. I was sickly white beside her. Best of all was her hair, braided into the tiniest plaits filling her head, row after row. Even if I stood in front of the mirror for hours, I couldn’t make my fine, straight hair do that, so, I had to be satisfied with touching and admiring hers. I was jealous because her hair was always so neat without having to be combed.

Mattie Mae lived a half-mile away with her grandfather. I loved playing with her. She was always in a good mood and would join me in ‘most any adventure I dreamed up. Her smile was big and bright and, when she laughed, she made me laugh, too. We lived on a big cotton and peach farm. There were no other children our ages for miles and miles. Mattie Mae and I only had each other.

Then one day I was told I could not play with Mattie Mae anymore. On the night he told me, I looked up into my Dad’s face and saw the fine lines around his eyes tracing out the path of deeply etched wrinkles that were to come. It was a face I trusted, a face brown from hours in the sun. We were close. He could always comfort me. That night he looked very uncomfortable with what he said, “You’re too old to play with Mattie Mae.”

In the South, in those day, you lived by the system, stayed in your place, in the proper pecking order. But until that moment, I had not really understood the consequences of the "way things were." I suppose I should have ranted and raved but nine was pretty much a "do as I say" age - at least, it was for me.

So, I did not play with Mattie Mae anymore, my buddy, my sister, my friend. The next time I saw her, I was embarrassed and shy, waved to her from a distance, then quickly looked away. She was going to the fields with her mother, while I sold peaches by the side of the road. That summer was long and lonely. Then one day her family was gone. Moved, my parents said, to some other farm, and I never saw her again.

Years went by and eventually I rebelled against the system, against its edicts, against my family traditions. But for Mattie Mae and me it was too late. Oh, how I wish I could have found Mattie Mae, asked her forgiveness and told her how I’ve missed her.

I think of Mattie Mae often but most especially on Martin Luther King Day when we, as a nation, remember a man who had a vision for a better world where people could live together as equals. His courage was beyond question and his dream was an inspiration to many.

There are a large number of books telling the story of King’s life and his dream. One of the first I read was “Letters from a Birmingham Jail”, written by King while he was in prison. The following are some of the newer items on the shelves in Morrill Memorial Library:

Eric J. Sundquist’s book, “King’s Dream: The Legacy of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech”, is a well researched and easy to read book. He seeks to return the speech to its proper context in our history. A book well worth your time.

The library also owns a box set of 24 speeches and sermons by King called, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Essential Box Set: The Landmark Speeches and Sermons of Martin Luther King, Jr. Each item is introduced by a famous person such as Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and Rosa Parks among others. If you’ve never heard King speak, you need to check this one out.

Another new book is Hampton Sides’ “Hellbound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the International Hunt for His Assassin”. This book reads like a novel and sets side by side two men, one whose life and death changed a nation and another who brought about that death. This tragedy is the focus of Sides’ 2010 book.

In 1963, my husband stood in the crowd in Washington, D.C. as King delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech. It is still one which brings shivers to the bones and tears to the eyes as you listen to his rich and trumpeting voice deliver those uplifting words, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” On January 17 we honor the man, his life, and a vision which is bringing hope and change to all of us..

Sunday, January 2, 2011

To Be or Not To Be ... Fit

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

The myth that potatoes are fattening and bad for us has been widely spread for years. Sadly potatoes are the only vegetable not allowed for purchase under the federal Women, Infants and Children program, known as WIC. In fact, the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences called for the USDA-backed school lunch program to limit use of potatoes.

This past fall Chris Voigt, the executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, decided to change the government’s mind. He desperately wanted to “remind the public about the nutritional value of potatoes” and he went on a diet. Of potatoes. Only potatoes. For sixty days.

Mr. Voigt didn’t necessarily need to lose weight but he did hope that he might lower his blood pressure and cholesterol. Most of all, he wanted to prove that a diet of potatoes, and only potatoes, wouldn’t kill him. Or us.

From October 1 through November 29 Chris Voight ate 20 average potatoes a day. That’s the number of calories he needed to consume to maintain a healthy weight. Those potatoes were no small potatoes. An average potato has 110 calories and weighs one third of a pound.

The amazing part is this. Not only didn’t the diet of potatoes kill Chris, but he lost twenty-one pounds in the process. And he dropped his cholesterol sixty points, shocking his doctor in the process.

Now, to be honest, there was no way this diet wouldn’t work to lose weight. Cheese, sour cream and bacon were not okay but potato chips and French fries were fine.

And one thing about this diet is that Chris almost got sick of eating. That one food, that is. Potatoes. Anyone can lose weight when they get sick of eating.

There are links to eighteen videos which chronicle Chris Voight’s unusual experience on the website There is an especially sad and funny one in which he shaped mashed potatoes into a turkey complete with fat, tasty legs for his Thanksgiving dinner. He even roasted it in the oven to golden perfection. And he sliced it with an electric knife. Kinda sad. Very sad.

This is the New Year and time for resolutions. This often means dieting. You don’t have to go on a potato diet to lose weight, of course.

“The Everything Mediterranean Diet Book” by Connie Diekman or the “Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mediterranean Diet” by Kimberly Tessmer were published just this year and they are tasty alternatives. Even tastier, or at least cooler, are “LL Cool J’s Platinum 360 Diet and Lifestyle: A Full Circle Guide to Developing Mind, Body and Soul.”

For those of you who love eating, “The Full Plate Diet: Slim Down, Look Great, Be Healthy” by Stuart Seale looks pretty filling. On the other hand, “The Skinny Carbs Diet: Eat Pasta, Potatoes, and More!” by David Feder seems a bit too good to be true. So does the “Carb Lover’s Diet: Eat What You love, Get Slim for Life” by the editors of Health Magazine. Well, unless you love potatoes and only potatoes.

If you love rice rather than potatoes then “The Rice Diet Renewal: A Healing 30-day Program for Lasting Weight Loss” by Kitty Gurkin Rosati is the diet for you.

Very hot this past year are the diet books by David Zinczenko: the “New Abs Diet” and the “New Abs Diet Cookbook: Hundreds of Power-Food Meals That Will Flatten Your Stomach and Keep You Lean for Life.” Zinczenko is also the author of the “Eat This, Not That”, “Drink This, Not That” and “Cook This, Not That” books. Each of them has alternatives for bad eating, drinking and cooking. There are thousands of simple food and drink swaps that save you tons of calories per year.

Other books published this past fall focus are the “O2 Diet”, the "Flat Belly Diet”, the “New American Diet”, the “New Sonoma Diet”, the “South Beach Diet”, the “Hormone Diet”, the “Yoga Body Diet”, the “I Diet”, the “Hundred Year Diet”, the “Flex Diet” and the “Dorm Room Diet.” The latter guides you through healthy and responsible eating in college. A good place to start. The author, Daphne Oz is the daughter of New York Times bestselling authors Dr. Mehmet Oz and Lisa Oz. She is a Princeton graduate and she resides in New York City.

There are thousands of books in our Minuteman Library catalog to help you in any health and fitness quest. Stop into the library for our new flyer with diet and exercise titles coming out in the new year. Try searching with the keyword “diet” or “health and fitness” or “nutrition.” For help searching in the Minuteman catalog or for placing requests, visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website,