Friday, December 30, 2011

A Year in Books

Charlotte Canelli is the Library Director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin this week.

           It might seem like the Y2K craze was only a few years ago but we all have to admit that it’s now been more than a decade. Before you ask yourself where 12 years have gone or how we’ve all become 12 years older let’s focus on the book-worthy events of the past year, 2011.
            Non-fiction published in 2011 was much-anticipated and some of it focused on sensational trials and crime. Two murder cases had our attention, the Florida trial of Casey Anthony and the trial in Perugia, Italy of American Amanda Knox. “Inside the Mind of Casey Anthony: A Psychological Portrait” by Keith Ablow and “Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony” by Jeff Ashton were just two books focusing on the Florida mother of Kayley Anthony.
            “The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox” by Nina Burleigh delves into not only the accused murderess but also Italian culture and justice.
            In addition to crime, celebrity and politics make for interesting reading. At least a plethora of books were published in 2011. Those written by and about the Palins have mesmerized readers since the Alaskan governor nearly won the vice-presidency in 2008. This year daughter Bristol Palin co-authored her own story with “Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far” with Nancy French. A few months later, the book “Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin’s Crosshairs” by the father of Bristol’s child was published.
            Some of the more uncomplimentary books about Sarah herself were published this year: “The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power’ by Geoffrey Dunn, ‘Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of Our Tumultuous Years” by Frank Bailey, and the much-anticipated “The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin” by Joe McGinniss.
            The couple-most-watched across the Atlantic, of course, was Kate Middleton and Prince William. Their wedding enthralled many of us and spawned a host of coffee-table photographic journeys in addition to “William and Catherine: Their Lives, Their Wedding” by Andrew Morton.
            More important world events inspired books written in 2011 and we can expect many more to be written about the Arab Spring in the coming year. “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World” by Robin Wright and “Generation Freedom: The Middle East Uprisings and the Remaking of the Modern World” by Bruce Feiler. Feiler is the author of “Walking the Bible” and has lived fifteen years in the Middle East. Wright is a foreign correspondent who is watching a hopeful change in the region which is rejecting Islamic extremism and embracing liberation on many fronts.
            After the death of Osama Bin Ladin in May, 2011 several books were published including “Wanted Dead or Alive: Manhunts from Geronimo to Bin Laden” by Benjamin Runkle and “SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden” by Chuck Pfarrer.  Novelist John Weisman wrote a fictional account, “KBL: Kill Bin Laden: A Novel Based on True Events.”
            Anticipating the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of the Twin Towers and 9/11 brought us over a dozen books. “One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001, 10 Years Later” was written by journalist Tom Brokaw. Some others were more poignant because they include the personal memories and experiences of those relatives and friends left behind. “The Legacy Letters: Messages of Life and Hope from 9/11 Family Members” was edited by Brian Curtis and “A Decade of Hope: Stories of Grief and Endurance from 9/11 Family and Friends” was compiled by Dennis Smith and Deirdre Smith.
            “The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11” by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan explores every aspect of the day’s events and the aftermath. In “Where You Left Me” author and widow, Jennifer Gardner Trulso, moves through the intense pain to find joy in her life again.
            In 2011 the 12th edition of the hundred-year old Concise Oxford Dictionary was released. Over 400 new entries were added, including the words cyberbullying and sexting and the terms gastric band and slow food. Certainly when the 13th edition is released sooner or later it may include new meanings for words like “occupy” and new concoctions like Ron Paul’s “Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan.”
            April 2011 saw the release of local author Howie Carr’s book “Hitman: The Untold Story of Johnny Martorano: Whitey Bulger’s Enforcer and the Most Feared Gangster in the Underworld.” After Whitey’s arrest last June we can anticipate at least three books scheduled for publication in 2012.
            Many of other of the events of 2011 have yet to hit the bookstands. Chicagoans Tony Rezko and Rod Blagojevich were sentenced to terms in prison. Rebecca Black’s Friday video went viral along with that of the Talking Twin Babies. The Iraq War ended and we learned of the deaths of authors Vaclav Havel, Christopher Hitchens and Brian Jacques (of the Redwall series.)
            Andy Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Kevorkian and Joe Frazier were other notable losses of the year and we can expect new biographies of their lives sometime in the next few years. And certainly the first months of 2012 might bring books about the scandal of Jerry Sandusky at Pennsylvania State University and Robert Wagner’s role in the death of his wife, Natalie Woods.
            If you need help searching for any books in the Morrill Memorial Library or the Minuteman Library Network, please call our Reference or Information desks (781-769-0200) or visit the library.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Best of the Worst Christmas Movies

       Charlotte Canelli is Library Director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood.  Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin this week.

       The movie version of “The Polar Express” was much anticipated in 2004. Tom Hanks has six voiceover roles in the film that was inspired by Chris Van Allburg’s 1985 children’s book.   I find some of the motion-capture animation a bit creepy and the scary roller-coaster train ride somewhat dizzying. However, it has many beautiful scenes and the now-classic story has inspired a generation of children.  

            I decided to finish my Christmas wrapping in one sitting this year and so I watched “The Polar Express” twice through before packing up my scissors, tape, gift tags and rolls of paper and placing the last gift under our Christmas tree.

            It came as a total surprise to me when I found it on a list of the 50 Worst Christmas Movies of All time (  To my horror I found another nine of my very favorite holiday movies on that list.

            A few years ago, I forced my now-grown children to watch “Trapped in Paradise” on Christmas Eve with me. They groaned in protest.  I didn’t get it.  After all, we had watched it over and over when they were growing up in the 90s. The three bumbling crooks (Nicholas Cage, Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz) cavort with happy, naive townsfolk in Paradise, Pennsylvania and I find the film endearing and funny.  I suppose it’s interesting to note that my children have outgrown the film while I haven’t.

            Another on the Worst List is “The Family Stone” (2005) starring Diane Keaton and Sarah Jessica Parker.  It includes a host of other favorite stars like Dermot Mulroney, Claire Danes and Craig Nelson.  It’s a poignant story of a family, their secrets, love and loss and the movie takes place over two Christmas holidays.  The ending always brings a lump to my throat but it is also guaranteed to make me smile.

            “Love Actually” (2003) is a movie I only discovered last year when I found out my daughter and her friends watched it time and time again. With a cast of actors like Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth and Liam Neeson the movie is a winner in my book.  It is especially poignant today, just two short years after the sudden death of Neeson’s wife, Natasha Richardson. In the end, Christmas miracles are plentiful and ‘love is all around’ in the ten stories which are happening at the same time.

            A requirement for a Christmas movie is, of course, the timely setting of December 24.  “Serendipity” (2001) stars John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale who meet while shopping for gloves on Christmas Eve.  Clichéd scenes of ice skating in Central Park, falling snowflakes and quintessential New York moments probably helped put it on the Worst List but those same elements make it one of my favorites.  The theme that life is not simply a series of meaningless accidents makes for sappy romantic stuff and that seems to get me every time.

            Two beautiful actresses star in “The Holiday”. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet both find themselves at the end of failed relationships just before Christmas. They swap houses and, of course, discover that they find love when they aren’t looking. It’s another cliché, I know, but it works for me.

            I was amazed when I saw Jim Carrey’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000) on that Worst list. How can that be when the movie grossed $260,000,000? Someone’s a mean one, Mr. Grinch, but someone’s very rich for sure.  The movie was directed by genius Ron Howard and Anthony Hopkins is rumored to have recorded all of the narration in one day.  The sound stage for Whoville measured around 30,000 square feet covered in fake snow. Jim Carrey’s make-up took three hours to apply. Who couldn’t love a movie that takes such pains to make us laugh?

            “Prancer” (1989) stars Cloris Leachman and Sam Eliot and is the story of a motherless young girl who still believes in Santa Claus. When she finds an injured reindeer her main wish is to nurse it back to health to return to Santa.  Her father, a failing farmer, has other ideas.  Of course, the movie ends with Christmas magic and warms my heart each time.
            Writer John Grisham took a break from his suspense novels in 2001 and wrote “Skipping Christmas”.  The movie based on the book, “Christmas with the Kranks”, appeared just in time for the 2004 holiday season.  Scrooge-like Tim Allen invites his wife, Jamie Lee Curtis to skip Christmas and it’s a hilarious romp watching them get their act together when their daughter decides to come home for Christmas at the last minute.            

            If I were to watch a Christmas movie marathon, the list would include the 1938 version of “A Christmas Carol”, “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940) starring Jimmy Stewart, “Christmas in Connecticut” (1945) with Barbara Stanwyck and “It Happened on 5th Avenue” (1947). Only the last of the four made it to the Worst list and I can’t understand it.  After all, it received an Academy nomination for Best Story.  A homeless New York man ends up spending Christmas as an uninvited guest in one of the city’s mansions surrounded by friends. Who can’t love a  holiday story like that one.  

            Whatever your taste, you’ll find all of the Best and the Worst at the Morrill Memorial Library or at another of the Minuteman Library Network libraries. If you need help finding a movie that we don’t own, remember to call (781-769-0200) or visit the library. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Gift For All

Jean Todesca is a Children's Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

From the Library: A Gift for All by Written by Jean Todesca and read by Charlotte Canelli
This is the “Season of Giving”. Whether you celebrate during the holidays or not, the town of Norwood has a gift for you. It is wrapped in granite and sits on Walpole Street, the Morrill Memorial Library.

Peek inside and you will see the gift of entertainment. The library offers books, movies, and music, but let’s takes a look beyond our materials.

Another surprise tucked behind each desk is the gift of friendship. We, the library staff members forge strong bonds with our patrons. We celebrate the arrival of a new baby and watch our young patrons grow. We enjoy wedding photos and lend a gentle ear through illness and death.

The library presents you with the gift of community. At our Children’s programs, parents, caregivers and kids get the chance to meet and develop friendships. Over the years, I’ve seen high school students who met at storytime still hanging out together. The library offers the First Thursday Book Club where patrons engage in lively discussions and enjoy each other’s company. The Adult Services Department presents lectures and movies where all are invited. Check our website for activities.

The Outreach Department provides you with the gift of belonging. If you are unable to come to the library due to special needs, illness or disability, home delivery can be provided. Please contact the Outreach Department at (781-769-0200).

The final gift that I’d like to present is the education. We provide databases for research including the Boston Globe and Consumer Reports. Are you curious about Norwood? The library houses the Norwood Historical Records. The Literacy Department and its volunteers provide instruction to help people improve their reading, writing and conversational English skills.

So, please come and unwrap your present. You will discover something amazing too!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cake Pops, Whoopie Pies and More!

Charlotte Canelli is the Library Director at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood.

This is the year of the mini-dessert. Or it has been for some time now. I visited a cupcake store in Falmouth this past year and had one of the best mouthfuls of cupcake I’ve ever had. Half of it consisted of frosting but man, was it good. My daughter served cupcakes as the official cake at her wedding last spring.

The cupcake craze might have only started a few years back but I’ve heard that it’s now over and I’ve wondered what will happen to all those wonderful cupcake stores.

A few shops have smartly named themselves Happy Cakes, Crumbs, Sweet Dreams or Cup of Cake. They aren’t stuck with the cupcake theme and they now sell other sweet and up-and-coming treats like cake pops, whoopie pies and macarons.

Macarons have been around for awhile but in this country we’ve apparently just discovered this haute dessert item. Bon Appétit says that the macaron is more sophisticated than the cupcake and it has “challenged the cupcake’s crown”. Who knew but I’ve heard from my Manhattan-working daughter that crispy and slightly moist macarons are all the rage in the more sophisticated places like New York, Paris and London.

Don’t confuse the macaron or buttercream/jam-filled confectionery that is commonly made with egg whites and ground almonds for the coconut macaroon although the spelling is actually the same in English for both. The French macarons are artificially colored in a wide variety of colors, mainly pastels. Some have fillings with added liqueurs. No one really knows who first invented them although they could have arrived in France with Catherine d’Medici of Italy.

Cake pops are another new adventure in desserts. If you eat only one, you might think you’ve saved yourself some calories but there are as many cake pop variations as there are cupcakes and they are covered in sugary coatings and treats. If you want to envision a cake pop, think “whimsically-decorated donut hole on a stick”. Cake pops can actually be baked in a donut hole baker and this saves on the time-consuming rolling and baking technique or the calorie-rich fried donut hole technique.

Is it a cake, is it a pie or is it a cookie? Well, it’s a whoopie pie! These aren’t new to us New Englanders and they might not be original to Massachusetts, either. Pennsylvania also lays claim to the whoopie pie but Maine is the only state that has claimed it as their official ‘state treat.’ When we made whoopie pies years ago, we dropped thick chocolate cake batter onto cookie sheets and they took on a life of their own while baking. It never mattered what shape they were when filled with a sweet, creamy mixture. Today there are official whoopie pie baking pans for sale which bake uniform round shapes. For the past six year, the “What the Fluff” festival has been held in Somerville, home to Fluff where it was created in 1916 and each year the whoopie pie is honored at the festival where a best whoopie pie award is given.

Maybe you’d like to try your hand at creating some of these sweet treats (and possibly prove to your family and friends that you know that cupcakes are oh-so-no-longer-trendy). Or perhaps you’d like to put your whoopie pie up for an award in Somerville next year. There are many cookbooks to help you make whoopie pies, cake pops, macarons and other bite-sized desserts.

The covers on some baking books make you want to visit a bakery on the spot or learn how to perfect the art! “Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats” (2010) by Angie Dudley, “Bake Me, I’m Yours … Cake Pops” (2011) by Carolyn White, “Crazy For Cake Pops: 50 All-New Delicious and Adorable Creations” (2011) by Molly Bakes, and “Pop Bakery: 25 Recipes for Delicious Little Cakes on Sticks” (2011) by Clare O’Connell are four of those books. Cake pops can also be molded out of crumbled cake that is mixed with frosting. Some of the more intricately-decorated pops are not for the faint of heart but with these books and some practice you might want to go into business.

The macaron business is certainly a colorful world. You’ll need to learn to create a varied and extensive palette with food dyes and use these books for recipes: “Macarons” (2011) by Berengere Abraham, “Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the MacarOn Café” (2011) by Cecile Cannone, “Mad About Macarons: Make Macarons Like the French!” (2010) by Jill Colonna, and “Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home” (2011) by Kathryn Gordon.

Whoopie pies don’t always have to be chocolate as evidenced in the plethora of baking books reserved just for them. Here are only four: “Whoopie Pies: Dozen of Mix ‘em, Match ‘em, Eat ‘em Up Recipes” (2010) by Sarah Billingsley, “Whoopies! Fabulous Mix-and-Match Recipes for Whoopie Pies” (2011) by Susanna Tee, “Making Whoopies: the Official Whoopie Pie Book” (2010) by Nancy Griffin, and “The Whoopie Pie Book: 60 Irresistible Recipes for Cake Sandwiches Classic and New” (2011) by Claire Ptak. Red velvet whoopie pies. Pumpkin filled with cream cheese. Oatmeal filled with maple-bacon? The choices and combinations are endless.

Remember if our book is not available or if we don’t have a copy, you may request any book from any of the 42 Minuteman libraries online. Reference librarians can find the book at other libraries within Massachusetts or New England. If you need help finding a book at the Morrill Memorial Library or within the Minuteman Library Network, please call the Reference or Information desks (781-769-0200) or visit the library in person.