Faculty Favorite: Mr. Simeck


Well-known factoid: The movie October Sky was inspired by the book, Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickham, Jr. Lesser known factoid: The letters in the words ‘October Sky,’ when jumbled, spell out the words ‘Rocket Boys.’ And why is this important? Because it spells out this week’s Faculty Favorite–and it’s Mr. Simeck’s favorite read!


“This book is what is known as a ‘driveway book on tape,’ meaning that you’ll sit in your driveway and listen because it’s so funny, engaging, and well written,” says Mr. Simeck. “The book is a memoir of a boy and his friends growing up in Coalwood, West Virginia, and how they experimented, struggled, and slowly succeeded at improving their rockets using whatever resources they could piece together. From blowing up his mother’s fence to nearly burning the house down, the author tells trials and lessons of adolescence and young adulthood with the support of many caring adults around him despite incredibly limited resources.”

This # 1 New York Times best-selling memoir is just one of Hickham’s many best-selling titles. His first book, Torpedo Junction, was recently optioned for a major motion picture.

Want to know more about Rocket Boys? Read the synopsis below from Goodreads.com. Be sure to stop in to check out our copy of October Sky.

And thank you, Mr. Simeck, for your contribution to our blog!

“Until I began to build and launch rockets, I didn’t know my home town was at war with itself over its children, and that my parents were locked in a kind of bloodless combat over how my brother and I would live our lives. I didn’t know that if a girl broke your heart, another girl, virtuous at least in spirit, could mend it on the same night. And I didn’t know that the enthalpy decrease in a converging passage could be transformed into jet kinetic energy if a divergent passage was added. The other boys discovered their own truths when we built our rockets, but those were mine.”

So begins Homer “Sonny” Hickam Jr.’s extraordinary memoir of life in Coalwood, West Virginia – a hard-scrabble little mining company town where the only things that mattered were coal mining and high school football and where the future was regarded with more fear than hope.

Looking back after a distinguished NASA career, Hickam shares the story of his youth, taking readers into the life of the little mining town of Coalwood and the boys who would come to embody its dreams.

In 1957 a young man watched the Soviet satellite Sputnik shoot across the Appalachian sky and soon found his future in the stars. ‘Sonny’ and a handful of his friends, Roy Lee Cook, Sherman O’Dell and Quentin Wilson were inspired to start designing and launching the home-made rockets that would change their lives forever.

Step by step, with the help (and occasional hindrance) of a collection of unforgettable characters, the boys learn not only how to turn scrap into sophisticated rockets that fly miles into the sky, but how to sustain their dreams as they dared to imagine a life beyond its borders in a town that the postwar boom was passing by.

A powerful story of growing up and of getting out, of a mother’s love and a father’s fears, Homer Hickam’s memoir Rocket Boys proves, like Angela’s Ashes and Russell Baker’s Growing Up before it, that the right storyteller and the right story can touch readers’ hearts and enchant their souls.

A uniquely endearing book with universal themes of class, family, coming of age, and the thrill of discovery, Homer Hickam’s Rocket Boys is evocative, vivid storytelling at its most magical.

In 1999, Rocket Boys was made into a Hollywood movie named October Sky starring Chris Cooper, Jake Gyllenhaal and Laura Dern. October Sky is an anagram of Rocket Boys. It is also used in a period radio broadcast describing Sputnik 1 as it crossed the ‘October sky’. Homer Hickam stated that “Universal Studios marketing people got involved and they just had to change the title because, according to their research, women over thirty would never see a movie titled Rocket Boys” so Universal Pictures changed the title to be more inviting to a wider audience. The book was later re-released with the name October Sky in order to capitalize on interest in the movie.

Faculty Favorite: Ms. Dreiling


Topping out our Faculty Favorite list this week is Ms. Dreiling, whose fave books include two acclaimed works of fiction: The Sea, the Sea, by Iris Murdoch, and 100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.


The Sea, the Sea has some of the most incredible, vivid descriptions I have ever read,” says Ms. Dreiling. “The narrator is totally unreliable and the plot seems like it isn’t going anywhere, then almost instantly it all comes together. It’s an incredible piece of fiction that weaves love, theater, obsession, memoirs, danger, powerlessness, and changeability all into one.”

The story centers around Charles Arrowby, leading light of England’s theatrical set, (who) retires from glittering London to an isolated home by the sea. He plans to write a memoir about his great love affair with Clement Makin, his mentor both professionally and personally, and to amuse himself with Lizzie, an actress he has strung along for many years. None of his plans work out, and his memoir evolves into a riveting chronicle of the strange events and unexpected visitors–some real, some spectral–that disrupt his world and shake his oversized ego to its very core.

In exposing the jumble of motivations that drive Arrowby and the other characters, Iris Murdoch lays bare “the truth of untruth”–the human vanity, jealousy, and lack of compassion behind the disguises they present to the world. Played out against a vividly rendered landscape and filled with allusions to myth and magic, Charles’s confrontation with the tidal rips of love and forgiveness is one of Murdoch’s most moving and powerful tales.


“I distinctly remember the feeling I had the first time I read the ending of 100 Years of Solitude,” says Ms. Dreiling. “My pulse was racing and I was terrified of what was going to happen to the Buendia family. No other novel has ever effected me this way. I also adore Magical Realism, and Gabo is a master at weaving the unbelievable into the everyday life of the Buendia family.”

One of the 20th century’s enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement of a Nobel Prize winning career.

The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.

Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility — the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth — these universal themes dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government, Gabriel Garcia Marquez always writes with the simplicity, ease, and purity that are the mark of a master.

Alternately reverential and comical, One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves the political, personal, and spiritual to bring a new consciousness to storytelling. Translated into dozens of languages, this stunning work is no less than an accounting of the history of the human race.

If you’d like to read One Hundred Years of Solitude, stop by the library to check out a copy. And thanks, Ms. Dreiling, for your wonderful contribution to our blog!

Synopses from Goodreads.com

Faculty Favorite: Ms. Carlson

img_3179Clue #1: Ms. Carlson’s favorite read is by a novelist best known for his satire, black comedy and science fiction writing. Clue #2: This book can be found on most Top-100-Books-to-Read lists. Clue #3: The story is based upon the author’s war-time memory of the bombing of Dresden during World War II. Can you guess the title? If you guessed Slaugherhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, you’re right!


“On the surface the novel seems weird – aliens, time travel, an utterly pathetic protagonist,” says Ms. Carlson, “but Vonnegut has this core message that I can get behind – people need to be active and purposeful in their lives, in their acts of kindness and decency toward one another, and in their challenging institutions and systems that are inherently unkind and indecent.”

Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Don’t let the ease of reading fool you – Vonnegut’s isn’t a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, “There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.”

Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut’s most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author’s experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut’s other works, but the book’s basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy – and humor.

Interested? Stop by the library to check out our copy today! And thanks, Ms. Carlson, for your contribution to our blog!


Library of the future: 8 technologies we would love to see

Teen Tech Week is coming to LFHS next week! Here’s some techy library ideas to get you in the tech mood……

Technologies for the #library of the future

Libraries lead the way to digital citizenship. They should be the first places where most advanced technologies are implemented.

Today, libraries are not only about lending books. They are creative spaces, not only for individuals, but also teams. They are economic incubators and learning hubs.

Most of all, the libraries are the entry points to the digital world. They are the way to embrace technology and avoid digital exclusion.

Therefore, to improve technological literacy of local communities, libraries should be equipped with relevant technologies………

8 technologies we would love to see in libraries

1. Library bookmark and guide

Library bookmark

An interesting concept from a Chinese design company Toout. This little tiny device is in the first place a regular bookmark. But on top of that it also has features that could make using the library much easier.

First of all, the device would be a perfect companion when navigating through the library, by giving turn-by-turn directions to the book the patron wants.

The device could also keep track of all borrowed books, as well as remind the user of the return dates.

Finding a book easily without knowing the Dewey Decimal Classification system? Sounds like a good idea of where the library card could evolve.

2. Augmented reality app

librARi is a concept of an image based augmented reality application, created by Pradeep Siddappa.

A lot has been said about using augmented reality in libraries, but there are few examples that would let us actually see it.

The video explaining how librARi works (AR in the name stands for “augmented reality”) is very decent, but it’s a benefit. It clearly highlights the best use of AR in libraries – locating the books on the shelves and navigating to them.

The app would point you to the new arrivals. It would also be able to find and point to similar books. Simple, but useful, and very probable.

3. Book delivery drone

Book delivery drone Zookal Flirtey

To get the book from a library, you can either go and find it, or you can let it find you.

The future belongs to unmanned flying machines, and just like Amazon drones can deliver the goods to customers, libraries could deliver the books to patrons.

Library drone is not even the close future. It’s already happening. Australian start-up Flirtey has teamed up with a book rental service Zookal to create – the first in the world – textbook delivery system.

The system is using hexacopters, drones with six rotors, to deliver ordered textbooks. Now, the smart thing is that the drone can find you by the location of your smartphone, so there is no need to give a fixed address.

Just imagine. You are sitting in a reading room of the New York Public Library, in the middle of writing an essay, and want to get another book. Stay where you are, and use the app to order a book. The drone will come, just like this one. Pull out the book from the box, and put the one or ones you don’t need any longer. The drone will place them where they belong.

I would personally add an option to deliver latte from a library cafeteria.

4. Digital interface for print books

Anyone who tried ebooks would never give up the convenience of a digital interface and all other helpful tools.

Searching the content of the book (including smart search), looking for a reference on the web, getting an instant translation, writing notes, or collecting book passages – all this can be done on the same device that we use to read an ebook.

We can obviously borrow an ebook instead of a print book, but here is a better idea – enhance the print book with a digital interface.

FingerLink is a project currently developed by Fujitsu that will let you use digital tools to work with a printed book.

It’s a stand you can put on a library desk. It includes two elements: a camera to read the info from the real world, and the projector to display digital info in the real world.

Simply, place the book on a table under the stand, and you’ll see extra options, available for the book. It’s because everything what FingerLink “sees” can be available and editable in a digital form.

Now let’s push the imagination a bit further.

Nimble is a concept of an advanced library augmented reality tool.

Designed by a London-based interactive designer and Google engineer Sures Kumar, Nimble does not only offer digital enhancement of a print book, but also incorporates the idea featured earlier in the post – the turn-by-turn library guide.

All these features can be accessed using the smart library card. An all-in-one solution to let patrons use the digital books to work with whichever content they want.

5. Library utensils

Library utensils

Obviously, introducing a system like FingerLink will exceed library’s yearly budget several times. There is a cheaper alternative. A library could offer patrons a variety of small utensils they could borrow to use in the reading room.

In the picture above you see Ivy Guide, a concept device, that you can put on your pen to use for translating words found in the print book.

It’s just an example showing that such concepts are being created. The only thing is to find the most useful task for the library use.

For me, it could be a simple pen that would let patrons make digital highlights. One condition – it should be done in a simplest possible way.

Here is the idea. The real-to-digital highlighter would be connected to a computer. When you highlight something – move along the text in a print book – it will immediately appear in the notepad app on a computer. All your highlights would be collected in a single text document.

When you are finished, simply send this note to your email address. The note will self-destruct the moment you close it.

Such library utensils would be useful for less tech-savvy library patrons or those who don’t use advanced apps (for instance the ones with OCR – optical character recognition) on their phones.

6. Mobile library center

Sometimes, to engage local communities, or reach people in remote locations, the library would want to physically leave the library building.

The Ideas Box is a revolutionary concept developed by Librarians Without Borders, with the aim to reach people in refugee camps and impoverished countries, but could be also used any time the idea of a mobile library is considered.

The most thrilling thing about this modern library center is that it can be assembled in less than 20 minutes.

The Idea Box is a portable toolkit – standardized, easy to transport and set up. The kit consists of six boxes (including library and internet access), fits on two palettes, and creates a space of 1,000 square meters.

The library box includes 250 paper books, 50 e-readers with thousands of ebooks, and a variety of educational apps.

7. Print on demand machines

Print on demand machines

Bookless libraries, where you can’t find a single print book, launch regularly. They obviously won’t kill traditional libraries, just like ebooks don’t kill print books. The digital-only route has its disadvantages.

To me, every digital-only library should offer their patrons the ability to instantly make a print version of the book. Let’s put aside the question who is going to pay for this. The most important question is that sometimes the book has to be real to make use of it.

Espresso Book Machine (EBM) is a real product. Manufactured by Xerox, it’s sold by On Demand Books. It can make a paperback book while you wait, printing up to 150 pages per minute.

The machine is connected to an online catalog of over seven million in-copyright and public domain books, but institutions using EBM can also print custom titles.

8. Access to library via commonly used app

Plymouth District Library on Google Street View

This sounds like an super simple idea, but it doesn’t exist yet, and I’m not sure whether it will.

All the concepts presented above were about special devices or solutions designed for special use in a library.

Nowadays, if you want to borrow an ebook from a library you need to have a special app from a digital content provider, like OverDrive. But not all the libraries cooperate with OverDrive – and it’s where problems begin. The more special something is, the fewer people will use it.

The thing is that to borrow a print book from a library, you don’t need anything special besides the library card.

Imagine that many of the features described above would be accessible from a simple app – a browser on your mobile phone. You’d need it to browse the library, borrow a book, get notifications when it’s due, and finally, be able to read it.

Maybe there would be an option to take a virtual walk through the library. We’re close, just look at the libraries using Google Street View tours. Maybe there would be an option to make notes and highlights. Maybe there would be an option to recognize the printed text and turn it to editable notes.

Yes, all these features are available, but they are delivered by special apps, and these special apps are not meant to be used in libraries.

The idea (utopian?) is that everybody could use the library, and no extra knowledge and software would be needed for that.

Google is leading the way to unify online experience. No extra sign ups. All you need is to be signed in to your Gmail account on Google Chrome.

Article taken from https://ebookfriendly.com/library-future-technologies/

The Outsiders: 50th Anniversary

The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton, is a frequently check out book at LFHS. It was written by a teenager about teenagers. It’s also on the banned book list……

“Fifty years ago, a teenager wrote the best selling young adult novel of all time

‘The Outsiders’ changed the way kids read

S.E. Hinton in 1967. (S.E. Hinton)

Fifty years ago this spring, the best selling young adult novel of all time was published to adulation and outrage. This was 1967, so youth culture was not exactly new, but something about the plain, emotional voice of The Outsiders did away with the grownups’ interference and spoke directly to teen readers in a new way. The aura surrounding the classic tale of warring adolescent cliques from opposite sides of the tracks is enhanced by the fact that the author was herself a teenager.

We are not, by the way, talking about some urbane 19-year-old groomed for the elite cultural circles of Manhattan. S. E. Hinton was an Oklahoma high school student when she completed the manuscript she was then calling A Different Sunset. Her contract from Viking Press actually arrived the day she graduated from Tulsa’s Will Rogers High School. Because she wasn’t yet 21, her mother had to sign too.

The Outsiders—which still sells half a million copies every year—forever changed the way books are written for young readers.

The stories available to teenagers at that time, “bore no resemblance to what I saw going on,” Hinton told Interview magazine in 1999. She originally began working on her debut, “because I wanted to read a book that dealt realistically with teen life as I saw it.” This impulse has had a lasting influence on literature. Novels of the type Hinton derided, in a 1967 piece for The New York Times Book Review, as, “Mary Jane’s big date with the football hero,” are still churned out, but more often Y.A. deals with adolescents leaving behind their parents’ realm (for better or worse; by choice or otherwise) and facing the challenges of being an individual in society for the first time. Today Hinton’s debut still reads like a master class.

Various editions of The Outsiders, in print and well loved since 1967.

The Outsiders depicts a group of lost boys — the orphaned Curtis brothers and their gang of “greasers” — visited by the wise-beyond-her years ingenue Cherry Valance (played by a young Diane Lane in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film adaptation). Curiously, for such a female-centric segment of publishing, The Outsiders, like Harry Potter, that other game-changer of children’s literature, focuses on a male protagonist, while its female author initially obscured her gender. In the case of Hinton, this decision was encouraged by Velma Varner, her editor at Viking, who believed that using her given name (S.E. stands for Susan Eloise), would “throw some of the boy readers off.”

So was Hinton a 1960s Wendy, looking after some Peter Pan in a leather jacket? She has acknowledged that she borrowed from life: her first person narrator, Ponyboy, and his friends “were inspired by a true-life gang, the members of which were very dear to me.” Yet their world of drive-ins and drug stores, freight trains and churches, is strangely scrubbed of geographical specificity. This must be Hinton’s Tulsa, though she never says so explicitly. The climactic rumble with the Socs could take place on any vacant lot in any city. Yet the relationships between the members of their gang — the misinterpreted protectiveness of Darry to Pony, the fatal devotion of Dallas to Johnny, the simpatico of Soda and Steve — are intricate enough to justify a map.

Asked if she identified as a greaser in high school, Hinton responded, “I was born without the need-to-belong gene, the gene that says you have to be in a little group to feel secure.” Which is maybe just another way of saying that she was a natural born writer — human enough to feel for others, yet sufficiently comfortable with solitude to get the pages down. Her characters, by contrast, embody and implicitly understand the contradictory wages of group identity, its sorrowful stain and addictive comforts. Ponyboy bemoans the indignities of being a greaser — “I don’t want to be a hood, but even if I don’t steal things and mug people and get boozed up, I’m marked lousy” — but he also takes enormous pride in the style and ethos of greaserdom. On the run, and forced to cut and dye his hair, he is pained by the loss: “Our hair labeled us greasers… it was our trademark. The one thing we were proud of.” Though he is slight and out of shape, and seems destined for a beating, he engages in that climactic rumble without self-pity, without questioning whether or not he should take part. He is not a fighter; yet rumbling is who his brothers are, and, thus, who he is.

The struggle between individuality and the need to be accepted by the pack has since become a standard theme of the genre, as has the depiction of taboo subjects through the unfazed yet still unjaded eyes of youth. Hinton takes for granted that teens engage in vices — brawling, smoking, drinking, sex and teen pregnancy — which, from an adult point of view, would be treated either as scandal or fetish. The level of violence is pretty low by current standards, however, and we don’t get a graphic description of even a single, solitary kiss. (The pregnancy is never acknowledged as such, only alluded to as a reason Sodapop, the middle Curtis brother, may have to marry his girlfriend. Like many an unwed teenage mother of that era, Sandy, the character to whom those decisions most pertain, is kept off screen.)

The Outsiders is still challenged by conservative groups frequently enough to earn it a place on the American Library Association’s banned books list. The depictions of sexuality and violence are actually fairly tame, but what is threatening here is Ponyboy’s matter-of-factness. He acknowledges that his love of cigarettes may impair his track team activities, in the same manner an adult might allow that their evening indulgences interfere with their morning runs, but there is no hierarchical hand-wringing, nor prurient fascination, regarding the corruption of innocents. The book has a mature view of brawling and bloodshed as both too common to escape, yet fundamentally useless. These things are, Hinton seems to be saying. Kids experience them as much as adults do, and often more acutely. For adult readers, her treatment refuses to cloak such wrenching experiences in the language of the fantastical or faraway, the foreign or the long ago. For kids, she seems to say: Walk right in.

A scene from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film adaptation of The Outsiders. S.E. Hinton’s source material contains “no hierarchical hand-wringing, nor prurient fascination, regarding the corruption of innocents.” (Getty Images)

Onthe 40th anniversary of The Outsiders, the book critic Dale Peck pointed out in The New York Times that Hinton, like any writer learning on the job, absorbed her literary influences in a way that showed, “borrowing” from high and low, from Moby-Dick to The Sound of Music. He argues that this technique softens her debut’s subversive qualities but enhances its power as a work of art.

Hinton does rely on cliché quite a bit (a frightened character is “White as a ghost”; under attack, Ponyboy stands “like a bump on a log”), which may be literary inexperience, or maybe not. In any case it works, in Ponyboy’s voice, and the generic phrasing does nothing to detract from the sense of menace. He gives a rundown of his world’s vocabulary and rules of engagement early (“Greasers are almost like hoods; we steal things and drive old souped-up cars,”; “Tough and tuff are two different words. Tough is the same as rough; tuff means cool, sharp”) and moves on to the meat of the story: the bonds between vulnerable young people, and the chance for redemption in an unforgiving environment. With material that strong, linguistic bravura could only get in the way.

That blankness of tone is ultimately what makes The Outsiders a work of young adult fiction, and not simply a novel with a juvenile protagonist. I mean this as a high compliment, by the way — when I tried to read Catcher in the Rye as a teenager, I had the nauseating sense that I was being force-fed some other generation’s madness, some other generation’s solace and myth. What is so pleasurable about Hinton’s book is its openness to interpretation. Any reader can enjoy the superficial details that separate the warring tribes here — the long-haired hoods and the madras-wearing, clean cut rich kids — while still being able to project their own experiences along the have-and-have-not divide. There is just enough leather and fighting with broken bottles to give you a hit of postwar American cool, but not too much to interfere with a healthy sense of Je Suis Ponyboy.

Even when she stepped in it on Twitter, in October of last year — by arguing with a teenager’s interpretation of Dallas and Johnny’s relationship as homoerotic — Hinton ended up sounding like the tough and knowing den mother of outsiders everywhere. “Young gay kids can identify with the book without me saying the characters are gay,” Hinton tweeted. “I never set out to make anyone feel safe.”’

Article copied from: https://timeline.com/outsiders-fifty-years-teenager-9a06e2dc91ba#.tcunlwilp

Faculty Favorite: Ms. Abel


World Languages Instructional Director Ms. Abel is a has a slew of fave books she’d like to recommend, some of which she’s reread many times.


First up is La autopista del sur y otros cuentos, a collection of fantastical short stories by Julio Cortázar. “Cortázar is a master storyteller who plays with the reader until the very end. I have read some of my favorite stories over and over again. I find new details every time,” says Ms. Abel.

The book includes short stories about “A young girl (who) spends her summer vacation in a country house where a tiger roams…A man reading a mystery (who) finds out too late that he is the murderer’s victim…In the stories collected here—including Blow-Up, on which Antonioni based his film—Julio Cortazar explores the boundary where the everyday meets the mysterious, perhaps even the terrible. This is the most brilliant and celebrated book of short stories by a master of the form.”


Next up is literary classic, The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair. “This book blew my mind when I read it,” says Abel. “The image of Jurgis Rudkis bathing in a river with the soot, dust, and grime from the city melting away has had a lasting impact.”

Sinclair was the author of close to 100 books in various genres. The Jungle is his most famous work, noted for its depiction of the underside of the Chicago meatpacking industry.

This  “dramatic and deeply moving story exposed the brutal conditions in the Chicago stockyards at the turn of the nineteenth century and brought into sharp moral focus the appalling odds against which immigrants and other working people struggled for their share of the American dream. Denounced by the conservative press as an un-American libel on the meatpacking industry, this book was championed by more progressive thinkers, including then president Theodore Roosevelt, and was a major catalyst to the passing of the Pure Food and Meat Inspection act, which has tremendous impact to this day.”


Another of Ms. Abel’s favorites is A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. “My original copy is so worn that I have had to buy another one!” says Ms. Abel.  “I howled with laughter at the main character. As badly as you feel for Ignatius, you also cheer for him quietly, as the people who surround him ooze corruption and hatred. I had visited New Orleans before reading this and afterwards. I will never think of the city the same again!”

Sadly, author Toole never lived to see his book published. He committed suicide and, years later, his mother convinced novelist Walker Percy to read the manuscript. Percy loved it and saw to it that the book was published. The book received critical acclaim and in 1981, Toole posthumously received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Read on for the full synopsis…

“A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs.”

Meet Ignatius J. Reilly, the hero of John Kennedy Toole’s tragicomic tale, A Confederacy of Dunces. This 30-year-old medievalist lives at home with his mother in New Orleans, pens his magnum opus on Big Chief writing pads he keeps hidden under his bed, and relays to anyone who will listen the traumatic experience he once had on a Greyhound Scenicruiser bound for Baton Rouge. (“Speeding along in that bus was like hurtling into the abyss.”) But Ignatius’s quiet life of tyrannizing his mother and writing his endless comparative history screeches to a halt when he is almost arrested by the overeager Patrolman Mancuso–who mistakes him for a vagrant–and then involved in a car accident with his tipsy mother behind the wheel. One thing leads to another, and before he knows it, Ignatius is out pounding the pavement in search of a job.

Over the next several hundred pages, our hero stumbles from one adventure to the next. His stint as a hotdog vendor is less than successful, and he soon turns his employers at the Levy Pants Company on their heads. Ignatius’s path through the working world is populated by marvelous secondary characters: the stripper Darlene and her talented cockatoo; the septuagenarian secretary Miss Trixie, whose desperate attempts to retire are constantly, comically thwarted; gay blade Dorian Greene; sinister Miss Lee, proprietor of the Night of Joy nightclub; and Myrna Minkoff, the girl Ignatius loves to hate. The many subplots that weave through A Confederacy of Dunces are as complicated as anything you’ll find in a Dickens novel, and just as beautifully tied together in the end. But it is Ignatius–selfish, domineering, and deluded, tragic and comic and larger than life–who carries the story. He is a modern-day Quixote beset by giants of the modern age. His fragility cracks the shell of comic bluster, revealing a deep streak of melancholy beneath the antic humor. John Kennedy Toole committed suicide in 1969 and never saw the publication of his novel. Ignatius Reilly is what he left behind, a fitting memorial to a talented and tormented life.


Ms. Abel’s final Fave can be found on a list of Top-100-Books-Everyone-Should-Read: The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. “I have read this book once a year since I was 15. It reminds me that a great book can stand the test of time,” says Ms. Abel.

The Catcher in the Rye is one of those books whose main character, Holden Caufield, will stay with you for the rest of your life. Most students can’t get through high school without reading it (for pleasure or for English class!).

Did we pique your interest? Read the synopsis below, if you’d like to know more about this book…

The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. The novel was included on Time’s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. It was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged in the court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and in the 1950’s and 60’s it was the novel that every teenage boy wants to read.

If you’d like to read any of these books, stop by the library, or do a quick search to see if they’re on our shelves.

And let’s give a big shout-out to Ms. Abel for her wonderful contribution to our blog! Woot! Woot!



Faculty Favorite: Ms. Rogna

img_3170Pulitzer-prize winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See , is a beautiful story about “a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.” It’s also one of Ms. Rogna’s favorite reads. “I love the way each of the story lines knit together,” she says. The book focuses on “Tragic times and how to survive them; with characters to despise and champion and admire.”


The author, Anthony Doerr, is the author of five other books. His work has won four O.Henry Prizes and numerous other awards and fellowships.

Stop by the library to check out our copy. This is the kind of book that will captivate your senses and keep you reading until the wee hours of the morning!

And thanks, Ms. Rogna, for your wonderful contribution!

Synopsis from Goodreads.com 

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).