November 20, 2015

Hand Turkeys Run Free!

It's been a year since the last Hand Turkey Gallery.  We wondered, "Could the hand turkey artists' new work possibly live up to their 2014 masterpieces?"  We waited with bated breath, watching, worrying, as the artists labored over their new hand turkeys.  With furrowed brows and mouths full of candy, they worked tirelessly, using markers, colored pencils, and crayons to bring their designs to life - only the very best materials for these talented artists.

In preparation for the event, interns worked day and night to publicize the big day.
Flyer, made by Rose M.
Chalk Turkeys, made by Rose M. & Friends.
Then, the artists arrived....

Some lost their minds as they toiled over their turkeys...

The results?  A feast for the eyes.  A panoply of turkeys.  A marvel of masterpieces.  "Yes," we said to ourselves, "the hand turkey artists have done it again!"

Visit the Gallery (aka library) in person to see even more masterpieces!


November 12, 2015

The Biv-liography

By Bethany Taylor, Library Assistant

There are experiences so intense that they seem to rebel against all efforts to put into words. Bivouac certainly seems to be in the running for that honor.

For better or worse, it is extremely hard to put down in black and white letters, organized in familiar patterns and linear, grammatically approved sentences what it means to encounter the chaotic rainbow roller-coaster of emotion that is living outside of normal with other people. Words are—often—insufficient.

When I was in middle and high school, I spent a lot of time watching Star Trek, the Next Generation. While much of my Trekki-ness has worn off with the years, there is one episode that I think of frequently when trying to communicate the bits of life that feel both inexplicable and vitally important to share. Basically, two warring groups of aliens—one of which I remember looking like Space-Pig-Vikings—sat down with the best negotiator-translator in all the galaxies to work towards peace on their planet. 

Unfortunately, this master negotiator had suffered some terrible accident and had lost some crucial part of his talents. This meant that the Pig-Vikings and their foes were going to have to do more of the work themselves, and the trouble was that the Piggies communicated exclusively in an emotional metaphorical language based on the epics of their history and the other group had no understanding of the Piggy epics and so the groups had to learn each other’s stories, histories, and find a common language to make peace.

Star Trek is quiet hokey at times, but unfortunately, the overly earnest nature of common sense does tend to stick.

Searching for the time and patience and stories to translate the unspeakable feels familiar in trying to unpack and share the highs and lows of Biv. I’ve had multiple people say that they don’t have the words to describe or explain what they think of Biv, yet. It’s just too…and they we all trail off, searching for words.

When I think of the annual odyssey of ninth-graders streaming off the bus and trying to explain Biv to their families, to their friends, I like to imagine what stories come out first and how, even in telling about this or that funny or terrifying or beautiful or miserable part, the storyteller feels like something isn’t being quite communicated, that whoever they are talking to will never fully get it.
But, while you wait for your own words to come, sometimes you can find a story somewhere that evokes exactly what you are trying to communicate.

Hence the Biv-liography presently on display in the library. I firmly believe that Bivouac is one of the most impressive things that BBN offers its students, both in terms of a personal experience of being pushed to discover capabilities and talents far beyond the ordinary and as a way to bind and glue this community together. Regardless of how you found Biv—beautiful, miserable, or otherwise—it is impressive to understand what you are capable of surviving. You may have loved it, you may have hated it, but you survived and even thrived. That alone takes a more impressive stock of grit and character than many people are ever in a situation to discover they possess. There is a cohesion of knowing that everyone in this building can—in a pinch—wield an ax, start a fire, and have the empathetic maturity to get along in close quarters with varied personalities. But, even among ourselves—the only people on earth who might truly understand the stories we each try to tell about our time in the woods—our own words can falter.

And so we have the books and stories that evoke our own memories, in the hope of sharing what is both so personal and universal to this utterly unique experience. 

September 28, 2015

Fight the Power!

It may have happened to a book you love.  Harry Potter.  Where the Wild Things Are.  To Kill a Mockingbird.  The Fault in Our Stars.  Those are just a few of the many titles that people have fought to ban over the last years and decades.  Even in 2015, communities in the U.S. sometimes still fight to remove books from the shelves because they see their content as dangerous, inappropriate, or immoral.

Hence, the glory of Banned Books Week, a week-long, national campaign to celebrate the freedom to read! Come to the library to get your mugshot taken for a reading a banned book and fight the power!

Last but not least, find out "how scandalous your reading history is," you rebel!

Al's Summer Reading

It was a was a quiet summer.
I missed seeing all the kids at BB&N and I really missed Ms. Duncan.  You see, she fed me every day, dropping my yummy little pellets into my bowl one by one as I scurried around wondering where the next piece of my dinner would land.  We made quite a game of it.
Then came June and summer vacation.
I spent the summer with Ms. Dow. Though I know she tried her best, Ms. Dow was not quite as playful.  I would hear her squeaky little “Hi, Al” and then . . . bam!! There was my dinner, landing on my head again.
It took some getting used to.
It really wasn’t so bad, though.  Ms. Dow changed my water and gave me fresh flowers to look at, and – of course – plenty of books to read.
We started with Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.  Needless to say the title appealed to me very much.  I’m surprised I hadn’t read this in middle school as it has a very Narnia-ish quality to it: strange house concealing a hidden world, smart and adventurous children dealing with danger and mysterious antagonists.  If you’ve read even a little of Harry Potter, you know what I mean.  The part I liked best was how the children needed to use reasoning and imagination, i.e. their brains, to overcome obstacles.  This is the first of a series written back in the 1960s.  I’m looking forward to the second one, The Dark is Rising.
The Borrowers Afloat was another great title! And it was fun going back to a book that I hadn’t read since I was just a little fish.  Of course, I’m more of an “in the water” than an “on the water” individual, but I enjoyed this story of the tiny family floating down the river in a teakettle to escape danger and find a safe home.  The borrowers usually live in normal-size people’s houses and “borrow” what they need from the humans who think they are alone in their homes.  Wait, was that a mouse that I heard??  What happened to that crust of bread I was going to clean off the floor?
The third book I read was The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan.  It’s another re-read, but unlike The Borrowers, which was fun, I got so much more out of reading this now that I’m in high school and more mature than I was in middle school.  The main character, Peter Fortune, is a 10-year-old boy who spends a lot of time in his own head, which is actually a pretty amazing place to be.  As the author writes, “At school he often left his body sitting at his desk while his mind went off on its journeys.”  I loved the way Peter completely inhabited the worlds he created and was always sort of surprised when “reality” bumped up against him.  Towards the end of the book Peter is concerned about becoming a “boring old adult” not knowing how to play.  Again, he is saved by his imagination.
I kept meaning to read Walden, by Henry David Thoreau – it is the name of a local body of water, you know – but I never quite got around to it.  The book I’m looking forward to next is Through a Glass Darkly by Donna Leon.  I don’t know what it’s about, but  I totally identify with the title!  Do you know what it’s like at school after everyone leaves in the evening?   

Post written by Ms. Dow, Al's summer caregiver!

May 27, 2015

All Hail the Queen!

The BB&N Community has named the 2015 Queen of Quiet: Ally Gillis '15!

Innumerable votes were cast, and though the competition was stupendously sleepy in its own right, Ally won the crown.  Although she'll be ruling from afar at college next year, we're thrilled to have named the Dozing Denizen, the Restful Ruler, the Sleeping Superior of 2015!  May Ally enjoy many long naps at college, and may all of you catch up on your sleep this summer.

Keep one eye open for our camera next year; you may be the next King or Queen of Quiet!!

May 5, 2015

Blue and Gold and Frost

By Bethany Taylor, Library Assistant
(Photo courtesy of Plymouth State University online archives)
It is almost as required as brick walls, ivy and Vineyard Vines stickers on everything for a New England school to declare kinship with the poet Robert Frost. Dartmouth College claims him as a student, although Frost did not graduate and in fact left after two months in a something between a panic attack and poetic flight of fancy. Harvard, Middlebury, Amherst, Plymouth State College, and Pinkerton Academy all have viable academic connections to the man, and St. Lawrence has a pretty good claim of a personal one.[i] Several towns in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and California all list Robert Frost as a native son or long-time resident. It’s a little like everyone saying “Washington Slept Here:” everyone wants to be a piece of the revolution, everyone wants to be part of the landscape and people that Frost evoked. Which is understandable on all fronts.

Through some (mostly reputable) family friends and accumulated Frost lore, I have learned that BBN has its own, particular and long-winded, connection to Frost.  On winter in 1890s, a farmer outside of Ashland, NH slipped on some ice and fell careening down a hill. Likely, in the hilly farm country of NH, this happened frequently, but this instance was notable as the farmer held onto his lantern the whole way down and anyone looking up the slope could see a bouncing light coming through the winter dark.

In a time before light pollution, that would have been something to see. It’d be like the mirrors at noon from Monadnock at Biv, but the light was entirely unplanned, bouncing down the mountain at night, and too far away to ask “ooo goes zerr?” People noticed. This being a small town in a slow news season, the Ashland paper even wrote up a bit about the incident, and presumably the event was the sort of “back in my day we walked barefoot in the snow uphill both ways in the heat of July and we were grateful for the rags on our backs” cranky-Yankee story that gets told and re-told.

In the summer of 1915, Frost (who had tried and mostly failed at farming and teaching) was visiting some friends in Bridgewater, just west of Ashland and the site of the so-called “Slide for Life,” which was evidently told to the visiting poet.

Inspired by the story, Frost wrote a good-natured poem celebrating the stoic practicality of New Englanders, and named the descending farmer Brown, after his friend and host in Bridgewater: George Browne. Browne, when not entertaining poets and summering in the NH hills, was busy at the school he had founded in Cambridge …

[i] Elinor Miriam White was Frost’s high school girl friend from their growing up in Lawrence, MA and she attended St. Lawrence. She had stated she would not marry him unless he could prove that his poetry could keep them fed, sheltered, and solvent, which seem like totally reasonable terms of endearment. After publishing his first poems, Frost took a train from Lawrence, MA to Canton, NY, and strolled over to Elinor’s dorm to ask her to marry him. Apparently unwilling to get kicked out of school for having a boy visiting her all-girls dorm in 1894, Elinor told him to go away, which Frost took as a rejection outright and slumped off to the train station to pass a miserable night waiting to go away from the woman who had broken his heart. As Elinor married Frost in 1895, it seems likely  that she wasn’t intending to break his heart, but only wanted to finish her education, and entirely probable that the young poet in love had blown things out of proportion. As a graduate of St. Lawrence, I find it particularly funny that the old train station was turned into a bar where many overwrought and vaguely poetic souls have also cried over the troubles of love. 

February 5, 2015

Community Benefits of Shelf-Awareness

By Bethany Taylor, Library Assistant

(NOT Vernon Dursley! but, the same actor Richard Griffiths, in The History Boys, playing pretty much Dursely's opposite.)

In the movie The History Boys, based on Alan Bennett's play of the same name, a teacher explains poetry to a student by saying that: "the best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought was special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours."

Alternately, from the delightfully snarky blog, there is this less Romantic gem about what happens when a library patron discovers they love the same books as a librarian:

(Yeah, I know it's originally from Step Brothers)

High or lower brow, there is something undeniably special about discovering that you share a favorite book with another almost stranger. I’m not a big fan of the sorts of hokey ice-breakers and trust exercises that are designed to build community. I far prefer the exposure and sharing of things—books, emotions, time, physical labor, etc.—that are rooted in real life.

Over the last few weeks, I have loved watching students and teachers alike come to the library with their scrap papers and diagrams and theories of which teacher belongs to which list of favorite books. Partly, perhaps, I have enjoyed this because—as I set up the display—I was the only person who knew all of the answers, all of the time, but I’m pretty sure that I’m not actually that petty or in such dire need of ego-boosting that I would orchestrate a school-wide competition in order to bask in my own knowledge for three weeks.

Truly, though, what has been most enjoyable has been learning about people through their bookshelves and overhearing people say “Oh! I loved that book!” I’m not ashamed to say that I take books seriously. All of the books on my own list have had huge emotional impacts on my life, on how I conduct myself in the world, on the course and shape of my aspirations. I have laughed and cried out loud at parts of most of those books, and been made to feel part of something larger than myself through reading.

To know that other people have been similarly—and differently—moved by reading the same words like finding out that someone else shares your inroad to Narnia, map of Middle Earth, ticket to East Egg, dismally sublime cruise aboard the Pequod, Trafalmadorian phrasebook, ability to pass through Platform 9 3/4, or rucksack in the jungle of Vietnam. It makes the every-day world a little less lonesome, somehow, to know we all escape to the same written worlds. And, I’ll be the first to mention that high school, for all the good and exciting times and glowing camaraderie and new experiences, also has some decidedly weird, angsty, self-doubting, and lonesome hours.  

That someone else in this building loves the same book you do, or a book on a topic that is near to your heart, or an author who you revere and rescued you from depths of ordinary human madness can provide the sort of emotional ballast that makes all the difference on the rougher days.

Maybe you just played along for the logic problem, or for the glory of naming a fish, or because it was more fun to guess the inner workings of your teachers’ and co-workers’ brains than study AP anything or write comments. And those are all fine reasons to do anything.

Me, though, I’m in it for the ripple effect of knowing what books other folks filter life through.

And, last but not least, congratulations to Lucas Fried and Jacob Licht for correctly matching every picture to it's correct owner. We, and most especially the fish itself, are delighted with the name they have selected: Al Aptop. (GET IT??!?!)

Here is the Beloved Bibliography:
Titles have been removed for the duration of the 2016 contest, due to the astute observation of Mr. Danny Noenickx.

January 21, 2015

A Fish with No Name

The days are rapidly passing....The hours are quickly dwindling...Soon, very soon, one lucky BB&Ner will have the great privilege of bestowing our library fish with a name.

Strutting his stuff for the camera

In case you've somehow missed it, there's a fierce competition taking place in the library right now, as students and faculty fight for the honor to name our fish.  The challenge?  To match 20 of the BB&N faculty with their beloved books.

Ms. Taylor, who devised our competition, is the only person in the school who knows all the answers. But after Friday, the truth will be revealed; the winner (whoever has the most correct guesses) will be announced, and our nameless fish will finally get a name.  If you haven't guessed yet, there's still time left to compete!

(Thanks to Ms. Farlow for giving us our fish!)

January 14, 2015

Snow Reads: When the Weather Outside Is Frightful

It's winter and it's time to hibernate.

Okay, maybe you have to go outside and brace the cold sometimes but when you get a chance to stay inside and relax, we recommend warming up with a cup of hot chocolate, a cozy blanket, and a great book.  We've made a list of some of our favorite "snow reads" - books that we think are a perfect match for a cold winter's day or a snow day (surely, there are snow days to come!).  Drop by the library to share your favorite winter reads!

Courtesy of Ms.McNamara
Ms. Duncan's Picks:

Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton
Ethan Frome spends a freezing cold winter yearning for a woman who isn't his wife. Simple, sparse, brief, and memorable. The descriptions of a stark Massachusetts winter virtually require that you read it with a blanket, and hot cocoa in hand.

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
One of my all-time favorites, this book is a great winter read. Dr. Frankenstein has worked tirelessly to create a living creature - but when he succeeds, he’s horrified by his monsterish creation and abandons the creature. Initially an innocent creature, Frankenstein’s monster becomes vengeful and desperate in his isolation, taking out his rage on the man who created him...

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick
Hugo is an orphan, living inside the walls of a Paris train station, trying to piece back together the life that he lost. Gorgeous illustrations, compelling and magical story. A beautiful and entertaining book for a snow day!

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
Every night, a strange circus arrives in a different city, bringing with it inexplicable and dazzling sights. But behind the amazing spectacles, two young magicians are locked in a fierce competition, with their lives at stake. Mysterious, surreal, unusual.

Ms. Dow's Picks:

Gentlemen and Players - Joanne Harris 
What's happening at St. Oswald's School for Boys -- the old British school has been there forever, training boys to be successful men, but small problems are growing bigger as the whole edifice seems about to tumble.

The Given Day - Dennis Lehane
Lehane's talent as a great mystery and crime writer (Gone Baby Gone, The Town, etc.) make this historical fiction a total page-turner. Opens in 1919 when Babe Ruth was playing for the Red Sox - fabulous Boston history and a wonderful story.

People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks
Great story of an intrepid young woman from Australia who travels around the world as she researches the history of a famous book from the Ottoman Empire to the present that she's been commissioned to restore.

Ms. Taylor's Picks:

His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
You may have read these -The Golden Compass, A Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass - as a little kid. A re-read, or a first read for the uninitiated, can bring in all sorts of aspects of bioethics, politics, religion, physics, cross-cultural understanding, and environmental ethos. If those sound too much like school, then kick back and enjoy a particularly well-written fantasy adventure trilogy, one that, if nothing else, will make you deeply ponder what animal shape your soul would be.

In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
The bleakness of winter often requires a bleak book to go along with the dark and cold. In that category, none is finer than this classic exploration of a grisly and true crime.

Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer
1996 was one of the deadliest years on Mt. Everest. Multiple people in multiple paid expeditions died in what Lemony Snicket would call “a series of unfortunate events.” As a mountaineer and outdoor writer Krakauer provides both his active eyewitness account and some (perhaps not enough) emotional and ethical depth to the turmoil of the debate over the cost--financial, moral and vital--of what it means to climb Mt. Everest in the modern age.

Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie wrote murder mysteries that could easily transpose into the BBC/Downton Abbey world. There is blood and murder and betrayal, but there is also a lot of stiff British upper lips and calm observance of custom and tea times. In this classic, a passenger is stabbed to death aboard a snowbound train. The interlocking stories, alibis, and ethics of the remaining passenger/suspects make this a satisfying read, particularly if the power goes out in a snowstorm.

Winter's Tale - Mark Helprin
Fantastical, time-bending pseudo steam-punkish story of overlapping lives in a fairy-tale version of New York. People can--and do--skate down the Hudson River from the mountains to the city, love outlasts death and defies age, bridges of light are built between time, a gang boss steals colors, and all manner of other wonderful things. Few books reward the willing suspension of disbelief as well as this dense wintery gem. Reading Helprin's writing is like drinking the hot chocolate served in Chris Van Allsburg's illustrations of The Polar Express.

SLACkers' Picks (Student Library Advisory Committee):

The Shiver Trilogy - Maggie Stiefvater
A series that'll make you feel chills throughout...literally, I felt cold the whole time while reading it so come armed with hot chocolate

Any book by Roald Dahl (what better way to take a trip down nostalgia lane?)

Happy Reading!