September 2010 Archives

The American Library Association has found that the same book was the country's single most frequently banned or challenged work in 2006, 2007, and 2008, and was number two in 2009. You may be surprised by its identity. It has no graphic sex or violence. It has no strong language. It does not deal directly with politics. In fact, it's a picture book. A picture book about penguins.

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So why all the hullabaloo over a sweet little story about adorable animals? It's inspired by the true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who built a nest and hatched a chick together. Children's books about homosexuality, even when entirely devoid of actual sex, tend to upset more people more deeply than similarly-themed books for adults; such books add an additional layer of concern about whether the subject is age-appropriate. Tango is even more controversial than other books of its kind because it portrays homosexuality as a natural and normal way of creating a loving family, and does not address the many surrounding political, social, religious, and personal conflicts. Rather than becoming an issue piece which focuses on the parents' sexuality, the story simply accepts that love, not gender, is what matters in raising a healthy and well-adjusted child.

Sometimes acceptance and tolerance can be even more controversial than conflict. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Audrey @ Central

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Banned Books Week--Sandpiper by Ellen Wittlinger


Sandpiper Hollow Ragsdale is 17 and the kids at school call her a slut. She learned that dating would get her attention and power, though she doesn't even like the guys and usually dumps them after a few days. Derek, her most recent boyfriend, thinks she owes him--and his friends, much more than she is willing to offer.

She can't talk to her parents about the threats Derek's making because they're too busy with their own lives. Her mother is getting remarried and her father is a serial dater of younger women.

Enter a mysterious loner, the Walker; so named because he's always walking around town, never riding in cars. Sandpiper knows nothing more about him, not even his real name, but he offers her a platonic friendship and they develop a genuine relationship while defending one another.

Not one to shy away from tough subjects, Wittlinger's Sandpiper is no exception.
Challenged due to sexual content and language, this well written book takes an interesting look at high school and reputation. Once you have a particular rep, whether deserved or not, it can be very difficult to change people's perceptions.

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I remember looking at my freshman reading list in high school and dreading having to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I knew the story from after school TV movies and cartoons and the thought of having to read the whole book seemed like a daunting and futile task. Boy was I wrong! Frankly, this book seriously rocks.
Much controversy has surrounded this book in regards to what is sometimes perceived as a derogatory use of racial terms, but in my estimation, Twain was simply writing about his own experiences growing up in the South in the first half of the 19th century. He used terms and language that were in regular use during those times for realism and authenticity.
Published in 1885 and set in the years before the Civil War, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered to be a sequel to Twain's earlier Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), but stands on its own merits as an individual novel. As the title suggests, the book features incredibly descriptive vignettes of a runaway boy named Huckleberry as he escapes from an abusive father by rafting down the Mississippi with a runaway slave named Jim.
Combining serious social commentary with biting satire and sincere humor, Twain wrote a book of exquisite depth veiled and overshadowed by its comical characters and larger than life situations. A true literary classic in every sense of the word, Huckleberry Finn transcends time through Twain's genius of character development and humor. The characters Twain depicts could be transplanted into a contemporary novel and still be believable. The times have changed since Huckleberry Finn was written, but people haven't, and Twain's marvelous characters describe humanity in all its ugliness, but with a contagious morality that fulfills and enlightens till hope is regained.
So in honor of Banned Books Week, why not pick up a copy of this remarkable novel and transport yourself back in time to a place where friendship meant something and a raft drifting down the Mississippi meant freedom and so much more.

Submitted by Dan@Central

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Why are some books banned?? There is a long historical precedent, but, in part, the banned books page of the First Amendment explains that in the 1870s, "the pioneer of modern American censorship was Anthony Comstock... and he convinced Congress to pass a law, thereafter known as the "Comstock Law," banning... materials found to be "lewd, indecent, filthy or obscene" which includes Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Definitely take a look at William Caxton's two gorgeous digitized originals of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales printed in the late 1400s and held in the British Library. View the manuscripts here.

Also you can read the Canterbury Tales in full text on Harvard University's website in their original Middle English or modern translation. View the online versions here.

Check the Milwaukee Public Library's Canterbury Tales holdings here. I recommend this Middle English version.

The image above is from the Ellesmere Canterbury Tales held in the Huntington Library, in San Marino, California. Visit the Hungtington Library here.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

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Banned Books Week

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"Banning books is so utterly hopeless and futile. Ideas don't die because a book is forbidden reading." - Gretchen Knief, Kern County Librarian when the Grapes of Wrath was banned.

Today marks the beginning of this year's Banned Book Week (September 25 - October 2). Each blog post this week will feature a banned or challenged book. I just meant to write a short introduction about the significance of this week, to set the stage for these book reviews. But I really struggled to write one.

What can I possibly say to embody the passion that I and so many librarians feel for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of information and ideas? I scoured the web for quotes from everybody from Ben Franklin to Mae West. I thought of appealing to the most powerful ethical document in modern librarianship, the Library Bill of Rights. I tried to lighten the mood with interesting facts - that this Bill was in part a direct response to the banning of The Grapes of Wrath in 1939; that the "pioneer of modern American censorship" was Anthony Comstock, founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1872. But none of it felt sufficient.

The fact is, there is no one phrase, one idea, one moment that I can call upon to represent the overriding insistence at the library's ethical core that all people must, must, must be free to write and to read. That's the point. Intellectual freedom is about respecting many words, many perspectives. So the only way I can share my passion with you is to say this - go out and read. Read something banned. Read something you never thought you'd pick up. Read that book your mom loves that you've been avoiding for years. Read something that offends you.

We'll be here with suggestions all week.

Learn more about Banned Books week and its sponsors.

Submitted by Audrey @ Central

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Get Wilkie-ized!


Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) was a English author of plays, short stories, essays and over 30 novels that sometimes ventured into Gothic and supernatural themes, in addition to his widely read mystery novels. A great friend of Charles Dickens, Collins was a scandulous figure in Victorian society due to his fathering numerous children with various mistresses and his addiction to laudanum that preceded strange behavior. Collins' use of Gothic landscapes, insanity, drugs, retribution and family intrigue in his stories often were contrary with familiar Victorian norms and made Wilkie a much talked about author in his day.

Famed poet T.S. Eliot has described Wilkie Collins' suspense novel The Moonstone as being "The first and greatest of English detective stories." Matters of taste can always be disputed, but in this case, i'm firmly in Eliot's camp. Though Edgar Allan Poe is widely considered to be the first writer of a detective story, Wilkie Collins wrote the first detective NOVEL. Published in 1868, The Moonstone refers to a large Indian diamond given to Rachel Verinder, a young Englishwoman, as a gift on her eighteenth birthday from her corrupt uncle who served in the English army in colonial India. During the birthday party, the famed stone is stolen and the first detective novel was born.

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Perhaps Collins' best known work, The Woman in White (1860), is a story told from many different perspectives through many different narrators. Based on an actual crime (Collins was also a lawyer), the novel tells the story of young Laura, destined to marry creepy Sir Percival Glyde, instead of her true love Walter, and the subsequent lies that follow Glyde's grab for Laura's inheritence. Many future literary villians were based on Sir Percival Glyde and his Italian friend Count Fosco, who should have been named Count Freaky instead. Love overcomes in the end, but it's a heck of a ride till it does!

Submitted by Dan@Central

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Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford


Ford writes a witty and hilarious story about Jane Austen living in the present day as Jane Fairfax the vampire. This satire of the seemingly hundreds of Jane Austen spinoffs is, in fact, yet another spinoff profiting from Jane Austen's endless popularity among readers, especially those who can't get enough. In this novel Jane tries to live a quite life as a small town bookstore owner while attempting to publish, Constance, a manuscript she secretly wrote when she was still alive. One crazy mishap after another leads readers to wonder if Jane's book will ever be published and if her true identity will be disastrously revealed to all. Check catalog for availability.

Ford will write a sequel to this book called Jane Goes Batty which will tell the tale of the highly acclaimed novel Constance being made into to a movie.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

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Street Lit Queens--Deja King and Miasha

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In Trife Life to Lavish: Genesis & Genevieve Nichelle is on her way to becoming a top model. Genesis mourns his murdered wife but finds comfort in the arms of CoCo, another centerfold-worthy babe with her own agenda. Greed drives everyone, but the secret is Nichelle is not who she claims to be.

Chaser introduces us to Leah. She's fed up with her boyfriend Kenny's schemes, embarks on an affair with Nasir, a towing company owner's son and Kenny's chaser, and convinces him to go into business with her, which creates enemies on both sides of the law.

Submitted by Tiffany G. @ King

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It's Oprah's farewell season, and the talk show queen has announced her final book club selection. Jonathan Franzen's bestelling Freedom is a critically and popularly acclaimed tragicomedy about the changes and challenges in the lives of aging baby boomers. However, the story I'm engrossed in right now isn't the book itself, but the juicy gossip surrounding the pick.

That's right - Oprah and Franzen have a history. In 2001, Oprah picked Franzen's The Corrections for her book club. Most authors would be thrilled - a coveted Oprah sticker on the cover pretty much guarantees skyrocketing sales, after all. But not Franzen. He publicly suggested that Oprah's literary taste was not up to his highbrow artistic standards, and worried that her seal of approval would actually deter his (presumably discerning, male) readers.

As you might imagine, Oprah did not seem to be thrilled about this. Franzen's invitation to come speak on her show was quietly rescinded. And that was the end of that, for the better part of a decade.

So you can imagine my - and everybody else's - surprise when Oprah announced Franzen's book as her very last book club pick. Has she forgiven and forgotten? Or is the book just that darn good?

I don't know, but I can't wait to read it and find out. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Audrey @ Central

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Discussion, Not Destruction

Rev. Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida made national news last week by threatening to burn a copy of the Qur'an on September 11th. To emphasize the commitment of public libraries everywhere to "reading, learning, and tolerance over book-burning, fear, and ignorance" (American Libraries Direct, 2010), the American Library Association sponsored a Qur'an read-aloud. Milwaukee Public Library is proud to facilitate civil discussion and learning around the contentious, emotionally charged issue of Islam in the West by offering a multitude of perspectives across the religious, political, and social spectrum.


Reconciliation : Islam, democracy, and the West by Benazir Bhutto

Pakistan's first elected female leader penned this eloquent defense of Islam's compatibility with the Western world.


Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

A Muslim-born outspoken critic of the treatment of women in Islamic countries, Ali has a powerful voice informed by intimate knowledge of the religion and politics of Islam.

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The Faith Club : A Muslim, a Christian, a Jew-- Three Women Search for Understanding by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner

Not all struggles are between political or religious groups; often, the most compelling ones are between individuals and within ourselves. When three women of different faiths try to write a children's book together, they realize they must first come to terms with their own divergent worldviews, prejudices, and beliefs.

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Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

And not all treatments of Islam must be serious. Sometimes, a good work of fiction is the best way to step into somebody else's shoes for a while. It's hard enough to fit in at high school, so when Amal decides to start wearing a hijab full time she must call on uncommon humor and strength to cope with the reaction of her teachers, parents, and peers.

Of course, these books alone can't represent the multitude of ideas and perspectives out there. If you're interested in more in-depth analysis, you may also want to try John L. Esposito's The Future of Islam, Arshad Khan's Islam, Muslims, and America : Understanding the Basis of their Conflict, or our many other volumes on Islam in the 21st century.

Have you read any books or seen any media that changed your mind about Islamic culture, politics, or religion?

Submitted by Audrey @ Central

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The Princess Bride by William Goldman


The Princess Bride : S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale Of True Love And High Adventure : The "Good Parts" Version, Abridged. By William Goldman.

This is a love story for all times with language and style more accessible if you find William Shakespeare's Tragedy of Romeo and Juliette a bit too difficult to get through. You might also appreciate Goldman's story full of passion, duels, miracles, giants, humor, and true love (with a happy ending) rather than Shakespeare's which concludes with the unnecessary deaths of star-crossed lovers and heartbreaking sorrow for all those involved. To all those who enjoy adventure, danger and everlasting love, I recommend this fantastic tale. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

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Crossing the Rapido: A Tragedy of World War II by Duane Schultz

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I felt kind of guilty reading this shocking story. On one hand, I was appalled as a human being at the fantastic stupidity of the entire affair, but on the other, I was fascinated at the utterly useless slaughter of good men for no apparent reason. It was like watching a really dumb horror movie that's impossible to look away from, or in this case, stop reading. World War II is dotted with stories like these; for instance, the unnecessary landings at Peleliu come to mind, but the story of the unfortunate men ordered to cross the Rapido River in Southern Italy during January of 1944 stands out as a true catastrophe of bad leadership and wasted lives.
Relying heavily on interviews from survivors of the debacle, Schultz tells the tale of General Mark Clark's insistence on having the 36th Texas National Guard Division repeatedly attempt to cross a heavily defended river during the night. With casualties mounting and no stronghold on the other side of the river, General Clark ordered another assault across the Rapido in the morning. The unfortunate men of the 36th suffered 50% casualties in the badly planned mission. On top of that, the entire operation was designed as nothing but an eleborate ruse to keep German troops away from the landings at Anzio, much like the Peleliu assault were designed to take the heat off MacArthur's return to the Philippines.
As shocking as this book is, it is also a glowing testimony to the common soldier who followed orders and attempted to reach their objective, no matter the cost in blood. Reading this book made me feel a tad queasy, like looking at road kill or finding a hair in your soup at a greasy spoon restaurant, but it is a story that needed telling, if only to pay homage to the men who couldn't tell it themselves. Well written, superbly documented and containing many helpful illustrations and maps, this fine book will appeal to military history enthusiasts of all ages.

Check Catalog Availability.

Submitted by Dan@Central

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Furious Love by Sam Kashner & Nancy Schoenberger

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Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century is the tremendously readable story of the great and tragic romance between the beautiful, world famous movie queen and the great Shakespearean Welch actor. Showing the stars, warts and all, it follows their great love affair from the time Liz and Dick starred in the epic Cleopatra, when they were each married to others, through their well publicized and tumultuous marriage, the sad end of their marriage, and Burton's early death. Burton's love letters to Taylor, used with Taylor's permission, are poignant and the story is better then most fiction you will ever read. It's a page turner that would be great with popcorn.

Submitted by Nancy A. @ King


Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century is the account of the tumultuous love affair between actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The Taylor-Burton affair began on the set of the film Cleopatra, in 1960 and ended in 1976, after two marriages and two divorces. Author Kashner vividly chronicles the couples' relationship, which was fueled by passionate love, raging arguments and excessive drinking. Burton and Taylor lived an unapologetic life of excess that held the public mesmerized throughout their relationship. Although the love affair between Burton and Taylor is the heart of the book, Furious Love also serves as an excellent dual biography of two complicated individuals. Insights from Taylor and Burton's childhoods often foreshadow events in their later lives. I found Furious Love to be a fascinating look into the lives of Hollywood's most infamous couple.

Submitted by Gabriel @ MPL Central

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Room by Emma Donoghue

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Our narrator is 5 year old Jack. He lives in Room with "Ma" where he sleeps in Wardrobe at night because that's when 'Old Nick' visits. Jack has never left Room; it is everything he knows. As daily life is described by Jack, the sense of terror, on the part of the reader, grows, because we can draw conclusions greater than that of a 5 year old. I couldn't stop turning pages as the magnitude of the situation became clearer and clearer.

To say more about the plot would give away a most suspenseful read; if you know too much your investment won't seem worth it as the mysteries unravel. But I think it's safe to add that this novel does an immensely wonderful job at showing how our world views are shaped by what we know, or don't. Don't miss this experience.

Room is shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker prize. The other nominees are Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey, The Long Song by Andrea Levy, C by Tom McCarthy, In A Strange Room by Damon Galgut and The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, October 12, 2010.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

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Cut Up a Book.

Really - it's ok! Go ahead!* Some incredible art has come out of altering books, cutting up and rearranging text, painting pages, covering up some words and revealing others. The art of turning one work of literature into another through physical alteration has many practitioners and many names - erasure, altered books, and palimpsest, to name a few. It's stunning to look at and fun to do.

Erasure by Rebecca Brown. Image by Emmy Burns. Erasure by Rebecca Brown. Image by Emmy Burns. Erasure by Rebecca Brown. Image by Emmy Burns.
Erasures by Rebecca Brown. From Borges Foster, Jennifer (Editor). (2009). Filter Literary Journal (Vol. 2). Seattle, WA. Images by Emmy Burns.

And yes, the library does have cut-up (and painted-up, inked-up, and overlaid) books. Spend some time with A humument : a treated Victorian novel, by Tom Phillips. It began life as a cheap paperback entitled A Human Document, but it is now a powerful work of, according to the artist, "other possible stories, scenes, poems, erotic incidents, and surrealist catastrophes... memories, dreams, and reflections." Or try Radi Os, Ronald Johnson's adaptation of Milton's famous Paradise Lost.

Like what you see? Try it yourself! (Again - not on a library book, please. We really, really like to get those back. In one piece.) Check out one of our many books full of ideas and techniques. Don't worry if your last art project was in kindergarten; you don't need any background in art or writing to create your own beautiful form of artistic self-expression.

*Disclaimer: Do not do this to library books. It's awesome to make art out of old books. Just not library books. You'll have to pay for them, and I will probably be subjected to that infamous library torture, Death by a Thousand Papercuts. If you're looking to buy a few inexpensive books to play with, try our Friends Bookstore.

Submitted by Audrey @ Central

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About a year ago I began receiving email recipe updates from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Without exception, the recipes were clearly written and inviting and I found myself printing many of them out and wishing that there was a cookbook available with these recipes.

Well, now there is.... The Great Big Cheese Cookbook is filled with those clear and inviting recipes along with beautiful mouthwatering photographs. Some of the recipes are from well-known chefs such as Michael Symon from FoodNetwork. Others are from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. All look delicious!

Submitted by Nancy at East and King

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Just Kids by Patti Smith

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Patti Smith's "Horses" was such a clarion call in the punk era, but I am too old and tired now to remember why. What made me read the book were the two kids on the cover smiling sweetly at me, too thin to cast a shadow. Everything in Just Kids reminds you with lyrical intensity and inspired willpower and wild dreaming:

Art is holy. Art is love. Art can set us free.

"I was asleep when he died," Smith writes at the start. "I had called the hospital to say one more good night, but he had gone under, beneath layers of morphine. I held the receiver and listened to his labored breathing through the phone, knowing I would never hear him again."

Between Mapplethorpe's dying breaths, Smith takes flight into a story of origins. Within moments we are back in her childhood as she details her love of prayer, the death of her girlhood friend. At 19 she becomes pregnant and is forced to give her baby away, swearing an oath to become a great artist in memory of her child. In 1967 The Fates give Smith and Mapplethorpe a chance meeting in Manhattan shortly after Smith hops off a bus, clutching a copy of Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations. They penny-pinch for food and sleep with lice on their pillows. Smith cries so much in Mapplethorpe's company he affectionately nicknames her "Soakie".

They quickly became each other's muse, breaking up only when Mapplethorpe comes to terms with his homosexuality. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear--- they remained closer than best friends.

Smith recalls being present as Kris Kristofferson played "Me and Bobby McGee" to Janis Joplin for the first time. This is 60/70's bohemian New York, and she gives us walk-ons from William Burroughs, Sam Shepard, Jimi Hendrix and mentor Allen Ginsberg (who initially assumes that she is a beautiful boy).

It would take a Grinchy heart not to be moved by the last 10 pages, as Mapplethorpe lies dying from AIDS-related disease.

This elegiac memoir is a primer which illuminates the realization that the deepest relationships need not have perfect resolutions.

-Jane H. @King Library


At the age of twenty, Patti Smith fled her New Jersey hometown and took the bus into New York City, hoping to find friends to stay with. One of the first people she sees is a sleeping boy, "pale and slim with masses of dark curls, lying bare-chested with strands of beads around his neck." A chance re-encounter weeks later with "Bob" Mapplethorpe leads to the passionate partnership - artistic, creative, spiritual and sexual - that spans the tumultuous 60's and 70's as they make art, poetry and music together. Smith's memoir, "Just Kids", promised to Mapplethorpe before his death in 1989, bursts with insight and vigor. Her well written story is filled with funny and poignant vignettes of two visionaries struggling to get by on sporadic minimum wage jobs and 'a little help from their friends' while remaining true to each other and their art.

Submitted by Christine @ Central

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The Everything Managing People Book: Quick and Easy Ways to Build, Motivate, and Nurture a First-rate Team is an excellent book for first time mangers or anyone who may need to refresh their management skills:

Life as a Manager
-As a manager one must be aware of personal limitations and must be able to set realistic goals for themselves and their employees. Managers are expected to "walk on water" when it comes to knowing their jobs, the jobs of their employees and their individual needs. Managers are required to wear various hats and must hold down the front lines when needed.
-Office friendships and socializing outside of the office is rare between managers and employees. Many employees (speaking honestly from experience) are hesitant to form any type of friendship with managers. For some managers it can be pretty lonely at the top.

Check your Baggage at the Door
-Personal situations always seem to sneak their way into the workforce, and no matter how much we try to forget about the argument we had the night before with our spouse or children it can sometimes show in our job performance. Managers must be focused regardless of what may be happening outside of work.
-Managers are human with human emotions just like everyone else. We all have certain things that rub us the wrong way, and the key to keeping our personal feelings to a minimum is by knowing exactly what those things are. Managers must understand that personalities are different and that some may collide and some may crash and burn.

Guiding your Career
-Becoming a manager is at times the final career goal for some individuals. All of their hard work, diligence, and patience have paid off. But for some the road to management does not stop once they land the corner office. Achieving management status is just the beginning. By keeping ones skills sharp, staying up-to-date and setting goals, a manager can easily find their way on a road to upward success.

Submitted by: Sha'Nese

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Narrated by high school student Clay Jenkins, this story is disturbing, haunting and full of regret. It all starts when Clay mysteriously receives thirteen cassette tapes in the mail recorded by a girl, Hannah, who recently committed suicide. Readers will find this story gripping as it races toward Hannah's unfortunate demise. Author Jay Asher leaves us in deep thought about our own past interactions with acquaintances, friends and family and how actions, perhaps unknowingly, cause intense reactions for better or worse.

I listened to the audio book, read by both a female and male, which makes you feel like you are listening to Hannah's tapes too as an eerie participant of the story. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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