Currently reading

In the last few months, I’ve read a lot of Agatha Christie mysteries – and I do mean a lot – in addition to my usual book group books.  I’m cooling down a wee bit on the Agatha Christie books now, partly because I have less time available for “fun” reading now that book groups are in full swing again (each group met only once over the summer, and not at all in September, which was a lovely gift of “fun” reading time for me) and partly because I seem to have exhausted the supply of Christie books at our two local bookstores.

This weekend I need to read The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for next Tuesday’s Teen Book Group meeting; I have great memories of reading the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was in highschool, and am looking forward to an adult re-reading of The Hound of the Baskervilles.  This reading of it will be tinged by laundry soap and dryer lint, since I need to spend a couple of hours at the laundromat today washing our comforter, but hopefully that won’t wreak the book for me.

I’m also reading The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda, a book which has happily surprised me.  I really only brought it home to read because the reviews written about the book have a wide range of reading levels – from 4th grade and up to 8th grade and up – and thus placement of the book in the library is difficult.  I placed it in our advanced reader section, which is for grades 5 & 6 and up, but now the book’s sequel is about to be published, with similarly divergent age recommendations in the reviews, so it was time for me to read the book myself and thus make a totally informed decision about placement.  It turns out that the book is well-written, engaging, full of action (which kids today demand above all else), and also gently educational as it introduces Indian mythology and culture.  I like the book enough that I may even choose it for a book group…hmmmm…

Other books in my to-be-read pile right now:

  • Atlantis Rising by T.A. Barron
  • The Outcasts by John Flanagan
  • The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan
  • Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass
  • Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus
  • The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
  • Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
  • Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie

And I’ve officially given up on the Megan Whalen Turner series that begins with The Thief.  I loved the first book, hated the second, and am luke-warm on the third at the half-way point.  Frankly, the character of Eugenides got on my nerves early in the second book, and it’s tough to finish a series when the main character drives you nuts.  I’ll be taking the whole series to the used book store soon, just to get it out of my house.

On that note, time to get to the laundromat and start reading The Hound of the Baskervilles

Stuffed Animal Sleepover

I first heard about libraries doing “stuffed animal sleepovers” a couple of years ago when one of my favorite library patrons told me about a library on the Cape that had done one.  And then the children’s librarian listserve started to be abuzz with librarians posting about their sleepovers.  And then a librarian posted a request for advice on how to run one, and later posted a compilation of all the advice that she had gotten.  Now I had no excuse: this compilation was virtually a guide on to how to run a stuffed animal sleepover.  It was time for me to schedule one.

But first, what is a stuffed animal sleepover?  Kids drop off their stuffed animals at the library, and after the library is closed, the stuffed animals have a grand old party together as they explore the library.  Some librarians make videos, other librarians print out photos of each stuffed animal to give to each child at animal pickup time, and other librarians take a ton of photos and post them on Facebook (the option I chose).  Basically, it would be tough to have a “real” sleepover at the library for real kids, so this is a fun option that carries no liability issues but still gets kids jazzed about the library.

Last night was the big night, and I am so glad that I chose a Friday night.  The library closes at two o’clock on Fridays, so I knew I would have plenty of time to take photos and then post them on Facebook and Google+.  I figured it would take me two or three hours…but I was wrong.  I finished posting the photos at eight-fifteen, and for that six and a quarter hours I was running around like a crazy woman.  At one point I was wheeling the book cart loaded with stuffed animals along the window-lined hallway on the top floor of the building, and as I looked out at the dark parking lot I thought that anyone out there in their car would probably think this was pretty funny:  a frazzled looking librarian pushing a cart of animals full-tilt along the hallway to the large program room.

Despite taking way longer than planned, I had a lot of fun posing the animals, taking their photos, and then writing captions for each photo (eighty-two or so altogether) as I posted them on Facebook.  Part of the set-up was that Pepper B. Collie, the storytime puppet, was taking the photos, since the librarians had all left for the day.  S. took a photo of three of us librarians standing outside the building waving goodbye to the animals (who were lined up on the window sill looking out).  So I had to be careful that I didn’t show in any of the photos (there are a lot of windows in the building that could catch my reflection), and when writing the captions I tried to write them in the voice of Pepper and the other animals.

Before the sleepover, Jennifer did a lot of brainstorming about places and ways to pose the animals, and yesterday morning I took her list, added some ideas of my own, and then typed up a two page bulleted list of locations, organized by area of the library.  This helped me to be much more efficient and ensured that I wouldn’t forget any of the best ideas.  Some of the ideas (I wanted a photo of the animals looking out the window at the sunset) were time sensitive, some were not; so in addition to areas of the library, I did have to keep the time sensitive ideas in mind as the evening progressed.

And it all worked out, especially since Jim was willing to bring a fresh hot pizza to the library rather than me taking the time to run out and get the pizza.  After posing the stuffed animals with the pizza, Jim and I took ten minutes to eat our pizza dinner, and then we set up the animals for the final pose:  dancing under a disco ball (definitely a two person pose – Jim shone a flashlight on the disco ball and held the disco ball out on a ruler while I took photos).  Then we cleaned up and headed home, where I uploaded and captioned the photos.

If you’d like to see the photos, the best ones are on Facebook (I was too burnt out by eight- fifteen to put captions on the Google+ photos):

R.I.P. Pew

Like his namesake from Treasure Island, our feral feline friend Pew was struck and killed today, not by a stagecoach, but by a car.

Pew showed up in the midst of trapping Mommy Cat and the five kittens this past summer.  I first saw him jammed into a kitten trap – he, an adult cat, had managed to stuff his whole body into the tiny kitten trap in order to get the sardines that we used as bait.  At that time I had assumed he was someone’s pet, but as the summer went on it became clear that Pew did not have a home, and he became more and more dependent on the food I put out on our deck.

Jim named this all black cat Pew because he was so sad: tongue lolling out constantly, a cataract in his left eye which made the eye all milky white, and a scruffy coat.  Annette, the cat trapper, guessed that Pew was “a hundred years old” (she probably meant in cat years), and she also surmised that he didn’t have a tooth in his head, which would explain why his tongue always lolled out, hanging an inch or two down from his mouth.  If you know Treasure Island, you’ll know that the literary Pew was a blind beggar, a tragic figure who met his end under hooves and stagecoach wheels.

Yesterday morning I got a good look at Pew – my last view of him alive, as it turned out – and he was looking a bit worse than usual.  His good eye was all runny and yucky looking, and he was particularly hungry, snarfing down all the canned Friskies and a lot of the dry kibbles that I put out for him.  Yesterday I thought, once again, that it would be a miracle if Pew could make it through the winter.  I’ve been worrying about how to best help him keep fed and warm, especially since he long ago proved to be more feral than stray: skittish and unwilling to come near me, though very willing to eat the three plus cans of food and also dry food that I put out for him each day.

And then there is today.  Jim and I were going to head to Concord to have lunch at Helen’s, and I had just finished getting ready when I stepped into the kitchen and noticed the food in the bowl on the deck was gone.  “Who came and ate?” I asked Jim, since it could be either Pew or Mommy Cat.  “It was Pew,” Jim replied, “He was just here eating.”

As Jim stood in our foyer putting his jacket on, he saw Pew in our driveway, heading towards the street.  Not many seconds later we were about to get into our car when Jim looked across the street and said, “Is that a cat?”  It was.  It was Pew, his body twitching its final twitches just on the side of the road, a smear of blood extending from the middle of the road to the side of his poor mangled head.  We hadn’t heard brakes, or a car horn, and there certainly wasn’t a car stopped in guilty horror to examine the poor cat that it had just hit.   Just Pew, dying.

We both went over and stood by Pew as he died, trying to decide what to do next.  Pew died quickly, probably a much more merciful death than if he had died of cold and hunger over the harshness of winter.  He had been hit mostly on the left side of his head, the side with the bad eye, so hopefully he never knew what hit him.  And he died with a full tummy, probably looking forward to a nice nap in the sun.  As he left us, I told Pew that he was a good cat, and gave him my love.

Jim got first one, then another shovel, and together we slid Pew off the edge of the road and under the bushes a few feet in from the road.  Jim called the police department, and a very rude police officer said that he would let the highway department know and that they would take care of Pew’s body.  Perhaps we should have buried Pew in our yard, but let’s just say that Pew’s mercifully quick death left more than a bit of a mess, and we’re not up to taking care of his remains.  [Update: the highway department never came, so on Monday Jim buried Pew in our back yard, at the spot where we first saw him last summer. We both feel better knowing that Pew is home, cared for, and not dealt with as random roadkill by strangers.]

Rest in peace, poor dear Pew.  I’m glad we could keep your belly full for your last few months; I’m sorry we couldn’t do more to make your life safe and easy.

And to the callous idiot who hit Pew and didn’t even have the decency to stop and see if Pew needed help:  a pox upon you.  You were driving too fast, you didn’t even hit the brakes, and you didn’t care.  You do know that a black cat crossed your path today, and that you killed that cat, don’t you?  That can’t be good for you.

Happier pictures

Moxie and Mona weren’t represented too well photographically in the last cat post, so now that I’ve gotten some good pictures of the two of them I thought I’d post them so their full beauty is shown to all:


Happy September

I actually love the month of September – even though we’re busy at the library after school with kids coming over from the elementary, middle, and high schools, the mornings are lovely and quiet and I get tons done.

Sometimes my storytime regulars ask why I take a couple of weeks off from storytimes in September, and I always reply, “So I can get some ordering done after the summer!”  Summers at the library are almost relentlessly busy, and it’s difficult to focus on reading book reviews in The Horn Book Magazine and Kirkus when kids are coming up to the desk every few minutes to redeem summer prizes or ask for summer reading book suggestions.  I need these next few weeks to pay some careful attention to ordering, and to make sure our shelves are fully stocked with the latest and greatest as winter comes around the corner.

But there’s another reason I take a couple of weeks off from storytimes in September: it’s vitally important to take a little time off from them so that I get refreshed and revitalized.  Yes, I could keep plugging along at the usual stiff storytime pace that I keep up the rest of the year (five or so storytimes a week), but we all benefit from me having just a few weeks off.  I actually love that I get nervous and edgy before my first September storytime, because it means that I’m coming back to storytimes with a fresh perspective.  If I’m nervous, then I’m fully engaged, and if I’m fully engaged, then storytimes are soooo much more fun for everyone.

One of my greatest fears is getting stale in my job, which is why I’m always pushing myself to do more and to try new and different things.  And by stepping back and taking a break, I can look at my storytimes from a bit of a distance and evaluate what I’m doing well and what I need to do better.  I’ll never go so far as to film myself doing a storytime, because that would destroy my self-confidence, but I’m very capable of being objective about my own performance.  I know that I overuse certain phrases, and I’m aiming to not say those phrases coming up in September.  I know that I’m a little afraid of using parent tips in my storytimes, but I need to get over that hump and start incorporating those tips more regularly.  And I know that by the end of the summer I was a bit tired and worn out, and I’m glad to take this breather and regain my enthusiasm.

So the next few weeks will be devoted to freshening my storytime perspective, and spending some intense time doing my absolute favorite part of my job: ordering books.  Yay!  Happy September, everyone!

Back to normal?

I certainly hope so!

It has been a long, strange summer, with most of our time at home consumed by cat trapping operations.  When we weren’t actively setting traps (which we did, night and day, for most of the summer, from June 22 to August 25), we were feeding the mommy cat and her kittens and nurturing our relationship with them so that they would stick around and one day be trapped.

But Sunday morning we finally – FINALLY!! – caught the final stray kitten (we caught mommy on Thursday morning), and yesterday the mommy, who we have named Mona, came back from the animal hospital after successfully being spayed.

In all, there were five kittens and their mother living in our yard and our neighbor’s yard and barn.  The first two captured kittens live with us, and Moses and Millie have brought much joy into our lives.  The next two captured kittens went to live with our friends Lisa and John, who have been working on socializing them.  The last captured kitten, who I yesterday named Moxie since she is full of it, needs a home.  Perhaps our neighbor’s daughter will adopt Moxie, or perhaps Moxie will go to the Guardian Angels shelter.  Moxie is adorable, with longish rabbit-like soft fur, but she will need a patient person to socialize her, since she was trapped at the old age of fifteen weeks.  She did respond well yesterday to being handled by our awesome vet and me, so hopefully there is hope for her to be someone’s companion.

As for Mona, the mommy cat – despite my hopes that she was just a scared stray, she seems to be feral.  Our vet helped me transfer Mona into the cage yesterday, which involved “scruffing” Mona, and Mona’s frantic response to scruffing led our vet to pronounce that Mona is definitely feral.  And last night I thought I’d try gently petting Mona’s nose through the cage, but that made Mona freak out.  Frankly, I’m a bit afraid to open the cage to feed her and change her litter, but that needs to be done, so I’ll just have to get up the guts and do it.  Mona will stay in that cage as long as we all can stand it (up to ten days) while she recovers from being spayed, and then we will release her into our yard where she hopefully will live out her days.  Jim and I will feed her, and our neighbor probably will feed her too, and our neighbor is more than happy to let Mona live in the basement of her barn.  So Mona is feral, and her life won’t be as easy as the lives of her kittens, but the good news is that she won’t have any more kittens to worry about; she can focus on taking care of herself now.

And to think this long strange trip all began with me hearing a tiny “mew” in our yard the night of June 8.  I’m glad that we saved six lives, and prevented countless more kittens from being born into a tough world, and I love love love Moses and Millie, but I don’t ever want to do this again.  I have so much respect for those people who dedicate themselves to trapping and neutering stray and feral cats; I could never do what they do.  It would drive me crazy, quite literally.

And I have a renewed appreciation for those awesome people who choose a career as veterinarians.  Both Dr. Reiner and Dr. Sager have been so supportive of this operation, and have donated their services to the cause of these homeless cats.  Jim and I could never have afforded the unexpected expense of the care of these kitties, and are so grateful to these two doctors for helping us through it.

This will be my last post about cat trapping.  I’m sure Moses and Millie, and perhaps Mona, will find their way into other happy cat-related posts in the future, but I never again intend to write about or practice cat trapping.  Ever.  And on that note, here are some photos of the babies that we have saved.  (I wasn’t going to post a photo of Mona in her caged misery, but then I realized that it’s important for all of us to know that feral cats live a miserable life.  Please, please, please, spay and neuter your cats!!!)


Moses and Millie
Moses and Millie

Oh my goodness

So, as much of a softie as I am when it comes to animals, I have learned one thing: next time I see a stray cat in our yard carrying a kitten in her mouth – I’m going to pretend that I didn’t see it.  (You know I wouldn’t really, but it makes me feel better to say that…)

Six weeks and two days after finding dear sweet Moses in the yard, and four weeks to the day after trapping his adorable sister Millie, the cat trap project is still underway and consuming way way too much of my limited free time.  Two more of the five siblings have been trapped and have gone to a fabulous home, but there is still one now ten-week-old kitten and Mommy Cat at large and avoiding all attempts at capture.

We’ve trapped two skunks, a neighborhood pet cat (shhh, don’t tell anyone), and a baby opossum, but that ten-week-old kitten eludes capture.  And Mommy Cat?  Well, turns out she was too long for the first trap we used on her – the trap that she walked right into without fuss – and she managed to escape that trap and is now “trap shy.”  Bah humbug.

If we don’t catch that kitten soon, it will be well and truly feral and will not be able to live with people.  And if we don’t catch Mommy soon, she will most likely get pregnant again, and the cycle will start all over again.  Oh, please, no.

But while all this cat trapping (or not trapping?) drama has been going on, we have been enjoying getting to know Moses and Millie.  Two cuter kittens there never were!IMG_3259 IMG_3331 IMG_3340 IMG_3343 IMG_3344 IMG_3370 IMG_3376

Kittens and cats, oh my

Soooooooo, no time to post entries lately; all my free time has been consumed by rescue operations for Mommy Cat and her four soon-to-be-feral kittens (they are six weeks old now, and need to be socialized before they are eight or, at the most, ten weeks).  Our vet referred us to a wonderful woman who is helping us to trap everyone, and then everyone needs to be socialized.  And our wonderful vet loaned us a large cage to keep everyone in, and has offered to give free vet care to the kittens that we are not keeping.

I’m learning a lot about cats, and about trapping, and there definitely is a science and psychology to everything.  The wonderful woman who is masterminding the effort has a policy of “leave no one behind,” and that means we can’t freak out the mom (or she’ll move the remaining kittens to a new location) or give the kittens a fear of traps.  Lots of time and patience is required for this effort.  And great thanks to our vet and her friend.

And, of course, Tuesday was the Ice Cream Social – ninety-five degree heat with some humidity, and a life-saving breeze coming from the pond.  All went off without a hitch, and now it’s full swing for summer reading and prizes prizes prizes.  Whew.  So do forgive me if you don’t hear from me for a bit – I’m busy trying to save the feline world while running a huge summer reading program.  🙂

Two more…

I know, I know, I know…too many cats on this blog lately.  But I got a couple more photos of Mommy Cat last night while she was eating – one with Moses in the foreground looking at his mommy.  I wonder if he knows who she is or remembers her?

Reflections on children, literature, libraries, and life…and cats.