Posts

Digital Knitting Round-up

In the summer of 2009, I needed a distraction. It was just before my sophomore year of college – I was an English major here at Missouri Southern – and I was looking for new ways to spend my time. I made a list of about 20 things to accomplish over the summer (nothing productive, just for fun): juggling, performing magic tricks, being ambidextrous. By the end of summer, the only thing could confidently cross off was: learn to knit.

The inspiration had come from a book – there are few more likely sources of inspiration for an English major. My knitting muse is a character from the young adult series “The Nine Lives of Chloe King.”  The series is about a girl who learns she is one of a group of cat-people; the romantic interest opposite Chloe is a boy who knit his own earflap hat with cat ears. I wanted that hat, and by the end of the year – I had one.

I did not stop knitting after the hat, and the first place I turned to for new inspiration was knitting books. People who knit are incredibly creative, and there are some really excellent pattern books available at the Joplin Public Library. These books are full of glorious, full color pictures of the most amazing things knitters can accomplish – with step-by-step instructions so that you can accomplish them too.

I love looking at these books; I do not love trying to hold a book open while I am using both of my hands to knit.

So, instead of telling you about some of my favorites from the JPL’s physical collection, I am going to round up a few of the most interesting pattern books available in our digital collection. Knitting from a digital book is a breeze: my tablet sits propped up at just the right angle, never loses my spot, and I can often even zoom in to any particularly complicated charts I may encounter.

Most recently I was working from “Interweave Favorites: 25 Knitted Accessories to Wear and Share,” which is full of cute and colorful accessories that knit up relatively quickly. To me, small projects are the most fun – there is nothing more depressing than the half-done sweater or afghan that you just don’t want to finish.

If you are tired of knitting basic hats and scarves, maybe you will enjoy “Once Upon a Knit” by Genevieve Miller. These patterns are all inspired by fairy tale stories and classic literature: from Little Red Riding Hood’s red riding hood to a Wonderland-inspired beret.

Once you have knitting basics down, I recommend that you check out Margaret Radcliffe’s “Circular Knitting Workshop.” Radcliffe guides you step-by-step through circular knitting: the process of knitting in one continuous loop, making a tube of fabric. This process is a game-changer for socks, hats, sleeves, mittens, and almost every knitting project you want to make.

The final book in my round-up is “2-at-a-Time Socks” by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. Knitting a comfortable sock is complicated – it involves constant measuring, and knowing exactly where to make the heel is crucial. The last thing many knitters want to do when they finish a sock is start another one. That’s where this book comes in. If you master the two-at-a-time technique, you never have to suffer through knitting two socks in a row ever again! Knitting both socks at the same time also helps ensure that your pair is identical, rather than one sock being slightly longer or wider than the other.

I have been knitting steadily for almost eleven years now, and I am much better than I was in my cat-ear hat days. Being able to bring something to life with just a piece of string and a couple of sticks is a magical feeling, and if you find yourself at a loss for how to spend your time, you might give it a try. I have always found it to be a rewarding and fulfilling hobby, and I hope you will too.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Teenage sleuths are all well and good, but what becomes of them when they grow up?  In Edgar Cantero’s “Meddling Kids” we meet the Blyton Summer Detective Club – a group of grown-ups who spent the summers of their formative years solving mysteries in Blyton Hills, Oregon.

Thirteen years ago, they solved their final mystery: the case of the Sleepy Lake monster. Two boys, two girls, and one dog put a man in jail for impersonating a monster and attempting to steal the fortune said to be hidden in a local abandoned mansion. On that fateful night, they solved their case, but the deeper mysteries of the mansion have haunted them ever since.

Now in their mid-twenties, the four members of the Blyton Summer Detective Club have gone their separate ways; they lead broken, unstable lives in various parts of the country:

  • Peter Manner, the leader, moved to Hollywood and became a famous actor, but he was fighting his own demons and killed himself before the action of this book.
  • Nate Rogers, the resident supernatural expert, has spent the intervening years checking himself in and out of mental institutions. He is currently at an institution in Massachusetts, where he is hoping to rid himself of a hallucination of Peter’s ghost.
  • Kerri Hollis, the brains of the group, moved to New York where she works at a bar, plagued by nightmares and unmotivated to finish college.
  • Andrea (Andy) Rodriguez – the muscle – is a vagrant with active warrants out for her in multiple states, and an as-yet-unrequited, decade-old crush on Kerri.
  • Rounding out the group is Kerri’s Weimaraner, Tim, the great-grandson of the original mystery-solving dog.

Andy is convinced that something has cursed them, and that solving the mystery of the abandoned mansion is the only way for them to move on with their lives. She convinces Kerri and Nate to join her, and the three humans, one dog, and one ghost/hallucination make their way to the house in Blyton Hills where everything began.

“Meddling Kids” is a high-energy romp, complete with wacky hijinks and suspicious townspeople. It has mysterious messages, intricate traps, and secret passages. But it is also a horror story with actual monsters for our grown-ups to battle – and an evil force waiting to be set free. It’s Scooby-Doo in the world of Cthulhu.

The story moves forward at break-neck speed; the mystery getting more complicated at every turn. Cantero’s love of pop culture beats at the heart of this book, though some references are more subtle than other – I’m looking at you, Zoinx River.

Cantero bounces back and forth between traditional dialog and movie-script-style dialog (complete with stage directions) in a way that I found compelling. He plays with language throughout the book, making it clear that he had as much fun writing it as the reader does reading it.  I look forward to seeking out more of Edgar Cantero’s work, and I hope that you give “Meddling Kids” at try.

Find in Catalog

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

Librarians love books. We love the smell and the feel of books. We love the weight of knowledge that you feel just holding a book in your hands. But sometimes, you find a book that just makes you want to throw it against a wall. Or bury it in your yard. Or – fellow librarians, cover your eyes – set that book on fire.

In “Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks,” librarian Annie Spence writes letters to books that have left an impression on her (both good and bad).  From “Matilda” to “The Goldfinch” to “Cornzapoppin’!: Popcorn Recipes and Party Ideas for All Occasions” – Annie has read them all, and she has feelings.

Annie’s letters are well-written and approachable, she mourns her inability to get through “Anna Karenina” and sheds light on the unhealthy relationship at the center of “The Giving Tree.” Each letter is composed like a love letter, or a break-up letter in some cases, and is signed with Annie’s signature. Reading this book feels like reading someone’s personal, and very unusual reading journal.

These letters are hilarious, but also ridiculously informative. If you want to know what series is loved by both semi-truck drivers and precocious children bored of the books in the Children’s Room, Annie can help with that (it’s Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series).

Annie Spence is a master of a skill essential to library work called “reader’s advisory.” It is skill all about being able to understand and create connections between books. When a patron comes into a library looking for what to read next, we have been trained to help you find something else you will probably enjoy. Annie Spence is here – in book form – to help you find your new favorite books.

Annie is also ready if you need some advice for your life, not just what to read but also Excuses to Tell Your Friends So You Can Stay Home With Your Books (page 177) or Turning Your Lover into a Reader (page 205) – if you find that your significant other is just not that into books.

Reading this book feels like talking to a friend, the reader feels very connected to Annie and her experiences reading books. You can tell just how much she loves reading – and it makes you want to expand your own reading horizons. If nothing else, pick it up so you can truly understand how voracious readers feel about the library from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (page 163).

If you look forward to reading these book reviews that we at the Joplin Public Library provide every week, then I heartily recommend that you give “Dear Fahrenheit 451” a try.

Find in Catalog

Semiosis by Sue Burke

Part Planet of the Apes, part 2001: A Space Odyssey; “Semiosis”, by Sue Burke, tells the story of a group of astronaut colonists, and the planet they discover.

“Semiosis” is a generational novel, each chapter is told from the first-person perspective of a member of a new generation – beginning with original team of astronauts. The reader experiences the colony’s development through 107 years on Pax, the name the colonists give their new planet.

The original team of colonist consists of less than a hundred people from all over the world. They were chosen to provide particular skills to the community, not only to survive on their new planet, but to thrive. Scientists were chosen (meteorologists, doctors, biologists, and botanists) as well as artists (musicians and sculptors), and particular care was given to the type of personality that each member possessed.

The goal for Pax is to create a peaceful society that will become a part of the ecosystem of the planet, and live in harmony with any life forms that they may discover.

As the novel progresses, the narrators become more familiar with the nature of planet, and subsequently less ‘earthling’. The original colonists view Pax through the lens of Earth, comparing animals and plants to ones they (and we) are familiar with. From generation to generation, Earth customs and culture become increasingly more alien, as the humans develop their own ways of life.

Each narrator has unique voice; they have different perspectives on the planet, and its residents, and very different personalities. Burke’s experience as a short story author enables her tell each of these stories as its own distinct piece of a whole narrative. The chapters have their own narrative arcs, though many of the characters overlap from chapter to chapter.

Burke’s background in journalism – as a reporter and editor of various newspapers and magazines – also informs her writing style. Her chapters are character driven and concise, with an eye for scientific processes and vocabulary.  The first narrator, Octavo, is a botanist – and he thinks like a botanist.  His chapter is full of observations about plant life that some readers, and Octavo’s co-colonists, may not completely follow.

In many ways, “Semiosis” can be viewed as a first contact novel, with humans as the alien species. I will not go into detail about the other life on this planet, I will only say (mysteriously) that the colonists are not alone – there is life on Pax, beyond the animals that the team first encounters.

For interested readers, I will also say that rereading the first chapter – with all the hopes and new discoveries of the original colonists – once you have finished the book is an experience that I highly recommend.

I would like to also give a content warning for one instance of sexual assault.

Because this is my first book review, I think I ought to introduce myself. Hello, I’m Alyssa Berry – the new Technical Services Librarian at Joplin Public Library.  If you come into the library, you might not see me, because I spend a lot of my time in the back room, but I am hard at work getting books into our catalog and out onto our shelves. My team and I do all the digital and physical processing that turns regular books into library books. I started at JPL about a month ago, and I’m excited to be a part of everything that happens at the library – and to share my particular taste in books with all of you.

Find in catalog