Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Explore New Scientific Horizons

One of the great aspects of science fiction is that it allows us to dream big about what might be possible. In the original TV show Star Trek, the communicator they used resembles technology we all take for granted today, the cell phone. Science is that all encompassing field (science, technology, math, engineering, etc.) that drives us to question, explore, create, and move beyond what anyone thought was possible. We're excited this August to encourage all ages to dream big and discover the world around them with our fabulous science resources!

Looking for authoritative and free science information online? From applied Science to space you can find science articles and biographical information from Science in Context and Science Reference Center. If you know your child's Lexil number you can limit the content searched in both databases by your child's reading level. Science Reference Center also offers lesson plans for teachers and worksheets to test your knowledge. World Book Online is a great encyclopedia database with science information for all ages. If you are looking for biographical information on famous and fascinating scientists, be sure to have a look at Biography in Context. You can browse or search under scientists or under specific occupations such as chemist, engineer, or mathematician.

Looking for a science e-books to read? Gale Virtual Reference Library has always available e-books on subjects such as the environment, medicine, science, and technology. Safari Books Online also has a wide variety of always available e-books on computer technology, software development, information technology, engineering, math, and science. Maryland's Digital eLibrary Consortium (Overdrive) is good source for computer technology and science e-books to check out and read.

Summer is the perfect time to engage your children's minds with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fun. Looking for science experiments to try at home? Science in Context, Science Reference Center, and World Book Online all have exciting science experiments to learn from. We have print science experiment books on a variety of topics as well as science fair project website resources to gather ideas from too. Looking for STEM e-books for your kids to read over the summer? We've got those too. And, of course, don't forget to visit our branches for exciting STEM programs and explore our STEM Stations that allows children to explore and discover the science of the world around us.

A great way to also explore STEM topics with your children is to check out a Go! Kit. The kits are designed to encourage the parent/caregiver and child to actively explore the world around them.  Each kit contains several books, science tools, a mini- iPad with preloaded apps, and a list of the contents of the kit.  Each kit can be borrowed for 2 weeks. We have Little Explorer Go! Kits for ages 3-6 and Young Voyager Go! Kits for grades 3-6.

Interested in trying out new technology? Come to our Digital Media Labs where you can learn and create digital photography, storytelling, video production, graphic design, music videos, social media, animation, computer programming, art, and more. Digital Media Labs are designed for teens and adults.

This August we invite you to explore and discover, and as Mr. Spock would say "fascinating," new scientific horizons at MCPL!


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Legal Fiction

Sometimes you can get into trouble writing about the law. A few weeks ago, my coworker wrote an excellent post about MCPL's many books and online tools for legal research. I thought I'd supplement her post with one about our many legal fiction books. After all, who doesn't love a good John Grisham novel?

But then I ran into a problem. It seems the term "legal fiction" means something very specific to lawyers, and that meaning does not include novels about lawyers.  So instead of writing about legal fiction, I'll use the approved literary term and tell you all about MCPL's great collection of legal thrillers. What makes a book a legal thriller? Generally speaking, these are books in which the main character is a lawyer or works in a law firm.

Book cover for The Gods of GuiltMany of you are probably aware of the well known legal thriller authors, such as John Grisham, Lisa Scottoline, Marcia Clark, and Michael Connelly. These are the mainstay, bread and butter types of fiction focused on the law. They feature corporate malfeasance as found in The Firm, overzealous law suits and domestic violence, as in Save Me, and murder investigations by lawyers desperate to uncover the truth, as in The Gods of Guilt. Legal thrillers cover a lot of ground and easily blend into other types of books such as mysteries and general thrillers. A subject search of legal stories in our catalog will provide a long list of legal thrillers and related works available at MCPL. For a less expansive list, try this Top 10 Legal Thrillers of All Time from the mystery book website Mystery Center.

Legal thrillers aren't the only books that feature lawyers. The late English author John Mortimer wrote a humor series beloved by many lawyers called Rumpole of the Bailey. Rumpole is a stubborn London barrister who doggedly defends his usually poor clients and finds too much pleasure in arguing with judges and poking holes in their pride. In addition to the books, there have been various television and radio iterations of Rumpole of the Bailey as well.

Author Bruce Alexander wrote a historical fiction series. set in the late 18th century London, featuring the the blind magistrate Sir John Fielding, whose 14 year old assistant, Jeremy, helps him investigate cases brought before him. And of course, there's the iconic figure of Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, which in the sometimes nebulous world of book genres, is probably better considered a courtroom drama than a legal thriller.

There's even a series written for children, Theodore Boone by John Grisham. The main character, Theodore Boone, is the son of 2 lawyers. Boone's first adventure begins when a man in his town is accused of murder.  Boone learns there's a witness, an illegal immigrant, who may be able to save the accused, but is too scared to come forward and testify.

Finally, there's one last series about a lawyer I feel obliged to mention. I'm not familiar with the series myself.  I don't know how much there is in it about courtrooms, trials, investigations, etc., but technically, the main character is a lawyer, at least by day. His name is Matt Murdock, but he's better known as Daredevil.

Mark S.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On The Road

The Golden Age of the Automobile, when families explored the countryside on weekend afternoons and took long summer vacations driving on iconic highways like Route 66, is long gone. So are the classic roadsters and station wagons of the era. It is a past bathed in a romantic glow, before anxieties about global warming, traffic gridlock, and crumbling infrastructure sucked all the pleasure out of driving. Here are some books to take you on a nostalgic road trip into the past:

This companion volume to a PBS documentary includes many vintage photographs.

Covering the years 1893 to 1908, “a page-turning story of popular culture, business, and sport at the dawn of the 20th century, filled with compelling, larger-than-life characters.”

The Lincoln Highway by Michael Wallis.
A lively history of the first coast to coast highway, from Times Square to San Francisco, completed in 1913.

But is there perhaps a renaissance underway for the motoring holiday? Low gas prices, the hassles of air travel, and fear of terrorism making foreign travel less appealing may be “driving” a new enthusiasm for taking to the road. Whether you want to travel near or far in the U.S. here are some resources to get you started:

Covers over 400 sites divided into ten weekend trips.

Live Your Road Trip Dream by Phil and Carol White.
Aimed at retirees, this book explains how you can travel on the road for a year at the same cost as staying at home.

Facts and activities for places to visit in every state.

27 road trips not too far from home.

Includes two day to two week routes on scenic roads from the Rockies to New England.

Useful Websites:

This easy to use site offers classic routes like Route 66, the Pacific Coast, and the Oregon Trail, or you can map out your own custom trip.

Popular routes and helpful information from a reliable source.

Or if you’re planning a staycation this year you can always take one of these virtual road trips from the comfort of your own armchair or hammock:

A 57-year-old widow leaves the corporate world to travel 2,500 miles of the Pacific coast on a Harley.

Cross Country by Robert Sullivan.
A humorous account of “fifteen years and ninety thousand miles on the roads and interstates of America with Lewis and Clark, a lot of bad motels, a moving van, Emily Post, Jack Kerouac, my wife, my mother-in law, two kids, and enough coffee to kill an elephant.”

In June 1953 ex-President Harry Truman and his wife Bess went on a road trip to visit old friends. Just the two of them, no Secret Service, unimaginable today.

I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster.
“Thirty games in thirty days on the best worst baseball road trip ever.”

For more reading suggestions check out this list from Goodreads.

Whatever your plans this summer, here's wishing you Happy Adventures and Happy Reading!

Rita T.