I’m looking for the lyrics to the song “Up, Up and Away” by the 5th Dimension, but the catalog says it’s a Score in the Fine Arts Division. I’m not sure what that means, and I don’t read music; am I going to be able to get the lyrics from that?

Short answer, yes! To be absolutely sure, you should probably check the “Full Display” for the item in the catalog—that will almost always tell you whether the lyrics are part of it. The Dallas Library System’s Fine Arts Division has lots more than just DVDs and Music CDs—in fact, a big part of that division’s collection is the Scores.

As far as the catalog is concerned, and as far as the place where it’s located on the Central Library’s 4th floor goes, a score is likely to be anything that is mostly printed musical symbols. That includes books of songs like the one you found, and since that one says “Vocal scores with piano” in the Full Display that means it will have lyrics. It will also have a piano arrangement of the music (although it does sound like it includes the actual piano, doesn’t it?), but you definitely won’t need that to make sense of the lyrics.

The collection includes orchestra scores, folksong collections, vocal score with piano, sometimes called a piano/vocal score—and these often include symbols above the melody line so that guitar players can tell what chords to play and when to change to another chord. There are books of practice material to help musicians improve their playing, books that help someone who’s just starting out on an instrument, and even some collections of parts for a group of musicians so that an entire group can play a single piece together.

There’s unusual stuff too. Some of it just looks unusual, like the books of guitar tablature that show a guitar player where the fingers are placed on the guitar’s fretboard; these are easier for guitarists to play than music written on a traditional staff. Some things in the collection just have weird names, like the collection of Fake Books (that’s “FAKE book,” not “fake BOOK”), which are really just collections of the melodies and lyrics of songs with the chord symbols—kind of like a piano/vocal score without the piano. They’re called Fake Books because they have all the information musicians need to “fake” a song—that is, to play the song even if they don’t know it.

And there are specialty items, as well, like The Big Red Songbook, which is an expanded edition of a famous collection of left-wing songs; shape-note hymnals, which are like regular hymnals that you’d see in church, except some of the notes have triangles and squares instead of circles on the staff; and there’s least one score for an electronic piece (Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Studie II) that maps the frequencies of the music onto a grid:

If you’d like to learn to read music, we can help with that in several ways. We have a lot of books that teach you how to read music, but we also have classes on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons; Tuesday and Wednesday, our own Bill Smith teaches music using keyboards, and on Thursday he teaches a guitar class. And we have the guitars and keyboards, so if you can’t bring your own, don’t let that stop you. Stick with us and before long you’ll be ready for our Open Mic Night—we have one of those, too!

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Children’s February Reads: Bernard and the Problem Of Too Many Kisses

No more kisses for Bernard!No more kisses for Bernard! story and pictures by Niki Daly

‘Tis the month of lovey-dovey stuff and lots of kisses but some kids hate kisses and Bernard is one of those kids. In No more kisses for Bernard!  his super affectionate aunts Lulu, Lola, Lilly and Tallulah always smother him with kisses when they visit – and Bernard just wishes they would stop! The kisses from his aunts are a collection of “squeaky-sweet-hello kisses, lip-sticky-red-and glow kisses, sneaky-on-the-nose kisses, and smooch-got-to-go kisses.” Bernard finally puts a stop to the enthusiastic affection of his aunts by telling them “No more kisses!”

Initially, his aunts seem displeased with his request, but eventually they all agree to respect his wishes. Aunt Tallulah comes up with a great way to demonstrate her affection: paper kisses! An arts and crafts session ensues where all the aunts give Bernard paper kisses instead. Niki Daly’s illustrations in this picture book are wonderful in depicting Bernard’s frustrations over his aunt’s affectionate ways, as well as the aunts who are relentless in demonstrating how much they love their nephew. I’m  sure many children will relate to this story of too many kisses from relatives that come for a visit. As a child, I always had an exit strategy for these types of relatives but paper kisses sound like another excellent tactic kids need to have up their sleeves.

If you have a smooch-adverse little one at home, be sure to check this story out on your next visit to the Dallas Public Library.

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It’s Black History Month, and I’m inspired to read more African American literature. Where should I start?

Great question! Reading African American literature is a wonderful way to celebrate Black History Month. For starters, African American literature includes novels, short stories, as well as poetry, essays, biographies, slave narratives and much more. Therefore, African American literature is so vast that it can be overwhelming, but never fear…the library is here! We can definitely make some awesome recommendations for anyone wanting to read more literature written by African American authors.

Poetry

Tupac’s The Rose that Grew from Concrete

Often hailed as the greatest rapper of all time, Tupac’s lyrical talents are further showcased in his cult-classic poetry book The Rose that Grew from Concrete. Ever since his tragic demise in 1996, Tupac’s fame has made him a larger-than-life figure, almost a god-like being in popular culture. Yet, his haunting, beautiful poetry in The Rose that Grew from Concrete humanize Tupac in profound ways. As the title of the anthology suggests, Tupac illustrated how he and other marginalized people can defy the odds by overcoming difficult circumstances. He also wrote about love and family, as he conveyed his dreams of having a wife and children someday. While he reflected on some of the wonderful things in life, Tupac was unafraid of examining life’s hardships, such as loneliness, sadness, and heartbreak. Indeed, The Rose that Grew from Concrete reveals that Tupac is more than just a one-dimensional person. Like all of us, he was complex, emotive and contemplative.

Jill Scott’s The Moments, the Minutes, the Hours

Did you know that Jill Scott is a poet as well as an R&B singer? Known for her soulful, sensual music lyrics, Scott channels her musical genius into her work of poetry. In The Moments, the Minutes, the Hours, Scott’s sultry rhymes reflect the beauty of Black love, which is significant considering that the antiquated caricatures of African Americans as unlovable and inherently brutish still exist in society. Scott also writes about heartache and emotional pain, making her poetry relatable to readers who may or may not be familiar with her music. Additionally, Scott’s writing style is conversational, edgy and alive with emotion, and you will definitely enjoy reading The Moments, the Minutes, the Hours.

Novels

Natalie Baszile’s Queen Sugar

That’s right – before Queen Sugar became a popular series on Oprah Winfrey’s Network, it was a wonderful novel. Not only is Natalie Baszile’s title of her novel really catchy (it’s a clever pun on the age-old slogan “King Cotton”), but the plot is also compelling. Charlotte “Charley” Bordelon West inherits a sugarcane farm after her father dies. To claim her inheritance, Charley and her daughter move from Los Angeles to Louisiana and embark on a life changing journey. Charley (an African American woman) faces racism and misogyny in sugarcane farming, an industry dominated by white men, and she must confront the challenges of balancing work and family. In Queen Sugar, Baszile brilliantly conveys a wonderful tale about family, resilience and African American life in the present-day South.

James Baldwin’s Another Country  

It’s pretty much impossible to discuss African American literature without mentioning James Baldwin. As an essayist, novelist, poet and activist, Baldwin was courageous in his examinations of injustice. Another Country is about the tragic life of Rufus, a 1970s African-American jazz musician, and how his suicide impacts his relationships. While the plot may seem simplistic, Baldwin tackles many societal “taboos,” such as adultery, interracial dating,  and sexual identity. Additionally, Baldwin explores how racism influenced African American migration from the United States to Europe. A daring exposé of race, love, and acceptance, Another Country is one of Baldwin’s most acclaimed novels.

Slave and Neo-Slave Narratives

Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Did you know that the Beloved novel is considered to be a neo-slave narrative? Neo-slave narratives tell a fictionalized account of slavery, and in Beloved, Toni Morrison masterfully tells a story about Sethe, who escapes slavery but is still haunted by her horrific abuse in captivity. Part of Morrison’s genius is her ability to illustrate the trauma of slavery on African American women, and the importance of Black women in forging African American communities within a racist society. Morrison also exposes the occurrences of matricide during the slavery era, and Black women’s agony of raising their children in bondage. Based on the true story of Margaret Garner, Beloved’s non-linear plot can make for a challenging read, but it is well worth the extra effort.

Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Many people have already heard about the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, but there’s a reason why Douglass’ narrative is so popular. First of all, Douglass’ story is compelling because it’s not every day that we read about an enslaved person who escapes bondage and becomes one of the most revered social activists in history. Secondly, Douglass was a gifted writer, and he had the ability to illustrate the ways in which the institution of slavery not only oppressed Black people, but it also corrupted the minds of the slaveholders. Undoubtedly, Douglass’ Narrative sheds much-needed insight into the devastating consequences of slavery.

As you can probably tell, issues such as bigotry, social justice, love, and family are just a few of the themes that are commonly seen in African American literature. Honestly, it’s impossible to fully convey everything that African American literature has to offer. However, these suggested titles will get you started on the right track. Happy reading!

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Book Review: Reclaiming Conversation, by Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle (photo by Peter Urban)

There is a wealth of information and speculation on how technology affects us. Books like The Shallows: what the Internet is doing to our brains have crystallized concerns (which have been extensively debated) that technological advances can have a significant downside for the development of individuals and societies. Clinical psychologist and author Sherry Turkle has serious chops when it comes to understanding the effect of digital technology on human relationships. She has investigated and written about these issues for over 30 years, publishing several books, including Alone Together, which explore the difference between virtual connectedness and human connectedness.

Her latest book, Reclaiming Conversation: the Power of Talk in a Digital Age, focuses on the state of face-to-face conversation in a digital age. Her contention is that talk builds many of the most essential qualities and skills that make us human – empathy, self-reflection, strong relationships, creativity, productivity. She examines conversation, both traditional and digital, in many different contexts – with ourselves, with family and friends, with colleagues and clients, and within civic culture. The book mixes personal interviews, research studies, and Turkle’s own ideas and prescriptions into a comprehensive account of how our immersion in digital worlds affects our ability to communicate in person.

Although Turkle has serious concerns – backed up by serious research – about the effect of technology on our capacity for empathy and self-reflection, she is not anti-technology. Rather, she is hopeful about how we can accommodate technology while continuing to take advantage of the opportunity personal connection and conversation affords us to grow as individuals and a community. The book functions as a kind of sophisticated self-help manual – giving extensive background information to back up Turkle’s practical suggestions that we intentionally build face-to-face conversation into our daily lives and relationships.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in exploring these issues and learning how to apply the ideas to their own lives (she has a great TED talk as well). You might also check out The World Beyond Your Head for an interesting take from a slightly different perspective.

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Book review: Sting, by Sandra Brown

Unapproachable was Jordie Bennett.

With that face, that body, she could afford to be selective. No two ways about it, she could make just about any man’s mouth water.

Which kinda sucked.

Since Shaw had been hired to kill her.”

Sting, the latest novel by Romance-Suspense master Sandra Brown, turns the typical romance novel formula upside down by showing just how deadly love can be.

Sting begins with a woman walking into a bar. It may sound like a familiar joke, but there’s no punchline here. Not when the bar patrons include hitman Shaw Kinnard and his partner, Mickey Bolden, who are waiting to kill Jordie Bennett.

Bombshell Jordie seems innocent, and by all accounts, she is. It’s her brother Josh who’s run afoul of the notorious crime boss Billy Panella. After partnering with Panella to pull off an investment scam, Josh skips town with $30 million. Now he’s deep underground, hiding from Panella and the FBI. In an attempt to lure Josh out of hiding, Jordie’s become the target of Pinella’s hired guns.

This chance encounter at a seedy bar, however, spares Jordie’s life. Instead of killing her right there, Shaw shoots his partner Mickey and kidnaps Jordie after deciding Jordie was worth more alive than dead. After that, they take off, on the run from Panella and the FBI. Everything isn’t as it seems, however. Shaw soon learns the seemingly innocent Jordie may not be entirely trustworthy. Just who is Jordie Bennett and how much does she really know?

This book features a breakneck, thrilling plot with surprises on nearly every page. Between the twists, secrets, and shocking revelations, I couldn’t put it down.

The moment I laid eyes on you, your life was spared.”

The chemistry between the two leads was palpable. Brown plays Jordie and Shaw off one another expertly- I couldn’t wait to see how their characters developed and where their relationship led.

If you’re looking for a good book to add a little steam in time for Valentine’s Day without all the saccharine sweetness of a typical romance, be sure to pick up Sting.

Want more? Be sure to check out some of these other Romance-Suspense must-reads!

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