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Tabitha and DJ Roomba

Your Friend, the House Rabbit

Tabitha and DJ RoombaWith Easter in the rearview mirror, now is a great time to talk about having a bunny in your life every day, not just once a year!  After cats and dogs, rabbits vie with fish and birds for the position of third most popular pet in America, with as many as three million living with families across the country.  In the last few decades, perception of rabbit ownership has changed considerably, from thinking about them as farm animals good for learning about breeding and responsibility to a long-term commitment as a family pet.  My wife and I have been “rabbit people” for about ten years now and have come to love and understand much more about how smart, fun, and loveable bunnies can be.

One of the first things that I learned was that pet rabbits are an entirely different species than the rabbits you see outside nibbling your lawn.  Native rabbits are eastern cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus) while domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) come from Europe and are the product of centuries of selective breeding for show and consumption.  Just like your beloved pug dog or Persian cat, domestic rabbits really aren’t suited for living in the wild, especially through a New England winter!

One thing they do have in common is that they do, well, breed like rabbits!  So just like with dogs and cats, it makes sense to get your pet bunny spayed or neutered.  The procedure is very safe and affordable, and in addition to making sure you don’t end up with more bunnies than you planned on, it’s good for you pet’s health and behavior.  Fixed pets of all kinds are much less likely to develop reproductive tumors and this is particularly true of rabbits – unspayed females have a 60% chance of developing potentially fatal uterine cancer.  Spayed and neutered rabbits also are less inclined to mark their territory by spraying urine or to fight with other pets due to hormones.

Rabbits can be litter trained, just like cats, and can happily roam about your house and keep you company without making a mess.  However, like dogs, rabbits can be inclined to chew on things, particularly furniture legs or electrical cords, so it’s important to make sure that any rooms they have access to are “rabbit proofed” for safety.  While the older, farm-centered, model of keeping rabbits encouraged people to keep them in hutches, indoors or outdoors, this is not ideal for rabbits’ health or happiness.  They are very social animals and will be most friendly if you interact with them throughout the day, not just visit them to deliver food and water.

Outdoor caging doesn’t just leave rabbits vulnerable to boredom and the weather, but also to predators like foxes or raccoons, who can break into a hutch, and to the possibility of infection.  Fleas, ticks, and flies are a danger for any outdoor animal and can drastically shorten any pet’s life.  Rabbit hutches also typically have wire mesh floors so that they can be cleaned easily – but this wire can cause horrible pain to rabbits’ feet, leading to sore and deformities.  Farm rabbits, kept for show, breeding, or even meat, tend to live for only two to four years, whereas a rabbit kept indoors as a pet can live from seven to twelve years depending on their breed and care.

My wife and I joined the community of rabbit owners first as foster parents and then as foster “failures” when we ended up adopting one of our charges.  Because of rabbits’ tendency to breed quickly and because of misunderstandings about the level of commitment needed to become a rabbit owner, many would-be pets end up in animal shelters and rescue organizations across the country.  In addition to providing temporary homes for abandoned bunnies, these groups also help to educate the public about rabbits’ needs, promoting spay and neuter programs, dietary guidelines, and opposition to the stereotype that rabbits are “disposable” pets.

Rabbits typically eat a diet consisting mostly of grass hay, supplemented by fresh greens.  Feeding them large quantities of pellets can lead to obesity and health problems, and, while bunnies do love treats like carrots or bananas, these have way more sugar than their digestive systems can handle and should only be fed sparingly.  Rabbits are wonderful pets, but they need to be handled carefully and looked after just like any other member of your family!

The first rabbit that we adopted, Samatar, had long-term dental problems that needed regularly veterinary checkups.  She had come from a failed rabbit farm, where animals were bred for meat and illness or injuries often went unaddressed.  Many rabbit farms like this are launched without much planning, and due to lax regulations on care and housing, the rabbits in these situations can quickly become overcrowded, malnourished, and very sick. In a case last year, a farm in Westport had hundreds of animals, including dozens of rabbits, confiscated and many were already dead or needed to be euthanized.  However, many other rabbits made a full recovery and after being socialized with people were adopted into loving homes.

Our two current rabbits, Tabitha and DJ Roomba, also came to us as animal rescues.  Now, they love to hop and play with toys, and even sit on the couch and watch TV with us as we pet and groom them.  We help out with the House Rabbit Network ( based here in Massachusetts to foster other rabbits and participate in outreach and education efforts.  Bunnies can be great pets, but it’s important to learn as much as you can about any animal before they become a part of your family!

Jeff Hartman is the Senior Circulation Assistant, Paging Supervisor, and Graphics Designer at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read Jeff’s column in the May 25th issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.


Big Papi and the Library Ladies

Big PapiIf you were lucky enough to come to the library on April 25th, you most assuredly did a double take when you saw the Retirement Rookie – or Big Papi shelving books in the stacks. You saw him shushing patrons, chatting it up with readers in our quiet Cushing Reading Room, or checking out books at the front desk. The adorable storytime in the Children’s Room was so much fun for the children, Big Papi, the parents, and onlookers.

Big Papi (aka David Ortiz) retired from the Red Sox at the young age of 40 and now he apparently has time on his hands. In April, viewers online were asked by John Hancock Retirement to tweet ideas for how Big Papi could spend his free time.

Apparently, working in a library was one of those ideas. Ad agency Hill Holliday teamed up with David Ortiz a few months ago and the digital campaign culminated in a set of ads set in locales around Eastern Massachusetts.

That’s why you’ll see scenes of the Morrill Memorial Library in an exciting new John Hancock Retirement commercial that will go online in coming weeks. The library here in Norwood was evidently chosen for many reasons. One of them is obvious – our library still LOOKS like a library. Much of our 19th Century building was brought back to its original glory in the latest 2001 renovation. Our rich mahogany walls, moulding, and 14-foot columns, and our stained and leaded glass remind everyone of glorious libraries of the past.  “What a beautiful place to read, sit and study,” people say.

David Ortiz is 6 foot 3 inches tall. It was obvious to all of us that library book carts aren’t built for tall men. Big Papi, bending over a very short cart, wound his way along the first floor pretending to look for the right place to shelve a book.

Of course, patrons and staff were a bit star struck. How often do you see a BIG sports star in our library? There was absolutely no mistaking the fact that something was happening. Huge film trucks were parked in staff parking at the rear of the library. Once inside the doors, you couldn’t miss the 30 film crew moving about the first and second floors. Large editing and viewing apparatus was tucked into every corner, and wires and cords snaked along every walkway.

There were many moments of shushing. Everyone knows that the library is a different place today and that we have a few spots that are reserved for quiet reading but when the cameras were rolling, we were asked to be absolutely silent.

Before the day filming began, we had been told that a New England Red Sox recently-retired player would be featured in the commercial. His/her name was withheld from us. That day, we were also asked not to post anything on social media.

Thankfully, that day many of us had the cameras on our phone to record the excitement. A few enterprising staff members ran to local Norwood sports stores for baseballs. Of course, a gracious Big Papi autographed them. Filming took just a bit under four hours before Mr. Ortiz was whisked out of the library. The crew spent several more hours closing up the library location and before we knew it, the day had been a memory for the library staff.

David Americo Ortiz Arias was born in late 1975 in the Dominican Republic and was raised there. He graduated from high school as a talented baseball AND basketball player. He attended local baseball games whenever he could of both Ramon and Pedro Martinez, both eventually Major League baseball players in the United States. Ortiz signed on with the Seattle Mariners in 1992, was traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1996, and signed with the Boston Red Sox (thanks to his relationship with Pedro) in 2003. He played baseball for 20 seasons before retiring at the age of 40 in 2016.

Ortiz lost his mother in a car accident in the Dominican Republic in 2002 when she was only 46. It’s well-known that Ortiz looks to the sky in memory and praise of his mother each time he hits a home run and steps on home plate and she is portrayed in a tattoo on his biceps. He is also well-known for his foundation, the David Ortiz Children’s Fund that supports children in Boston and the Dominican Republic. Sales of Vintage Papi, his charity wine label, raises money for the fund. He’s also a champion of UNICEF Kid Power.

After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, it was Ortiz who helped bring Boston together again. After all, Big Papi is a Bostonian. And an American. On June 11, 2008, Ortiz became a United States citizen at John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.

In 2008, David Ortiz and Tony Massarotti wrote Big Papi: My Story of Big Dreams and Big Hits. He had just broken the team’s record with 54 home runs in 2006 and in 2007 for the THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR he started the All-Star game.  The Red Sox had broken the curse in 2004 after Ortiz was a team player and they went on to win again in 2007. David Ortiz’ story had not been fully told however – he had nearly a decade more to write about.

This week, Papi: My Story written by Ortiz and Michael Holley will be on library book shelves. By the time he retired in 2016, Ortiz was named an All-Star seven more times. The Red Sox went on to win the World Series one more time in 2014 with Ortiz behind the bat.  Ortiz went on to hit the most home runs by any player in his final season – 38. He finished his career with 541 home runs and a .286 batting average.  In 2015, Big Papi joined the ranks of three other great players in Red Sox history – Williams, Yastrzemski and Martinez. They were voted Franchise Four by Red Sox fans.

There’s no doubt that Ortiz’ reputation on the baseball field, for commitment to his family (his daughter sang the National Anthem during his final home opener at Fenway with his wife Tiffany and other two children on hand) and for his huge heart are all very real. The Morrill Memorial Library has always been Red Sox territory. We are thrilled that Big Papi joined us for the day; we’ll never forget his smiles and his amazing presence among the Library Ladies in Norwood.  Big Papi is welcome anytime he wants to visit.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Charlotte’s column in the May 18th issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

2016 Sneak Peeks

Reserve May and June Best Sellers and Sneak Peeks

Want to get a preview of some of the new releases coming out next month?

2017 May Fiction

Download or view the May Fiction and May Non-Fiction lists to see if anything interests you. Click on the links for the complete list with titles (in blue) linked to the Minuteman Library catalog.  Log into your account and place a reserve. You may also pick up a complete list in the library and ask librarians to request them for you.


In the La La Land of Dreams

LA LA DVDEach year after the Academy Award nominations have been announced, I begin a manic quest to see as many of the top movie contenders as I can. I’m apparently not the only one who needs to catch up because theaters across the county hold marathons screenings in those weeks before the Oscar ceremony.

I haven’t had the time to sit in a darkened movie theater for a few weekends so I watch those nominated films that are available on video or On Demand at home in the comfort of my own easy chair. Or I scramble from theater to theater in those last few weeks, always missing a few movies that seem to only be screened at the art sports in and around Boston. (Luckily, we have a terrific little gem of a theater in the town next door at the Dedham Community Theater and they always have a handful of Oscar candidates on either of their two big screens.)

This past March, somewhere between Manchester By the Sea and Hacksaw Ridge, I found myself with a few hours to spare outside of a New Jersey multiplex. I reclined comfortably in front of a screening of La La Land. I didn’t expect much. I knew it was a musical and I’d heard that it starred that handsome Ryan Gosling. I’d read some mixed reviews online and heard the criticisms, but I was certainly curious and I am a sucker for musicals.

I was pleasantly surprised to find myself smiling broadly during the opening number and I never stopped.

One thing’s for sure – there is nothing like falling in love when you least expect it. And I fell hard for La La Land, dragging my husband Gerry to Legacy Place the next week.

There were some terrific competitors for the Oscars in all of the categories this year. I gritted my teeth through Hacksaw Ridge (war makes absolutely no sense to me), cheered along the women mathematical whizzes in Hidden Figures, and cried with others at the end of Manchester By the Sea. La La Land, on the other hand, was simply a toe-tapping, shoulder-wiggling, sing-along film.

I and others were surprised when La La Land was announced as Best Picture during the Academy Awards. Sure, La La Land was an experience, a kick, and so much fun. So, when a the unbelievable mix-up was announced, I was also only slightly disappointed when the honor was taken back from La La Land and given to Moonlight. Most of sat in shock awe merely wondering how the heck it had happened. What a fiasco!

La La Land was released on DVD on April 26 (our library has two copies), I bought my own copy to shelve among my other favorite musicals at home. I watched the film this past weekend with the commentary turn on. I was surprised by the youthful chatter of writer/director Damien Chazelle and musical composer Jason Hurwitz. I was even more surprised when I realized they were born in 1985 and that they were younger than my youngest child.  Chazelle and Hurwitz are 32 years old THIS year.  When La La Land was ready for release in 2016, the two young men had already worked on it for six years. If you do that simple math you’ll realize they were 25 when they started their La La Land journey.

Writer and director Damien Chazelle was born in Providence, RI but his family moved to Princeton, NJ where he graduated from Princeton High School as a film buff and musician. It was at college at Harvard that he met fellow Harvard classmate, musician Jason Hurwitz from Wisconsin, when they had both joined a small British-inspired pop band, Chester French.  In their sophomore year, they became roommates and abandoned Chester French and pop music for film.

During their years at Harvard they concentrated on filmmaking – Chazelle on cinematography and Hurwitz on musical scoring and composition. Chazelle wrote and directed an 84-minute, black-and-white musical shot in and around Boston – Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. Hurwitz composed the music. Several years after graduation from Harvard, the film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2009 to much acclaim.

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench strikes many of the same chords that the 2016 musical La La Land does. It’s a story of a musician and a girlfriend finding their way in a sometimes difficult world and working through romance that don’t always end the way we’d like.

After graduating from college and living in Los Angeles, the city of dreams for aspiring filmmakers, actors, and musicians, Chazelle and Hurwitz tried to sell their concept of La La Land. Studios and producers were reluctant to fund the film. In the meantime, however, they collaborated on Whiplash, a story inspired by Chazelle’s musical education in Princeton, N.J. An 18-minute short version screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews and soon received the backing for the full-feature film starring J. K. Simmons. Simmons won multiple awards for his role as best supporting actor in Whiplash (2014.)

And that’s what it took to get the La La Land story and concept in front of some big money. Funders gave the producers a budget of $30 million. Enthusiastic big-name actors Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone signed on. Filming began in 2015 and within forty days the score, six original songs, and the acting was a wrap. After a year of editing, the musical was released in time for the holiday season in late 2016. The rest is history. La La Land was in lights. The brilliant kind. It has grossed nearly $436 million so far.

In their senior year at Harvard, Chester French (the band that both Chazelle and Hurwitz abandoned to concentrate on films and musicals) was courted by some top record labels. Both the aspiring filmmaker and hopeful composer thought they’d blown their chances at fame. Life has interesting twists and turns however. Less than a decade later they defied the odds of Los Angles and ended up with a big dream come true.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Charlotte’s column in the May 4th issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

Omaha Beach

D-Day in a Day

Omaha BeachD-Day in a Day

“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you… We will accept nothing less than full victory!”

Yikes. Talk about pressure.

You may recognize these words, or at least the occasion that prompted them. They were spoken on the eve of June 6, 1944 by Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower as he sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers across the English Channel to Normandy, France to launch the largest amphibious assault in history. That event, Operation Overlord, culminated in the ultimate liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany. We know of it as D-Day.

I decided to include a detour to Normandy during my upcoming trip to visit my daughter in Paris. I hoped she’d come too. Whether it was a burning desire to experience first-hand the bloodied battlegrounds of history or the fact that the trip was on someone else’s euro, Belle was all in. Laptop in hand, she sprang into action to book us an airbnb, but where? I admit to some particular preferences when it comes to international travel. I’m up for almost any adventure—as long as it has the Rick Steves seal of approval.

My soft spot for Rick is no secret. His travel guides are fun to read, easy to follow, and bursting with helpful tips, maps, walking tours, itineraries, and places to eat, sleep, and be merry. Don’t even get me started on his downloadable audio tours.I beelined to the travel section of the library and grabbed “Rick Steves France 2017.”

Rick raves about the romantic port of Honfleur renowned for its history, picturesque harbor, and “unusual luminosity.” I was sold; Belle wasn’t buying it. Taking her friends’ advice, she proposed the small seaside resort of Etrétat. I caved, but only because Rick too gave it the nod.

Etrétat did not disappoint. Steps from our cozy accommodations I stood on the exact spot where Monet painted numerous seascapes of the dramatic scene directly opposite, a reproduction of which was there on display.

We started our sightseeing in Arromanches, part of Gold Beach in the British landing zone, with the 360 degree surround-sound film, “Normandy’s 100 Days.” Head swiveling, I tried to take in all the archival footage and photographs of German and Allied soldiers in action and the joy on the faces of the townspeople welcoming their liberators. I was blinking back tears by the end.

Our next stop, at Rick’s suggestion, was the Germany gun battery at Longues-sur-Mer. We wandered around the massive pillboxes, their iron hooks for securing camouflage netting still intact. In the observation bunker by the water I tried not to eavesdrop too conspicuously on a private tour. One tidbit I couldn’t help overhear: an Allied bomb had fortuitously struck the underground telephone wire, cutting off communication between the look-out and the gunners who were then forced to rely on their own inferior aim. I love hearing stuff like that. Next time I might splurge and hire my own guide; Rick recommends several.

By late afternoon we reached Omaha Beach, the site of the first American D-Day landing so powerfully portrayed in Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan.” Remember the opening scene, with Tom Hanks and his terrified men scrambling to shore while trying to avoid being slaughtered?

At the American Cemetery in Normandy, a pilgrimage site for both veterans and history buffs, we walked on manicured Kentucky bluegrass among endless rows of white marble gravestones. From the bluff overlooking the now bleak and deserted beach, we followed the haunting notes of a trumpet back to the cemetery. Everyone stood still as the two American flags were lowered at sunset, listening in silence to the final strains of taps.

Traipsing around bunkers and beaches all day takes its toll, so we went in search of fortification. I consulted Rick, who steered us to a 10th century farm offering cider and Calvados tastings. Or he tried to, anyway; it was closed until spring.

There are dozens of D-Day museums, monuments, and memorials open to the public. We saw only a handful. Because dusk was approaching we missed out on another moving site—the Pointe du Hoc Monument, where specially trained U.S. Army Rangers scaled an impossibly sheer cliff face to take out the Germany gun battery. Next time.

Chilled and emotionally spent, we headed home. We made it to Honfleur after all, ending the day at one of the harborside bistros under the warmth of a heat lamp.

If traveling 3,000 miles across the Atlantic isn’t convenient, you can experience this slice of history vicariously at the library. For historical fiction fans, “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah and Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See” are two compelling accounts of the French Resistance and life under German occupation. Another page-turner just published is “The Baker’s Secret” by Stephen Kiernan, a wonderful story of the resilience of the human spirit set in a Normandy village on the eve of D-Day. My all-time favorite World War II saga, however, is Herman Wouk’s “The Winds of War,” featuring a combination of real and fictional characters connected to the family of Victor “Pug” Henry, a naval officer and confidant of President Roosevelt, and its sequel, “War and Remembrance.”

For non-fiction devotees, Dan Van Der Vat’s “D-Day: the Greatest Invasion, a People’s History” is my top pick. Beautifully illustrated, it contains hundreds of color and black and white photographs as well as paintings by war artists and never-before-published eyewitness accounts. It’s fascinating.

Another illustrated military history I liked, because it doesn’t really read like one, is “D-Day: June 6, 1944” by Richard Collier. He opens—and I will close–with this poem from an anonymous author:


Went the day well?
We died and never knew.
But, well or ill,
Freedom, we died for you.

April Cushing is the Head of Adult and Information Services at the Morril Memorial Library in Norwood, Mass.  Read her column in the April 27, 2016 issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

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