Plastics.  Graduation season is upon us, and thus it would be a great time to renew your familiarity with the iconic American classic film, The Graduate.

It has a love story, a coming of age story, a timeless Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack, and a handful of memorable quotes we still bandy about today.

Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson.

The audiobook, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch,  read by the author,  is bittersweet because he and the audience know his time is short. A computer professor who is aware that he has less than a year to live wants to leave his children and students a legacy of the principles, ideas and beliefs he has gathered over the years.

In this lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Pausch is brutally honest about himself and his disease, yet he never loses his sense of humor.

Parenthood, marriage,education, science and Walt Disney are all examined. He is not falsely modest, and attributes his success to being able to learn from others and his mistakes.

It makes you wonder – what lessons you would impart to the next generation?

June is the month of transitions – graduations, weddings, the end of the school year. It’s a pretty good bet that someone in your life – or you yourself – is going through one of those big life changing events right now. This week our blogging librarians offer some ideas for helping to send these people (or anyone!) onto the next stage of their life a little wiser.

I’ll start things off with, of all things, a tv show. Friday Night Lights is easily the best show on television with superb acting, graceful writing and story lines that are both heartbreaking and inspiring. This show is not about football – it’s about people – the mistakes they make, the hardships they overcome, the love and support they get from each other.

Many of the characters are in high school, struggling to find their place in the world. At the end of the third season, Tyra applies for college, a goal she never thought she’d achieve. Her essay on why she wants to go to college provide words for anyone to live by.

“Two years ago, I was afraid of wanting anything. I figured wanting would lead to trying and trying would lead to failure. But now I find that I can’t stop wanting. I want to fly somewhere in first class. I want to travel to Europe on a business trip. I want to get invited to the White House. I want to learn about the world. I want to surprise myself. I want to be important. I want to be the best person that I can be. I want to define myself instead of having others define me. I want to win, and have people be happy for me. I want to lose and get over it. I want to not be afraid of the unknown. I want to grow up to be generous and big hearted, the way that people have been with me. I want an interesting and surprising life.

It’s not that I think I’m going to get all of these things. I just want the possibility of getting them. College represents possibility. The possibility that things are going to change. I can’t wait…..”

Are you planning a wedding?  If so, you might find these titles helpful.

Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding, written by Judith Martin (aka Miss Manners) and her recently married daughter, Jacobina, is done in the traditional “Dear Miss Manners” question and answer style.  This in itself is pretty entertaining … well, don’t we all secretly find another person’s dilemma or faux pas a little humorous?  Right, as long as it’s not us!

Interspersed throughout are practical, informative comments.  For example, “Wedding as Fundraiser” is listed as one of Three Terrible Ideas (the title for chapter three.)  Times have changed, but hospitality still takes the cake.

Another book I wished I had read before my son got married (sigh –it was published a year later)  Anyway, Mother of the Groom by Sharon Naylor is packed full of practical insights.  It’s not just about the rehearsal dinner anymore!  And no, you don’t have to shut up and wear beige.  Well, you don’t want to upstage the bride and critical comments are best kept to yourself — so I guess it is still kind of true.

Have fun planning!

What happens when that gang of friends you’ve run around with since your college days – your drinking buddies, your partners-in-mischief, your closest confidants – begin to grow up, pair off, start families? And you suddenly realize that, while you’re godmother to several charming children that you love dearly, the prospect of having your own children still seems distant, maybe even unreachable? These are some of  the questions that Tessa King must wrestle with in The Godmother, a look at growing up that is by turns poignant, funny, dark and heartwarming.

Tessa seems to have it all – youth, beauty, fabulous friends. Everything except a family of her own. After a crisis at work she takes a closer look at her life choices and those of her friends and realizes that seemingly perfect arrangements are often cracking under stress, that the fairy tale doesn’t always come true and that hard choices have to be made. Tackling infertility, difficult teenage children, single-parenthood and infidelity,  The Godmother doesn’t sugarcoat modern life, but it also celebrates the joys – friendship, family, love.

Set in an urbane, modern London, this book brims with both sophistication and warmth; Tessa and her friends are funny and smart and sharply observant of the world around them. They also genuinely care for each other, just as you’ll soon care about each of them.

Set in 16th century Prague, Wishnia’s new mystery transforms Jewish sexton, Ben-Akiva, and his mentor, the famous Rabbi Loew, into an effective detective team in The Fifth Servant.  Just before the start of Passover, a young Christian girl is found murdered inside a Jewish shop, which triggers accusations of blood libel and revives the threat of retribution against the entire Jewish community.  As the newly arrived shammes in Prague, Ben has three days to prove that someone else is responsible for the crime, other the the arrested shopkeeper, Federn.  Though Ben gains the support of Rabbi Loew, he is hampered by the Inquisition and by ghetto restrictions, so he  must depend upon his clever wit and mazl (luck).

I’ll admit that for the first 50 pages or so, I had to keep checking the glossary — I really don’t have a strong background in 16th century Jewish terminology!  Still, most of the unfamiliar phrases were readily explainable within their context, so it really didn’t disrupt my enjoyment of the book. The characters are well-developed and the story is richly layered with both spiritual and historical insight, but it is the fast-paced tension that makes this a true page-turner.

You may already be familiar with Marc Marrone – he has appeared on the Martha Stewart Show many times as a pet expert, giving helpful advice and information all while surrounded by a menagerie of animals. It’s a fascinating sight – birds, bunnies, kittens, gerbils – all adorable, all  in perfect harmony, the living embodiment of a peaceable kingdom. Meanwhile, Marc calmly explains the best way to brush your cat’s teeth, or gives tips on caring for your iguana, while Harry, his giant red Amazon parrot perches on his shoulder.

A Man for All Species is Marc’s story and, while it’s not a guide to keeping pets, you’ll pick up all kinds of fascinating details that will help you enjoy and understand your pet. Marc owns Parrots of the World, one of the largest pet stores in the world, he is one of the largest exporters of ferrets to Japan (where they are wildly popular) and now Europe, exports birds (many of which he has bred and raised himself) all over the world but always makes time for the smallest birds and animals in his care. Cleanliness and their comfort and safety is always his primary concern.

Some of the most interesting sections of the book include his helping Orthodox Jews during Passover (no grain is allowed in the house during Passover so he has developed grain-free food for birds and small pets; also many cannot have an animal in the house during Passover and board their pets with Marc at his store) and his relationship with Martha Stewart – taping live television segments with animals can forge a strong friendship!

Through all the ups and downs and adventures of all sorts, Marc’s love of animals of all kinds remains unwavering and he shares that love and fascination with us in this fun book.

I’m convinced George Motz’s cross country quest to find the best burgers in America in his book/documentary Hamburger America makes him quite possibly one of the greatest human beings ever to eventually get a stern lecture from a physician.

In the film, all the focused-upon restaurants have been in business for a minimum of forty years.  You’ll find consistencies across that resonate with even the most ardent of sprout munchers.  The burger is obviously the star, but the supporting actors steal the show for me, i.e. the 50s-era neon signs, polished chrome stools, and the American Gothic-esque couples standing proudly in front of their mom and pop lunch counters where the size is “one” and the portion is whatever granny pats out.

These are truly the heartiest scrub-tree rugged organizations in their ability to eke out a living and a superior product in the flattened American fast food landscape.

You’ll see the regionally familiar Billy Goat Tavern (Chicago) and Hamburger Inn #2 (Iowa City) and wonder if there will ever come an occasion to visit places like Stella’s Hamburgers in Bellevue, Nebraska.

It’s a brutal book to skim at 11:30am.

Well, there is one good thing about all this rain.  It’s making it easier for me to get rid of all the garlic mustard!  I live on a wooded lot, and for years we’ve left a good-sized portion of it “natural” –meaning we don’t do anything to it.  This definitely cuts down on lawn mowing.  But right about now — after having spent the last few days crawling through the woods (in my dorky green rain suit) pulling out entire crops of this very invasive weed, I’m wishing I had more to mow and less to pull!

You’ve probably already seen the articles in local papers about garlic mustard and had a chance to check out your own yard.  But just in case you haven’t, this may be helpful:

1) Garlic mustard is a biennial, which means it has a tw0-year life-cycle.  There are no flowers the first year, and the scalloped-edged leaves form a cluster 2-4 inches high.  The second year, the plant ranges from 12-48 inches high, with little white flowers and heart-shaped leaves. The distinct onion or garlic odor that the plant emits when crushed helps to distinguish the plant from other woodland plants.

2) Garlic mustard is a rapidly spreading woodland weed that can displace most native wildflower species within ten years.

3) Hand pulling, roots and all, is considered an effective method of eradication for minor infestations.  It is important that the pulled plants be bagged and removed from the area as the seeds remain viable for five years.

There are other removal options available, such as controlled burns; plus researchers are currently investigating the use of  biological controls.  Also, there is controversy over the use of  herbicides, as they may damage nearby desirable plants.  One website I found particularly helpful was from Michigan:

Americans consume 20 billion hotdogs a year.  The key to keeping them “consumed” is to not think about what’s in them, but that’s neither here nor there.

It’s the season, and we’re only a a month an a half away from the ridiculous gorge-fest that is Coney Island on July 4th.

Becky Mercuri has assembled a list of the best hotdogs, some quite artisanal in nature in The Great American Hot Dog Book.  It’s a foodstuff so interwoven into the American tapestry as to be synonymous with baseball and apple pie — and last time I checked people weren’t meandering up and down the bleachers at Modern Woodmen park hollering to, “Getcher red hot apple pie…”

She has the best weenie eateries grouped by region, so plan your California vacation accordingly so you can get one of Pink’s Pastrami Burrito Dogs.

One all-kosher beef I’ve got with the book is no pictures.