Cities can inspire hopes and dreams, so it’s no surprise that they also can inspire fantasy lives as well. This collection of documentaries offers up a unique blend of facts and fantasies involving cities in Canada.
“Seth’s Dominion” (2016)
Director Luc Chamberland sheds light on the cartoonist Seth, mixing insightful biography with vivid animation and exploring his model city named Dominion that Seth has been building for the last 10 years. In this deft portrait, Seth proves to be a wry and engaging narrator of his life story and artistic process. Continue reading “Northern Lights: Docs Featuring Canadian Cities”
March is Women’s History Month, but here at the Know Your Dystopias underground bunker I am always looking to the future — the depressing, bleak future. So I will recognize this occasion with a roundup of (mostly) recent contributions to dystopian lit written by women that specifically envision what the future might hold for women. During these “history months” we are supposed to reflect on the lessons of the past, and the past informs the present. Dystopian literature is often inspired or informed by the past, but it is ultimately about the present. As Margaret Atwood said in a recent interview, “Prophecies are really about now. In science fiction it’s always about now.”
Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a story about subjugated women in a patriarchal society. The book was published 33 years ago, but is still an essential read in this genre because of both its lasting influence and continued relevance. A television adaptation premiered last year and won critical praise and awards. The story is about the former United States of America — now the Republic of Gilead — where a religious military dictatorship rules based on judicial laws from the Old Testament. Women’s rights have been removed, and a class of women known as “handmaids” are kept exclusively for reproductive purposes. The book primarily follows a handmaid named Offred, and the reader learns about this world through her experiences. Continue reading “Know Your Dystopias: Women’s History Month Edition”
Everyone has a favorite type of book … it could be the genre, a certain style of writing, a particular setting or book theme. The Read Harder Challenge asks you to step out of your comfort zone (or as I like to call it — my rut) and try a different type of book. One of the challenges is to read the first book in a new-to-you young adult or juvenile series — a collection that I have never been drawn to, except for Harry Potter, of course! (Don’t ask me how many times I have read those books!) I have selected a few for you to try out. You can also look at the list in our catalog for other options.
Whether or not you are a fan of fantasy, Maggie Stiefvater’s first novel in the Raven Cycle series is sure to please. One of my struggles with fantasy is often the characters don’t seem believable. However, it was easy for me to connect with Stiefvater’s characters and the plot line in the first book of the series, “The Raven Boys.” Blue, the main character, comes from a family of clairvoyants with her only talent being that she can increase the gifts of others with her special energy. The story takes off when she meets Gansey and his group of friends who attend a private boy’s school in town. She is drawn to Gansey and his quest to find a specific ley line to the resting place of Glendower. It is rumored that if he wakes Glendower one wish will be granted. Also central to the story is Blue’s curse: if she kisses her true love he will die, which makes her attraction for Gansey fraught with tension. Continue reading “YA and Middle Grade Book Series: Read Harder Challenge 2018”
The first reference I heard to orphan trains was when my dad and I were at the New Hope Baptist Church Cemetery located southeast of Centralia, and he said, “That guy buried there came on the orphan train.” Dad was head deacon of the church at that time, and he knew most of the people who were buried in the small church’s cemetery. I later found out Charlie Rose came to the area on the orphan train, lived with a local family and later married a local girl, Maggie Mayes. His brother Donald Rose — also an orphan form New York — was sent to a family in the Rolla area. Both brothers settled around Mexico, MO for a while, and Donald married Maggie’s sister Janie. Though Donald would later die near St. Louis just months after his wife Janie, both couples were buried in this little church cemetery outside Centralia.
Fourteen children came to the area from the Children’s Aid Society on June 10, 1910 in hopes they would find a new home. Ranging in ages from 4 months old to 14 years old, 11 of them went home with families in the area. I have been able to locate either the names of the children or the names of the families that took in these children, and I’ve also discovered a total of 25 orphans who came to northern Boone or western Audrain counties to live with new foster families homes. A partial list is provided below.
The library will be hosting several programs this spring highlighting the orphan train experience. Phillip Lancaster and Alison Moore will be performing a multimedia program combining live music and storytelling along with interviews of survivors: Continue reading “The Orphan Train Comes to Central Missouri”
Sometimes spring cleaning involves more than just cleaning floors and windows thoroughly. It means moving things off the floors and putting them somewhere else: storage, the trash or a charity. Sometimes it even means cleaning out the junk drawer. This is known as de-cluttering. Some years around this time, I go into major de-clutter mode. My husband gets a little worried when I start to make piles of things to give to charities and fill bags with things I’m throwing away. He is afraid that one of these days I’m going to start throwing away/giving away his stuff.
These major de-cluttering episodes started back in 2013, when the shelf in my closet collapsed– I had stored too many heavy boxes on the shelf. I needed to figure out what to do with all my stuff, so I read “The Clutter Cure” by Judi Culbertson, and it really helped me let go of some things in my closet and sewing room. But I hadn’t tackled the rest of the house, yet. Continue reading “Spring Cleaning”
Here is a new DVD list highlighting various titles recently added to the library’s collection.
Website / Reviews
Playing at the True False Film Fest in 2017, this film is the moving portrait of the Rainey family living in North Philadelphia. Beginning at the dawn of the Obama presidency a married couple raise a family while nurturing a community of hip-hop artists in their home music studio. It’s a safe space where all are welcome, but this creative sanctuary can’t always shield them from the strife that grips their neighborhood. Continue reading “New DVD List: Quest, Motherland & More”
Happy Pi Day!
I remember back in school learning the value of pi out to as many digits as I could manage. I would like to say that I memorized it all the way to 20 digits past the decimal or more, but that might be a tall tale. I can at least still remember it to five digits (3.14159). It might have been hard, but it was also fun.
Have you heard the urban legend about the US legislator who tried to make a law redefining pi so that it equals three? I’ve heard it told that the legislator was from several different states, and the legend is usually on a rather vague time scale. It happened last week? Or it could have been decades ago. That alone is enough to consider the story to be a hoax. But truth is stranger than fiction, as there actually was a case in American history where someone really did try to redefine the value of pi. Continue reading “Have Sum Pi”
Once you’ve exhausted all the content on dbrl.org/adults, and you’re looking for a nice single-sitting read, consider “The Only Harmless Great Thing” by Brooke Bolander. In the time it takes your butler to press your evening wear and prepare your evening snacks, you can consume the novella, perhaps with time to spare for contemplation over a succession of treats.
The novella combines two real tragedies (“The Radium Girls” and Topsy the Elephant) and adds the story of trying to prevent a third (future generations inadvertently entering radioactive land). Regan, like the real Radium Girls, is dying of cancer because her job is to paint watches with a paint that makes them glow and gives her cancer. Her bosses encourage her to use her mouth to moisten the paint brushes in order to save on time and cleaning materials. Unlike the real Radium Girls, she is trying to train Topsy the elephant to take over her job because her bosses appreciate the fact that it will take longer to give cancer to an elephant. When Topsy murders a cruel man, she is sold to a carnival so that she can be executed for the entertainment of an audience. Unlike the real Topsy, this one has a trick up her trunk.
Continue reading “The Gentleman Recommends: Brooke Bolander”
The fate of displaced children is the central concern of many books published in the past few years. The practice of adoption, as we think of it today, with background checks and safeguards, has not always been the standard. In 1853, distressed by the number of street children he encountered in New York, Charles Loring Brace founded the Children’s Aid Society. From 1854 to 1929, the program put homeless children on “orphan trains” headed west for placement with families across the country. Though the intention was good, there was little investigation of adoptive households. Some children landed with nurturing parents, but others were used only as free labor for farms or sweatshops.
Christina Baker Kline addresses the plight of these children in her novel “Orphan Train.” The narrative interweaves two timelines and character stories. Molly, a teenager in foster care, is working off community service hours by helping the elderly Vivian get her house and attic in order, sorting through a lifetime of possessions. While they discuss the history of the keepsakes, Vivian tells of her childhood experiences as an Irish immigrant and orphan train rider. Continue reading “Literary Links: Orphans and Orphan Trains”
One of my favorite memories from childhood was crawling up on my mom’s lap in our big recliner and listening to her read to us. I can distinctly remember her reading E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web,” and “I Was So Mad,” which was one of the Litter Critter books by Mercer Mayer. The sound of her reading helped pull my young mind into those stories, bringing the pages to life.
A well-read story can be the height of entertainment. It can help listeners more fully connect with and understand a story. A reader can deliver the humor and the pathos in ways that draws readers into the story on a more emotional level. It also can be interesting to hear how another person interprets a character’s voice and compare it with what you might have heard in your head. Sometimes hearing someone else read a story can totally change your perspective.
It’s not surprising that our story times for babies and toddlers are so well attended. They help children discover a love of books and they provide them with entertainment that stimulates their imagination and cognitive skills. But why should the kids have all the fun? Continue reading “Story Time and Discussion for Grown-ups”