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Category Archives: Books & Reading
While my summer reading list was often full of nonfiction, despairing memoirs, and dystopian nightmare scenarios, sometimes I just need to escape into a quick summer beach read. In this case, my interlude came in the form of “mommy lit” – stories about mothers of young kids; sleep-deprived mothers who are running on coffee and dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets; moms who love their little ones dearly, but occasionally fantasize about long-ago child-free spa weekends – you know, someone I can relate to.
If you aren’t familiar with Bumni Laditan, she’s the creator of The Honest Toddler, a blog-turned-book written in that voice we all secretly think belongs to our own children. Confessions of a Domestic Failure is Laditan’s first novel, and it centers around Ashley Keller, a newly minted stay-at-home-mom (by way of corporate layoff).
Ashley is smart and resourceful – she was an ace at her marketing job before the layoff, and she can fashion an emergency diaper out of items in the backseat of her car – but she is also failing spectacularly at creating the blissful family life she thinks is expected of her. Her house is a mess, she hasn’t lost the baby weight, her daughter rarely makes it out of pajamas (so much for all those cute baby clothes!), and she is struggling to be supportive of her husband’s decision to quit his own corporate job to start a new company.
Ashley is determined to be a Pinterest-perfect mother with an Instagram-worthy home and a huge circle of supportive mommy gal pals… if she can ever peel off her Cheerio-crusted yoga pants and find the energy to shower. Laditan perfectly and hilariously captures the isolation and exhaustion of new motherhood and the pressures social media creates to project perfection.
Ashley is offered a chance to compete in a “Motherhood Better” competition held by superstar mommy-blogger Emily Walker. She stumbles through each challenge, and madcap antics ensue – from accidentally mooning the other competitors during a live video conference, to lying her way into a breastfeeding support group (though her daughter takes formula) while trying to make mom-friends, to nearly setting her house ablaze while “crafting”. But somehow she makes it to the finals and gets to meet her idol Emily. Will she win the contest and push her jogging stroller into the sunset… or will the pressure of domestic perfection cause her to crash and burn?
Chase (8th grade) wakes up in the hospital and remembers nothing of who he is, or his family—the group of people standing around his bed looking at him. He remembers how to walk, talk, eat, read, all the daily things we all do, but nothing personal about himself. His school is unfamiliar, but as he walks down the hall he notices students cringing away from him. Slowly he begins to discover that he has been the reigning bully, and not only that, he has encouraged his former two best friends to do it too. As the 8th grade team quarterback, he ruled the school. But now he is repulsed by who he was. How did he get that way when now his impulses are to be friendly and helpful? And what should he do now?
This is a fascinating look at human behavior, our inner selves vs. our outer selves, and how we may end up so far from where we were meant to go. The author is known for his humorous books, but this one takes a more serious, and intriguing path.
New state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for July 2017. Included are reports from the Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts, annual reports and information guides from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and new books from the University of Nebraska Press, to name a few.
All items, except the books from the University of Nebraska Press, are available for immediate viewing and printing by clicking on the highlighted .pdf link.
I’ve always been a scifi/fantasy fan, and The Ghatti’s Tale: Book One: Finders-Seekers, by Gayle Greeno, has a little of both. Mostly fantasy at the time of the story, but scifi in the past.
Over 200 years ago, colonists from earth came to the planet Methuen. Most of their technology has been mysteriously destroyed over the years. During their time on the planet they have developed a new ability – telepathic bonding with the native ghatti.
The ghatti are race of large cats on Methuen who can speak telepathically to humans, if they choose to bond with them. I wish I could talk to my cats, in any way at all. Would make my life so much easier!
These human-ghatti Bondmates settle disputes using their shared ability to truth-read people’s minds and emotions. However, not everyone may appreciate this involvement in their affairs. In The Ghatti’s Tale, telepathic humans and ghatti are being murdered. One pair of Bondmates, a woman Doyce, and her ghatta Khar’pern, have been chosen to find out who is doing this and why. Doyce has a special interest in the murders, as her intended fiance has become one of the victims.
I was thoroughly engrossed in this story and the characters. This is the first book in the three book Ghatti’s Tale series. Book 2 is MindSpeakers’ Call and Book 3 is Exiles’ Return. And there is a followup 2 books series that continues the story – Ghattens Gambit, made up of Sunderlies Seeking and The Farthest Seeking. So, if you’re like me, and after the first book you have to know what happens next, there’s plenty more to read!
Bohemians is an enjoyable, and flawed, collection of illustrated vignettes about influential people, places and times in the bohemian movement. Beginning in 1850s Paris, and ending in 1950s New York, several different graphic artists take a turn at telling part of the bohemian story. The variety of artistic styles keeps the eye interested, and many of the characters you already know are larger than life—Walt Whitman, Josephine Baker, Marcel Duchamp, Gertrude Stein, and Charlie Parker.
So what is a bohemian? The authors will give you many possible examples, but they will not give you an exact definition, which is appropriate considering that the movement itself encouraged disregarding boundaries and not letting life be limited by societal expectations. You could argue that free love and free thought were important to bohemians, but you’d want to remember those words meant something different in the Victorian era (and even in the United States of the 1950s), when rigid conformity was expected in society and relationships, even more so than today.
I read one review of this book by Joseph Donica in Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics that had this great line: “One rarely reads a book that disappoints on several levels and still decides to recommend that book to every likeminded reader he knows.” I think I like the book more than this reviewer, but I have reservations. I think advances in technology had a lot to do with the appeal of this movement—entertainment and communication were changing, and their influence on society can’t be underestimated. (This beginning of this era brings us the invention or accepted use of the telephone, the phonograph, the typewriter, and the camera.) Also, and this might be a critique more of the movement than the book—it’s easier for some people to reject society’s rules and still have a comfortable life, than it is for others. Class, race, and gender power structures still existed in the world, and sometimes the authors don’t give us this historical context—some bohemians sought freedom from, and some sought freedom to. But the stories are definitely enjoyable, and there’s enough of a variety that you’ll find plenty to appreciate even if not every story is to your liking. The graphic novel format works effectively in its portrayal of an array of places and times.
The authors prefer not to capitalize bohemian—perhaps to clearly separate the bohemian culture from the geographic area of Bohemia, which as Nebraskans (familiar with the “Bohemian Alps”) we know is a region of the Czech Republic. Incorrectly thought by nineteenth-century French dilettante historians to be the place of origin of the Romani people (sometimes known as “gypsy” people, a term now recognized as pejorative), the movement took the name because it found the Romani people’s “freedom” to be inspiring. This might seem strange to the modern reader, who knows that the Romani people were persecuted and impoverished, and later almost wiped out completely by the Third Reich. To think of their lives as “romantic” and “free” seems optimistic at best.
Buhle, Paul, and David Berger. Bohemians: A Graphic History, 2014. Print.
“…engaged reading — beyond involving cognitive processes (as the Core and next-generation standards emphasize) — is a deeply emotional, participatory, dramatic, embodied, visual, artistic, psychological, and potentially transformational pursuit. This we must not forget as teachers or as readers, or we will not tap into the immense power of reading, and thus we limit our capacity to be effective teachers or readers.”
Why do some students struggle with reading? Why can’t they “see” the story in their mind or connect with text? What are highly engaged readers doing or thinking when they read? How is this different from struggling readers and how can they be helped?
While this book isn’t exactly an exciting summer beach read, it’s always interesting to read about reading, I think. First published in 1996, with a third edition published in 2016, You Gotta BE the Book examines Jeffrey Wilhelm’s research in his middle school classrooms teaching his own experiences and through student stories from both engaged and struggling readers.
Wilhelm describes his difficulties trying to teach students who continually insist that they hate reading. They don’t enjoy reading and it’s difficult for them. Working with individual readers at all levels allowed Wilhelm to develop different interventions/strategies which then helped his students practice visualizing the text, creating the opportunities necessary for struggling readers to finally connect with literature in meaningful ways. The book is an interesting mix between Wilhelm’s early reflections as a teacher, the feedback of his students, and reading theory. The visualization strategies and activity ideas, including drama and art, that Wilhelm describes could also be adapted outside of the classroom.
“You Gotta BE the Book”: Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading with Adolescents, Third Edition by Jeffrey Wilhelm (2016)
Also, if you want to read more about literacy theories, this is a good introduction:
Lenses on Reading: An Introduction to Theories and Models by Diane Tracey and Lesley Morrow (2012)
And another related book to add to your list, just because it’s interesting:
Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men by Michael Smith and Jeffrey Wilhelm (2002)
I’ve always loved mythology. I’ve read Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian, and middle eastern. But one of the books I loved, long ago, was of Norse mythology.
And as usual, Neil Gaiman delivers. The gods here are more equally represented, although Thor and Loki do manage to take up a lot of space in the stories. But these aren’t the gods as presented by Kirby and Stan Lee, and dialogued by Stan Lee’s brother Larry Lieber. These are the true Norse gods, terrible, dangerous, ancient, and to be called on only at your peril. Loki is not conflicted, but definitely without remorse. Thor, well, red bearded and not so bright. Odin is a dark, brooding wise and terrible. Even the goddesses are not entirely one sided.
The forward is worth reading for the origins of these particular stories. The author points out the melding of religions in the battles of the gods of the Vanir (brother & sister nature gods) and the Aesir (who we usually think of as the Norse gods.) There is included a story about the battle, and how they made peace. He mentions all the lost stories about goddesses, that he’d have liked to have included. The sources he used and didn’t use.
And then there are the progression of the stories. He begins, with a creation story, of fire and ice, and of course ends with the end story of Ragnarök, which is also a beginning. All the stories are set in a mythical, setting, Midgard is Earth, where the humans (mortals) dwell, and Asgard where the Aesir dwell, a world where the light elves dwell, a world where the dwarves dwell, and one where the ice giants dwell. There are nine worlds. And no one seems to be able to stay in their own world. Which of course, causes many of the problems in the stories. The stories do run in a progression, from creation to a sort of ending of an old world. They can be read as short stories, or read as a longer narrative. One does lead into the next. Neil Gaiman called the stories a journey. And so they are, a journey to a culture long gone.
New state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for June 2017. Included are Correctional Services reports, Economic Development reports, state Investments reports, and Workers’ Comp reports, to name a few.
Friday Reads: The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff
I’ve had bad book luck lately. Even titles that have won fancy awards have left me feeling pretty unsatisfied. But The Comedians broke my streak—this is a fantastic book, strong enough to be considered the definitive work on the subject. Nesteroff starts off with comedy’s beginnings in Vaudeville and progresses through the radio era, comedy clubs and cable specials, & sketch comedy and variety shows. The title is not a rib—this is a serious, expansive history of comedy as an art form and business—and the treatment of the material might disappoint people who just want a laugh-a-minute romp. But they’ll be missing out if they skip this book.
The title is also not kidding about the “drunks, thieves, scoundrels” part. Early American comedy had strong links to seedy elements and there are numerous examples of that here—insult comics getting threatened by the Mafiosi sitting in the audience, people dying when cheap comedy clubs collapsed. Beyond its chronicles of actual violence, The Comedians also devotes a fair bit of time to the “crying clown” idea and prevalence of addiction in comedy. Some famous names come across as very broken people and a few emerge as basically forever-unhappy monsters. Some of your favorites might seem a little tarnished after you read it and The Comedians occasionally gets gossipy in a Hollywood Babylon kind of way. But, most of the time, it takes the high road and tells the story of the art form in a fun and engaging fashion. It does for comedy what David J. Skal’s epic The Monster Show did for the history of horror.
One of the most important things about the book is its championing of obscure comedians. Everybody knows the Marx Brothers and Joan Rivers, but it was great to learn about people like Eddie Cantor and Fred Allen, especially at a time when radio-era comedy is instantly accessible through sources like the Internet Archive. If a comedian is/was important, they’re almost certainly here. As I neared the end of the book, I was getting nervous that Andy Kaufman hadn’t been mentioned yet, but The Comedians came through for me. Because of the book’s massive scope, nobody gets tons of spotlight time, but you’ll finish this with a solid understanding of pretty much everything you’d ever want to know about American comedy.
Nesteroff, K. (2015). The Comedians Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy. Pgw.
Hello to all the loyal Friday Reads review readers! I am aware that it is Monday, but apparently computers have proven to be my downfall once again. While I had a Reads scheduled to go out, it decided not to budge. Luckily, any day is a good day for reading, so Happy Monday Reads!
On to the review:
This review is for a book called Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews. I chose this book because I loved the series but the book cover barely represented the content of the book. If you will notice, the cover makes it look like a bodice ripper. It is not. There are some delightfully steamy moments (I have no shame), but the couple is fighting their feelings through most of the book. Throughout the whole book, they do not cling to each other with wanton longing like they do on the front cover.
Now let’s dive deeper into the book:
This is the first in a book series that was written by a married couple who go by the pseudonym Ilona Andrews. They are a fascinating couple, but that is a tangent for another day. Nevada Baylor and Connor Rogan are the couple (supposedly) featured on the cover of this book. The series is told from the perspective of Nevada who is a private investigator who runs the firm with her delightfully quirky family. Rogan is an irresistibly sexy multibillionaire with magical powers who
No, wait, come back! Okay, stay with me now here. He’s different from all the other irresistibly sexy multibillionaires. This series is set in a world where a serum was developed in the 1800s which allows people to develop magical powers. People can do anything from starting fires, to mind-control, to controlling the elements. It is awesome. The world dynamics shifted so that people with greater magical abilities have more political power than those who do not. Rogan is a Prime and Primes have the highest level of power. People fear Rogan, but women still want him to rip their bodices from their dainty shoulders.
Nevada is not dainty. She will punch you in the face if you try to rip off her bodice. And maybe do creative things to your nether regions. Hmm…that didn’t come out the way I intended. Did I mention the cover is not representative of the book?
In any case, the Andrews duo does some great world building and writes some delicious banter. Oh, the banter! I need a moment…
Okay, I’m back. I will leave you with these thoughts: I’m a librarian. I read everything. I was not afraid to pick up a book that looked like a paranormal bodice ripper. I have a soft spot for sexy werewolves. But this is more of an urban fantasy. There are no werewolves, vampires, witches, or anything like that. There are just regular, normal people who occasionally summon the power to chuck cars across the street.
If you like sarcastic and witty female protagonists and do not want a lot of sappy romance, this is the book for you. If you actually were looking for a book to match the cover on here, have I got some books for you…
Andrews, Illona. Burn for Me. Avon: New York, NY, 2015.
It’s been 20 years since the British publisher Bloomsbury released J.K. Rowling’s debut novel. It’s unfathomable to recall that the initial print run was only 500 copies, contrasted with the more than 450 million copies sold after the series was complete. Rowling tweeted the following to mark the occasion:
The impact of the arrival of Harry, Ron, and Hermione into our lives not to mention on book publishing trends has been profound. The long duration of Rowling’s books on the New York Times Bestseller list caused the split into adult and children’s titles because of the need for ‘more room’ for other authors. Despite this new sorting, readers of all ages waited in bookstore lines at midnight for their copies, Amazon promised home deliveries on publication dates, and many families had to purchase multiple copies because sharing would have been difficult. The impending arrival of the ‘next’ book in the series was the closest thing I felt to the Christmas Eve giddiness of my childhood. Twenty years later, we have a wildly successful film franchise, Oscar nominated soundtracks composed by John Williams, a new film series called Fantastic Beasts, a Harry Potter Theme Park, video games, and a website devoted for fans called Pottermore. To mark this happy occasion, we asked how Nebraska Library Commission staff started reading the Harry Potter books and what Hogwarts House they would belong to according to the sorting hat. Here are our responses:
“It’s not exactly exciting, but my mom checked it out from the North Platte library around the time it came out. It was sitting on the table, I was bored, and I picked it up.” – Holli Duggan, Continuing Education Coordinator – Slytherin
“I apparently had been living under a rock and did not find out about Harry Potter until after the third movie had come out. After I watched that, my friends basically threw the book at my head. By the time I turned the last page of Sorcerer’s Stone I was hooked.” – Amanda Sweet, Reader Services Advisor -Gryffindor
“My mother wanted to review the book for age appropriateness before she would gift it to my younger cousin. This was shortly after the third book had been released and the hype over the book series had come to a rolling boil.” – Anna Walter, Reader Services Advisor – Slytherin
“My daughter started reading them in 4th grade, and loved them so much I started listening to them on CD.” – Mary Sauers, Government Services Librarian -Hufflepuff
“I didn’t read Harry Potter until I started working in a library; the first book came out as I was finishing high school and I didn’t have time to read much fiction during college, so it wasn’t really on my radar until much later. I picked up the audio version, narrated by Jim Dale, to listen to while I worked on a home renovation project several years ago, and was instantly hooked. I listed to all 7 books back-to-back. That was the most fun I’ve ever had refinishing woodwork!” – Aimee Owen, Information Services Librarian – Gryffindor
“I came to Harry Potter by way of a co-worker who was reading the books to her kids. She loaned me the first two in the series and I bought the third and took it on vacation with me. I was transported. Rowling’s characters, setting, language, and story got me through one of the most difficult times in my life. Escaping to Hogwarts was literally a lifesaver. Then I discovered Jim Dale’s amazing narration and my family moved holidays to coincide with movie release dates. In every format, I am grateful for Jo Rowling and Harry Potter.” Lisa Kelly, Information Services Director – Ravenclaw
“I read the first Harry Potter book as part of a six-person book review event that happened twice a year live via satellite and recorded on videotapes – it was sponsored by the Library Commission. I was rapidly reading lots of books and I remember my comments about Harry being “it’s a fun fantasy…kids will like it…magic is popular with this age group…” – a rather bland endorsement. When the second title was released it was in another reviewer’s batch so I couldn’t read it until after the live review session. By then the third book had just been released. I took my car during my lunch break and drove directly to the book store and bought my copy of book three, starting to read it that evening. For some reason, I didn’t get hooked until book 2, but I have been an enthusiastic fan ever since.” Sally Snyder, Coordinator Children & YA Library Services – Hufflepuff
…or 7 weeks, 5 days, 23 hrs, and 14 mins, depending on when you read this of course!
Is your library ready for the celestial event of the century? In 54 days, on August 21, 2017, the shadow of the moon will sweep across the United States from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean in a spectacle that hasn’t occurred in decades. In fact, the last total solar eclipse for the United States was nearly 40 years ago, and the next total eclipse that will be visible in the continental United States will be in 2024. Did you know that Nebraska will be one of the BEST places in the country to view it?
To help your library prepare for this historic event, the Nebraska Library Commission is doing a series of blog posts about resources you can access for your Eclipse programs:
Part 2: Educational Resources
Books & Articles: This section has a great eclipse bibliography for libraries, plus some of the best eclipse related books and articles available for download or purchase: The “All-American” Eclipse: A Guide for Public Libraries and Their Communities, When The Sun Goes Dark: A New, Richly-illustrated Children’s Book on the Science and Fun of Eclipses are just two suggested books available.
Eclipse Videos: In this section, you will find educational videos to educate your library patrons about the 2017 eclipse, courtesy of Exploratorium and Sky & Telescope (each of which has their own great resources). Examples of some of the videos: What is a Solar Eclipse (in English and Spanish), Earth-Sun-Moon Scale Model, and Getting to the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse.
Eclipse Websites: There are a wide variety of really cool websites in this section! NASA, the National Science Teachers Association, the Fiske Planetarium, the Great American Eclipse, and STARnet to name just a few.
Have fun checking out all the resources available, and stay tuned next week for Solar Eclipse Resources Part Three!
Nebraska Librarians Invited to Host Programs and Exhibits in Connection with New Ken Burns Film: The Vietnam War
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s ten-part, eighteen-hour documentary series, The Vietnam War, airs Sunday, September 17 through Thursday, September 21 and Sunday, September 24 through Thursday, September 28 at 7:00 p.m. CT on PBS. Nebraska librarians are invited to take advantage of opportunities to host programs and exhibits in connection with the documentary. In an immersive narrative, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film, featuring testimony from nearly eighty witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides. Learn more about the film at http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/the-vietnam-war/home/.
Check out these opportunities:
- Public libraries are invited to apply by August 1 to receive a programming kit for The Vietnam War, a ten-part documentary film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that will air on PBS stations. Fifty public libraries will be selected, through a competitive application process, to receive the kit, which will include a programming guide and a copy of the full 18-hour documentary series on DVD, with public performance rights. The kit will help libraries participate in a national conversation about one of the most consequential, divisive and controversial events in American history. Recipients will also receive promotional materials, online resources developed to support local programs, opportunities for partnership with local PBS station(s), and more. Participating libraries will be required to host at least one program related to the film before Jan. 1, 2018, along with other promotional and reporting requirements. View the full project guidelines: https://apply.ala.org/thevietnamwar/guidelines or begin your online application: https://apply.ala.org/TheVietnamWar. (ALA’s Public Programs Office and WETA Productions.) See http://www.programminglibrarian.org/articles/apply-now-vietnam-war-programming-kit-opportunity. Contact: Sarah Ostman, Communications Manager, Public Programs Office, American Library Association, 312-280-5061, email@example.com.
- Nebraska libraries are invited to host programs, local panel discussions and conversations, screenings of a short version of the documentary, and exhibits in connection with the New Ken Burns Film: The Vietnam War. Libraries are encouraged to reach out to local veteran’s organizations and other local groups to partner on activities leading up to the September 17 screening. Materials and resources will be available from the Nebraska NET website. See http://www.pbs.org/video/3001104790 for a highlight video and http://netnebraska.org/Vietnam for more information. NET is currently arranging for screenings (to be followed by a 45 minute panel discussion) in communities across Nebraska, see list at bottom of this message. Resources will soon be available to assist libraries in other communities in setting up local screenings and community conversations. Contact: Sandi Karstens, NET Communications Coordinator, 1800 N. 33rd St., Lincoln, NE 68503, 402-470-6578, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If your book group hasn’t read the 2015 One Book One Nebraska selection, this is the perfect time to suggest it. Death Zones & Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting by Beverly Deepe Keever was Nebraska’s choice for the 2015 One Book One Nebraska statewide reading program and the Nebraska Library Commission has multiple copies for libraries across Nebraska to borrow. In this book, Beverly Deepe Keever describes what it was like for a farm girl from Nebraska to find herself halfway around the world, trying to make sense of one of the nation’s bloodiest and bitterest wars. Support materials to assist with local reading/discussion activities are available at http://onebook.nebraska.gov/2015/get-involved.aspx. Order book club kits from the Nebraska Library Commission at http://nlc.nebraska.gov/ref/bookclub/index.asp or from the Regional Library Systems.
Nebraska NET Screenings and Discussion Locations Confirmed: Lincoln, Omaha, Falls City, Ogallala, Hastings, Grand Island, North Platte, Fremont, Norfolk, and Scottsbluff.
For more information contact Mary Jo Ryan, Nebraska Library Commission, email@example.com.
My favorite genre to read is historical fiction. I really enjoy learning something about history at the same time that I’m enjoying fiction. And occasionally, from within that genre, there comes along a book that makes the reader reconsider what they know about a certain period or event in history. The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck, is an excellent example. For all that we know and have heard about World War II and the Holocaust in Germany, there is much we haven’t heard about how the rest of the German population survived during and after the war. The Women in the Castle tells us part of that story:
After Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns as a widow to the castle of her husband’s ancestors, now fallen into ruin after long years of war. Along the way, she follows through on a promise she made to her husband and others of the resistance: to find and protect their wives, also widows like herself.
Marianne first rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of a resister, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together they make their way across war-torn Germany to Berlin, where they rescue Martin’s mother, Benita, from life as a prostitute to the Red Army. Then Marianne locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees in one of the many displacement camps around the country.
As Marianne tries to create a family from the survivors of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that their previous lives, plus events that continue to bombard them as the country recovers, have complicated their perceptions with dark secrets that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually all three women must come to terms with the choices that they made before, during, and after the war – each with her own unique set of challenges.
If you enjoyed reading The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, or The Light Between Oceans, you will definitely enjoy The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck.
Friday Reads: “Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill” by Candice Millard
Candice Millard, author of River of Doubt (2005) and Destiny of the Republic (2011), is one of my favorite nonfiction authors. Her latest book, Hero of the Empire, is about Winston Churchill and, like many previous biographies of the famous Prime Minister, it focuses on a specific period in his life—his participation in the Boer War (1899–1902) instead of on its entirety. Examples of other focused explorations include last year’s Masterpiece Theater premier, Churchill’s Secret. This drama is set during Churchill’s second term as Prime Minister, when the 78-year-old leader (played by Michael Gambon) struggled, with the help of his wife, to conceal a debilitating stroke and an incapacity to govern. The popular Netflix miniseries The Crown cast 6’4” actor John Lithgow for its version of 5’6” Churchill during the early reign of Queen Elizabeth, revealing the private relationship between a PM and a young Sovereign. Yet another biography is a 2010 documentary entitled Walking with Destiny, in which historian John Lukacs explains that “Churchill may not have won the War in 1940, but without him, the War most certainly would have been lost.”
In Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill, Millard describes the bravado of a young man who both wants and needs to go to war in hopes of gaining medals and fame as capital for his future political career. Churchill agrees to be a war correspondent in South Africa’s Boer War, where the British were both overconfident and under prepared. When the train Churchill is traveling in is ambushed and derailed by Boer troops, Churchill calmly rallied British troops under enemy fire to clear the track and let the engine get away with the wounded. Most of the remaining British, along with Churchill, were captured. This was the first time in his young life he was not in control of his own destiny. It is his spectacular escape, with the help of several kind strangers along the way that helps him to become a hero who rejoins the British troops both as an officer and a war correspondent. In a 2003 PBS Documentary entitled Churchill, this entire story is recounted in one sentence.
With my interest in Churchill piqued by Millard’s book, and inspired to learn more, I ran across this intriguing quote from Pamela Plowden, the woman he was in love with before he married his beloved wife Clementine and with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship. She described Winston this way: “When you first meet Winston, you see all his faults. You spend the rest of your life discovering his virtues.” This is where I find myself in the last pages of Millard’s text – having been introduced to a multitude of his shortcomings but also seeing glimmers of his many redemptive qualities. Certainly his charisma and masterful public speaking skills are shown throughout his life and his place in history is one to be both reckoned and respected.
What makes Millard one of my favorite authors is her ability to create a cinematic and fascinating description of events that ordinarily might not compel me and dialog that is on par with some of my favorite screen writers. One of her Amazon reviewers pleads for this text to be turned into a movie. As Hollywood frequently adapts books for cinematic creations, I would imagine Millard’s titles will most certainly be adapted and yet another actor will be cast to play this iconic man of history.
Millard, Candice. Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill. New York: Doubleday, 2016
Is your library ready for the celestial event of the century? In 10 weeks, on August 21, 2017, the shadow of the moon will sweep across the United States from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean in a spectacle that hasn’t occurred in decades. In fact, the last total solar eclipse for the United States was nearly 40 years ago, and the next total eclipse that will be visible in the continental United States will be in 2024.
To help your library prepare for this historic event, the Nebraska Library Commission is doing a series of blog posts about resources you can access for your Eclipse programs:
Media Toolkits, where you will find a variety of resources to assist your library in developing educational and promotional materials.
In Images and Videos, you will find lots of pictures for viewing, downloading, and printing out for display. There are also a variety of short clip videos for viewing, downloading, and showing during a program or event.
In Downloadables there are posters of various sizes that you can print out for displays.
And in Media Templates there are Word templates that your library can use to promote your eclipse event to your community: Press Release, Public Service Announcement, Community Letter, and Media Alert.
Just a few things to help get you started with planning library programs for Total Eclipse 2017! Stay tuned for Part 2!
Many of the books I read are populated by strong female characters. Biography, science fiction, literature, mystery – all feature intelligent, feisty and powerful women. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is no exception.
Set at an unknown point in time, The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of a woman named Offred. The story alternates between Offred’s current day-to-day existence and her memories of a past life. One with a daughter, a loving husband, and a fulfilling career. Now, Offred is valued more for her functioning ovaries than her intelligence.
Offred’s life shifted drastically because the United States no longer exists. In response to declining birth rates and civil unrest, a group of fundamental Christian militants overthrow the government. The Republic of Gilead, as this country is known, institutes a rigid social hierarchy and enacts laws inspired by the Old Testament. Young and healthy women, like Offred, are classified as handmaids and assigned to the homes of childless high-ranking government officials and their wives. Their job is to bear these men’s children.
Although the Republic of Gilead has stripped Offred of her rights, she refuses to give up. She finds ways to assert her independence by swinging her hips while walking or through unsanctioned interactions with men. Often, Offred risks her limited freedom by looking for people who may be able to help her escape from Gilead. Offred reminds us that rebellion doesn’t have to be loud. It can be quiet and slow-burning and still succeed in the end.
The Handmaid’s Tale is currently airing as a series on Hulu.
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York: Anchor Books, 1986.
NCompass Live: Library Innovation Studios – A Project Introduction and a Review of the Application Process
Join us for the next NCompass Live, ‘Library Innovation Studios – A Project Introduction and a Review of the Application Process’, on Wednesday, June 7, 10:00am – 11:00am CT.
Project staff and partners for Library Innovation Studios: Transforming Rural Communities project will provide an introduction to the upcoming project and discuss the impending application/selection process. Eligible Nebraska public libraries are those with a legal service area of less than 25,000 and are accredited. The deadline for the first application cycle—that will identify between twelve and twenty participating libraries—is scheduled for July 10, 2017. The balance of the participating libraries are expected to be selected in an application process that will take place sometime in 2018.
The Nebraska Library Commission (NLC) along with partners: University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Nebraska Innovation Studio, Nebraska Extension, and the Regional Library Systems, are excited about the project they were recently awarded a National Leadership Grant of $530,732 by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The project will begin July 1, 2017 and conclude June 30, 2020.
The project uses Library Innovation Studios (makerspaces) hosted by libraries to support community engagement and participatory learning experiences by providing access to technological and innovative learning tools not readily accessible locally. This strengthening of the maker culture is expected to stimulate creativity, innovation and the exchange of ideas to facilitate entrepreneurship, skills development, and local economic development.
Presenters: JoAnn McManus, Rod Wagner, Mary Jo Ryan, Holly Woldt, and Connie Hancock.
Upcoming NCompass Live events:
- June 21 – Feelings are Messy: Building Emotional Intelligence in Libraryland
- June 28 – The New NLA Intellectual Freedom Manual Comes to the Rescue
- July 5 – PubMed, PubMed Central, MEDLINE, MedlinePlus…
- July 12 – From Collections to Commons: How we turned stacks to student spaces at UNL
- July 19 – Finding Your Focus: Tips for Early Career Success
For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.
NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.
New state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for May 2017. Included are annual reports from various agencies, the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the Nebraska Clerk of the Legislature, and the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, to name a few.
After watching I Am Not Your Negro, the Oscar-nominated documentary based on an unfinished James Baldwin manuscript, I finally tracked down and read Baldwin’s much-referenced 1963 book, The Fire Next Time. This book contains two essays: “My Dungeon Shook—Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation,” and “Down At The Cross—Letter from a Region of My Mind.”
In the first essay, Baldwin endeavors to impart to his 15-year-old nephew the wisdom and advice he’ll need to survive growing up as a black man in America. Despite being “born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being,” Baldwin urges his nephew to trust his own experience, to resist internalizing messages of inferiority, and to continue to love. And in a more sophisticated exhortation than our contemporary “Make America Great Again” slogan, Baldwin writes: “Great men have done great things here and will again and we can make America what America must become.” This essay actually served as inspiration for Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 book, Between the World and Me, which took the form of a letter to his own teenage son. The tragedy, of course, is that such letters are still necessary.
The second essay, “Down At The Cross—Letter from a Region of My Mind,” is quite a bit longer than the first. In it Baldwin recounts his experiences with the Christian church during his youth and the Nation of Islam as an adult, seeing in neither a solution to the racial problems that infect America. Throughout, he offers an unsparing analysis of the problematic role race has played in the development of American civilization, “which compromises, when it does not corrupt, all the American efforts to build a better world…”
This essay is a demoralizing read because of how applicable Baldwin’s criticisms remain. “People are not, for example,” Baldwin writes, “terribly anxious to be equal (equal, after all to what and to whom?) but they love the idea of being superior.” And also: “It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.”
Baldwin’s writing is not without hope, but his is a bleak optimism–more philosophical choice than true faith. This perspective is powerfully captured in a 1963 television interview (“The Negro and The American Promise,” WGBH), in his response to a question about whether he is a pessimist or optimist: “I can’t be a pessimist because I’m alive. To be a pessimist means that you have agreed that human life is an academic matter, so I’m forced to be an optimist. I’m forced to believe that we can survive whatever we must survive.” As he did in his letter to his nephew, in this essay he holds out love as the only way forward. But he makes clear that when he uses the word “love” he is referring to “a state of being, or a state of grace—not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”
Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. Ashland, Oregon: Blackstone Audio, 2008.