Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Literary Birthday Book Reviews for August

Paulo Coelho, Brazilian lyricist and novelist, was born on August 24, 1947.  His novel Veronika Decides to Die is highlighted as the Literary Birthday Book Review for AugustThis sounds like a grim story based on the title alone, but it is actually a story of redemption.  What begins with a depressing start, ends with a joyful ending. 

Once I became attached to the character, Veronika, I had hope with every page that her situation would improve.  At 24 years of age, Veronika should be enjoying her youth, but instead she feels she has already done everything important in life and what will happen from then on presents a bleak outlook.  She methodically takes an overdose of pills in order to kill herself, but is instead rescued and put in a mental hospital for depression. When she wakes up and realizes that she isn’t dead, she is told that the pills have damaged her heart and she will die within weeks. She tries not to become too involved with other patients. She doesn’t want to experience feelings and look for reasons to live again. She has decided to die and now it will just take longer than she thought it would. 

BUT as quoted in the book: "An awareness of death encourages us to live more intensely." She experiences a revelation and makes a connection with one patient, Eduard, which reverses her death wish. The irony is that her death is eminent, and now living has more meaning for her than ever.  *SPOILER ALERT* There is a twist in the tale that allows her to live. Her psychiatrist is researching new treatments and her case comes just in time to prove his hypothesis. 

In Coelho’s notes on what inspired him to write this novel, I learned that his past experiences as a mental patient played a significant role in understanding depressions and treatments. In fact many of the scenes describing Eduard seem based off Coelho’s own life. 

One part of the story, which I thought provoking, was when Eduard mentioned that his parents put him in the institution to fix his mental state and fit their mold. They didn’t want him to be different (an individual). They thought the treatment would make him more rational and accepted by society. But the fact is that history of his hospitalization is exactly what made him stick out and become different from others. For some faulty reason, in his parents' eyes, being different was terrible. 

Veronika Decides to Die deals with the subject of madness, and readers will see this in various degrees as other characters living in the mental institution are introduced.  This book allows the reader to reevaluate the importance of life, and reflect on Coelho's words “collective madness is called sanity.”  I think this reality illustrates that madness can incite a person to extreme joy or anger.  But when connecting with others, these emotions can be shared, and somehow that connection validates our reason for living.  When you get to a point in life where you wonder “what is the point?” you have to know that things will change with time.  This reminds me of a lyric from a favorite song of mine by Townes Van Zandt, “to live is to fly, both low and high, so shake the dust off of your wings and the sleep out of your eyes.” 

My book club friends visited to watch a film based on this book, and despite minor differences in location, the film closely follows the story.   Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, as Veronika, the movie is available on Amazon Prime.   When looking for a dish to complement this book’s discussion, we found no food mentioned in the novel.  We did notice that in the film Veronika longs to once more visit her favorite taco stand and have a Guinness beer from an Irish pub.  Everyday things like this we might take for granted.  This book reminds us that it is important to have an awareness of life and treat every day as a miracle.

This month’s children’s book “to read before you grow up” is Five Children and It. It was written by Edith Nesbitt, who was born on August 15, 1858.  Nesbitt is described by her biographer as the “first modern writer for children” combining realistic, contemporary children in a real-world setting, with magical objects.   Five Children and It was published in 1902, the first in a trilogy, and has never gone out of print. It originally came out as a series in “The Strand Magazine,” a monthly periodical published in the United Kingdom that showcased short fiction and general interest articles.

My grandson and I listened to this story as an audiobook, using NC Kids Digital Library (free access with a library card) while driving to Memphis, TN.  It is also available online as a print read through Project Gutenberg.  The book was also made into a BBC television series, and can be found on YouTube.

The children in this story are brothers and sisters from London who have been sent to the family’s countryside home in Kent while their parents are away on business.  Under the “supervision” of household servants, they basically are free to run and explore the outdoors.  There are two boys, two girls, and a baby brother a.k.a. The Lamb … he is, of course, “precious.” 

As the story begins, the children are discussing the earth’s round shape, and are in the process of digging to Australia.  I remember, as a child, trying to dig through to China.  I guess the concept of depth is something that kids have trouble realizing.   What they do discover is a Psammead: a prehistoric sand fairy, or as the title of the book states, an “It.”  The children learn that this creature will grant wishes, but the wishes only last a day. 

The book’s introductory chapter is followed by ten wishes, for a total of eleven chapters.  This makes it easy to read each chapter as a separate adventure, and for young readers, this is makes reading a “whole book” less intimidating.  The children wish for a strange assortment of things, such as being beautiful for a day (no one recognizes them), to have wings (they get stranded on top a bell tower at the end of the day), and another to meet real Indians (they nearly get scalped).  The “classic” wish for gold turns out wrong too because the currency of gold coins they receive is out-of-date and not accepted. 

My grandson, Dylan, says this is a good book and that says a lot for a 15-year-old boy.  Five Children and It works great for a family road-trip audio book!  Dylan’s favorite part was when the older brother wished that The Lamb would hurry and grow up, so they wouldn’t have to babysit him.  I think Dylan could relate well to this wish, since he has two younger half-brothers that he has to mind from time to time. Of course this wish was a spontaneous declaration and therefore it was “wasted.” The children had agreed to decide together what to wish for and that didn’t always work out.  When this wish is granted and The Lamb does grow up older than his siblings.  He meets a girl coming down the lane on a bicycle and he wants to go down the road with her to a pub.  The children have to find ways to keep him contained until the end of the day so they won’t lose him when he turns back into a baby. 

This book is a hilarious, adventurous, and interesting read.  It is the kind of book both children and adults will enjoy.

Next month’s adult read features The English Patient by, Michael Ondaatje.  Join us for coffee and a FREE early morning movie (film version of Ondaatje’s book) at 9:30 a.m. on August 25 in the luxurious Blue Ridge Movie Lounge.  This venue is located at 17 E Second Street West Jefferson.
Following the event, those who wish, will have lunch and discuss the movie and book. 

Visit this link for online discussion and information about The English Patient. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

We Need Your Help!

Library programming brings the community rich opportunities for learning, entertainment, and builds connections across all age groups. Special events can connect people to other like-minded individuals who share the same passions as them.  It is also a great time to find a new interest, or discover a hidden talent. 

We strive to offer events and programming for teens and adults that fulfill our library’s mission to promote knowledge, reading, and imagination; support and encourage life-long learning; and contribute to the sense of community and the economic well-being of our county.  And we'd really like to know how we can better serve you through library events, while achieving our mission. Email, call, talk to our librarians on the Upper Level, with programming suggestions.  Share your feedback on programs you have attended. 

I love this quote about a library, by John K. Hudgens, long-time New York Times book reviewer. “I do not mean to suggest that our handsome, newly enlarged library is to be a headquarters of busy bookworms, old and young, routinely absorbing knowledge by the hour while birds sing outside and the Mets fight it out for last place in the National League. On the contrary, a good library is a joyful place where the imagination roams free, and life is actively enriched.”

Dates to remember in August: 

 Children’s Programs
·      Friday Frolic every week at 10:30 a.m. for Pre-Kindergarten. 
·      Design a Book Cover • August 22-September 30 • 6th grade or children ages 11-12: Children are invited to design an original book cover based on any book in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. The book cover can be designed using any medium but must be drawn/painted/etc. on an entry blank provided by the library and must not be folded. All entries must be original work by the entrant. Entry forms and blanks may be picked up at the youth services desk. One entry per child. 

Teen Programs
·      T for Teen – Gamers Unite! Meet-up at 4:00 p.m. on August 7. Xbox360 and laptops available for teen gaming.
·      Board Game Café is open at 4:00 p.m. on August 14.  Play a variety of board games and enjoy coffee and sweet treats.
·      The Teen Creative Corner meets at 4:00 p.m. on August 21. Join us for a wide range of creative crafts and projects.
·     TLC (Teen Listening Council) is a safe place for teens to talk openly about any subject. Drop in at 4:00 p.m. on August 28.
Adult Programs
·      Book a Librarian • by appointment • Call 336-846-2041 x227 Got a new tablet? Want to learn how to create beautiful cards and flyers on the computer? Or check out e-books from the library? Or sign up for a social media account? Our friendly librarians want to help you achieve your technology goals through free, no prior skills required, one-onone sessions! Call us or drop by our desk on the Upper Level of the library to schedule an appointment.
·      Yoga Club meets in the library’s downstairs meeting room at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays.
·      Drop in for support on your PhD (Projects half-Done) at 10:00 a.m. on August 4.  Find new ways to stay motivated to achieve your goals throughout the year!
·     The Brouhaha Book Club meets at 5:30 p.m. on August 27 in Boondocks Brewery's Taproom. There is no assigned reading for this book club. Come as you are, read what you want, and join our lively discussion of recent reads!
All Ages
·      Come out and have some FUN with Board Game Bonanza, from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. every Saturday. Visit the Upper Level to play board games with friends and family!
·      Read & Craft meets at 10 a.m.  on August 11. Travel the world with a hook in one hand and a ball of yarn in the other. This month travel to India and make some Lotus Blossom Knit Socks, an Amigurumi Indian Elephant, or a Tropical Delight Afghan.  Instruction available for beginners and project materials are provided.
·      The Community Drum Circle meets at 5:30 p.m. on August 9 and 23.  Join the celebration of drums, while exploring the soul and spirit of music!
·      Mountain Music Slow Jam will meet from 3:00-5:00 p.m. on August 4 and 18 in the downstairs meeting room. Songs are explained as to timing, breaks, etc… and played in slow time.  Designed for beginners, all skill levels are welcome.
·      PBS’S THE GREAT AMERICAN READ Vote: Cast your vote for The Great ARL Read in person or online at www.arlibrary.org/ashe Review: Write and submit a review of one of the Top 100 books.  Attend: Attend The Great American Read events this summer and fall. Write: Sign up to be a literary pen pal and write a letter to a fellow bookworm.
Family Events
·      Safety Day takes place between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on August 4, at  Ashe County High School.   Enjoy fire trucks, free bike helmets (while they last), bounce house, climbing wall, and other fun activities. Come by the library booth! 
·      Lansing Twig Mini-Fest  happens between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on August 7. (downtown Lansing, across from Lansing Foods. Check out the Literacy Express, get your face painted, play giant Jenga, and enjoy stories with our librarians. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Literary Birthday Book Reviews for July

During July, “Literary Birthday Book Reviews” is celebrating two authors of different time periods.  The first is William Makepeace Thackeray who was born on July 18, 1811 and lived in Calcutta, India (British India) until 1816.  When his father died, he moved to England where as an adult, after squandering most of his inheritance on gambling and two failed newspapers he began “writing for his life.” His most notable work is the novel Vanity Fair, but highlighted in this review is a children's tale, The Rose and The Ring.  This story was created as a fireside pantomime that served as Twelfth Night entertainment for Thackeray's children and other children under the care of a governess friend. Traditionally on the “twelfth night,” stories were shared as part of the festivities that conclude the twelve days of Christmas, or Christmastide.  Seems like an appropriate read following West Jefferson's Christmas in July celebration! Thackeray who enjoyed cartooning, drew a cast of characters to use when telling his story, which later became illustrations for a printed copy of The Rose and The Ring, published in 1855.  The entire book can be read online in Google Books' collection of public domain titles.   This book was also released as a BBC TV mini-series in 1953.  Although I couldn't find the video to watch, there is an opera of the story on YouTube.   

William Makepeace Thackeray
The story is a satirical fantasy about royalty and their attitudes on appearances and marriage.  As things begin, Prince Giglio gives his mother's ring to his cousin, Princess Angelica. Unknowingly the ring was bestowed with special powers by Fairy Blackstick to make the wearer most beautiful, and Giglio becomes smitten by Angelica.  Prince Bulbo, from a neighboring kingdom, is visiting and has a magic rose that also makes him irresistible, and most handsome, causing Angelica to fall madly in love with him. Beauty is only skin-deep among these shallow characters and during an argument the ring is tossed out the window and discovered by Angelica's governess, Countess Gruffanuff, who is most hideous, until she puts the ring on her finger.  Countess Gruffanuff convinces Giglio to sign a paper that promises he will marry her.  Later the Countess gives the ring to Angelica's chambermaid, Betsinda.  The poor maid is thrown out of the castle when she draws affections of the King and both Princes.  The story twists and turns around these characters with incidents of royal tantrums that lead to near executions by beheading and being thrown to the lions.  Luckily there is magic to intervene and a surprise is in store when the true identity of Betsinda is revealed.   At times, this medieval story sort of reminded me of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones.  I have to say that Thackeray uses some weird names and references, such as Knights of the Pumpkin, noble families from The House of Broccoli and The House of Sauerkraut, and then there is the Marquis of Spinachi.  I think this book would appeal to those who like amusing intricate plots with exaggerated characters.  As a bonus, following the story of The Ring and The Rose, a collection of ballads is included in this book. In describing Thackeray, Britannica Encyclopedia states, “He wrote to be read aloud in the long Victorian family evenings, and his prose has the lucidity, spontaneity, and pace of good reading material.” Here are a few lines that highlight his poetic style: Now the toils of day are over, And the sun hath sunk to rest, Seeking, like a fiery lover, The bosom of the blushing west - from “Serenade”

For adult readers Rohinton Mistry's book Family Matters is featured in celebration of the author's birthday on July 3, 1952.  Misty, who also began life in India, was born in Bombay.  In 1975, he immigrated to Canada with his fiancé.  This is his third novel, published in 2001, and deals with domestic crisis amidst a corrupt, poverty-stricken background.  On contemplating this novel's title, the word “matters” can be interpreted as either a noun or a verb.  I became much attached to the characters and felt they all mattered in the end, both individually and as a whole family unit.  When considering the title as a noun, it is easy to explain that the focus of the story is how siblings deal with an aging parent who is suffering from Parkinson's disease.  Nariman, the patriarch of the family has become bedridden after a fall that has left him with a broken ankle. Living in cramped quarters with his daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons is difficult.  Nariman has two other adult step-children who avoid the responsibilities of helping out with care-taking and expenses.  There are also painful memories of past mistakes that haunt Nariman, and as the story unfolds each character is transformed by the choices they make.  

Mistry highlights Indian culture and religion in his story by including Orthodox Zoroastrian practices and rituals in the routines of his characters.  With Indo-nostalgia, Mistry weaves a story full of customs and foods that celebrate daily life as well as special occasions.  When meeting to discuss the novel with friends, we watched a documentary on Zoroastrianism, a religion that dates back to the 5th century.  It is amazing that they have kept the same temple fire burning all these years!  I will always remember this when lighting a stick of sandalwood incense. Taking inspiration from a quote by Nariman, who refuses to eat his birthday dinner on everyday plates, we enjoyed couscous and curry chicken on the best china. “There's only one way to defeat the sorrow and sadness of life - with laughter and rejoicing. Bring out the good dishes, put on your good clothes, no sense hoarding them. Where is the cut-glass vase and the rose bowl from your wedding? The porcelain shepherdess with her lamb? Bring them all out, Roxana, and enjoy them.” 

Rohinton Mistry
 I was surprised to find that in spite of cultural differences there were some family scenes that struck home, proving that we all have some things in common.  There was also reference to the riots of Bombay that took place in December 1992, and the political party Shiv Sena.  I find learning enjoyable while immersed in a fictional story, and this can often lead me to search for more information on things I am not sure about.  When looking up the Shiv Sena to find out more about their radical ways, I discovered that the founder of this group was Bal Keshav Thackeray! I tried to find out if there was a connection anywhere to William Makepeace Thackeray and I discovered that Bal Keshav was a cartoonist in his early career days.  Other than cartooning and the same last name I couldn't find a shared bloodline, but I thought again about the random ways these book selections complemented each other.   The atmospheric tone of this story allowed me to imagine what this exotic country is like and to “armchair travel” across the world.   Mistry's dialect-filled writing style, full of regional language and slang brings the setting to life. I'd recommend this book to those who like religiously diverse characters, who although may be very different have relatable qualities that will allow readers to identify with their emotions and experiences.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Library Service Priority Stats for FY 2017-18

Each year Ashe County Public Library strives to meet the needs of its community with four main service priorities: Reading, Life-long Learning, Technology, and Library as Place.  The combined efforts of a dedicated and talented staff, along with volunteer work of Ashe County Library Friends, who raise money for programming funds, are invaluable.

Ashe County Public Library partners with individuals, community businesses, and organizations to offer life-long learning opportunities and programs throughout the year.  Last year, the library held 450 programs with just over 11,600 in attendance.  Library programs appeal to a range of interests and ages: story times for children and families, arts and crafts (knitting and crocheting), support groups, music and movement (yoga), income tax assistance, gardening, author events, book clubs, etc.  In the next school year, a Library Services and Technology Grant will fund the library’s Alphabet Ready Project.  Storytime providers will visit all kindergarten and pre-K classrooms throughout the county to make learning the letters and sounds of the alphabet fun!

To better serve the community’s reading needs, Ashe Library spent over $40,000 on new and updated materials for its circulating collection.  There are also audio-books, e-books, movies and other items, such as ukuleles, playground equipment, air quality monitors, etc available for check-out.  In partnership with NC Cardinal and Ashe County Schools, students can now use their school ID numbers access print and online materials for free.  North Carolina Public Library Directors Association launched a digital library for kids that provides access to 343,472 books and films.  Across the state Appalachian Regional Library ranks in the top ten for NC Digital Kids usage. 

The NC Rural Center reports that up to 35% of Ashe County residents do not have access to either a computer or the Internet.  Ashe County Public Library provides free public access to computers and Wi-Fi, and has trained librarians to assist patrons with their technology needs.  Computer sessions and Wi-Fi connections calculated in the library’s yearly analytic report total nearly 25,000 uses, an average of 68 times a day!

The most impressive number of the year is always the dollar amount saved by patrons who borrow from the library rather than spending money to purchase books, magazines, newspapers, movies, etc... The grand total of savings to Ashe County Public Library patrons for the FY 17-18 is $2,548,253.57 Overall the library holds 61,925 items in its collection and there are 16,438 cardholders.  That is over half of the county’s population!  It doesn’t matter what race or ethnicity you are, what language you speak, whom you love, whom you worship, or where you are from.  Ashe County Public Library is for you.
Ashe County Public Library will be closed on July 4 & 7 for Fourth of July & Christmas in July
Dates to remember in July: 

 Children’s Programs
·       Friday Frolic for preschoolers takes place at 10:30 a.m. on July 6, 13, and 27.  Hear stories with guest readers and join the hands-on fun!
·      Visit the New River State Park (Wagoner Access, Hwy 88) and join Ranger Paul to bask in some lampryidae bioluminescence (firefly viewing) at 9:00 p.m. on July 7. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and a jacket.
·      Register now for a special Subway “share the color” program. Dr. Allison Koch will be sharing her knowledge of nutrition, diet, and exercise at 11:00 a.m. on July 10.  Children ages 5-7 will get a free healthy meal!
·      See a magical performance by Almost Amazing Al at 10:30 a.m. on July 20 (recommended for ages birth – 12). Seating is limited, so please come in and pick up your free ticket 30 minutes prior to start of this program.

Tween & Teen Programs
·         Join the Comic & Anime Club at 3:00 p.m. on July 13 to Skype with illustrator Michael Artell.  This group also meets at 3:00 p.m. on July 27.
·      Come out for middle school survival tips inspired by Dairy of a Wimpy Kid! At 4:00 p.m. on July 26 (ages 8- 12).
·      T for Teen – Gamers Unite! Meet-up at 4:00 p.m. on July 3. Xbox360 and laptops available for teen gaming.
·      Board Game Café is open at 4:00 p.m. on July 10.  Come and make some friends! Play a variety of board games and enjoy coffee and sweet treats.
·      The Teen Creative Corner meets at 4:00 p.m. on July 17. Join us for a special event to paint a still life a la Vincent Van Gogh (get a jumpstart by reading Vincent & Theo by, Deborah Heiligman).  Materials and instruction provided by Boon’s Turchin Art Center.  Limited seating – arrive early to guarantee a spot!
·      TLC (Teen Listening Council) is a safe place for teens to talk openly about any subject. Drop in at 4:00 p.m. on July 24.
Adult Programs
·      For all your tech troubles, book and appointment with our friendly reference librarians.  Call 336.846.2041 x227.   Free computer classes are offered on a variety of topics at 11:00 a.m. every Tuesday.
·      Yoga Club meets in the library’s downstairs meeting room at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays.
·      Drop in for Brouhaha Book Club in Boondocks Brewing at 5:30 p.m. on July 30.  There is no assigned reading for this group.  Come as you are, read what you want, and join our lively discussion of recent reads!
·      Come to the library’s upper level to play board games with friends and family at Board Game Bonanza, from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. every Saturday.  From classics like Operation to edgy card-based games like One Night Ultimate Werewolf to family favorites like Sorry! Try exciting new games like Photosynthesis and Carcassonne.  This new event has something for all ages and all skill levels.
All Ages
·      Music and folk stories of old Appalachia with Jeff Robbins will take place at 10:00 a.m. on July 12.  Seating is limited, so please come in and pick up your free ticket 30 minutes prior to start of this program.
·      Join our Disney Party at 5:00 p.m. on July 12.  Come dressed as your favorite Disney character for karaoke, trivia and more!
·      Don’t miss the library’s 2nd annual How-to-Festival beginning at 11:00 a.m. on July 14.  Check out skills, activities, whatsits, and how-did-they-do-that’s, from science to hieroglyphics.
·      Read & Craft meets at 10 a.m.  on July 14. Travel the world with a hook in one hand and a ball of yarn in the other. This month, celebrate America with patriotic crafts.  Instruction available for beginners and project materials are provided.
·      Visit “the land down under” for a Digeridoo Performance @ Mountain View Elementary at 4:00 p.m. on July 19. Enjoy Aussie culture, music, and comedy!
·      The Community Drum Circle meets at 5:30 p.m. on July 12 and 26.  Join the celebration of drums, while exploring the soul and spirit of music!
·      Mountain Music Slow Jam will meet from 3:00-5:00 p.m. on July 14 in the downstairs meeting room. Songs are explained as to timing, breaks, etc… and played in slow time.  Designed for beginners, all skill levels are welcome.   Visit the slow jam tent at the Ashe County Fiddler’s Convention on July 28.

Special Events
·         Come join the Great American Read Cosplay Contest from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. on July 14, or send a photo to lmcpherson@arlibrary.org to enter remotely. Design your own costume and dress as one of the thousands of characters that appear in the TGAR books. The contest is open to all ages and prizes will be awarded in each of five categories: children, teens, adults, group, and best overall.
·         Epic Literary Battles: The Great Debate for the Great American Read takes place at 1:00 p.m. on July 28.  You will have two minutes to present your case for YOUR favorite novel from The Great American Read’s Top 100 and 30 seconds to respond to questions.  Call 336.846.2041 x227 to register: reserve your spot today and let your voice be heard!