Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Literary Birthday Book Reviews for May

Coincidentally, The Literary Birthday Book Reviews for May are spotlighting two male British authors who live in London; Graham Swift, author of Waterland, celebrating a  birthday on  May 4 and Michael Rosen, well-loved children's poet celebrating on May 7.  

Born on May 4, 1949, Swift published his semi-autobiographical novel Waterland in 1983, winning the Guardian Fiction Prize. The story's main part takes place in the Fens, the lowest land in the United Kingdom.  This coastal area, consisting of fresh- or salt-water wetlands, is a major agricultural source for grains and vegetables. The land here is particularly fertile with its nutrient-rich shallow water, mineral-based silt deposits, clay and peat.  Reading this book triggered interest about the landscape and history of its civilizations.  It makes sense why early settlements took to this soggy environment, considering the natural barrier it provided against foreign invasion.  The Fens were a place of refuge for monasteries, now cathedrals, and are referred to as “The Holy Land of the English.” 

In the past, windmill pumps assisted in the job of building drainage banks, but in the 1940s when this story begins, diesel-powered pumps and electric stations are employed for continuous reclamation of the land.  With this setting in mind, imagine how teenagers, living in this isolated region, might have spent their free time.  And imagine what purpose an abandoned windmill might play when sexual curiosities develop.  Tom Crick, a high school history teacher, is the central character and narrator of Waterland.  He describes the Fens as a magical place; like a fairy tale. On second thought, maybe I shouldn't say this story begins during post-war times.  In fact, to tell it properly Tom goes back several generations, tying in historical references from the French Revolution to Heraclitus of Ephesus. 

This book would appeal to those who like literary fiction. For readers not inclined to digest a saga spanning decades, there is a film based on this novel, starring Ethan Hawke, Sinéad Cusak, and Jeremy Irons. When we gathered to watch the film, my book club friends had mixed feelings, but everyone agreed Waterland is a strange story. It was also noted, that this story covers a number of depressing topics, beginning with murder, followed by suicide, incest, abortion, and kidnapping. That's a lot of fear and guilt! Refreshments served to enhance our discussion included: fried eel, pickled herring, salt and vinegar chips, crackers, and 'ale.'  The reference to ale comes from the family's history in the ale-making business. There is also mention of various ways to cook and eat eel, and even a whole chapter about the biology of eels. Some of us loved the eel, while among others, I politely declined this delicacy.  
Another major character is Tom's mentally challenged brother who spends a good amount of time riding or working on his Velocette motorcycle.  This bike probably has some sort of symbolic meaning, since motorcycle is the last word in this book.  Also near the end of the story, Tom's wife Mary is unraveling and becoming hyper-religious.  But most magical of all, (totally unplanned) when meeting my friend Cheryl for coffee (at A's Backstreet Café) to share thoughts about Swift's book … this is what we saw sitting next to us, as a table ornament! 

Michael Rosen, born May 7, 1946, is a bestselling author of picture books and poetry. He was the Children's Laureate in the UK for 2007-2009, and winner of the Eleanor Farjeon Award.  Rosen has a YouTube channel where he recites his poetry and tells stories.  Believe me it is worth checking this out. Very entertaining! He mentions on his website that he is currently writing a rhyming picture book for Scholastic.

“I can’t say much about it yet – top secret! – but it’s about a dog. Well not actually ‘about’ a dog – more, ‘by’ a dog. OK, I realize a dog didn’t write it, but you get what I mean! Anyway, I’m still working on it. I mean, the dog’s still working on it.”

In honor of National Poetry Month, a special reading was held at the library in April.  Maureen Dintino and her little dog Roxy stopped in to read aloud Poems for the Very Young, an anthology collected by Rosen.  There are traditional verses, nonsense rhymes, and poems by Jack Prelutsky, Stevie Smith, A.A. Milne, Eve Merriam, Margaret Mahy, Michael Rosen, and many more in this collection.  Some poems are even authored by children. 

One anonymous poem, “Man Fat,” was the favorite of young reader, Alena Dodd.  The illustrations (by, Bob Graham) contribute greatly to each poem’s presentation. For instance, Man fat / Top hat / Fell flat/ Squashed hat … showed a rather large man lying across the bottom of a two-page spread. Next to the flat-on-his-back man was a flat-as-a-pancake hat.  It is the sound of words, rhyming and repeating, that makes them so appealing to listeners and readers. 

Maureen even discovered a poem that she uses all the time on her husband, Tom. And she didn’t even know it was a poem! “Go to bed Tom,” is in fact an English nursery rhyme.  As for Maureen, she uses this phrase fairly often when Tom falls asleep in front of the TV at night.  She used a loud, annoyed tone of voice when reading this poem.  With hilarious hind-sight, we later discovered that this rhyme has a very sweet melody.  

Roxy enjoyed all kinds of attention from the children at her debut poetry reading.  She brought along “magic rocks” (crystals) to give everyone who attended the event.   She is also looking forward to reading Rosen’s new “dog book,” once it is published. This collection, although targeting the very young, is fun for adults too. Especially when reading aloud with children!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

In Search of Lost Words …

In Search of Lost Words …

by, Suzanne Moore, Ashe County Librarian

Every year there are selected words deleted from dictionaries (Merriam-Webster’s, Oxford, Collins) in order to make room for new words or terms with new meanings.  We were reminded of this recently when Betty Rembert gifted a lovely book in memory of her husband George and her son Mark.  The Lost Words by, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, is a beautiful book of acrostic poetry and watercolors about words that have been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.  What shocked us was the type of words that were deleted.
“The deletions,” according to Robert Macfarlane, “included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow. The words taking their places in the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail.” 
So you can see by the words listed here that technology is beginning to subtlety replace our natural world.  Although these new technological words are important to know, as a country girl I hate to see them replacing words that are important to name nature.  I have a niece that was raised in an urban environment and remember her first time to visit me in the country.  It was fun watching her play and discover things in our woods and pastures that she had never seen before.  Needless to say she took home a box of nature findings to share with her city friends for show-and-tell.
The Lost Words can be previewed on-line and there is also a free downloadable Explorer’s Guide, made available through a John Muir Trust.  This book is available for check-out, and is a valuable resource to promote natural literacy.
Other gifts of late were received in memory of Pat Hartman, a well-loved library patron, by friends and family to enhance the library’s large-print collection. Katy & Morris Walker also donated a gift in memory of Clifford Stamper. All donations are gratefully appreciated and used to directly benefit our community.

Ashe County Public Library will be closed on May 28 for Memorial Day
Dates to remember in May: 

 Children’s Programs

  • Baby Bounce meets every Friday at 10:30 a.m. for ages birth to 2 years.  Enjoy stories, rhymes, bounces, and songs with a stay-and-play social time afterwards. 

  • Tot Time takes place at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays for ages 2 and 3.  Wiggle, giggle, laugh, sing, and create.  A fun-filled time featuring stories, music, and a craft.

  • Storytime for ages 4 and 5 is at 10:30 a.m. every Thursday.  Join us for ABC adventures with stories, art, and music. 

  • FREE Comic Book Day is on May 5 and begins at 11:00 a.m. Comic books will be given away while supplies last.  Stay for a Cosplay Photoshoot at 2:00 p.m.

  • The Illustrator Book Club meets at 3:30 p.m. on May 10 for grades 3-6.  Observe an artistic style and attempt to re-create it.

  • Celebrate Raising a Reader in conjunction with Ashe County Partnership for Children at 10:30 a.m. on May 23.

  • Join us for a BOY BITES BUG Release Party at 4:00 p.m. on May 24.  Author Rebecca Petruck will debut her new critically-acclaimed middle grade novel.  The reception will feature some unique snacks for sampling.

Tween & Teen Programs

  • T for Teen – Gamers Unite! Meet-up at 4:00 p.m. on May 1. Xbox360 and laptops available for teen gaming.

  • Board Game Café is open at 4:00 p.m. on May 8.  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 May 15. 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 May 22.

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 every Tuesday.

  • 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 May 5.  Find new ways to stay motivated to achieve your goals throughout the year!

All Ages

  •  Read & Craft meets at 10 a.m.  on May 19. Travel the world with a hook in one hand and a ball of yarn in the other. This month, go to Germany.  Instruction available for beginners and project materials are provided.

  • The Community Drum Circle meets at 5:30 p.m. on May 10 and 24.  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 May 5 and 19 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.

Special Events

  • A special gallery opening and reception, Photovoice: Ashe Families Finding Hope, will be held at 4:00 p.m. on May 3.  View and hear stories in this unique format of photographs and narratives as told by Ashe County individuals with special needs.  The stories represent what parents would like everyone to understand about their children and how they found support.  Meet the participants and their families at this very special event.

  • The Gertrude Francis Foodways Collection will be revealed with a special reception beginning at 10:00 a.m. on May 5.  This permanent library collection was purchased with a gift from Mary and Stevan Sayre in memory of their mother. Books in the collection celebrate the culture of food in Appalachia, North Carolina, and particularly in Ashe County.  It is composed of locally published cookbooks, local food memoirs, stories about Gert’s Diner and other local food experiences, as well as books about food and culture.  The reception features author Emily Nunn (The Comfort Food Diaries), Travis Birdsell of Ashe County’s Cooperative Extension, Sonya Vannoy of Ashe Farmers Market, and local artist/storyteller, Stephen Shoemaker.  Samples of local foods will be served.