Monthly Archives: April 2018

Discover the World of Urban Fantasy

By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

“The Dresden Files” by Mika-Blackfield

Being a lover of memoir and “the classics” (think, “books you were forced to read in high school”), I’ve felt comfortable referring to those categories in previous blog posts. But when I saw the colorful genre bookmarks we have at the library – check them out on your next visit!–, I felt inspired to explore some authors I’ve never read before.

One genre I’m pretty unfamiliar with is Urban Fantasy, so I thought I’d start there, and every research trip begins with a visit to Wikipedia, doesn’t it (just don’t tell your teachers)? From there, I gathered these elements of the Urban Fantasy subgenre (1):

  • A primarily real-world, urban setting, in the past, present or future
  • Earthbound mythological creatures (sometimes)
  • Coexistence / conflict between humans and paranormal beings (some other times)
  • Often explores how city life changes after the discovery of magic
  • Does not rely primarily on a romantic plot (as distinct from Paranormal Romance subgenre)

This sounds like many of the bestsellers and blockbusters in the past couple of decades! So who are the storytellers behind this enduring pop culture phenomenon?

“Neil Gaiman’s American Gods Fan Art” by AnamikaB

Even I, in my ignorance, recognize the name Neil Gaiman halfway down the list on the bright yellow bookmark before me. His novel, American Gods, is a prime example of the genre. In it, Gaiman posits that “gods and mythological creatures exist because people believe in them.” (2) Therefore, in modern America, new gods – representing media, the internet, and the stock market, among others – have more authority than the old gods brought over by immigrants; and fantastical creatures hold commonplace occupations. But a mysterious man wishes to shake things up, and he needs the help of ex-con Shadow to rouse ancient powers. A strange, epic journey, with elements of horror, fantasy, and magical realism, this award-winning novel has an international fan base.

Neil Gaiman, and indeed the genre of Urban Fantasy, would not be where they are today without Terri Windling. She created the Bordertown universe, tales of which have been written by a multitude of authors. Bordertown is “a dystopian metropolis that lies along the border between “the Elflands” and “The World”.” (3) The tagline on some of the book covers reads, “Where Magic Meets Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which I find charming. As one reader puts it, “the aesthetic of Celtic punk rock, elf/human gang warfare, and glamorous urban decay absolutely succeeds. You can understand why this series inspired its own new wave/nerd subculture back in the eighties.” (4)

Mercy Thompson

Interestingly, 57% of writers in this genre are women. (1) Another such writer who caught my eye was Patricia Briggs, with her Mercy Thompson series. Mercy is a shapeshifting mechanic who was raised by werewolves. She interacts with vampires, gremlins, and other creatures of the night. Ignore the sexy artwork on the book covers: this is not a steamy series, but rather one with compelling dialogue and a strong, sensitive female lead. There are plenty of books in this series, starting with Moon Called.

I’d like to leave you with some more author recommendations, which is a hard thing to do as I haven’t actually read any of them. But thank goodness for those bookmarks, and for Goodreads.com, a great resource for book lists and reader reviews. Searching Goodreads by genre, I found that there are some Urban Fantasy authors whose books have been reviewed by community members hundreds of thousands of times! (Side note: If you find a reviewer whose taste matches your own, you can follow him/her on the site. It’s like having your own personal book critic who delivers tailored book recommendations.)

  • Charlaine HarrisSookie Stackhouse series (AKA the Southern Vampire Mysteries). These books are the source material for HBO’s True Blood.
  • Jim ButcherThe Dresden Files Harry Dresden is Chicago’s first and only wizard P.I. This series is the Urban Fantasy high standard for many reviewers.
  • Kelley ArmstrongDarkest Powers A genetically-engineered teenage necromancer’s powers are out of control: she raises the dead without even trying. On the run from her creators, she’s accompanied by a sorcerer, a werewolf, and a witch.
  • Seanan McGuireWayward Children Children who have gone through magical portals – like Wonderland’s rabbit hole, or Narnia’s wardrobe – find it hard to adjust to normal life once they return. Luckily, there’s a home just for them.
  • Kevin HearneThe Iron Druid Chronicles. The last of the druids runs a bookshop in Arizona, but that won’t throw an angry god off the trail of his magic sword. Celtic mythology meets vampires, werewolves, and Thor. Yes, this series definitely has a silly edge to it, but reviewers say it’s a lot of fun!
  • Holly BlackThe Poison Eaters and Other Stories. Elves, werewolves, vampires, faeries: whatever your creature obsession, there’s a short story for you in this YA/adult collection from the author of popular middle-grade series The Spiderwick Chronicles.
  • Terry BrooksWord & Void There’s been a long strike in a steel town, and it’s the hottest Fourth of July on record. Into this volatile atmosphere come a knight of the Word and a demonic servant of the Void, whose opposing goals are mysteriously linked by a teenage girl. The fate of humanity is to be decided amidst the fireworks that celebrate freedom.
  • Ilona AndrewsKate Daniels Magic feeds on technology, creating a chaotic backdrop for tales of a mercenary who lives in Atlanta, cleaning up paranormal problems.

I plan to broaden my literary horizons by adding a couple of these to my reading list. If I abandon my classics and only ever write about Urban Fantasy from now on, you’ll know what triggered it!


Sources:

Art

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The Space for True Reception: Why We Love Great Verse

By Allan Cross, Reference Department

Poetry isn’t the simplest thing to appreciate. At a passing glance, it may not have the same immediacy of film, music, and visual art. When placed alongside other forms of literature, a book of poems can struggle to match our latest bestsellers in accessibility. For all these reasons, some of us might dismiss poetry as a medium for high-minded wordsmiths, rather than a readership of less heady taste. But exceptional poetry has endured for millennia, and verse as a creative avenue stretches onward still. Why, then, do so many others read and derive worth from it today?

The convenient answer nowadays might be to quote Dead Poets Society. Mr. Keating, an English teacher played by the late Robin Williams, inspires his students (and unceasing scores of audiences) with his speech about why people read and write poetry. One of the film’s great strengths lies, of course, in its poetry readings. These, combined with well-chosen samples, bring forth the emotional meaning that fuels successful verse. The film serves as a great access point to poetry, emphasizing the importance of reading it aloud. When we readers encounter a given poem, we can better involve ourselves by audibly speaking the work. By doing so, we should enhance the piece with our individual voices, each one conducive in its own distinct way.

Testing this in light of three widely known poems seems a good place to begin. The trio we have selected consists of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” Rudyard Kipling’s “If–,” and Shel Silverstein’s verse children’s book The Giving Tree.

In the third stanza of “The Road Not Taken,” Frost writes:

And both that morning equally lay/

In leaves no step had trodden black./

Oh, I kept the first for another day!/

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,/

I doubted if I should ever come back.

Andrew Spacey, a commentator for Owlcation, points out that Frost’s work reflects on the many choices we make in life, and how we tend to regret those decisions after committing to them. It is also commonly read as a statement in support of individualism, and the promotion of opinions that contrast with majority views.

Below is an excerpt from Kipling’s “If—”:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;/

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;/

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/

And treat those two imposters just the same;/

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken/

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools/

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,/

And stoop and build them up with worn out tools:

 

The theme of Kipling’s work, which regards the importance of thought, but not to the point where it impedes action, seems like a stirring antidote to Frost. It acknowledges the significance and moral need for regret, but urges the reader not to allow past mistakes to obstruct the path to future growth.

The Giving Tree addresses similar concerns, as shown in some of its final lines:

“I am sorry,” sighed the tree./

I wish that I could give you something…/

But I have nothing left./

I am just an old stump./

I am sorry….”/

I don’t need very much now,” said the boy./

“just a quiet place to sit and rest.”/

I am very tired.”

Rivka Galchen, in her 2014 review for The New York Times, argues that there is an unavoidable dilemma in The Giving Tree, it being whether we read it as a statement on thoughtless acquisition or unreserved giving. The two characters, the boy and the tree, do what is most fundamental to their natures. It’s up to the reader to then decide how to feel about the situation, including the conclusion about whether it turns out morally right.

The takeaway from all of this, in spite of all the people who attempt to influence our points-of-view, is that we allow ourselves to read and study works on our unique terms. As mentioned earlier, it may prove worthwhile to read these pieces and others to ourselves (at the risk of seeming foolish), in order to bring out their inherent humanity. We should remember that reading can be, in its way, a roomy type of interpretation. There’s a mysterious element of poetry, one we cannot entirely rationalize and so must trail behind. Rather than strain for full understanding, this is the process we might instead come to accept.


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Poetica

By Howard Shirley, Teen Department

Poetica

Howard Shirley

It’s April.
It’s National Poetry Month.
1996.
There. You have a year.
That’s when it started.
The American Academy of Poets.
That’s who started it.
Not much else factual to say.

But poems aren’t about facts.
Poems are about themselves.
They say whatever they say.
You hear whatever you hear.
That’s a poem.

They’re not about rhyme (though they can be)
They’re not about time (though they can be)
They’re not about meter (rigid or free)
Or fanciful words like “lugubrious.”
Which no one uses any other day.
Or any other way.
Poems are just whatever you want to say.
The way you want to say it.
Your poem is yours.
It can be no one else’s.

It’s National Poetry Month.
So go write a poem.
I just did.

— Howard Shirley

 

Now it’s your turn! If you are a teenage resident of Williamson County, age 12-18, you are invited to submit your own poems to our Teen Poetry Contest. You may submit up to three poems. Poems are welcome in any form on any subject—the choice is yours (as it should be). A poem may be any length and any style—haiku, sonnet, ballad, limerick, free verse; however your muse takes you. All poems must be your original creations.

All poems must be typed on plain white paper in an ordinary font. Poems with multiple pages should be stapled together. All poems must include the poet’s name, age, school and grade, and contact information (e-mail or phone) at the top of the first page.

We are accepting poems through April 30. You may turn your poem in at any Williamson County Public Library branch, or upstairs in the Teen Room of the Main Branch in Franklin. Contest winners will be announced in May during our Teen Poetry Slam as part of our Summer Reading Kick-off event.

Graphic Novels for Kids: What to Read Next?

By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department

Our juvenile graphic novel section is very well loved here at WCPL. Kids can’t seem to read enough of them. However, their favorites are often checked out, and while this is a fantastic problem to have, we hate to see kids leave disappointed and empty handed. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a brief list of readalikes for some of our most popular graphic novels.

If you can’t get enough Calvin and Hobbes… 

Try Phoebe and Her Unicorn!

Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson (J 741.5973 SIM) is a weekly comic strip about a precocious nine-year-old girl named Phoebe and her best friend Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, a unicorn. Their adventures begin when Phoebe skips a rock and accidentally hits a Marigold Heavenly Nostrils in the face. Improbably, this led to Phoebe being granted one wish, and she used it to make the unicorn her obligational best friend. With seven volumes and counting, kids will be reading and laughing about Phoebe and Marigold’s wacky and hilarious antics as long as they like.

If you absolutely love Smile and Sisters…

Try Surfside Girls: The Secret of Danger Point, Pashmina, and Cici’s Journal!

In Surfside Girls: The Secret of Danger Point by Kim Dwinell ( J 741.5973 DWI), things are getting very weird for Samantha. Lately, her best friend Jade explodes into fits of giggles whenever she sees a boy, and it’s throwing a wrench into the laidback summer of surfing and hanging out that Sam had planned. But after swimming through a secret underwater cave, Sam starts to see things. Like ghosts. And pirates. And maybe something even scarier! Can she and Jade get to the bottom of this mystery in time to save their town?

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani (J 741.5973 CHA) is the story of Priyanka Das, who has so many unanswered questions about her mother and about India. For Pri, her mother’s homeland can only exist in her imagination. That is, until she find a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, she is transported to a place more vivid and colorful than any guidebook or Bollywood film. But is this the real India? And what is that shadow lurking in the background? To learn the truth, Pri must travel farther than she’s ever dared and find the family she never knew.

Translated from French, Cici dreams of being a novelist in Cici’s Journal by Joris Chamblain (J 741.5973 CHA). Her favorite subject is people, especially adults. She’s been watching them and taking notes. Everybody has one special secret, Cici figures, and if you want to write about people, you need to understand what’s hiding inside them. But now she’s discovered something truly strange: an old man who disappears into the forest every Sunday with huge pots of paint in all sorts of colors. What is he up to? Why does he look so sad when he comes back?

If you think Narwhal and Jelly is delightful….

Try The Great Pet Escape,Cici, A Fairy’s Tale, and Brobots and the Kaiju Kerfluffle!

In The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson (J 741.5973 JAM), the class pets at Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary School want out, and G.W.—short for George Washington—the deceptively cute hamster in the second-grade classroom, is just the guy to lead the way. But when he finally escapes and goes to find his former partners in crime, Barry and Biter, he finds that they actually LIKE being class pets! Just as G.W. gets Barry and Biter to agree to leave with him, a mouse named Harriet and her many mouse minions get in their way.

A lot is changing for Cici in Believe Your Eyes, the first book in Cici, A Fairy’s Tale by Cori Doerrfield (J 741.5973 DOE). Her parents are separating, her wacky abuela is moving in, and on her tenth birthday, she wakes up with fairy wings! Cici’s new magical powers let her see people as they truly are, but what she learns about her friends and family isn’t always easy to accept. She has only one day to decide whether to keep her wings. When Cici wishes life could just be normal again, will she choose to believe in the power of fairies?

Brobots and the Kaiju Kerfluffle by J. Torres (J 741.5973 TOR) begins with robot brothers Panchi, Joukei, and Kouro reeling in a “big one” while fishing. When the giant threatens to demolish their city, the three bro-up and spring into action!

If you like Hilo

Try Cosmic Commandos, Dream Jumper, and Fish Girl!

In Cosmic Commandos by Christopher Eliopoulos (J 741.5973 ELI), Jeremy and Justin are twins, but they couldn’t be any more different from each other. They both love video games, however, and when Jeremy wins a cereal-box charm that brings his favorite video game to life, villains and all, he finds that he’s in way over his head. Can these two mismatched brothers work together to beat the video game that has taken over their life?

Dream Jumper: Nightmare Escape by Greg Grunberg (J 741.5973 GRU) is the story of Ben, who has the ability to jump into other people’s dreams. So when his friends start falling victim to an evil dream-monster that prevents them from waking, Ben knows he has to help them. But can he get to them in time? With a mysterious companion, Ben might just be able to defeat the monster and save his friends…if he can figure out how to use the power within him.

Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli (J 741.5973 NAP) begins with a show at Ocean Wonders, an aquarium filled with several ocean animals and Fish Girl, the elusive star attraction. When Fish Girl has a chance encounter with an ordinary girl, their growing friendship inspires Fish Girl’s longing for freedom, independence, and a life beyond the aquarium tank.

If you need more action-packed adventures like Amulet

Try Red’s Planet, Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race, and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur!

Red’s Planet by Eddie Pittman (J 741.5973 PIT) is the story of Red, who longs to live in her own perfect paradise far away from her annoying foster family. But when a UFO mistakenly kidnaps her, Red finds herself farther away than she could have possibly imagined—across the galaxy and aboard an enormous spaceship owned by the Aquilari, an ancient creature with a taste for rare and unusual treasures.  Before Red can be discovered as a stowaway, the great ship crashes on a small deserted planet, leaving her marooned with a menagerie of misfit aliens. With her newfound friend, a small gray alien named Tawee, Red must find a way to survive the hostile castaways, evade the ravenous wildlife and contend with Goose, the planet’s grumpy, felinoid custodian. Surely this can’t be the paradise she’s looking for.

In Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race by Jen Breach (J 741.5973 BRE), Clementine Hetherington and her robot brother, Digory, have run away from the orphanage they’ve been living in since their parents died. Clem and Dig want to follow in their famous archaeologist mother’s footsteps, but no one will take them seriously. Their chance arrives when a man from their past saves Digory’s life, and to repay the debt, they enter a multiday race to recover stolen artifacts! Clem and Dig hope to win so they can give the artifacts to a museum, but their opponents want to sell them on the black market. The Ironwood Race has no rules, and Clem and Dig might be in over their heads!

The first volume in the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur comic series by Brandon Montclare (J 741.5973 MON) introduces Lunella Lafayette, a preteen genius living in mortal fear of her latent inhuman gene. There’s no telling what she’ll turn into, but Lunella’s got a plan. All she needs is an Omni-Wave Projector. Easy, right? That is, until a red-scaled beast is teleported from the prehistoric past to a far-flung future we call today! Together they’re the most Marvelous Team-Up of all — the Inhuman Moon Girl and time-tossed Devil Dinosaur! But will they be BFFs forever, or just until DD’s dinner time? And Lunella soon learns that there are other problems with having a titanic T. Rex as a pet in the modern-day Marvel Universe. School, for one. Monster hunters are another—especially when they’re the Totally Awesome Hulk! Then there’s the fact that everyone’s favorite dino didn’t journey through time alone. Beware the prehistoric savages known as the Killer-Folk—New York City’s deadliest tourists! Can Lunella handle all this turmoil and keep herself from transforming into an inhuman monster?

If Dog Man makes you laugh your pants off…

Try Making Scents, Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom, and Catstronauts!

Mickey isn’t quite like his brothers and sisters in Making Scents by Arthur Yorinks (J 741.5973 YOR). They’re all stronger, faster, and have a much better sense of smell. That’s because his “brothers and sisters” are dogs―bloodhounds, to be exact. Mickey’s mom and dad are crazy about canines. Their dogs are the loves of their lives and their livelihood. So, naturally, they’re raising their son as if he was a dog, and Mickey wants nothing more than to make his parents proud. Just as Mickey is mastering the art of sniffing, a tragic accident forever changes his happy family. Mickey is sent to live with relatives he’s never met―relatives who are not fond of kids . . . and who hate dogs!

In The Doughnut Kingdom, the first book in the Cucumber Quest series by Gigi D.G. (J 741.5973 GIG), the seven kingdoms of Dreamside need a legendary hero. Instead, they’ll have to settle for Cucumber, a nerdy magician who just wants to go to school. As destiny would have it, he and his way  more heroic sister, Almond, must now seek the Dream Sword, the only weapon powerful enough to defeat Queen Cordelia’s Nightmare Knight. Can these bunny siblings really save the world in its darkest hour? Sure, why not?

CatStronauts: Mission Moon by Drew Brockington (J 741.5973 BRO) begins with the world being thrust into darkness due to a global energy shortage. The World’s Best Scientist quickly comes up with a bold plan to set up a solar power plant on the moon. But someone has to go up there to set it up, and that adventure falls to the CatStronauts, the best space cats on the planet! Meet the fearless commander Major Meowser, brave-but-hungry pilot Waffles, genius technician and inventor Blanket, and quick thinking science officer Pom Pom on their most important mission yet!

As always, you can put any of these on hold through our website, and once your kids plow through these, our children’s librarians are ready to recommend even more titles!

Pulling the Digital Trigger

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

WCPLtn’s computer lab in the middle of being remodeled.

As many of you have already discovered, the Library is making a lot of changes. The computer lab is being remodeled. The carpet in many places is being replaced. Shelves are getting emptied out. There are new study carrels throughout the upstairs. These changes are all geared to give today’s library patron the best twenty-first century library experience.

Now most of these improvements have obvious reasons, but the empty shelves in our history section and the continued downsizing of our biographies might not be so apparent. Libraries around the world are seeing a huge increase in circulation as they increase their eBook holdings. Some have seen increases, year over year, of 100% or more. While our increases may have not been that significant, we have seen large gains in circulation as our eBooks catalog grows. During our Make-It-A-Million campaign we checked out 223,972 digital items. That is more than double the number of 4 years ago at 104,000+. Considering our readers’ obvious interest and the limited funding we receive, we have made the fateful decision to transition to a fully digital collection[i].

“Gasp!” I hear from the multitudes. How can you get rid of the physical books? It was a really, really easy decision. I mean, those books are really, really, REALLY heavy. In fact, they are far heavier than what we have down in fiction.  It will be a gradual change (like I said, they’re heavy. No one’s taking a load of them down stairs in a hurry), especially since none of us like to work out.  We prefer reading. The collections that receive the heaviest use will be the first to transition, hence the history and biography section shrinkage. Next will be cookbooks, followed by self-help and the political books.  Unfortunately, once the books have been removed we’re kind of stuck with digital since we will have donated all of the books to the Franklin Transit (they’re planning to add bookstores on the trolleys).  That means that the non-fiction section, which no one really cares for anyway, is the trial section. If this goes poorly, the print books will be saved in the other sections, and we’ll consider removing the digital collections for those sections. But there will be no going back for the non-fiction section. Dun dun dun…

So what are we going to do with all this space? We are constantly being asked for two things: study rooms and a coffee bar. Now that the non-fiction section is being digitized, we will finally have the space to put those rooms all over the upstairs. Plans are in the works for nine new glass enclosed rooms, lockable from the outside (and only the librarians have the keys… good luck!) and a regionally known coffee shop  will be setting up shop between the staircase and the windows overlooking the parking lot (the espresso machine is also available for checkout). There are also plans to replace the periodicals section with a newsstand run by Barnes and Noble. Apparently, they’re a little strict about paying before reading (those glass rooms can also be used as library jails).   Um, anyway…

As of right now, it is only the non-fiction and reference sections that are being migrated to digital platforms. The Children’s Section, Young Adult’s, and Fiction will remain as is until at least the end of the fiscal year in June, and then we’ll see how tired our arms are.  In fact, we will probably not change the young adult section over at all. Statistics for the last year show a significant drop in teen eBook sales and polls of those between 12 and 18 have shown a marked preference for print books. Go figure!

The library is aware that this may prove unpopular with many of our patrons, but we cannot allow progress to be stymied (eventually the goal is for the library to be manned by volunteer robots). Have no fear though; if you still want the old book feel and smell, you can still get your fix. Because we won’t have that massive amount of paper and other flammable material all over the place, candles with the new “Old book smell” scent will be placed throughout the upstairs. And the desk that was formerly known as the reference desk will now be the Library Guru desk where we will still be able to get your print media for you through interlibrary loans, although you will have to bring an offering of chocolate to speak with us. Luckily, as you are not tied to the total instant gratification that the digital generation can’t live without, the one to three weeks it takes to get the book brought in will not be an issue for you.

So I hope this has allayed any fears you may have about our changes. If you want to let us know what you think please email us at Ha.Ha.WeGotU@HappyAprilFoolsDay.bazinga.

 


Sources:

[i] In fact, this whole blog is a rather elaborate April Fool’s Day Prank. I just believe that no one actually bothers with footnotes until the end. The reason for the empty shelves in the 900s and the shrinking biography shelves is that we are making space for brand new, actual ink and paper books to keep our collection as current as possible.

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