Monthly Archives: May 2018

Memorial Day

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Words and Music by . . .

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

On more than one occasion, usually to no discernible effect whatsoever, I’ve admonished my own children as well as library patrons for seeing the movie before they read the book.  I can’t do that with the  titles in this blog, for the simple reason that a different medium preceded the book; to wit, this is a list of children’s books that were inspired by rock, pop, or folk songs.  Turn it up, y’all . . .

It was immediately clear to me which book/song I wanted to start this blog with, for a couple of reasons.  Bob Marley, the enigmatic and often misunderstood Jamaican singer-songwriter who achieved international acclaim before his untimely death from cancer at the age of 36, has long held a spot in my heart.  His daughter Cedella has written five books to date, all based upon or inspired by her iconic father’s life and music.  One Love and Every Little Thing (J E MARLEY) are both delightfully inspirational, and emphasize how one person can make a difference in this world, and that of course “every little thing is gonna be alright.”

Next up on my songs-to-books list is another transformative song that was also written and published in an era of revolution, war, and enormous historical and cultural changes to the American landscape.  “What A Wonderful World,” written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss and recorded by Louis Armstrong, was not initially a hit in the United States; it sold fewer than 1,000 copies because the president of ABC Records did not like the song and therefore did not promote it, but was a major success in the United Kingdom, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart in 1967.  The eponymous children’s book illustrated by Tim Hopgood (J E HOPGOOD) is just as sweet, hopeful, and uplifting as the song.  (Author’s note:  my very favorite writer of books for grownups, Michael Connelly, takes inspiration from this song for his complex protagonist Harry Bosch, and his next novel is entitled Dark Sacred Night, which is of course a line from this beautiful song.)

The brave and persistent Itsy Bitsy Spider from the children’s finger-play nursery rhyme is back, and on an even bolder adventure in this charming book written and illustrated by Iza Trapani (J E TRAPANI).  She manages to survive encounters with a fan, a mouse, a rocking chair, a cat, and a gigantic maple tree, and is finally able to build her web and relax.  Trapani’s rich watercolor illustrations and playful rhythm transform this simple song into a delightful journey to be enjoyed again and again.

Also from the fabulous Iza Trapani is her brilliantly illustrated Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (J E Trapani).  While we have several different versions of the song-to-book rendition of this sweet little song, Iza’s is far and away the best of the bunch.  (Pete the Cat’s version comes in second, because I love him so.)  Just as in Itsy Bitsy Spider, this modern spin on the traditional classic will yield many hours of reading pleasure.

Last on this list is Puff, the Magic Dragon (J E YARROW) by Peter Yarrow, an American singer-songwriter who was one-third of the 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary.  Yarrow once said, “Puff has appeared to me both childlike and wise, a king but also a willing follower of just about any bright spirit that inspired him. Puff gives his whole heart and soul to one special friend…One day, as you can see at the end of this book, a new and special friend comes to Honalee…In this way Puff and Jackie’s friendship continues through new children like you.”   Both Yarrow and co-writer Leonard Lipton have adamantly and repeatedly stated that “Puff the Magic Dragon is not about drugs.”  He has also said of the song that it “never had any meaning other than the obvious one” and is about the “loss of innocence in children,” and dismissed the suggestion of association with drugs as “sloppy research.”  So, disregard that urban legend.  The book is comprised solely of the lyrics to the song with no additional text, but the lush illustrations imply a new twist to the sad final stanza.

Come visit the rock star librarians at WCPL to check out these and many more music-related titles to enjoy during our Summer Reading Program—which is not coincidentally themed “Libraries Rock!”  Happy Reading—


Librarian by day, aspiring fiction writer by night, and enthusiast of rock and roll 24/7/365, the author lives with her two children and four cats, not all of whom share her taste in music.

Armed Forces Day

How to Take a Mental Health Day

by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

Are you unusually overwhelmed at work? Do you fear that – contrary to your character – you are one careless comment away from smacking a coworker in the face, or bursting into tears in the break room? Can you no longer distinguish your personal life from your work life? If you’re otherwise healthy, but feeling out of sorts and out of control, maybe it’s time to take a mental health day.

A mental health day (MHD) is just like a sick day. Instead of staying home because of a sore throat or a twisted ankle, however, an employee takes this day off work for a legitimate wellness concern that may not present physically. Sometimes the need stems from a clinically diagnosed illness (i.e., Major Depressive Disorder), but not always. Depression, anxiety, grief, stress, and emotional trauma are some possible reasons to take a mental health day.

“That sounds like playing hooky,” you might say, skeptically. Indeed, our culture pressures us to put career first, ahead of family and sanity. You may know someone who missed a child’s birthday party, rescheduled an anniversary dinner, or cancelled a vacation due to being “on call” at a job that has nothing to do with life and death.

Web developer Madalyn Parker made waves in 2017 by publically sharing her experience taking a mental health day. Check out this screenshot of her Tweet. See, it can be done!

And there’s still a cultural stigma against mental illnesses. They often go ignored or misunderstood, and aren’t given the same consideration as a visible sickness or injury. People with depression, for example, are instructed to “buck up.” This places the demand for a cure back on the sick individual, rather than encouraging them to seek help. (Imagine telling someone with a broken leg to “walk it off!”)

I’m not suggesting we all abandon our jobs and start living like Thoreau in the woods. (Although that is my own personal plan for early retirement.) But I am suggesting we start to value mental health as a vital element of wellness. It’s irresponsible to show up to work if you’ve got a fever. It’s equally unwise to wait until you’re in psychological crisis mode before you take some time off work. When you see your emotional distress flare, consider scheduling a mental health day (people who know you well can help you spot the warning signs, too.)

Be sure the day is productive in some way. You’re not skiving off work; you’re taking care of yourself. Evaluate the reasons you are staying home from work, and decide what you need most. Is it sleep? Quality time with a loved one? An afternoon full of play? If a Netflix marathon usually leaves you sluggish and empty, skip it. This is a day to fill yourself up. Here are some elements you might incorporate into your MHD:

  1. Drink lots of water all day long, and eat healthy food. (Dehydration and poor nutrition amplify the effects of emotional stress.)
  2. Schedule an appointment with your therapist, counselor, or mentor; or catch up with a friend who will listen with compassion.
  3. Attend to personal issues that have been causing stress, such as a long to-do list or a wilting relationship.
  4. Get out in nature.
  5. Sleep in, or take a restorative nap during the day. Go to bed earlier than usual.
  6. Exercise, to get your mind and body back in sync. It should be something you enjoy, not a chore: yoga, swimming, shooting hoops, golfing, climbing rock walls, …
  7. Book a therapeutic massage.
  8. Drive a few towns over for a change of scenery.
  9. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. This will help block out social media, e-mails, and marketing calls. (Most phones let you customize this option, so you can still get important calls from select contacts.)
  10. Do something creative and meditative, such as painting, writing, cooking, or gardening.
  11. Laugh – and cry! Both work wonders for stress relief. Watch a movie, listen to a podcast, or read a book that you know will engage your emotions.

During your mental health day, you may come up against a few lies, so be sure to equip yourself with the truth: Time spent resting is NOT time wasted. It is NOT weak to ask for help or to express your needs. You ARE worth taking care of! And self-care is NOT selfish!

If taking a paid day off isn’t an option at your job, you can still dedicate a day to your mental health. The same goes for those of you who work from home, or stay home as a caregiver to family members. You’ll have to be intentional with your scheduled days off. You may have to ask for more help and be firm with your boundaries. But you CAN do it, and it IS worth it.

None of these activities will cure a mental illness or replace a long-term management plan, of course. You may need to incorporate lifestyle changes, or find a counselor or medical professional whose job is to equip you to navigate life’s challenges. (Check the links at the end of this post for a starting point to that search.) But taking time to care for yourself in meaningful ways can help maintain a sense of balance, self-worth, and perspective. As the rallying cry goes, “Mental health is health!”

When you are ready to go back to work, I hope you notice that you’re feeling refreshed and in control. A healthy person can give more, and joyfully so, to all around them: at home, at work, and everywhere else.

 


A few links to help you search for a mental health care professional:

Sources:

Happy Mother’s Day!

When Ronny Met Jacksie: Narnia and Middle Earth

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

I’m definitely a fantasy genre lover. I always have been, going all the way back to when my dad first read The Hobbit to me when I was little. While I have broadened my reading horizons considerably, I still love to pick up a fantasy novel and slide into a world of warriors and dragons. As such, I have a special soft spot for the patron saints of fantasy literature; Tolkien, Lewis, Pratchett, Jordan, Le Guin, White, and Rowling. These men and women carry on a tradition of storytelling that goes back to a time of oral history and fireside stories of fantastic heroes and the even more outlandish creatures that either aid them or seek to destroy them. It was very surprising to me, many years ago, to learn that two of these men, Lewis and Tolkien, not only knew one another, but were friends.

C.S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis, known to his family as Jack, was born in northern Ireland. His nickname actually belonged to the family dog, Jacksie, which was killed when Lewis was four. He lost his mother to cancer at age nine, and was sent to boarding school after boarding school by his father. He abandoned the Christianity of his youth and escaped into stories of fantasy. He started with anthropomorphic animals like Peter Rabbit, and then developed a fascination with Scandinavian mythology and stories followed by the same for Greece and Ireland. When he first went to Oxford, he joined the officer cadet corps and quickly found himself a second lieutenant in the Somme. In early 1918 he was wounded by a British shell that fell well short of its target, and he spent the rest of the war in England.

J.R.R. Tolkein

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien had a similar childhood. His parents had moved to South Africa not long before his birth, but this quintessentially British author returned to England at age three on what was supposed to have been an extended family visit. It proved permanent when his father died in South Africa before he could join the family. Ronald, as his family referred to him, grew up in a series of homes in and around Birmingham. After his mother’s conversion to Catholicism and then death, he was raised by Father Francis Xavier Morton. After getting married and finishing his education, Tolkien found himself a second lieutenant and posted to France. By 1916 he had contracted Trench Fever, and split most of his time between infirmaries and light duty.

The Eagle and Child pub (commonly known as the Bird and Baby or simply just the Bird) in Oxford where the Inklings met informally on Tuesday mornings during term.

So we end up with two men, in the same department of a university, who experienced some of the worst the Great War had to offer, both of whom lost a parent while very young. So when these two men found themselves in Tolkien’s Coalbiters Club for people who enjoyed reading the Old Icelandic sagas, it was natural for them to gravitate towards each other, which led Tolkien to spend time with Lewis’s group, The Inklings. Opinions on how the dynamic between the two men worked varies between scholars. You find Lewis dominating The Inklings in some and Tolkien listening quietly and issuing sharp criticism in others. However, the one common theme is the interplay. These men helped each other grow as writers and world crafters. Their works went on to profoundly influence one another, to the point where Tolkien’s Numenor and a Saruman cognate ended up in Lewis’s That Hideous Strength.

This is not to say the two men never disagreed. Tolkien’s first proposal to Oxford was rejected and one of the votes that turned it away was Lewis’s.  According to Humphrey Carter in his book, The Inklings, Lewis’s thoughts on Tolkien were, “No Harm in him: only needs a smack or so.” Lewis also felt that Tolkien was too mired in the ancient and neglected the renaissance authors and later writers. Tolkien had his own problems with Lewis, as well. Tolkien was an inveterate opponent of allegory and felt Lewis’ Narnia books were vastly too allegorical and that they were contrived and inconsistent. It was at this time that their friendship began to cool.

Without this meeting of two eventual literary giants, we would not have those same literary giants. It was Lewis who suggested that Tolkien turn his children’s story about diminutive people fighting a dragon into what we now know as The Hobbit. Conversely, Tolkien was among the people who convinced Lewis to return to the fold of Christianity. How lucky the world is that the happy accident of their meeting came to pass and we have some of the greatest works of modern English Literature.


Sources and Suggested Reading:

  • R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: A Legendary Friendship
  • Tolkien’s ‘No’ to Narnia
  • The Inklings by Humphrey Carter (823.9CAR)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Beyond the Wardrobe by E. J. Kirk (823.912 KIR)
  • R. R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and the Birth of Modern Fantasy by Deke Parsons (823.912 PAR)
  • Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth (828.91209 GAR)
  • Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths by Nancy Marie Brown

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Cinco de Mayo!

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

In case you don’t know, Cinco de Mayo means the Fifth of May in Spanish.

Cinco de Mayo dancers in Washington DC

So sit down with a margarita, put on some mariachi music and read about this almost more American than Mexican holiday. (May 5 is often confused with the Mexican day of independence. The nation celebrates its Independence Day on September 16. On this date in 1810, Mexico won her independence from Spain.)

Cinco de Mayo does commemorate an historic event in the city of Puebla de Los Angeles in Mexico. President Benito Juarez sent a rag tag army of volunteers to meet the French army there. General Zaragoza led this army against the much-better supplied French army. The 4,000 man Mexican army defeated the 8,000 man French army on May 5, 1862. The French army was considered the best in the world at that time and defeating the French was a huge morale booster, and gave the beleaguered country a sense of unity and patriotism. The Mexicans lost 100 men in the battle, the French 500.

Anonymous, Batalla del 5 de mayo de 1862 (Battle of the 5th of May of 1862)

France returned next year with a much bigger army (30,000 soldiers) and a chip on its shoulder. This time France defeated Mexico, and ruled the country for three years. How did this all come about? When Juarez became president in 1861, Mexico was broke. They were still recovering from the Mexican-American war in the 1840s, when a defeated Mexico allowed the United States to annex Texas. The country had borrowed money from Spain, Britain and France to keep the country going, and was recovering from the defeat. It couldn’t afford to pay back the loans.

Spain and Britain negotiated with Mexico and settled the matter. France was in no mood to settle; they wanted more territory and decided to invade Mexico at the port city of Veracruz. France only ruled Mexico for three years, installing Maximillian I as king. The United States was able to help Mexico after the Civil War ended. With additional funds and arms, plus with the pressure on France from Prussia, France withdrew to protect closer borders. In June, 1867, President Benito Juarez became president again, and started pulling Mexico back together.

Interesting Facts about Cinco de Mayo:

  • Napoleon III, the emperor of France, had the idea to take over Mexico, and then send arms and men to help the Confederate Army. Not that he was pro-Southern, he just wanted the nation to continue to be divided and weak. Since this invasion, no foreign country has ever invaded any nation in the Americas.
  • Some historians believe that if it were not for the Mexican victory during the Battle of Puebla, the Confederates would have won the Civil War and changed the fate of the United States forever.
  • Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in Mexico, and is not really celebrated outside of Puebla and a few other cities. In the United States, however, it is a huge holiday.
  • Photo taken by “The Republic”

    In and around Puebla, “Cinco de Mayo” is known as El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (the Day of Puebla Battle). And they celebrate with re-enactments and parades more than with tequila, margaritas and such.

  • May 5th was made more popular under Franklin Roosevelt, who established the “Good Neighbors policy” in the 1930s.
  • Americans eat nearly 81 million pounds of avocadoes on Cinco de Mayo every year, according to the California Avocado Commission.
  • Many cities in the United States celebrate Cinco de Mayo with weekend-long festivals, including Denver, Chicago, Portland and San Diego.
  • Los Angeles wins with the largest party (in the world!). It is called Fiesta Broadway. Many other countries enjoy this celebration as well. Even Vancouver, Canada has a big celebration, with a skydiving mariachi band!
  • Chandler, Arizona has a Chihuahua race on May 5!
  • Because we like to celebrate and drink tequila, the United States drinks more of this potent liquor than Mexico, where most tequila is made!
  • Enchiladas and tamales make up more the traditional dishes and as they take a bit of time to create and cook, it becomes a time for family togetherness.

Read the rest of this entry

“LOL Books”

By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

April was National Humor Month. (Remember our April Fool’s Day Prank?) To celebrate, we put together a great selection of books – both fiction and nonfiction – that fit the theme. In case you missed it, we’re sharing that book list here. We hope you’ll find a book to make you laugh all year long!

  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, (792.7028092 BRO)
  • Yes, Please by Amy Poehler, (92 POEHLER)
  • Life’s a Stitch: the Best of Contemporary Women’s Humor by Anne Safran Dalin, ed., (817.608 LIF)
  • Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, (92 BURROUGHS)
  • The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an America in Britain by Bill Bryson, (914.1048612 BRY)
  • In Such Good Company: 11 Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett, (791.4572 BUR)
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore, (F MOO)
  • Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton, (F EDG)
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, (814.54 SED)
  • This Is a Book by Demetri Martin, 817.6 MAR
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, (F ADA)
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, (F ADA)
  • I Could Pee on This: and Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano, (811.6 MAR)
  • Being Dead Is No Excuse: the Official Southern Ladies’ Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral by Gayden Metcalfe, (393.097633 MET)
  • Reasons My Kid Is Crying by Greg Pembroke, (818.5407 PEM)
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding, (F FIE)
  • The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae, (92 RAE)
  • The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde, (F FFO)
  • The Eyre Affaire by Jasper Fforde, (F FFO)
  • Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan, (814.6 GAF)
  • How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen, (814.54 FRA)
  • Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg, (818.602 ORT)
  • The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain, (914.04286 TWA)
  • Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon, (F CHA)
  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling, (92 KALING)
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, F HOR
  • I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron, (814.54 EPH)
  • I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron, (817.54 EPH)
  • The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes, (814.3 HOL)
  • The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse, (F WOD)
  • Holidays in Heck by P. J. O’Rourke, (818.5402 ORO)
  • How to Make Your Baby an Internet Celebrity by Rick Chillot, (818 CHI)
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, (F GIB)
  • I Am America (And so Can You!) by Stephen Colbert, (818 COL)
  • Midnight Confessions by Stephen Colbert, (818.602 COL)
  • Maskerade: a Novel of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, (F PRA)
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey, (92 FEY)
  • Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins, (F ROB)
  • Night Thoughts by Wallace Shawn, (814.54 SHA)
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman, (F GOL)
  • The Bear Went over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle, (F KOT)
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith, (F SMI)

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