Author Archives: WCPLtn

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

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WCPLtn Celebrates National Winnie the Pooh Day!

By Stephanie Wycihowski, Youth Services Manager and Rebecca Tischler, Reference Department

Do we ever need an excuse to recognize an author birthday or seize a chance to share with our reading friends all about one of our favorite, beloved book characters? So, gather up some balloons, grab your party hat, and blow out the candles on a birthday cake as we celebrate National Winnie the Pooh Day! This day is dedicated to the celebration of author A.A. Milne, who brought to life the endearing honey-loving bear in his beloved stories, which also featured his son Christopher Robin. It’s annually observed on January 18th and commemorates Milne’s 1882 birth.

Milne’s adorable Pooh Bear was inspired by Christopher Robin’s little teddy bear, initially named Edward the Bear. The name Winnie-the-Pooh was inspired by a black bear named Winnie and a swan named Pooh. Christopher Robin would visit the bear at the London Zoo during World War I, and the bear was so gentle that the zoo allowed children to enter the bear pit and feed Winnie from their hands.  Eventually, Christopher Robin renamed his teddy after the bear. As for Pooh, Milne explained in the intro to his book of poetry, When We Were Very Young,

“Christopher Robin, who feeds this swan in the mornings, has given him the name of ‘Pooh’. This is a very fine name for a swan, because, if you call him and he doesn’t come (which is a thing swans are good at), then you can pretend that you were just saying ‘Pooh!’ to show how little you wanted him.”

The friendship between a boy and his teddy bear (as well as his other stuffed animals) inspired

 

a collection of books, illustrated by E.H. Shepar

d, starting with Winnie-the-Pooh in 1926. A couple example titles that come to my mind  and can be found at WCPLtn, along with many other adventures both in print, and audio-book format.

  • Winnie-the-Pooh By A.A. Milne in (J F MIL)
  • The House At Pooh Corner By A.A. Milne (J F MIL)
  • Now We Are Six By A.A. Milne (J F MIL)
  • The Original Pooh Treasury Series By A.A. Milne (J E MIL)
  • When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne  (J F MIL)

©The New York Public Library

This is the perfect opportunity to celebrate by visiting us at WCPLtn or your own local library to gather up and check out a collection of Winnie the Pooh stories. Our librarian’s here at WCPLtn have been busy pulling together a special display of many of the classic books ready to check out in celebration of Winnie the Pooh Day ! So gather up the family and snuggle up in your favorite cozy reading spot to share for the first time (or re-read) these beloved classic adventures of Winnie the Pooh and all his friends Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet, Kanga and baby Roo, Rabbit and Owl too from the One Hundred Acre Woods.

If you cannot make it in to your local library and still want to share together a Winnie the Pooh adventure check out a e-book story or listen to a e-audio book from home by downloading our NEW streaming app service called Hoopla. You can set up an account remotely using your WCPLtn library card and an email address.  We would love to be a part of your family reading celebration. Feel free to tag us with @wcpltn on social media and use #WinnieThePoohDay to spread the joy! Happy National Winnie the Pooh Day!

 


Sources:

Quiet Heroism: the Legacy of Miep Gies, World War II Resister

By Shannon Owens, Reference Department

What constitutes a hero? Slaying dragons? Pulling children from burning buildings? Wheeling and dealing like James Bond to save the world from certain disaster? Certainly such dynamic situations come to mind immediately. There’s a particular brand of heroism, though, that is far less talked about and sadly, nearly always underrated: The quiet kind. The type of heroism that involves doing the right thing when nobody is watching. The type of heroism that may never be recognized and rarely offers the hero any personal benefit. The type of heroism that, if discovered, would spell certain death for the perpetrator.

Miep Gies, October 1980

Eight years ago on this day, we saw the final light extinguished from one such individual. At 100 years old, Miep Gies, the last living member of a small group that hid Anne Frank, passed away in the Netherlands. It’s difficult to overstate the courage it took this group (including Johannes Kleinman, Victor Kugler, Bep Voskuijl, Jan Gies and Johan Voskuijl) who risked their lives every day for over two years while the Franks were in hiding. The Frank family, along with Otto Frank’s business associate and his wife and son, and Gies’ dentist, were hidden in the Secret Annex.

Miep Gies was born on February 15, 1909 in Vienna, Austria to a working-class, Catholic family. At the age of eleven, several factors (recovery from tuberculosis, poor nutrition, rising costs of food due to shortages related to the fallout of World War I) led to Gies being sent to live in Amsterdam with a foster family. Despite the family’s modest income, coupled with five other children, Gies was loved and treated with unending compassion. In fact, she loved the Netherlands with absolute ferocity; she vowed to make Holland her permanent home.  In 1933, Miep went to work as secretary for Otto Frank, who ran a company that produced a substance used to make jam.

In May 1940, German forces invaded the Netherlands, making daily life exceedingly dangerous for the Jewish population.  In early July, the Frank family went into hiding in the attic apartment behind Otto’s business (accessible by a stairway hidden behind a bookcase). Miep’s moral integrity was the reason, when asked by Otto Frank if she was prepared to be responsible for a family in hiding, she was able to respond with a resounding affirmative. At a lecture in 1994, Gies addressed the audience: “I myself am just an ordinary woman. I simply had no choice…it is our human duty to help those who are in trouble…I could foresee many, many sleepless nights and a miserable life if I had refused to help the Franks. Yes, I have wept countless times when I thought of my dear friends. But still, I am happy that these are not tears of remorse for refusing to assist those in trouble.”

Floor Plans for the Secret Annex

Over two years, Miep provided food, clothing, books, supplies, and news from the outside world to the Frank family (this included procuring additional ration cards, at great personal risk). On August 4, 1944, Miep Gies was working at her desk, and looked up to suddenly find a Gestapo officer in front of her, with information verifying the hideout. Gies realized the arresting officer was Austrian, like herself, and she pointed this out, which very likely saved her life. The officer arrested the Franks, the Van Pels, Dr. Pfeffer, Johannes Kleinman, and Victor Kugler. After a time, Miep and Bep returned to the Annex to collect the loose papers and the contents of Anne’s diary (they hid these away for safekeeping without reading them).

Acting with surefire moxie, Miep hatched a plan to negotiate for the release of the Franks. She collected money from the employees of the company and went to the headquarters of Security Service to offer a bribe. At the office, she met the Austrian who had arrested those at the Annex and he waved her upstairs. She reached the landing, found a half open door, and walked in to a startling sight: a group of high ranking Nazi officers were surrounding a radio, listening to a BBC broadcast. Likely, they were too shocked to see her standing there to react, giving her time to hightail it out of Dodge before they could arrest her (and likely execute her as well).

After the war, Miep was devastated to learn that all of her friends, excepting Otto, had perished. She gave Anne’s diary to her father, telling him that it was the lasting legacy of his youngest daughter. To this point, Miep had not read the contents of the diary, and was relieved. If she had read the diary, she surely would have had to destroy it since it implicated all of the conspirators who safeguarded the Franks and their friends for years. Miep received several awards late in life, including the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Yad Vashem Medal and the Wallenberg Medal. In 1987, Gies published her memoir: “Anne Frank Remembered”. Here, she makes several comments referencing her legacy as a hero, maintaining that she only did what any decent human would: “I am not a hero. I stand at the end of the long, long line of good Dutch people who did what I did and more- much more- during those dark and terrible times years ago, but always like yesterday in the heart of those who bear witness. Never a day goes by that I do not think of what happened then.”

Many of us believe that if we found ourselves in a similar situation, we would act as Miep did. The reality is probably a little more complicated than that. Miep Gies stated over and over that she was no hero. I disagree emphatically: her actions gave hope where there was little, showed humanity in a time when humanity was utterly depleted, and showed strength, will, and belief in all that is good and that connects us to others. It is hard to find more heroism than that.

 


Sources:

2019 New Year’s Reading Challenge

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

It’s the start of a new year. A blank slate for new beginnings and refreshing our resolutions and to do lists. That means it is also time for our 3rd annual New Year’s Reading Challenge! (Please make sure your read that in your head with the appropriate cheesy deep toned echo sound effect).

Last year, I tried to theme the options to the month or season they were in. I’m not doing that for 2019. There’s no order, very few rules and will be a challenge the whole family can participate in. There will be three challenge levels; Novice, Reader, and Book Wyrm.

The Novice Level is the simplest level with the easiest qualifications. Read twelve books and twelve periodicals at your reading level. That’s it. Just one book and one magazine or newspaper per month at the level you read comfortably. So if you’re in third grade you don’t have to try to read outside the level your teacher thinks is appropriate, but if you’re 43 let’s leave the Beverly Cleary to the youngsters. The only rule is read the whole book and the whole magazine or newspaper.

The Reader Level is more complicated it’s still 24 books and periodicals but instead of having free reign to read everything you want, this one guides you a bit. With this level you will choose twelve of the options from the list for the Book Wyrms and twelve books or periodicals of your choice. The rules are the same as the novice, read it all the way through, and it has to be at your reading level. The only new regulation here is that you can’t have more than 12 periodicals. If you want to read all books, and no periodicals, that’s fine.

Finally, it is The Book Wyrm Level (devour those books in your literary hoard!). If you’ve made it this far, you probably already planned to read at least two books a month and now you want someone to make it a little difficult.  Well, you’ve come to the right place. Below is a list of twenty-four challenges (with two bonus challenges for those of you who want to do a book every two weeks rather than two a month). These are some of my favorite selections from lists from the past, mine and otherwise. All the rules from above apply.

  1. A book that was published in 2019
  2. A book that has won a major award[i]
  3. A banned book
  4. A book that was given to you as a gift (even if you have to give it to yourself)
  5. Read a single issue of a comic book
  6. A book with a song lyric for a title
  7. A book from an author you’ve never heard of before
  8. A collection of Short stories from a single author
  9. A graphic novel that has nothing to do with superheroes or zombies
  10. A book you were supposed to read in high school or college, but didn’t
  11. The next book in a series you’ve started
  12. A collection of poetry
  13. A Classic of Genre fiction[ii]
  14. A book with a terrible cover
  15. A book set in a country that fascinates you
  16. A book you meant to read last year
  17. A collection of poetry
  18. Listen to an audio book
  19. A book you’ve checked out or bought but never read
  20. Something from a book club list, either online, on TV or in your community
  21. A book that was translated from another language
  22. Something from an author that writes in English but is not American
  23. A magazine on a subject you’ve always been interested in
  24. Read a book with somone, or a group of people

Bonus 1: Reading builds a person’s ability to empathize, read a book that tells the story from a point of view you are unfamiliar with.

Bonus 2: Do all of these challenges using making sure that each title you read starts with a different letter in the alphabet. Use this one for any book with that last letter you need.

Read and enjoy and watch this blog for potential opportunities to interact with other people in the challenge.


[i] National Book Award, Man Booker, PEN/Faulkner, Hugo, Nebula, Eisner, Rita, Edgar, Newberry, Caldecott to name a few.

[ii] Mystery, Scisnce Fiction, Romance, Adventure, Western, etc.

Happy New Year!

Winter Solstice

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Winter Solstice Art

We all know that Christmas is on December 25, but do you know why?  It wasn’t necessarily because it was the date of the birth of Jesus (most biblical scholars think he was born in March, BTW).  The pagan winter solstice observances were bigger and more wide-spread, more popular and considered more important to most non-Christian cultures.  The Catholic church wanted to promote Christianity (and get rid of pagan religions) so the celebration of Christ’s Mass was chosen to be on December 25 and promoted as the birth of Christ.

The “sol” in Solstice is Latin for sun and the “stice” part comes from the Latin verb for standing still. We, in the modern age know about the solstices that happen twice a year and the equinoxes that occur twice a year as well (the equinoxes are when day and night are equal in length, which is what equinox means in Latin).  Cultures from the past weren’t aware of the reason for this phenomenon and so it took on a religious meaning.  The nights got longer and the days got shorter.  The longer nights got colder, generally, and plants died in the cold and dark.  Is it any wonder that older cultures created ceremonies to bring back the sun and the warmth and the growing season?  The northern pagans burned huge logs that last the midwinter celebrations, sometimes even saving a small last bit of the Yule log to burn in the next winter’s fire.  The ashes of the fire on the longest night became so special many claimed it had healing properties.  The livestock, cattle, pigs, chickens and other animals were often slaughtered around this time—they often would not make it through the harsh winter and much of the meat was preserved in salt. They had huge meals; sometimes it was the last of the vegetables as well as the meats, to celebrate the return of the sun.  Often the winter months brought famine to some parts of Europe.

A little history…

Saturnalia (1783) by Antoine Callet, showing his interpretation of what the Saturnalia might have looked like

Saturnalia was a Roman holiday, a festival that started off somber but became more and more raucous. In Scandinavia this festival was called Jul or Yule. The huge log burned to keep the long night lit became the Yule log.  (And in a roundabout way we now have a fabulous holiday desert called the Buc de Noel, which is shaped like a log.  It is made from chocolate cake, often decorated with marzipan mushrooms and covered in chocolate sauce.  Very decadent and it has been around for hundreds of years.)  Saturnalia was replaced with Christmas by the Catholic Church, to make it less pagan and to make it more solemn.  It took centuries, but Christmas eventually became so raucous that it was outlawed in the new world of America.

Another rival to Christmas was the celebration of the birth of Mithra, a sun god whose birth was celebrated by Romans all over the empire on December 25. Emperor Aurelian established December 25 as the birthday of the “Invincible Sun” or Mithra in the third century as part of the Roman Winter Solstice celebrations. In 273, the Christian church selected this day to represent the birthday of Jesus, and by 336, this Roman feast day was Christianized.

In Scandinavia, Yule is celebrated when the dark half of the year starts to get shorter  and the days start lasting a little longer.  The sun’s rebirth was celebrated with much joy. From this day forward, the days would become longer. Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were wished good health with toasts of spiced cider.   The ceremonial Yule log was the highlight of the Solstice festival. In accordance to tradition, the log must either have been harvested from the householder’s land, or given as a gift… it must never have been bought. Once dragged into the house and placed in the fireplace it was decorated in seasonal greenery, doused with cider or ale, and dusted with flour before set ablaze by a piece of last year’s log.

Mistletoe

Caroling, wassailing the trees, burning the Yule log, decorating the Yule tree, exchanging of presents, kissing under the mistletoe were all activities that are still part of our Christmas traditions that came from celebrating the solstice.  Even the foods that we associate with solstice celebrations are similar.  Cider, spiced cider, ginger tea, eggnog, fall fruits and other spiced breads and cookies.

Interested in celebrating the solstice?  Try some of these ideas to start your own traditions of celebrating the rebirth of the sun.

  • Many people make a winter solstice tree by hanging food to feed the animals when their food supplies have become scarce on the winter solstice.
  • Make sun and or star ornaments to hang on your Christmas Tree to symbolize the return of the sun’s light.
  • Some people celebrate by staying up all night on the night of the solstice to be awake to welcome back the light.
  • Many people choose to not use electricity on the night of the solstice and instead enjoy the darkest night of the year by candlelight. Some people carry this tradition through to Christmas Eve.  Consider inviting friends and family over for a candlelight feast!
  • Eat, drink, and be merry! You can find recipes for wassail online, either spiked or unspiked to serve with your meal.
  • You could burn a bigger log than normal in the fire place.  You can also find a Yule Log online and watch it burn on your computer.  There are even videos you could purchase to have a crackling fire on cold winter nights.
  • Yule Log by Nigella.

    If you don’t have one, consider making a cake Yule Log.  The Buche de Noel is stunning and delicious.  Try some of these recipes:

  • Consider writing down everything that you would like to release or change in the new year onto scraps of paper, then throw them in the fire or burn them carefully in a safe container.
  • You could also write down your intentions for the new year, similar to a resolution.

And just to throw this in, in the southern hemisphere, they celebrate the summer solstice.  Here are some of the things they do that you might want to incorporate in the summer or the winter.

In the past, people in the Southern hemisphere celebrated renewal, life, fertility, and the potential for a good harvest on the summer solstice.  Today, many people often celebrate the arrival of summer with outdoor feasts, singing, dancing, and bonfires.  You might want to bathe in sunlight; make a flower wreath to wear; start a garden or spend time tending your garden and celebrate rebirth and renewal; visit a local farm, have a festival and feast; throw a bonfire and dance; do yoga or meditation; get outside and connect with nature.

In other countries there are many traditions to celebrate the solstice.  Here are a few of the most interesting.  Revelers come to Hollabrunn, Austria to watch people dressed up like Krampus scare the crowd.  They dress to look like Krampus and carry soft whips that they use on the crowds.  Doesn’t sound like fun to me, though.

In Japan, they like to soak in hot baths outside with fruits tossed into the water that are believed to bring good health.  Often the zoos do the same thing for the animals (those that like water, that is.)  The macaques and hippos sure do like it!

In Korea, the meal to eat is red bean porridge.  It’s believed to keep the evil spirits away.


Further Reading:

  • Winter solstice by Rosemund Pilcher (F PIL)
  • Winter solstice by Elin Hildenbrand (F HIL)
  • Krampus: the Yule lord by Brom (F BRA)

Sources:

It’s the Time of the Season for … Solving Mysteries

by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

Treetops, aflame. The air, crisp. Bonfires, hot cider, plaid shirts as far as the eye can see: classic signs of winter. Here’s one more timeless association for you: whodunits. Whether you’re into the classics, the creepies, or the cozies, winter is the perfect time of year to shroud yourself in Mystery.

Publishing professional Valerie Peterson divides the Mystery genre into four main types, and many subgenres. She starts with the types: Hard-Boiled (moody detectives and femmes fatales), Soft-Boiled (similar, but less explicitly violent or sexy), Cozy (Miss Marple and her descendants), and Procedural (thorough analysis of cops and crimes). Within those types, you may find any combination of hijinks and capers, amateur sleuths, local flavor, daunting puzzles, gritty detectives, historical figures, cats, romance, and more. [1]

Unless you simply “hate being titillated,” there’s bound to be a Mystery out there for you. Below, I’ve listed some of the genre’s best-loved authors, both classic and modern. Since mystery writers love to stick with their characters, I’ll sometimes include a character or series name rather than a book title.

(Quick note: some Mysteries have more intense content than others, especially if they cross into Thriller territory. If you’re concerned about potential triggers, check out a site like www.doesthedogdie.com, which helps you steer clear of certain content. You can also check out our blog post about cozy mysteries!)

 


Jennifer Finney BoylanLong Black Veil

K. Chesterton – Catholic priest and amateur detective Father Brown stars in 53 of Chesterton’s short stories.* Netflix has the BBC’s adaptation.

Agatha Christie – Christie’s 75 novels run the gamut from fun and cozy to truly chilling. Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, her two most famous characters, each appear in dozens of works. And Then There Were None is a must-read, but Christie named Ordeal by Innocence and Crooked House as her favorites among her own books.*

Mary Higgins ClarkWhere Are the Children?; A Stranger Is Watching; Loves Music, Loves to Dance

Harlan CobenTell No One; The Woods; Fool Me Once; the overlapping Myron Bolitar and Mickey Bolitar series (a sports agent and his nephew)

Wilkie CollinsThe Law and the Lady; The Moonstone; The Woman in White

Michael ConnellyHarry Bosch series. This bestselling police procedural series forms the basis for Amazon’s TV series, Bosch.

Deborah CrombieDuncan Kincaid & Gemma James series (Scotland Yard)

Colin DexterInspector Morse series (a senior criminal investigator who loves Wagner, cryptic crossword puzzles, and cask ale)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The character of Sherlock Holmes needs no introduction. Doyle’s non-Sherlockian mysteries include The Mystery of Cloomber, and short stories such as “J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement.” *

Barry Eisler – Eisler is a former covert CIA operative, a trained lawyer, and a black belt martial artist. His three series each feature a different hero: assassin John Rain, black ops soldier Ben Treven, and SVU detective Livia Lone.

James Ellroy – The L.A. Quartet (The Black Dahlia; The Big Nowhere; L.A. Confidential; White Jazz)

Dashiell Hammett – Because of The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, and a host of series and short stories, The New York Times eulogized Hammett as “the dean of the… ‘hard-boiled’ school of detective fiction.”*

Kellye GarrettHollywood Homicide

Tess GerritsenThe Bone Garden

Lamar GilesOverturned (YA)

Alexia Gordon – The Gethsemane Brown Mysteries (an African-American classical musician)

Sue Grafton – Famous for her Alphabet Mystery series (A is for Alibi, etc.), Grafton passed away after completing Y is for Yesterday. “[As] far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y,” wrote Grafton’s daughter. [2]

Carl Hiaasen – “America’s finest satirical novelist” is a “laugh-out-loud funny and thoroughly entertaining” “master of the revenge fantasy.” [3] Try Tourist Season, Strip Tease, Skin Tight, or Double Whammy for a taste of his madcap, Florida-based mysteries.

Patricia Highsmith Strangers on a Train; Deep Water; The Glass Cell; The Talented Mr. Ripley

Tony HillermanLeaphorn & Chee series (Navajo Tribal Police)

Joe IdeIQ series (an unconventional, unofficial detective)

P. D. JamesDeath Comes to Pemberly; Adam Dalgliesh series (Scotland Yard)

Iris JohansenEve Duncan series (a forensic sculptor)

Ausma Zehanat KhanThe Unquiet Dead

Laurie R. KingMary Russell series (a teenage girl who becomes Sherlock Holmes’ apprentice)

Attica LockeJay Porter series (a struggling Texas lawyer)

Sujata MasseyPerveen Mistry series (historical fiction; India’s first female lawyer)

John MortimerHorace Rumpole is “an ageing London barrister who defends any and all clients.” [4]

Abir MukherjeeSam Wyndham (Scotland Yard, historical fiction)

Jo Nesbø – Brilliant and troubled, Harry Hole (pronounced Hoo-leh) comes from Oslo, Norway, but his work takes him around the world. The series has been translated into English out of order; Hole first appears in The Bat.*

Leonardo Padura – The Mario Conde quartet is on Netflix as the Four Seasons in Havana miniseries.*

Sara Paretsky – Fierce, independent, and sharp, private detective V. I. Warshawski (Victoria) specializes in white-collar crime.

Louise PennyChief Inspector Gamache (character-driven, set in provincial Quebec)*

Dr. Kwei QuarteyDarko Dawson (a detective in Ghana)

Marcie RendonMurder on the Red River

Tess SharpeFar from You (YA)

George Simenon – Simenon’s legendary detective Jules Maigret has been portrayed by a wide range of actors, from Shakespearean stars (Charles Laughton) to slapstick comics (Rowan Atkinson). But why not picture him for yourself? He appears in 76 novels and 28 short stories.

Dwayne Alexander SmithForty Acres; The Unkind Hours

Sherry ThomasLady Sherlock series

Stephanie TromleyTrouble Is a Friend of Mine (YA)

Nicola UpsonJosephine Tey (British theatre in the 1930s)

Randy Wayne WhiteDoc Ford series (a marine biologist / ex-CIA)

 


Sources:

* indicates quotations and stats were taken from Wikipedia pages about the authors and/or their works

 

Grandfather Frost

by Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden

The Russians got used to not celebrating Christmas during the Soviet years; they celebrated New Year’s Day just like we celebrate Christmas.  Luckily for them there was a legendary figure who fit the bill as a Santa Claus figure to help celebrate New Year, and now also Christmas.  He’s known as Grandfather Frost (definitely not to be confused with Frosty the Snowman).  In Russian, he’s called Ded Moroz, “d’ed” being Grandfather, “moroz” being frost.  He is often accompanied by his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden.  In Russian Snegurochka (just FIY – sneg is the Russian word for snow.)  And truly these are not modern figures made to help celebrate (and sell) a modern Christmas holiday.  They are ancient mythological figures.

Grandfather Frost predates Christianity.  In the pagan days, before the Russian tsar sent out envoys to compare the various religions in the area and chose the Greek Orthodox Church (choosing to differentiate their own version as Russian Orthodox), the peasants worshiped nature.  Frost and snow were very important in their lives, so they made a name for the frost lord.  He is a winter wizard who brought the frost and snow and he could be helpful if treated nicely, but vindictive if treated badly. Winter was a powerful figure in Russia; just look at what happened to both Napoleon and Hitler…

Troika

Frost is considered to be around 2,500 years old.  He usually wears a long red wool or fur robe and boots, but no belt.  He has a long bushy beard and sometimes wears a wreath of holly and sometimes a hat similar to our Santa Claus.  He has also been shown wearing a crown.  And he has powers.  He often carries a staff which he might use for magic spells and to help him walk through the snow drifts.  He doesn’t travel down chimneys either, he comes in through the front door.  He travels around in a troika; that’s a carriage driven by three horses (troika means three in Russian…). Even though there are caribou in some parts of Russia, they are not widespread enough for the legend of flying reindeer.  Though his troikas have been known to fly as well.

In 2002, a tradition was started between Finland and Russia where Father Christmas (or Santa Claus) crossed the border to greet Ded Moroz.  They hand out gifts to all, the crowd of children dance and then they all go inside and have fun.  We know that this Santa Summit was still taking place in 2016. Perhaps it still is.

The Snow Maiden is not as old a character as Grandfather Frost.  She first appeared in a collection of folktales published in the 1860s by Alexander Afanasyev.  He eventually collected three volumes of Russian folktales.  No one knows if the story of the snow maiden goes back further, though, since he was the first to collect the stories.  In her tale, she longs to be able to love her foster parents but has no heart since she is made of snow.  She is granted a heart by her mother and father but melts away as she joins other children jumping over the fire.  Grandfather Frost is considered her grandfather and the two of them bring joy and beauty to the snowy Russian winter.

Ded Moroz house in Veliky Ustyug

In 1998, the Moscow Mayor proposed to officially make Veliky Ustyug the residence of Ded Moroz,   The residence, which is a resort promoted as his estate, is a major tourist attraction.  The town also has a post office there that answers children’s mail to Ded Moroz.  Between 2003 and 2010, the post office in Veliky Ustyug received nearly 2,000,000 letters from all over Russia and worldwide.  On January 7, 2008, Vladimir Putin visited the estate for the Russian Orthodox Christmas Eve celebration.

Santa Claus made some inroads in Russia during the 1990s, but Russia’s resurgence has brought a renewed emphasis on the basic Slavic character of Ded Moroz.  The Russian Federation has even sponsored classes about Ded Moroz every December. People playing Ded Moroz and Snegurochka now typically make appearances at children’s parties during the winter holiday season, distributing presents and fighting off the wicked witch, Baba Yaga, who children are told wants to steal their gifts.

In November and December 2010, Ded Moroz was even one of the candidates in the running for consideration as a mascot for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

 


Further Reading:
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Little Known (but AMAZING) Graphic Novels

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Sequential Art; call it what you want it is still one of the hottest collections in libraries and book stores. The greatest thing is that you can find wonderful reads at your reading level and every level below you. You could probably go the other way, but some of the content of the teen and adults graphic novels are a little much for our younger readers. I am lucky enough to have a kid in the children’s section and one in the teen’s section so I get exposed to a lot of great comic books passing through our house and stuff I might of missed is thrust into my face (often literally) with an exuberant “Read this, Dad!” on a regular basis. Whether it’s collected volumes of individual issues, manga volumes from overseas, or new purpose written stories, these books are showing up in every library for every age group and here are some of the best you might miss.

In the Children’s Library:

There are a plethora of options for everyone in the children’s section. There are the standard Pokémon and superhero books and some graphic novels based on mythology that are all good, but there are also some hidden gems with the power to delight all ages.

Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet Series is a favorite for all ages. This bildungsroman tells Emily and her brother’s story as they travel worlds, fight elves and search for their mother. It is remarkably evocative and pulls no punches, despite being written with children primarily in mind. It will only take ten pages before you realize this series may require tissues.

Judd Winick’s HiLo Series was originally designed to be an all-ages comic that he could use to show kids his work. The alien boy who came to earth tale really does appeal to all ages as Winick uses his gift for storytelling to create a story for all

Scott Chantler’s The Three Thieves series is one of the best series of fantasy comics I’ve ever read. The story keeps making you think you know what’s going on only to take another unexpected twist. This comic has heart and pathos as well as action and wonderful characters.

Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale is a western fantasy meets steampunk fairytale mashup. The couple that brought you some of the outrageously popular Squirrel Girl storylines has a series of their own. Rapunzel and Jack are far more different than you’ve ever seen them before and the changes make them more interesting.

In the Teen Section:

Here we find the meat of the graphic novels. Here is most of the manga, almost all of the mainstream DC and Marvel titles, and all the avant-garde books like Maus that have hit such heights of recognition that they sometimes appear on school reading lists. It’s hard to find something that a teen hasn’t already talked up but here are a few options.

Takehiko Inoue and Vagabond tell the fictionalized tale of the life of Miyamoto Musashi. In recounting the tales of the life of one of Japan’s most famous and dangerous samurai, the series does not paint too nice a picture. The art is fantastic, the subject mythical and the story compelling.

Age of Bronze from Eric Shanower is another retelling. In this case it is a graphic version of the Trojan War. Shanower takes the tale back to its roots as sequential pictures on ancient Greek vases and fleshes out the whole story not just the small sliver we know from the Iliad. Best of all, after a long hiatus, this series is finally getting continued.

Superman: True Brit by Kim Johnson and John Cleese bring you the only superhero entry on the list. The man who created some of Monty Python’s best helps to create an Elseworlds man of steel who was brought up in England. At times you’ll think he ended up Clark Dursley.

Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes is the story of space garbage men. It tells the tale of several characters that remove space debris and their goals and personalities. While it is a near future science fiction tale, this series is really a character driven masterpiece.

In the Adult Department:

All those great graphic novels that make the New York Times Review of Books or are mentioned in The Atlantic are here.  From the classic old Peanut’s strips through the biographical Persepolis to the big publishing house critical darlings of The Sandman and Fables, they’re over with the adult books.

Blade of the Immortal just became a major, live action motion picture in the last few years but the graphic novel series by Hiroaki Samura is over 25 years old. It takes a common theme, redemption, and tells the hackneyed story in way that makes you still care how it turns out.

Brian K. Vaughn’s We Stand on Guard starts in the year 2112, 300 years after the war of 1812. It tells the story of freedom fighters taking on their technological giant oppressor and doing their best to renew their way of life. The political commentary and twist in the aggressor/defender relationship is truly spectacular.

Abe Sapien from Hellboy and BPRD is a newer edition. Mike Mignola has focused on telling the story of the aquatic amnesiac in his new collection. More than a spin off, it is rather an opportunity to expand on a fan favorite character. A green skinned, gill breathing fleshing out of a great soul.

Valerian is another one that was a movie recently. Luc Besson’s infatuation with this Franco-Belgian comic has influenced his films and caused him to adapt one of the stories into a major motion picture. Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières tell the tale of a galaxy traveling time hopping duo with interesting characterization. The European art style also provides an interesting change for those used to North American or Asian drawing techniques.

The Cartoon History of the Universe is my final entry here. Larry Gonnick uses with and silly art to guide readers on a journey through our semi-mythic prehistory and all the way to the creation of the modern world. His often overlooked works are as informative as they are entertaining.

So while these books aren’t as well known now as I might think they deserve, here’s to hoping that a few of you out there might pick up a book and take up their cause with me. I can guarantee you’ll find something on here that will amuse you.

The Wacky World(s) of Quantum Theory

by Howard Shirley, Teen Department

“If you’re not shocked by quantum theory, you haven’t understood it.”—Niels Bohr, winner of the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physics.

“I think I can safely say nobody understands quantum mechanics.”—Richard Feynman, winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics

The Universe is weird. And the closer you look, the weirder it gets.

How weird you say?

Well according to quantum theory:

  • We know stuff cannot appear out of nothing (The Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy), but stuff appears out of nothing all the time, but disappears before there is any time for it to be here, so it doesn’t violate the previous law.
  • A pure vacuum, empty of all matter, isn’t actually empty (see the above).
  • A thing in one place can be changed, and it instantly changes an identical thing in another place, no matter how far apart they are.
  • Things can move from one location to another without going through the space in between.
  • Things don’t exist as things in specific places but as the possibility of things in different places at once, until you look at them.

Now, all of that is about things that are very, very tiny (add a lot more “very, veries” to that). Things like electrons and photons and all the things that make up all the matter and energy in our Universe. But it’s also therefore about all the big things too—like stars and planets and black holes and even you and me.

Which means that all that little weirdness has some weird implications for the big things, like:

  • We might be living in a massive simulation, like a virtual world in a computer (don’t take the red pill!).
  • Nothing might exist unless someone observes it.
  • OR, everything might exist in all possible combinations of all possible events, all at the same time, but we only experience (and observe) one progression of these (while, presumably, infinite other “us”-es experience all the other versions).
  • We (and everything else) are all just parts of one big energy field that “ripples” back and forth through time.
  • We could exist alongside a completely invisible, undetectable world with invisible, undetectable living beings, all made out of “dark matter” and “dark energy.”

And none of the above is just another over-the-top Hollywood movie. It’s serious science, all stemming from the basics of quantum theory. And, yes, quantum theory isn’t just wild speculation, but one of the most robustly established concepts in modern science, going back to 1900, proven again and again by experimentation and practical application (you’re looking at one of those applications right now as you use an electronic device to read this blog; if quantum theory were wrong, your electronic device wouldn’t work).

Light photographed as both a particle and a wave by Fabrizio Carbone.

Quantum theory is based on the concept that energy, like matter, is divisible and isolatable into definable, self-contained bits, or quanta. Think of it as a long band of light, seen from a distance. The light looks like one continuous bar. But as you get closer, you can see that the bar is instead made of individual lights separated by gaps. We will call these lights “photons.” Each light in our analogy represents a single “packet” or “quanta” of energy, which cannot be any smaller, but is very much separated from each of the other photons, like particles. That may not be confusing, but what is confusing is that these photons behave both as if they each are individual particles and as if they each are also a continuous wave of energy, like our distant band of light. And if you observe them in one way, they will appear to be particles and not waves, and if you observe them in another way, they will appear to be waves and not particles. They are neither, and they are both, at the same time. And it is from this bit of weirdness that all the other weirdness of the quantum world arises.

It’s heady stuff, but it’s also a lot of fun. If you’re intrigued, come in and search for some of our titles on quantum physics. And don’t worry—they’re written for the layman to understand. So you don’t have to be either Niels Bohr or Richard Feynman to appreciate all that weirdness (but you probably will still be shocked).

*Howard Shirley is the Teen Library Assistant. And no, he doesn’t claim to understand quantum theory, but still enjoys being shocked by it.*

Sources:

  • Rocket Science for the Rest of Us by Ben Gilliland (YA 520 GIL)
  • Quantifying Matter by Joseph A. Angelo, Jr. (YA 530 ANG)
  • The New Encyclopedia of Science: 1 Matter and Energy by John O.E. Clark (YA 503 NEW vol.1)
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