Category Archives: Hot Topics

Pokemon GO! at the Library

By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department

image1At this point, we’ve all heard something about the wildly popular game Pokémon Go. You know, the game that has players falling off cliffs and running into oncoming traffic. The game that many players claim has improved their mental health. Maybe you know it as the game that finally got your kids off the couch and walking around outside. Either way, Pokémon Go really is a great way for people of all ages to spend some time in the great outdoors, especially as the weather changes. And we’re here to give you the basics and some tips on how to play (especially after helping numerous children catch pokemon at the library).

Pokémon Go was created by Niantic, Inc. as a way to get players out of the house and exploring their neighborhoods and cities. It’s similar to geocaching, but without finding physical objects. Pokémon are spawned based on the player’s geographic location, which is tracked through the GPS in the player’s smartphone. As you move, your avatar moves in the game, and the more you move, the better your chances for finding Pokémon.

image2Pokémon fall into different categories, or “types.” Each Pokémon is typically found in a location correlating to its type. For instance, Water Pokémon are found near bodies of water (ponds, rivers, lakes, oceans, etc.), Grass Pokémon and Bug Pokémon are in particularly grassy areas (parks, golf courses, nature trails, etc.), and Normal Pokémon can be found in residential areas. These Pokémon are more common in this area, although that doesn’t mean you won’t come across a different type. You can also hatch Pokémon from eggs collected from PokéStops, and in order to hatch them, you have to walk. Each egg hatches after a certain predetermined distance—2 km, 5 km, or 10 km—, and the greater the distance walked, the rarer the Pokémon hatched.

When you come upon a Pokémon, your phone will vibrate to let you know you found something. You tap on the Pokémon that appears on your screen, and from there, the app uses augmented reality through your phone’s camera, so it looks like the Pokémon is there in the real world. You’ll be prompted to “catch” it with a Poké Ball, and you throw the ball by swiping up on the screen with your finger to hit the Pokémon in the circle.

There are locations scattered around town called PokéStops and Gyms that are usually found either along nature trails, historic sites, churches, public buildings, and other interesting local locations. Stops are places players can visit to get supplies, and Gyms are for battling. The library is a PokéStop, and since we’re in a historic part of town, there are lots of Stops and Gyms around us. Lure modules can be placed at Stops, which lure Pokémon to the Stop for thirty minutes.

image3Once caught, you can make Pokémon stronger by powering them up or evolving them using the stardust and candy that you get when you catch a Pokémon. You can also transfer your Pokémon to get candy, which is especially helpful when you have lots of low CP, common Pokémon. The more Pokémon you catch, the more stardust and candy you get. When you’ve reached Level 5, you can battle other players’ Pokémon and train your Pokémon at Gyms.

The best spots to catch Pokémon are typically places that are heavily populated or where there are lots of active users, such as Cool Springs or downtown Franklin. PokéStops will give you more items, and you’ll find better Pokémon if you’re in a bigger area. Landmarks and other places of interest are good to try, too. You’ll find better and rarer Pokémon as your trainer level advances, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t catch anything amazing at first.

“What does all this have to do with the library, of all places?” you might be thinking. As I mentioned earlier, the Main Branch of WCPL in Franklin is a PokéStop itself, with tons of other Stops and a couple of Gyms within walking distance. It would be a great starting place for anyone wanting to walk around and catch Pokémon. Starting in the back of our parking lot, you could walk along Columbia Avenue towards downtown, picking up seven or eight Stops along the way. I’ve personally caught decent Pokémon—like Pinsirs and Scythers—in the library, and I’ve seen people catch Glooms, Arboks, and Wigglytuffs. We’ve also been known to drop Lures at some of our library events, so you never know what you might find here.image413729171_1070857279616381_1159422285599878307_n


London’s Burning!

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

I hear this and immediately think of Joe Strummer howling at the start of the Clash’s song of the same name. While that was about the smoke and exhaust of the metropolitan road systems and gridlock, three hundred and fifty years ago it meant something far different. From the second to the fifth of September, 1666, London did indeed burn. A huge swath of the old medieval city of London, north of the Thames, was nothing but ash.


The great fire of 1666 was not a terrorist plot like the abortive attempt to destroy parliament from sixty some years before with Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plot. It did not have anything to do with the English Civil War and the return of the monarchy six years prior with the coronation of Charles II. It didn’t even directly tie to the plague outbreak the year prior, although that did lend some contributing factors. No, while Great Britain in the 17th century was a tumultuous place, the fire began in a most mundane way. It started with a stray spark from a bakery oven.

Just after midnight on 2 September 1666, the bakery of Thomas Farriner caught fire. Farriner, baker to King Charles II, lived above the bakery with his three children and a servant. The Family was unable to get to the street but did manage to get into the next house through an upstairs window. The serving woman, terrified by the situation refused and became the first victim of the fire. By the end of the day on Sunday the fire had spread almost half way to the far city wall.


Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys, the noted diarist, lived in the environs of the fire and was able to view it from a tower and from a boat on the river. As a senior official in the Navy Office he was called to the King and reported on what he saw.

“everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them onto lighters that lay off; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another.”

His report led to the Duke of York, the future James II, and King Charles himself going to the Thames to view the situation. The King ordered all buildings adjacent to the burning to be torn down. The Duke of York offered the life guards to assist in fighting the blaze. It was, however, a bit too late. The fire itself had created a chimney effect. A vacuum existed from the air being heated and pulled up through the fire. This in turn caused more air to rush into the area of the fire close to the ground. Anyone familiar with the principles of a blast furnace will tell you that this is a great recipe for extreme heat. The temperature was so high (approximately 1700°C) that pottery actually melted. From a position across the river, Pepys noticed the “one entire arch of fire from this to the other side of the bridge, and in a bow up the hill for an arch of above a mile long: it made me weep to see it”

Great_fire_of_london_mapOver the following days the fire spread until it was finally contained and on Tuesday and brought to an end the following day. Gunpowder was used for wholesale destruction of houses to create fire breaks. That and the dying down of what had been a very stiff east wind finally allowed for control and an extinguishing. The damage included the destruction of 13,500 houses, 87 parish churches, and 44 Company (guild) Halls and the final total was accessed at £10,000,000 (more than a billion pounds in today’s money) Only eight people were reported to have died but this number is heavily suspect because the temperatures reached would have melted steel and certainly would have cremated the remains of any of London’s poor unfortunate enough to not be reported missing.

Why the fire happened was an interesting thing. At first foreigners and papists were blamed. This was proven false, but the prejudice lasted for many years. Because the fire started on Pudding Lane and ended at Pye corner, many people suggested the fire was God’s punishment for the gluttony of the city. In actuality it was a combination of cheap buildings, poor design and planning, and poor management on the account of the Lord Mayor. Buildings in London were supposed to have been made of stone to prevent just such a thing. Stone was too costly and everyone went to wood as the next best choice. Also, in order to maximize available space, each successive floor was slightly larger than the ground level floor, jutting out over the street. The close proximity of such dwellings caused the fire to spread very rapidly. Finally, Lord Mayor Sir Thomas Bloodworth refused to act. Within an hour of the start he was called to Pudding Lane and asked to give the order to demolish surrounding houses to form a break. He declined initially and eventually left the scene, but not before declining the help of the Lifeguards and untruly telling representatives of the king demolitions were under way. That did not actually start until well into Monday.17thcenFirefighting

The Great Fire of London changed the face of London. The rebuilding was similar to the prior plan and avoided the radical changes suggested by some like John Evelyn, but there were still changes. Regulations to avoid fire were more strictly enforced and fire companies better trained. To this day you can still see the monuments, the Great Fire monument near the start and the Golden boy of Pye where it finally was brought to a halt.


You can learn more about the 1666 Great Fire of London at the library:

  • The Great Fire of London by Pam Robson (J 942.1 ROB)
  • Fire Cat by Pippa Goodhart (J E GOO)
  • By Permission of Heaven: The Story of the Great Fire of London by Adrian Tinniswood (942.1 TIN)
  • The Great Fire of London by Stephen Porter (942.1066 POR)
  • The Mammoth Book of How it Happened in Britain by Jon E. Lewis (eBook through TotalBoox)
  • In Ashes Lie by Marie Brennan (F BRE)

France’s Rights of Man

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Declaration_of_the_Rights_of_Man_and_of_the_Citizen_in_1789On August 26, 1789, the French Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which was truly a remarkable document. Although inspired by The Declaration of Independence, it contained more principles than that document; it was drafted by the Marquis de Lafayette, who was impressed by the document written by his good friend Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was in Paris as our ambassador during this time.

The Declaration was a statement of democratic principles grounded in the philosophical and political ideas of Enlightenment thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The document proclaimed the Assembly’s commitment to replace the ancien régime (meaning the king and the way the county had been governed for centuries) based on equal opportunity, freedom of speech, popular sovereignty and representative government.

Here, in its entirety is Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen:

The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their rights and duties; in order that the acts of the legislative power, as well as those of the executive power, may be compared at any moment with the objects and purposes of all political institutions and may thus be more respected, and, lastly, in order that the grievances of the citizens, based hereafter upon simple and incontestable principles, shall tend to the maintenance of the constitution and redound to the happiness of all. Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen:


Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.

The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.

Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.

Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.

No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.

The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.

As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner’s person shall be severely repressed by law.

No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.

A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.

All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.

Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.

A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.

Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.


For months after this declaration, the Assembly members debated fundamental questions about the shape and expanse of France’s new political landscape. Would the clergy owe allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church or the French government? And probably most importantly, how much authority would the king retain? The Assembly adopted France’s first written constitution on September 3, 1791, which was basically a compromise proposed by more moderate voices in the Assembly, establishing a constitutional monarchy. The more radical elements in the Assembly were not happy, namely Maximilien de Robespierre, Camille Desmoulins and Georges Danton; they wanted a more republican form of government and a trial for Louis XVI.

Marie Antoinette, Portrait by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty, 1775. Musée Antoine Lécuyer.

Marie Antoinette, Portrait by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty, 1775. Musée Antoine Lécuyer.

In April 1792, the newly elected Legislative Assembly declared war on Austria and Prussia, because it believed that French nobles leaving the country were building counterrevolutionary alliances. In Paris, the political crisis took a much more radical turn when a group of insurgents attacked the royal residence in Paris and arrested the king on August 10, 1792. The following month, amid a wave of violence in which Parisian insurrectionists massacred hundreds of accused counterrevolutionaries and the Legislative Assembly was replaced by the National Convention, which proclaimed the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of the French republic. On January 21, 1793, it sent King Louis XVI, condemned to death for high treason and crimes against the state, to the guillotine; his wife Marie-Antoinette suffered the same fate nine months later.

1793 saw the Revolution’s most violent and turbulent phase. In June 1793, the Jacobin party seized control of the National Convention from the more moderate Girondin party and instituted a series of radical measures, including the establishment of a new calendar and the eradication of Christianity!! They also unleashed the bloody Reign of Terror (“la Terreur”); for 10 months suspected enemies of the revolution (the Jacobins) were guillotined by the thousands. Many of the killings were carried out under orders from Robespierre until his own execution on July 28, 1794. His death marked the beginning of the more moderate phase in which the French people revolted against the Reign of Terror’s excesses.


The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries

On August 22, 1795, the National Convention, composed largely of those assembly members who had survived the Reign of Terror, approved a new constitution that created France’s first bicameral (two houses) legislature. Executive power would lie in the hands of a five-member Directory (“Directoire”) appointed by parliament. Royalists and Jacobins protested the new regime but were swiftly silenced by the army, which was now being led by a young (and successful) Napoleon Bonaparte.

By the late 1790s, the government relied almost entirely on the military to maintain authority and had ceded much of their power to the generals in the field. On November 9, 1799, frustrated with the Directory leadership, Bonaparte staged a coup d’état, abolishing the Directory and appointing himself France’s “first consul;” soon to become Emperor of France, and then Europe.


Storming of the Bastille and arrest of the Governor Bernard-René de Launay, 14 July 1789. Museum of the History of France, Versailles.

Storming of the Bastille and arrest of the Governor Bernard-René de Launay, 14 July 1789. Museum of the History of France, Versailles.

Read the rest of this entry

The Eruption of Krakatoa: August 1883

Kracatoa 1By Stephen McClain, Reference Department

In our everyday, technology filled lives; it is easy to forget that the earth is dynamic. Our planet is constantly changing, whether we realize it or not. The landforms that we take for granted are in many cases the result of earth’s violent and relentless activity that has persisted for billions of years. This third planet from the sun is our home, but Earth does not care about us. Nature is not required to make sense nor consider human existence regarding its activity. What seems static from a human perspective is in a constant state of movement. Natural disasters often remind us that Mother Nature is more powerful than humans and she must be respected.Kracatoa 2

Kracatoa 3Tectonic activity, such as volcanic eruptions are illustrations of Earth’s volatility. Though there have been more recent blasts in modern times, none have been more deadly than the eruption of Krakatoa on August 26, 1883. Krakatoa (or Krakatau) is a small island located between Java and Sumatra in the Indonesian Island Arc. The island is only about 3 miles wide and 5 miles long. These islands and the volcanic activity in the region is the result of tectonic movement below the sea floor. The Indo-Australian plate is subducted under the Eurasian and Pacific plates as it moves slowly northward toward the Asian mainland. When Krakatoa erupted in August of 1883, an estimated 36,000 people were killed. Many perished due to the eruption, but many more died after the resulting tsunami following the collapse of the volcano into the caldera below.

With our advanced modern technology, we are able to detect natural hazards like severe weather and also monitor earth’s internal movement. For example, in 1980, geologists were able to detect seismic activity and knew that Mount St. Helens would erupt soon, saving the lives of many. The brave Krakatoans (10 points if you caught the Seinfeld reference there) had no warning system or advanced notice. Before nature was understood at the level it is today, it was more respected and spawned many legends and folktales of angry gods and evil spirits. Those closest to the volcano in western Java and Sumatra were victims of the volcanic debris and hot gases from the blast. Countless thousands more were killed by the 120 foot high wall of water from the following tsunamis. After the initial eruption on August 26, a cloud of gas and debris was sent some 15 miles into the atmosphere and it is believed that debris from this eruption clogged the neck of the volcanic cone, allowing pressure to build inside the magma chamber. The next morning, four massive explosions were heard as far away as Perth, Australia (about 2800 miles) and much of the island collapsed into the caldera. According to the Volcanic Explosion Index (VEI), the eruption of Krakatoa is given a rating of 6, which is comparative to the explosive force of 200 megatons of Trinitrotoluene (TNT). The eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 had a VEI rating of 5.Kracatoa 4

Coral block thrown onto the shore of Java after the Krakatau eruption of 1883. Picture taken in 1885.

Coral block thrown onto the shore of Java after the Krakatau eruption of 1883. Picture taken in 1885.

Just a few months prior to the eruption in May of 1883, the captain of a German warship reported a cloud of ash over Krakatoa that he estimated to be over 6 miles high. Other vessels in the area reported seeing similar sites and heard explosions. Inhabitants of the neighboring islands celebrated and held festivals in honor of the display of lights in the night sky. The celebrations would end tragically with the eruption and ensuing tsunami on August 27.

The first explosion ruptured the magma chamber, sea water rushed in causing the water to flash-boil. The force of this phenomenon created a steam-generated explosion that propelled pyroclastic materials over 25 miles at speeds of over 60 mph. The eruption sent about 11 cubic miles of volcanic debris in the lower atmosphere that darkened the skies for nearly 300 miles from the volcano. The effects of the eruption of Krakatoa were not only felt in the immediate area of the volcano. Because of the debris in the atmosphere, Europe and the United States experienced unusually brilliant sunsets and for the next five years, the average global temperatures would be about 1.2 F degrees cooler.

Large coral block transported by the Krakatoa explosion (Photo by S. Leroy)

Large coral block transported by the Krakatoa explosion (Photo by S. Leroy)

Krakatoa was not the largest eruption in the modern era, but it was certainly responsible for the largest loss of life. Could an eruption of this magnitude happen again? Absolutely. Do we know where or when? Nope. But be assured that the U.S. Geological Survey has its eye on many locations. Nevertheless, there is nothing that we can do about an eruption other than be prepared.

So stop worrying and enjoy this beautiful day. Earth always wins in the end.





Virginia Dare and the Lost Colony of Roanoke

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Baptism of Virginia Dare, lithograph, 1880

Baptism of Virginia Dare, lithograph, 1880

Virginia Dare was the first child born in any British colony and part of the first mystery in the “new world.” She was born in 1587, in the Roanoke Colony (located in North Carolina now) and named after the Virginia colony where her parents lived. She was also the grand-daughter of the colony’s governor, John White. The Roanoke Colony was later known as the Lost Colony, one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our country’s history.

Sir Walter Raleigh received the right to set up a colony from the Queen; he wanted the gold and riches the Spanish were getting, while the Queen wanted a base in the area to attack (and plunder) the Spanish ships coming from the new world full of gold. Even though Raleigh himself never visited North American, he sent two representatives to explore the area. They landed on Roanoke Island in 1584 and established good relations with the natives, taking two natives back to England. Raleigh met with the natives and decided to send an expedition, led by Sir Richard Grenville. As the men explored the area, they discovered that a silver cup was missing and accused the natives. They killed the villagers and burned the town—all for a silver cup. Grenville left the colonists to establish a fort and went back to England for more supplies. Surprisingly, the natives no longer viewed the English as friendly, and often attacked the fort. The ship promising to return didn’t come with fresh supplies. Sir Francis Drake stopped by to say hello, and offered to take anyone back to England who wanted to go; some did—they were the lucky ones. A second colony expedition, organized by Raleigh, was led by John White (a friend of Raleigh’s), and were to settle near Chesapeake Bay. Before they unloaded at Chesapeake, they had orders to check on the Roanoke Colony.

roanokeThis second expedition found no one in the colony. The colonists were forced to stay behind by the fleet’s commander, Simon Fernandez (reasons unknown), while the ship went back to England for reinforcements. Before he sailed away, White tried to re-establish friendly relations with the Native Americans; some tribes were friendly, others still were angry over the previous treatment of their tribesmen. The colonists watched as the ship left them in the new world. White wanted to get back as soon as he could, after all his daughter and granddaughter, Virginia Dare, were at Roanoke. He could find no captain to take him back in the winter months, and then in 1588, the Spanish attacked the English in the grand Armada, which further delayed his return. In 1590, White’s relief ship finally landed on Roanoke Island and found the settlement deserted. No people, no bodies, no signs of struggle. They only found this word carved in a pole: CROATOAN.

The return of Governor White to the "Lost Colony"

The return of Governor White to the “Lost Colony”

As to what happened to the 115 colonists living on Roanoke Island, no one has ever found any clues or remains. Only the word CROATOAN. Was it a clue? What did it mean?

Several ideas have been explored over the centuries. They could have been killed, but where were the bodies? They could have been assimilated into other friendly tribes; there was a Croatoan tribe that was friendly with the colonists. This would have accounted for no bodies and no struggles. But wouldn’t other tribes in the area have given this news to other white men? No one really tried to investigate until Captain John Smith, of Jamestown fame, tried to ask the nearby tribes if they knew what happened. He was told that a friendly tribe took them in. He was also told by Chief Powhatan that he and his tribe had murdered them all. He even showed Smith things he said had belonged to the white colonists. There were wild rumors of two story Native American buildings, possibly erected by the missing colonists.

Virginia Dare’s name has become a way to attract tourists for North Carolina. Many locations are named after her, including Dare County, North Carolina; the Virginia Dare Trail and the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge, which spans the Croatoan Sound. Her birthday is celebrated annually on Roanoke Island. On her 350th birthday in 1937, the community of Roanoke Island launched a play entitled “The Lost Colony.” This drama was supposed to be a one year run, but has become a permanent and popular Outer Banks attraction.

Marble sculpture of Virginia Dare formerly in St Bride's Church, Fleet St

Marble sculpture of Virginia Dare formerly in St Bride’s Church, Fleet St

In 2005, PBS aired a Time Team America program: the team traveled to Roanoke Island looking to find the site of Fort Raleigh and any clues as to what happened to the Lost Colony. This was a collaboration of archaeologists and scientists who are given 3 days to dig and study interesting historic sites to see if they can find more information. In an different program, aired on the History Channel in 2015, archaeologists searching around an old settlement area found some intriguing items, including a gold ring, a musket barrel and a slate that may have been used for children to learn their alphabet. Perhaps, someday, we’ll finally find out what happened to the vanished Roanoke colony.

To read about Virginia Dare, we suggest these books: Read the rest of this entry

The Scandalous Cleopatra

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Queen-cleopatraCleopatra is still an enigma even after 2000 years. So much so that books are still being written about her. Everyone knows the story of Cleopatra, who by the way was the 7th Cleopatra to rule Egypt. She read the writing on the wall when Rome began to conquer nation after nation. Plus she wanted to win the Egyptian throne, and rule alone, not with her brother/husband. She wanted to get on the good side of Julius Caesar when he was in Alexandria. Knowing that her brother Ptolemy XIII would keep her from meeting with Julius Caesar, she had herself wrapped in a rug and delivered to Julius. And thus she outwitted her rival brother. She and Julius had a good relationship; she became his mistress, even having his child. When Julius Caesar was murdered, she chose to back Mark Anthony against Octavian (soon to be Augustus Caesar). Octavian, upset that Mark Anthony has chosen Cleopatra over his own sister Octavia, broke the second triumvirate and declared war on Cleopatra (and Mark Anthony). After his defeat at the Battle of Actium, Mark Anthony fell on his sword in defeat and Cleopatra committed suicide by death by poisonous snake on August 12, 30 B.C.

This is what history tells us. Here are some facts you may not have known:

Cleopatra may not have been Egyptian, or maybe she was. Ptolemy I, a general in Alexander the Great’s army, became ruler of Egypt after Alexander died. His line, the Ptolemaic line, lasted for several centuries, ending with the death of Cleopatra. Greek was the language of the ruling family in the beginning; our Cleopatra (VII) knew the Egyptian language, but also spoke Greek and Latin and many others. Outside Europe, in Africa and in Islamic tradition, she was remembered very differently. Arab writers refer to her as a scholar; 400 years after her death her statue was still honored at Philae, a religious center that also attracted pilgrims from outside Egypt.


A tetradrachm of Cleopatra VII, Syria mint

Many scholars believe that Cleopatra wasn’t as beautiful as once believed. She was intelligent and well educated, speaking as many as a dozen languages and was familiar with mathematics, philosophy, oratory and astronomy. She reportedly enjoyed talking to learned men and women and could hold her own with them. Coins with her portrait show her with manly features and a large, hooked nose (however, she might have intentionally portrayed herself as masculine as a display of strength). Plutarch claimed that Cleopatra’s beauty was “not altogether incomparable,” and that it was instead her mellifluous speaking voice and “irresistible charm” that made her so desirable. So it may have been only Roman propaganda that portrayed her as a debauched temptress as shown in the movies.

Members of the Ptolemaic dynasty often married within the family to preserve the purity of their bloodline. Cleopatra’s parents were probably even brother and sister. Cleopatra eventually married both of her younger brothers, each of whom served as her ceremonial spouse and co-regent at different times during her reign. Her first sibling-husband, Ptolemy XIII, defeated her and ran her out of Egypt after she tried to become sole ruler, and they faced off in a civil war. Cleopatra regained the upper hand by teaming with Julius Caesar, and becoming his mistress. Nine months into their relationship, she gave him a son, naming the baby Caesarion – little Caesar.  After Caesar’s son was born, he backed Cleopatra’s claim to the throne and helped her regain it.  Because of this alliance, Ptolemy drowned in the Nile River after being defeated in battle. Following the war, Cleopatra married to her younger brother Ptolemy XIV, but it is believed that she had him murdered in a bid to make her son Caesarion her co-ruler. She also engineered the execution of her sister, Arsinoe, whom she considered a rival to throne.

Cleopatra’s relationship with Caesar caused quite a scandal in Rome: Egypt and its pleasure-loving culture were despised as decadent by the rule conscious Romans. But the real reason their relationship was so scandalous was that Caesar had no other sons. He was married to Calpurnia, and had had two wives before her, but he had no son, until now. The worry that Caesarion, an Egyptian, might grow up to claim to rule over Rome as Caesar’s heir was a direct threat to Rome.

Antony and Cleopatra, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Antony and Cleopatra, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Eventually, Cleopatra married Mark Antony and had three children with him, which made the Romans even angrier with her. Antony’s rival Octavian portrayed him as a traitor under the sway of a scheming seductress, and in 32 B.C., the Roman Senate declared war on Cleopatra. The conflict reached its climax the following year in a famous naval battle at Actium. Cleopatra personally led several dozen Egyptian warships into the fray alongside Antony’s fleet, but they were no match for Octavian’s navy. The battle soon devolved into a rout, and Cleopatra and Antony were forced to break through the Roman line and flee to Egypt.

Augustus (Octavian) founded his reign on the defeat of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. When he had the chance to have a month named in his honor, he chose the eighth month, in which Cleopatra died to create a yearly reminder of her defeat. She chose to die rather than suffer the violence of being paraded and shamed, led through the streets of Rome as a defeated enemy. Augustus had to make do with an image of her that was carried through the streets instead.

Most scientists thought the grave was under the sea near Alexandria (in or near a temple that fell into the sea after too many earthquakes), but others are not so sure. Kathleen Martinez, a criminal lawyer who became an archaeologist to find Cleopatra’s tomb, has found promising signs at some of the sights Cleopatra was known to visit of a possible gravesite. At the close of the program, the search was still on. I suppose we’ll know when the world knows. Read the rest of this entry

Amazing Women Athletes: Gabby Douglas

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Even if you don’t know a pommel horse from a polo pony, it’s nearly impossible not to be inspired by the amazing American gymnast Gabby Douglas. Gabby is the first African-American and the first woman of color from any nation to win a Gold medal in the individual gymnastics all-around competition; the fourth female American gymnast to win the Gold; and the first U.S. gymnast to receive both of those honors in a single Olympic Games, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Furthermore, she accomplished all of that before her 17th birthday. Douglas is also the first female reigning Olympic all-around champion to return to the World Championships and medal in the all-around since Elena Davydova in 1981.

gdouglas 1

Gabrielle Christina Victoria Douglas was born on New Year’s Eve 1995 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the youngest of four children to Natalie Hawkins and Timothy Douglas. Gabby was raised by her mother and her siblings Arielle, Joyelle, and Johnathan, and it was Arielle who encouraged Gabby to begin tumbling and trying cartwheels and convinced their mother to allow Gabby to begin gymnastics lessons at age 6. Arielle said, “I taught her how to do a cartwheel, then the next day I saw her doing one-handed cartwheels and I thought, I didn’t teach you that!” Gabby’s undeniable talent for gymnastics soon became evident when at age 8 she won the Level 4 all-around gymnastics title at the 2004 Virginia State Championships.

In October 2010, Gabby moved halfway across the country from her home in Virginia to Iowa to train under Liang Chow, the 1990 World Cup Nationals champion for the Chinese men’s gymnastics team, at his prestigious Gymnastics and Dance Institute in West Des Moines. Gabby lived with a host family, Travis and Missy Parton and their four daughters, while undergoing intensive training with Chow in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. The blonde-haired, green-eyed Partons took Gabby in and treated her as one of their own, but needless to say, there were moments of culture shock. In her book “Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith,” Gabby recounts how weird it was to go for days at a time in Iowa without seeing another person with a skin tone even close to her own. “When my Mom came to town, she and I started a joke about it,” Gabby said. They turned it into a game, a la the classic car trip game “Punch Buggy” —but instead of hitting the other on the arm when they spied a Volkswagen Beetle, Gabby and her mom would trade swats and say “Black person!”

gdouglas 2In September 2011, while still not completely healed from a sprained hamstring and injured hip flexor, Gabby traveled to Texas to a World Championship verification camp at the facility owned by prominent gymnastics coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi. Gabby was chosen for a spot on the World Championship team at age 15, making her the youngest gymnast on the team. Her chances of making it to London were contingent upon a single competition, the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo. Team USA edged out Russia and China to win the gold, and Gabby’s performance on the uneven bar finals earned her the nickname “Flying Squirrel” from Marta Karolyi. Another hurdle to Gabby’s road to London had just been cleared.

Since Gabby’s meteoric rise from underdog to superstar, her personal brand—and her faith in God– has only gotten stronger. She has co-authored two books, created her own line of leotards called Gabbymojis, and appeared with her family in a docuseries on Oxygen called Douglas Family Gold. Her beautiful face has graced magazine covers such as Sports Illustrated, Time, Teen Vogue, People, and Essence, and endorsements for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Procter & Gamble’s “beauty brands,” Nike, and Mattel (Barbie), just to name a few. She cites former All-American collegiate football player and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow as an inspiration to speak publicly about her strong Christian faith. Gabby has said, “I don’t think I could have done it if he hadn’t been so bold about his own faith during interviews.”

By the time you are reading this, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will be off by leaps and bounds (Faithful Readers, y’all know I couldn’t complete a blog without at least one pun) and Gabby and her Fierce Five teammates will once again be vaulting (oops, I did it again) toward their dreams of bringing home more American gold.gdouglas 3


Sources and suggested reading:

  • Awesome Athletes: Gabby Douglas by Jameson Anderson (J 92 DOUGLAS)
  • “The Comeback Kid,” Teen Vogue, June/July 2016
  • Gabby Douglas by Jon M. Fishman (J 92 DOUGLAS)
  • Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith by Gabrielle Douglas and Michelle Burford (J 92 DOUGLAS)
  • Great Moments in Olympic Gymnastics by Blythe Lawrence (J 796.44 LAWRENCE)
  • Raising The Bar by Gabrielle Douglas (J 92 DOUGLAS)
The opinions expressed here in this fourth installment of the “Amazing Female Athletes” series belong solely to the author and are in no way representative of any other WCPL employees, their families, friends, and coaches. Ms. Parish has visited London in the past, and has also been referred to as a squirrel, but that’s about where the similarities between the author of the blog and the subject of the blog come to an abrupt dismount.

The Long Awaited Next Potter Story

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

Very soon we will get a new Potter story. No one expected it and it has been long hoped for. We can now finally get more information on what happened to our favorite characters. Never again will we have to wonder what happened to Peter and Mrs. Tiggy-winkel…Wait, What?

Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter

For those of us born in the last century, our childhoods were gilded with the tales of Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin and Jemima Puddleduck. That number includes the parents, grandparents and great grandparents of today’s children. We’ve read the stories to our children who hear these tales, now in their second century, and fall in love the characters as we did. Most people will find a forgotten stuffed bunny with brown plastic eyes and a little blue Jacket hidden somewhere in their closets, attics or memories. Many of us have never heard a new story from her. There have been a few found works, some as late as 1973, but nothing since then. We’ve never known the anticipation of a new book from Beatrix Potter the way we desperately awaited the books about Harry Potter (including this year’s The Cursed Child). But that will change. In September of this year we will get the first new Beatrix Potter story in a generation. The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots is being released on September First to honor the 150th anniversary of her birth (her actual birthday is July 28th hence this particular post).

The Story of the New Story

We have this new gem thanks to the work of Jo Hanks and Quentin Blake. Ms. Hanks, who works for Penguin Random House Children’s Publishing, found a reference to a reference to the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots in an out of print biography of Beatrix Potter from the 1970s. The biography referred to a letter that Potter had sent to her publisher along with the manuscript for kitty in boots. She had sent the story, along with a sketch of the titular character and some layouts for the book to her publisher in 1914 and had meant to finish but kept getting interrupted. The interruptions, a lengthy illness and the First World War, were sufficient to keep Ms. Potter from returning to the work before her death in 1943. Ms. Hanks took what she had learned of this missing tale and scoured the Potter Archives at the Victoria and Albert Museum and found the story, in the form of handwritten school notebooks and a dummy book. Also included were a black and white sketch of the villain Mr. Tod, and a single color drawing of Kitty. The story was complete, but with only two sketches extant, a new illustrator was needed.

Quentin Blake Illus Kitty in boots

Kitty-in-Boots illustration by Quentin Blake

Finding an artist willing to take on the work of one of the most beloved children’s authors and illustrators is never going to be easy or quick. This is where Quentin Blake arrives. Blake is no stranger to working with iconic authors. His name may not be known by all, but if you’ve read a book by Roald Dahl, then you are familiar with his work. When presented with the 100 year old manuscript, Mr. Blake jumped at the chance to work on a story that “might have been waiting for [him].” He even went so far as to draw the unnamed owner of Kitty as an elderly Beatrix Potter.

Potter Illus Kitty in Boots

Kitty-in-Boots illustration by Beatrix Potter

The New Story

The story of Kitty-in-Boots revolves around, as Potter herself put it in the letter to her publisher, “a well-behaved prime black Kitty cat, who leads rather a double life”. Not content to laze and sleep as most cats do, this cat likes to dress as a country squire when no one is looking and go hunting. Without giving too much away Jo Hanks told the BBC that “The tale really is the best of Beatrix Potter. …It has double identities, colourful villains and a number of favourite characters from other tales.” Perhaps best of all is one more glimpse of Peter Rabbit, albeit a slower and portlier one.

The Woman We Never Knew

Beatrix Potter actually was the kind woman who wrote books about small animals that we all believe her to be, but she was also a great deal more. She was a child of privilege, the daughter of a lawyer and granddaughter of one of the wealthiest textile printers and members of parliament. Her cousins are the ancestors of the Duchess of Cambridge, meaning that Beatrix herself is related to the future King George VII.

Potter Illus Tools and Fungi

Tools and Fungi illustration by Beatrix Potter

She was also a well-regarded amateur scientist. After receiving encouragement to make her watercolors of fungi more technically correct, Beatrix began in depth study of mushrooms and other fungi. Due to the limited educational opportunities afforded women of her time, she was primarily self-taught. At one point she even submitted some theories to the director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, Sir William Thiselton-Dyer. Because of her gender and her status as an amateur Thiselton-Dyer rejected her ideas, as they disagreed with the accepted theories of the day. Beatrix was not to be put off lightly, however. After refining her theory with the encouragement of noted Kew Gardens Mycologist, George Massee, she finalized a paper to be presented to the Linnean Society of London. She could not present her work, “On the Germination of the Spores of the Agaricinea,” but Masse agreed to do so for her. Beatrix removed her paper from consideration because she noted a contaminated sample, and the work was never published. The paper is still reviewed as a respected work by today’s mycologists and her watercolors continue to be used for fungi identification.

On top of being an author and illustrator, and a respected amateur mycologist she was also a pioneering conservationist and business woman. She was very passionate about Herdwicke sheep and became a prize winning breeder. Her employees loved her because she was not afraid to try the latest methods and always hired the best personnel. The Business acumen that worked well on her farm also carried over into her writing. It was Beatrix who began the merchandising of her characters when she registered an idea for a plush peter rabbit with the patent office in 1903, making Peter the first licensed character.

Peter Rabbit illustration by Beatrix Potter

Peter Rabbit illustration by Beatrix Potter

Ms. Potter was a follower of Canton Hardwicke Rawnsley, the founder of the National Trust for Places of Historical Interest or Natural Beauty. She acted as a patron for the Girl Guides, the British version of the Girl Scouts. When she died, she left 15 farms and most of her total property to the National Trust. Because of this donation and her work in conservation of land, flora and fauna she is credited with preserving much of what is today’s Lake District National Park.

For More on Potter, her Characters and Studies see:

  • The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter (J E POT)
  • Beatrix Potter’s Art by Anne Stevenson Hobbs (709.2 HOB)
  • Beatrix Potter: Artist, Storyteller and Countrywoman by Judy Taylor (92 POT)
  • At Home With Beatrix Potter: The Creator of Peter Rabbit by Susan Denyer (823.912 DEN)
  • Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: the plants and places that inspired the classic children’s tales by Marta McDowell (823.912 MCD)

π (Pi) Approximation Day

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

pi-151602_960_720Pi Approximation Day is always celebrated on July 22; this year it’s on a Friday. Why you ask? Because the fraction 22/7 is used as a common approximation of π. The number π is a mathematical constant that is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter and is approximately equal to 3.14159…. π (Pi) Day is celebrated by mathematicians, geeks and everyone else on March 14—3.14, get it?) It has been represented by the π, a Greek letter for P and pronounced pi, since the mid-18th century. Because π is an irrational number, it can’t be shown as a fraction, such as ½, ¼ or 3/16. Consequently, its decimal representation never ends and never settles into a permanent repeating pattern.

A fraction represents a part of a whole or, more generally, any number of equal parts, describing how many parts of a certain size there are, for example, one-half, eight-fifths, three-quarters. A simple fraction consists of an integer numerator, displayed above a line (or before a slash), and a non-zero integer denominator, displayed below (or after) that line.

5525295088_393b010f76_bAn approximation is a mathematical and scientific term used to describe anything that is very near to but not exactly equal to something else. (In English, we’d use the word roughly or almost.)

Want to celebrate π Approximation Day?

Eat pie, any kind will do. See how many slices you can make. Try another mathematical problem of how to get the first slice out without making a mess. This will take much experimentation!
Or eat something round if you don’t like pie. Pizza anyone?? Read the rest of this entry

Happy Bastille Day!: Now what is it?

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Bastille Day is July 14 this year and every year in France. It is the French National Day which celebrates the unity of the french people and commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789. So what exactly is a Bastille, you want to know?

Prise_de_la_BastilleThe Bastille was a fortress in Paris, known formally as the Bastille Saint-Antoine, for the district that it was in. For most of its history was used as a state prison by the kings of France. The fortress was originally built to defend the eastern gate of the city of Paris from the English threat in the Hundred Years’ War, in the 1300s. It was a strong fortress with eight towers which protected that highly strategic entrance at the eastern edge of Paris. It was made into a state prison in 1417, used by both the invading English and the French. As Paris grew and spread beyond the gates, the Bastille became surrounded by houses, and was a less of a fortress and more of a prison. King Louis XIV used the Bastille to lock away any of the nobility who opposed him or angered him. Under kings Louis XV and XVI, the fortress was used to detain prisoners from all classes and as a police station, prison and arsenal.

On July 14th, 1789the Bastille was stormed by a crowd filled with revolutionary zeal, some intent on freeing the prisoners, others who wanted the valuable gunpowder held within the fortress. The seven remaining prisoners were found and released. This revolt was the start of the French Revolution. The Bastille became an important symbol for the French Republican movement, and was later demolished and replaced by the Place de la Bastille.

Bastille_Day_2014_Paris_-_Color_guards_034But how do they celebrate Bastille Day?

  • Every July 14, a large military parade takes place along the Champs Elysées, the famous French avenue that runs from the Arc de Triomphe. It is the biggest parade that takes place in all of Europe. During the 2015 parade, three different anti-terror squads marched in the parade to honor the 10,000 troops that helped secure safety in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
  • Another part of the celebrations are the Fireman’s Balls. In this tradition, which started in 1937, fire stations open their doors to host fundraising dance parties. The money collected goes to help funding of the fire stations all over France.
  • And another thing you must be aware of—you never wish a Frenchman (or woman) Happy Bastille Day.   In France, July 14th is always la fête du 14-juillet (the July 14th holiday) or more officially, la fête nationale (The National Holiday). And everyone sings La Marseillaise, which is the French national anthem. “Allons enfants de la patrie…”
  • Bastille Day isn’t a celebration only in France; it is celebrated all over the world. Two of the largest outside France are in the United States: in New Orleans, where Francophiles celebrate the holiday for a week long, and in New York City, where a block party takes place on 60th street.


Read the rest of this entry

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