Monday, March 18, 2013

Dracula - by Bram Stoker

Although I have read and blogged about Vampire books before, seen countless vampire movies, and even traveled to Transylvania to see Vlad Tepes' (a.k.a. Dracula) boyhood home, I had actually never read Stoker's classic. It is scary; and Count Dracula is really mean, but at least he knows the value of a good book. He has his own library in his home, which he apparently makes good use of. Jonathan Harker finds the Count on at least one occasion in his library "lying on the sofa, reading, of all things in the world, an English Bradshaw's Guide".  Harker also makes use of the Count's library, in which he finds to his "great delight, a vast number of English books, whole shelves of them, and bound volumes of magazines and newspapers...The books were of the most varied kind, history geography, politics, political economy, botany, geology, law...." The Count, upon finding his guest in the library tells him that the books "have been good friends...and given many, many hours of pleasure..." The Count further explains that he used the books to learn about England in anticipation of his trip there, much the same way that Harker had visited the library at the British Museum in order to learn more about Transylvania before leaving London, "and made search among the books and maps...regarding Transylvania". He realized, of course, that the library was the place to gain "some foreknowledge of the country."

One more thing I must point out, that has to do with my Spanish-teacher self, rather than my librarian self, is this passage which refers to the arrival of Mina and Jonathan Harker, and others, in Galatz, Romania in search of the Count. One of the party, Mr. Morris, escorts Mina to the hotel. Morris is chosen for this task because he "could best be spared, (emphasis mine) since he [did] not speak any foreign language.

Friday, March 15, 2013

We Band of Angels - by Elizabeth M. Norman

During World War II a group of Army and Navy nurses were imprisoned in Bataan by the Japanese. The women were subjected to a starvation diet, tropical diseases, and humiliation by their captors while continuing their work as nurses. They were hailed as heroes after their rescue three years later, but found that  once the celebrations ended the military refused to give them the same honors that their male counterparts were due. Many of the women suffered long-lasting effects from the years of illness and malnutrition, which in some cases forced them to give up their military careers. This book is based on interviews, diaries and other firsthand accounts with the women who were there. The author named Helen "Cassie" Cassiani as the one she knew "best".

Growing up in Bridgewater, Massachusetts Cassie "often used [farm] work as an excuse to ignore her studies....Then one day two friends from the neighborhood sat her down in the library and showed her how to study. Soon she acquired the habit of reading-history, science stories." And from this seed grew her desire to become a nurse. Exciting to think that the library she used must be the very one for which this blogger now serves as a trustee!

Cassiani's fellow internee Eleanor Garen also found a love of the library as a child in Elkhart, Indiana. "She learned to read early and became such a bookworm that she would fill up her own library card, then take out books on her brothers' accounts."

The importance of libraries is additionally highlighted in this book by the fact that those imprisoned established their own lending libraries within the confines of the camp. The closing the library was one of the methods used by their captors to harass and demonstrate who was in charge.

This is a captivating read, especially in light of the recent decision to "allow" women in combat units. Women  serving on the front lines, in combat conditions is nothing new, as is evident in this work.

This book is the One Book One Community selection for Bridgewater in the fall of 2013.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Library Lion - by Michelle Knudsen

Running, and making loud noises are against the rules at the library, however, there are no rules about lions. So, when a lion comes into the library and makes himself at home during story hour he is allowed to stay as long as he is quiet, and doesn't run. The lion returns day after day, and in addition to enjoying story hour, he is also a helpful volunteer - assisting with licking stamps and using his wonderful mane to dust. He endears himself to just about everyone, including Miss Merriweather, the bun-toting, sensible-shoe-wearing, bespectacled head librarian, who learns that "sometimes there [is] a good reason to break the rules. Even in the library." This is a sweet children's story, although I thought while I was reading it that it was older than its 2006 publication date might have had me believe. References to the card catalog seemed outdated, and will children even understand that "stacks" mean bookshelves?

Reading this reminded me of the PBS children's show Between the Lions. I used to love watching this with my daughter when she was young.