Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Soñadores - by Yuyi Morales

This one's in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15)

Soñadores means dreamers in Spanish. In this beautifully illustrated picture book Morales tells the story of coming to the United States as a Mexican immigrant with her infant son, Kelly. The author explains in an afterword that her son is not a "Dreamer" in the sense that the word is often used today as Kelly was not undocumented, but rather that all immigrants are dreamers in that they come to a new country each bringing their own hopes - and gifts.

Morales describes how disoriented she felt coming to a new place not knowing the language or the customs. And then she discovered the library
un lugar que nunca antes habíamos visto. Misterioso. Fantástico. Incréible. Sorprendente. Inimaginable. 
a place that we had never seen. Mysterious. Fantastic. Incredible. Surprising. Unimaginable. 
She tells of the excitement of finding books, and learning to read...and dreaming.

I read this in Spanish. It is also available in an English version (Dreamers).

Monday, September 24, 2018

Property of the Rebel Librarian - by Allison Varnes

Published just in time for Banned Books Week this young adult novel tells the story of seventh-grader June Harper, whose parents remove all the books from her bedroom when they discover that she is reading a library book - The Makings of a Witch - of which, they inform her, they do not approve. Furthermore, they now need to vet all of her reading material. To make matters worse, they decide that everything in her middle-school library is potentially dangerous material, and have most of the books removed, along with the beloved librarian Ms. Bradshaw! Parents, teachers, and the school principal advise the students that they will face "serious consequences" if they are caught reading any un-approved reading material. This includes any text
containing profanity, drugs, violence, rock/rap music, witchcraft, drinking, smoking, or rebellion of any kind
There is good satire here. The "rebellious' young people just want a good book and a quiet place to read. The stealthy pre-teens are inventive in finding ways to hide their dangerous habit from the adults. Meanwhile their parents receive warnings reminiscent of  the cautions we might be more likely to expect about drugs or sex.

June discovers a Little Free Library in her neighborhood and uses the books therein to start her own underground library at school. She deems herself the "Rebel Librarian" and protects her classmates from discovery by having each one use a superhero pseudonym when checking out a book.

As I expected there were a lot of references to banned books here. And while Erica Jong's Fear of Flying is not among those specifically mentioned, I did see an ironic parallel between Jong's work and Varner's. In both books the heroine finds pages of the books she wants to read covered up. In Fear Isadora discovers oak tags shielding Nazi images in German library books, and in Rebel June's parents glue index cards to some of the passages of her book, which they then complete with "alternate" wording! Isadora uses the old-fashioned steam method to find out what is underneath the covers. June had only to use her memory. Her parents seemed to have forgotten that she'd already read the books!

Will people ever learn that censoring materials will only make them that much more attractive?

The Little Book of Hygge - by Meik Wiking

Probably I should be living in Denmark. Free healthcare and four-day workweeks are enough to entice me. The cozy lifestyle described in Wiking's book sold me.

Hygge is typically a group thing, with conversation and games, but books and warm beverages (two of my favorite things) enjoyed alone figure prominently in the hygge lifestyle as well.

One suggestion the author provides under the heading "Ten Inexpensive Hygge Activities" is to "Set Up a Mini-Library in Your Shared Stairway or Elsewhere in the Neighbourhood". Essentially, he is telling us to set up Little Free Libraries. Wiking also gives a shout out to Copenhagen's Library Bar in the Plaza Hotel. I looked online at some pictures, and it does appear to be lined with books. I couldn't really tell if they were available for browsing, and the lighting may not be conducive to reading. It does look rather hygge though.

And a funny thing happened just as I finished this book. James and I took a trail hike that I'd discovered while riding my bike. We followed the short, well-marked trail to its end, and then weren't sure where we were. We knew of course that we could simply go back the way we came to get to our car, but I was sure that we could also just follow the road. James got out his cell phone, and opened the GPS app and tried to pinpoint where we were all the while we were looking up and down the road trying to figure out which direction to take. This was all happening in a regular neighborhood across the street from where a man was playing basketball with his two children in their driveway. After some frustration with the cell phone I simply walked over and asked for directions. The man was happy to provide them, and the kids were actually thrilled to be able to help telling us what landmarks to look for along the way. People want to connect, and we too often just want to solve everything will our cell phones. 

The only thing I really found off-putting was the propensity of the Danes to wear a lot of black. People should wear more bright colors. Remember how cool the '80s were?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Wonderstruck - the movie

This mood piece about two runaways (50 years apart) in New York City who find their way to the American Museum of Natural History comes together beautifully in the end. Ben is looking for his father (in 1977), and Rose is searching for an actress (in 1927). Ben is living with his extended family after his librarian mother is killed in an automobile accident. Although Ben's mother is rarely seen in the film (except through flashbacks) books are important to the plot, as is Ben's mother's role as town librarian.  

Friday, September 14, 2018

A Library Book for Bear - by Bonny Becker

In honor of Library Card Sign-Up Month a fun picture book about a grumpy, rolling-skating bear and his first trip to the library.

Bear is sure that he has all the books he will ever need (seven of them) at home. But his friend Mouse convinces him to come to the library, which Bear maintains is too big and has "far too many books". Even as Bear gets quite loud about his opinions the lovely librarian, rather than "shushing" him, invites him to join the other animals at story time.

It is very important to note that while there is some shushing going on in this work, it is not the librarian doing it. The librarian is engaging and welcoming, and knows just how to find the right book for the right animal. That's what librarians do.