Posted in Adult, DIY & How To, eBooks & eAudio

The Seed Waits for Its Garden

The weather is finally starting to warm up. That means soon that we’ll be able to start growing gardens! I haven’t ever planted a proper vegetable garden before, so I found some books that sounded helpful. I’ve included the book’s description under each title.

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The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest (Monarch/Libby/Hoopla)

“There is nothing more regionally specific than vegetable gardening—what to plant, when to plant it, and when to harvest are decisions based on climate, weather, and first frost. The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest, by regional expert Michael VanderBrug, focuses on the unique eccentricities of the Midwest gardening calendar. The month-by-month format makes it perfect for beginners and accessible to everyone—gardeners can start gardening the month they pick it up. Perfect for home gardeners in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.”

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Posted in Uncategorized

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Now that the weather is warming up, you may be looking for activities for the kids to do outside at home. If you haven’t already, give gardening a try! Gardening provides a relaxing outdoor activity while adding beauty to your space, or food for your tummy. Whether you have a large yard or no yard – there are plenty of ways to incorporate gardens into your life. You could plant a bunch of veggies in your yard, grow a small potted plant, create a fairy garden, plant a tree, or even paint some rocks to create a colorful rock garden. Aside from being a fun activity, kids will activate the creative side of their brain by planning their garden. They will also apply some math and science skills through measuring the spacing/depth when planting seeds, observing garden insects, and making observations on the growth of their plants. Gardening is a great stress reliever as well – listening to the sounds of nature and digging in the soil can feel quite soothing. And seeing the growth of whatever they decide to plant will provide a sense of accomplishment. Picky eaters may even be willing to try new foods if they grow them themselves! I have some picture book recommendations with garden themed stories that may inspire your kids to want to try planting their own gardens. An additional book recommendation has some fun garden experiments to try as well. Even if you decide not to plant a garden, these stories will encourage creative thoughts about gardens that will lead kids to imagine what they’d want to grow in their own garden. This may further inspire an enjoyable discussion and possibly motivate them to want to draw or create their own garden from other materials. Happy gardening!

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Thank You, Garden by Liz Garton Scanlon

The simple, yet descriptive rhyming text of this story pairs with delightful illustrations to describe a community garden. Children will see how gardens take work, but also how rewarding they are. The people in this story put a lot of work into their garden, but find ways to enjoy themselves while they wait for their plants to grow. Then they all come together to celebrate the fruits of their labor with a garden feast.

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Posted in Adult, Contemporary, eBooks & eAudio, Fiction, Horror

Modern Classics: Jane Austen

Known for expressing her wit and social commentary through her characters, Jane Austen is a staple of classrooms and beloved by many. But for readers new to Austen, the language can feel challenging and lots of sneaky jokes get lost along the way. (Consider: a character preaching about the importance of frugality while renting the carriage equivalent of an Audi.) Modern retellings can reframe those jokes in a way that doesn’t require extensive knowledge of 1800s British customs, or offer a fresh take for those who know Austen’s works well. For longtime Austen fans and newcomers alike, here are 6 adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels.

The Austen Project:
Emma by Alexander McCall Smith & Eligble by Curtis Sittenfeld

The Austen Project brings Jane Austen into the present day. Eligible imagines Elizabeth as a writer for a magazine and Jane as a yoga instructor in New York. After their father has a health scare, the daughters return to their childhood city of Cincinnati to find the home in disrepair and a mother determined to marry off Jane before her 40th birthday.

In Emma, the titular character returns home from university to start her career in interior design. While she plans to get her business off the ground, she uses her free time to offer guidance to those she deems less wise in the ways of the world than she is – and she includes nearly everyone in Highbury in that tally.

Two other adaptations in the series, Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid and Sense and Sensibility have been released as well.

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Posted in Adult, Games, New & Upcoming, Science Fiction, Teen & Young Adult

A New Foe Has Appeared!

Most years, we’d be approaching E3 season. That may be canceled, but there are a few games that I’m looking forward to that have already been announced. I’m sure as announcements trickle in that there will be more games that I’ll look forward to, but we’ll start with these.

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Maneater (PS4/Xbox One)

As much as I love a good story, I’m a sucker for an open-world RPG. This one has piqued my interest because it’s not the usual shooter or fantasy RPG. It’s tough to say from the gameplay they’ve shown how much variety there will be for what you can do. So far, it’s eating things and swimming through beautiful aquatic scenery. I suspect that’s why the game is cheaper than most games upon release, but I still want to try it.

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Posted in Adult, Film, Staff Picks

The Criterion Collection on Kanopy

Welcome back to “What Has Molly Been Watching on Kanopy Lately”. This week not only am I going to encourage every Mead Library card holder to get in on the Kanopy action, I am going to encourage one to get artsy with it by exploring the Criterion Collection titles specifically.  

So, what is the Criterion Collection, anyway? Founded in 1984, the Criterion Collection was created as a collective dedicated to preserving important film from around the world. As of now, Criterion boasts editions for over 1,400 films ranging from the dawn of the medium in the early 20th century to contemporary 21st century pictures. The editions they produce represent the best possible image quality and tend to include killer bonus content. You can check out their webpage HERE.

Kanopy offers 50 titles from this prestigious collection for your viewing pleasure. Below, I listed 4 of my particular favorites. 

Ikiru (Directed by Akira Kurosawa; 1952)

This is a real one, right here. Kurosawa’s best known films like Yojimbo, Rashomon, and The Seven Samurai (the latter two are also available on Kanopy), tend to be in the vein of flashy epic dramas. Ikiru’s power lies in its pure and assured performances as well as in its relatably mundane plot. Ikiru, which translates as “to live” is the story of middle-aged bureaucrat Kanje Watanabe finding purpose and meaning in the face of an indifferent world. His wife has passed away and his daughter and son-in-law care more about Watanabe’s pension than the actual man who is earning it. When a stomach cancer diagnosis gives him a year to live, Watanabe realizes it is not too late for him to do something that matters. This leads him to focus on helping a nearby neighborhood lose a cesspool and gain a playground. This film is so beautiful it hurts. Watch it late at night with someone you love, if possible, and hug them with all your might. If this picture grabs you, please also see Tokyo Story (1953) directed by Kurosawa’s great contemporary Yasujiro Ozu, also available on Kanopy. 

The 400 Blows (Directed by Francios Truffaut; 1959) 

This is the film most people think of first when they think French New Wave Cinema. In fact, one might argue that the film’s director, François Truffaut, is the movement’s most important founder. French New Wave Cinema was characterized by naturalistic, often improvised dialogue and lots of shaky-cam jump cuts. In fact, Truffaut used footage directly from his lead actor’s audition reel in the finished movie. The story is almost embarrassing in how personal it feels and gave me the same feeling I get when I read The Catcher in the Rye, which was published around the same time. If you want to be a cool film guy, you need to watch French New Wave. Kanopy also offers several films by New Wave heavies Jean-Luc Goddard and Claude Chabrol.

Pather Panchali (Directed by Satyajit Ray; 1955)

Let this quiet, gorgeous treat of a film transport you to a completely different time and place, outside Calcutta in the 1910s. The director relied on amatuer actors and improvised dialogue throughout the film to great effect. For instance, the actor playing young son Apu is possibly one of the most darling children ever committed to celluloid. And one can practically hear the wizened old auntie’s bones creak, she’s so old and bent over crooked. These are two members of an impoverished rural family we follow over the course of several years. They live in a crumbling ancestral home and subsist on the meager wage earned by the patriarch. The defining scene of the movie comes when Apu and his older sister, Durga, run away for an afternoon to see the train whose whistle delights them in the evenings. When they walked through tall grass together and shared a piece of sugar cane I felt nostalgia for a moment I never experienced. It reminded me how the best cinema should make us feel the big feelings that define what it means to be human.

Haxan (directed by Benjamin Christensen; 1922)

Talk about what’s old is new again! This OG work of docutainment is based on the director’s personal study of the Malleus Maleficarum, a 15th century inquisition manual. Over the course of 4 parts, Haxan warns against the dangers of mistaking mental illness for deviltry and starting a false witch-hunt. If that concept isn’t already appealing enough, upon its release in 1922, Haxan was widely banned for various content reasons including but not limited to torture, nudity, and other sexually explicit scenarios. While the “educational” or narrative thrust of the picture is shaky l promise you, the nightmare scenes are coo-coo bananas and satisfying to watch in a way that I don’t know how to replicate. MMmmaaaaaaybe steer clear of this one if you don’t find satanism to be as campy and fun as I do.

I hope this sparks some interest in exploring the Criterion Collection portion of Kanopy. Also, I would love to hear which films you’ve been loving and hating best. Call 920-459-3400 to tell me all about it, or for any other library assistance. Stay safe and keep watching good cinema!

Posted in Adult, eBooks & eAudio, Fantasy, Games, Graphic Novels & Memoirs, Horror

Insert Coin to Continue

The last few weeks have been good for gaming, but even I can get burned out after a few days. Sometimes, you get caught up in the story or world you were playing in, though. This week I found a few books that are set in some favorite videogame worlds.

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The Infernal City (Libby/Monarch)

This novel is set after the Oblivion Crisis. Though I feel like to fully enjoy it, you need to have played The Elder Scrolls III, or at least The Elder Scrolls Online. The novel visits places in Morrowind like Vivec City and mentions the fall of the Ministry of Truth. That may not be as much of an issue for other people as it would be for me, though.

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Posted in Kids 0-5, Kids 5-12, Uncategorized

Book Playlists for Kids

Does your child need additional practice with literacy skills? Or are you looking for an additional resource to add some entertainment to your child’s day? If so, TumbleBooks may be a great option for your family. TumbleBooks are animated picture books that highlight sentences as they are read aloud. You can access them with your library card number through their website, or you can download the app to your device. There are unlimited copies of each title, and there are no limits to how many books you may access at a time. TumbleBooks users have access to storybooks, read-alongs, ebooks, graphic novels, non-fiction books, language learning, National Geographic videos, music, puzzles, games, and playlists. If you’re interested in reading, browse the individual book titles or take a look through the playlists. Playlists are a series of saved stories that are played one after another. You can use them as a storytime, or to group stories together surrounding a theme of interest. Create your own playlists, or choose from a selection that have already been created. You can browse playlists by a variety of time ranges and different themes. I will be highlighting a few of these below.

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Here is a playlist to help your kids unwind at the end of the day. Included are the stories Go Back to Bed! by Ginger Foglesong Guy, Into the Tub! by Laura Beaver and Jill Nolen, and Little Hoot by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. You can choose to read one story, or all three for a total of 13 minutes. Go Back to Bed! Is a funny story of a boy that keeps finding excuses for getting out of bed. Each time he gets up, he finds his parents doing wild and fun things without him. Into the Tub! is a rhyming story of a little mouse that must be patiently persuaded by her mom to get ready for bed. Little Hoot is an adorable bedtime story about a little owl’s late bedtime. Little Hoot just wants to go to bed early like his friends do, but he must stay up late and play.

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Posted in Adult, Film, Staff Picks, Teen & Young Adult

Kanopy, Take Me Away From Here

People often assume I love books more than anything given my field and profession, and they aren’t wrong! I love books, so, so much. I love books like they’re alive. But my go-to vehicle for escapism has always been the warm embrace of film. If you haven’t sought out Mead’s video-streaming service, Kanopy yet, now is the time. Mead Library card holders get 10 credits a month and access to a staggering array of film across all genres. In addition to that, the “no-credit” viewing list has risen to 60 titles to meet our needs during the most leisurely pandemic ever. Below, I listed four movies to keep you entertained while we ride this stuff out.

A Town Called Panic (2009; 76 minutes; PG)
Sometimes I get envious of people when I find out they haven’t consumed my personal favorite movies. They get to have the experience of seeing it for the first time, and I can never feel that feeling again. Please watch this movie, I implore you. Y’all are in for a treat. Not only is it beautiful to look at and very charming, but it is outright hilarious and wildly creative. This is stop-motion animation at its most absurd and watchable. I’m so confident in its appeal that I am not even going to go into any sort of plot summary. It’s a French production, so make sure to watch with original French subtitles. Kids will dig on it, too! With or without subtitles. 

Black Christmas (1974; 1h 38m; R)
Why yes, this was recently remade and no, you absolutely should not watch the remake. For those of you who do not dig on horror, by all means skip right the heck over this entry. Not only is Black Christmas an early prototypic slasher movie often copied in tone a decade later in the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th but it is genuinely creepy! Originally released under the title “Silent Night Deadly Night”, we watch as one by one, members of a sorority succumb to the creep living in the attic. You may be surprised to learn that Bob Clark, the film’s director, would go on to direct A Christmas Story so he really had all the Christmas-themed genre films locked down by the early 1980s. This is a great pick for someone who is curious about horror but can’t handle too much gore. Also, it’s a good idea to wait until the wee ones are elsewhere before giving it a look. 

The Harder They Come (1972; 2h; R)
The plot is convoluted, the acting is terrible, the cinematography is eh, so why bother? This is the king of 1970s exploitation films and warrants a peek. And have I mentioned the soundtrack? Talk about escapism, it’s like sitting by the beach, you just need to stick a tiny umbrella in your drink. The film’s protagonist, played by Jimmy Cliff, is trying his best to get a recording contract while running afoul of drug dealers and corrupt record producers. Naturally, the soundtrack is peppered with the best reggae music and artists of the time. Only one other exploitation film comes close in musical quality and that is the immortal soundtrack to Superfly (also 1972), by Curtis Mayfield. I would not necessarily call The Harder They Come “lighthearted” but it is so far afield in location and time that one will be transported, if only briefly, to a place far from the realities of COVID. 

Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015; 80m; PG-13)
While the film was released in 2015, it is based on a series of interviews conducted by Truffaut over the course of a week in 1962 at Hitchcock’s studios at Universal. The interview series would go on to be published in 1966 as a book of the same name, and is still considered one of the most important books on film published in the 20th century. Psycho (1960), North by Northwest (1959) and Vertigo (1958) had already reached the big screen at the time of the interviews, and Rebecca won for Best Picture in 1940, but Hitchcock was still not regarded as the important auteur we know him as today. Truffaut, himself a young filmmaker, idolized Hitch’s work and used the interview time to go through all of his more than 50 films to date in chronological order with almost fetishistic zeal. The addition of interjected commentary by contemporary filmmakers fleshes out the scope and gravity of what Truffaut accomplished. WARNING! This documentary will make you want to watch Hitchcock’s entire filmography so be prepared. It might also make one curious about the work of Francois Truffaut. If this is the case, I have good news. My next Kanopy-centric blog post will focus on Criterion Collection titles available, which includes but is not limited to Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. Stay tuned! 

I would love to hear which films people have found appealing, and which…not so much. Let me know! Email me at publicservices@meadpl.org. I would truly love to hear some opinions and suggestions. We’re happy to help with any Kanopy-related questions, as well. Until next time, happy watching!

-molly

Posted in Uncategorized

3 More Series You Can Start Reading Right Now

Sometimes Overdrive’s holds list can get long, but these 3 series – a mystery, a romance, and a thriller – have plenty of copies of Book One available for checkout right now.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs becomes a maid in 1910, at just 13 years old. When her employer discovers her keen mind, she is instead entered into an apprenticeship with a friend of the family. When her former employer’s son signs over his entire fortune to a suspicious, reclusive “retreat” for WWI veterans, Maisie has a chance to repay her old debt to her patron, but doing so means confronting her own ghosts from the Great War. (always available in audio)

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Posted in Adult, Award Winners, eBooks & eAudio, Graphic Novels & Memoirs, Nonfiction

Read-alikes for Educated

Have you been waiting on the holds list to read Educated by Tara Westover and just want a book to pass the time?  Or have you just finished Educated and now you’re wondering what you could possibly read that could ever compare?

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Here’s a list of books that just might fill the Educated void:

Estranged by Jessica Berger Gross

This memoir follows Jessica’s journey as a young woman who is abused, both physically and emotionally, by her father.  Later in her life, she decides to break away and cut all ties with her dysfunctional family to finally create a life for herself.  Though she struggles to overcome the trauma and pain that has internally built up throughout her childhood, Jessica works her way down an inspiring path to happiness.
This book is currently available right away in Audiobook format on Hoopla

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