Monday, 28 May 2012

Gardening! Flowers vs. Vegetables

Well, Spring is finally here! The time of year when many of our thoughts turn to the garden. Nothing heralds in the season like seed catalogues, plant sales, new tools, and a sunny warm day.

My first love was the vegetable garden.  The excitement of planning out the year's harvest, waiting for that last full moon so that frost wouldn't kill my tender plants - that feeling never grows old.  Which variety of potato or carrot would we try this time?  Remembering to back off on the turnips so we won't be over-run at harvest time.  Recalling the taste of new peas right off the vine.

Growing your own food is a rewarding project for anyone, from the experienced to the novice.  With so much awareness of what is in our food and the local food movement growing every year it's no surprise that vegetable gardening is becoming a must-try for every household.  Whether you plant in containers, raised beds or full size gardens, being able to watch something go from seed to table is an amazing reward.

When I first joined the library system I came in contact with a different kind of gardening.  Flower gardening was the favourite pastime for many of my fellow library employees, with supporters of both perennials and annuals. This gave me a well rounded introduction to this type of gardening. After lots of advice and starter plants it was not long before I became a convert to the flower garden as well.

To sink your hands into the earth and create beautiful landscapes that are pleasing to the eye and soothing to the soul is an experience like no other. You can stroll through your garden and watch as each week something else comes into bloom, colour and scent changing the picture over and over again. The same principle applies:  you can plant in containers, raised beds or full sized gardens with flowers too.

So think about gardening. Feed your mind with flowers and feed your body with vegetables.  Gardening is the ultimate hobby.  Young or old, big or small, anyone can garden. Whether you just pot a couple of geraniums for your patio or plant an acre of potatoes you will be better off for it.    

For tips and ideas check out our catalogue for books like this

Grow cook eat : a food lover's guide to vegetable gardening

Gardener's color palette : paint your garden with 100 extraordinary flowerchoices

 Dig in -- 

Patricia Milner, Head of Reference Services

Monday, 21 May 2012

Why We Do It

Why would you write a book about teen violence? How about inter-galactic time travel? A future where you get more than one chance at life, if you have the money? A shape-shfting boy in an imagined Victorian world?  These books get readers, that is one reason. And YA is hot right now.  Originally the teen "problem" novel was relegated to the back corner of the library (and bookstores). Now YA has grown up and even adults are reading it. And some of them admit that they read it. But back to my question – why would an author choose to write these types of novels? Well, you can find out on Wednesday, May 23, 3 -4:30 PM, at our YA Author panel. Held as part of the Atlantic Provinces Library Association (APLA) conference**, this panel discussion will feature local authors Christy Ann Conlin and Mark Oakley;  Carrie Mac from Vancouver, and via Skype, Arthur Slade from Saskatoon. The authors will discuss their works, and tell us a bit more about why they do what they do. The session is free and open to the public, and will be held on the Acadia University campus in Patterson Hall, Room 224. You'll get another chance to hear Carrie Mac on Thursday, May 24, 3 -4 PM, at the Wolfville Library

So read their books, and come meet some really cool authors. Here's just a taste:

Christy Ann Conlin has written a YA novella, Dead Time, about a girl accused of murder. 

Carrie Mac has a brand new book, The opposite of tidy, and many others, including Triskelia, a gritty fantasy series, and The Beckoners, a classic 'mean girls' novel. 

Mark Oakley wrote the popular Star Drop, which is also featured weekly in The Grapevine and on his website. 

Arthur Slade writes the HunchbackAssignments which features a shape-changing boy who is a secret agent in a very Steampunk world.  These are also available in audio (and they are great in this format!)

**If you see a lot of people who look like librarians walking around Wolfville, the APLA conference is why.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

What is YA? Audio

Have you ever heard (or spoken) this statement – "It's too long. I can't read that book. It's too hard for me." My response: "Do you have ears that work?"  Ok, maybe that is a snarky response, but let me tell you why it is a good one. If you know (or are) a teen that is required to read a book for school, and they  really don't like to read, I have a solution. Read with your ears. Audiobooks are so amazing! You can listen to a book that might be too long, or have hard words in it. And just like with print books, the right audiobook can really get you hooked.  How do you know which ones are good? I can help. 

If you love stories of adventure, especially ones that involve pirates and strong female characters, you can't go wrong with the Jacky Faber books narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Jacky is funny, smart, daring, and oh so bold, especially when Ms. Kellgren reads her story with a wide range of very sassy accents. 

The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian written and read by Sherman Alexie is in my top 5 all-time favourite audiobooks. His mainly autobiographical story, read as only he could read it, will have you laughing one minute and ready to cry the next. Alexie's timing is so perfect, and his voice is true to the story of an Indian boy who throws himself into the local white high-school with very mixed results. 

"We went to the moon to have fun but the moon turned out to completely suck."  M.T. Anderson's futuristic novel Feed is another on my top list. In a world where most people have computer implants in their heads to control their environment,  this audiobook can make you feel like you yourself are hooked up to the Feed (especially if you listen to the whole thing on earbuds). With background sounds and music, this audio will take you right into the future. 

I have to mention Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, even though I've talked about it before. Narrated by the author, this book truly made me snort coffee out my nose. Libba Bray is not only an incredible writer, she nails this audio so spot-on that I could listen to it over and over.  Oh, you want to know what it is about? A planeload of teenage beauty queens on their way to a pageant practise crashes on a deserted island. Miss America meets Lost – you get the idea. 

Ok, one more. I loved the story of young James Bond in Charlie Higson's SilverFin.  The story begins with young James on a school holiday, where he runs into an evil producer of … eels. Loads of action and unlikely situations, which of course James can somehow scrape out of, and the narrator keeps the pace. 

There are more audiobooks on this booklist, and you can listen to clips and download audiobooks for free here, and just load them onto your iPod. Now you can read while working out, while doing chores, while taking walks, and while driving! And don't let anyone tell you that listening isn't reading. You can read along with a print copy of the book if you want to, but you are still experiencing the story.  To me, that's what reading is all about. 
WHAT IS YA? Will be a monthly feature, published on the 15th of each month, written by Angela Reynolds, our Head of Youth Services.  We are giving away YA books to go along with it! Make a comment below about one of the books we talked about, and you’ll be entered into a monthly draw for a YA review copy. Must be able to pick the book up at one of our branch libraries; no books will be shipped or mailed.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Jack Kirby – Legendary Comic Creator

The release of the film The Avengers is a big deal in the hybrid world of film and comic books.  It is an attempt to bring together multiple film franchises into one massive adventure, and emulate the publishing pattern of the comic books these films draw inspiration from.  The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man have all been turned into very successful films, and one cannot doubt that bringing these elements together is a sure-fire way for Hollywood to make hundreds of millions of dollars.  In addition to being members of the Avengers, these characters are also distinguished in that they were created in large part by two guys: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Stan Lee has made a real name for himself and has successfully capitalized on his involvement with Marvel Comics, expanding recognition of his namesake beyond the insular world of the comic industry and its fan base.   Jack Kirby was perhaps more reserved, and as a result is less of a household name outside the comic book world.  That is a real shame, because Kirby was (he passed away in 1994) one of the major driving forces behind the comic book form since its inception in the late 1930s-early 1940s.  Early in Kirby’s career, he was partnered with Joe Simon, another artist and writer, and together they created Captain America, which was a sensational character that fought the Nazis before the United States even entered the Second World War!  Afterwards, Simon and Kirby went on to expand the comic form into every genre, from crime to romance to war, all of which was done with a great deal of skill.  

Simon and Kirby worked together throughout the 40s and 50s with great success, until Kirby was drawn back toward superheroes in the early 1960s.  It was during this period that Kirby, in his dank little basement studio filled with cigar smoke, churned out stories and artwork that would form the unshakeable base of Marvel Comics.  Instead of Joe Simon, Kirby was partnered with Stan Lee, and together they developed the concept of the flawed super hero, reflecting the struggles of puberty with the struggles of super-powered people learning how to use their gifts to help others.   In essence, Lee and Kirby captured the young adult experience like no other comic book creators before them, what the old cliché calls catching ‘Lightning in a Bottle’.  Kirby was instrumental in creating the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man (he did not illustrate the book, but was involved in his creation), the Mighty Thor, the Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man.  

Eventually, Jack Kirby would part ways with Stan Lee and Marvel Comics, and began to work for rival company DC Comics.  At DC, he created a massive epic that would become known as the Fourth World series.  Encompassing several ongoing series (all written and drawn by Kirby himself), the Fourth World tells the story of the New Gods, beings possessing amazing technology that are locked in planetary war and family feuds that rival any work of great literature for thematic complexity.  While the initial sales for Kirby’s Fourth World books were low, the concepts would be harvested for the next few decades by other creators, and would go on to inspire creators in other media as well.  An example of this is the concept of an all-powerful energy field that is harnessed by the characters in Kirby’s universe to achieve amazing feats of strength.  Kirby called this “The Source”, which was tweaked by George Lucas for Star Wars and called The Force.  Also, much of the drama of the Fourth World was driven by a father-son divide between the evil Darkseid, ruler of the planet Apokolips, and his estranged son Orion, who was a crusader of good.  Strong parallels can be drawn between how Kirby established this story, and how Lucas developed the relationship between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. 

This explosion of ideas and slate of characters would go on to net billions of dollars in revenue for Marvel and DC comics over the next four decades, spanning massive amounts of merchandising, film, cartoons, and various other titles.  In contrast, Kirby would struggle financially for the rest of his life, but never slow down his output.  To comic fans, Kirby was recognized as an under-appreciated genius who was used and abused by the growing corporate structure of mainstream comics publishing.  He came to be referred to as The King of Comics, a title that apparently made Kirby himself uncomfortable.

As time has passed and Kirby’s legacy lives on, much of his work has been collected and reprinted numerous times.  AVRL, as well as many other library regions, have developed collections of Kirby’s work.  If you want to see how the modern comic came to be, or where the successful film franchises of the past decade or so have come from, do a search of our catalogue and check out the work of Jack Kirby in titles such as The Simon and Kirby Library. Crime , The collected Jack Kirby collector, or Captain America : the classic years.  The excitement of his artwork exploding off the printed page, or the dazzling stream of ideas that he produced during his lifetime of creating comics are there for all to discover.        

Bruce Ross, Windsor Library 

Monday, 7 May 2012

Books By Mail: Bringing the Library to you

Do you live further than 10 kilometers from one of our library branches? Are you physically unable to get to a library? Perhaps you are taking care of a loved one and cannot visit a library. The Annapolis Valley Regional Library has developed a service for you.

Books By Mail is a FREE library outreach service provided for residents of the Annapolis Valley who meet these criteria. You can select books from our booklists or online catalogue. The booklists are in print form and can be mailed to you. You may prefer our staff of the Outreach Services Department help you determine what suits your reading needs. A wide variety of books in many categories are available. (Due to postage costs this service does not include audio books or movies.)

The books will be mailed to you return postage paid! Specially designed reusable zip-up bags are used for the mailings. The size of the book and how it relates to your mailbox size is a factor to be considered. How many items can be mailed to you at one time will depend on the size of your mailbox and method of picking up your mail. There is no limit on the number of items you may borrow, providing no other books are overdue. 

We allow 4 weeks from the time of mailing out until the item is due back at the library. That should allow you 3 weeks for the actual use of the item. Items may be renewed if there is no waiting list. You will receive notices if items become overdue, but there will be NO FINES charged. You cannot borrow additional books if there are overdue items.

Your library card is valid at any of our service points including branch libraries, the Bookmobile and Books By Mail. Items signed out via a branch or the Bookmobile may have a different loan period and incur fines if the materials become overdue. If you or someone you know could benefit from this service, contact Outreach Services staff at 1-866-922-0229 ext.234. To register online click here.

Wendy Kearnes
Outreach Services Manager