EasternYour public library is growing to serve you better! Join us today, July 31, at the site of the new branch library located at 6000 Eastern Avenue (just past 53rd Street) for the Ground Breaking and Ceremonial Tree Planting! We’re super-excited about this new chapter in our story and look forward to opening the Eastern Branch library in summer 2010. Be sure to follow our progress on the Eastern Avenue Branch blog.

Please note, both the Main Library and the Fairmount Branch will be CLOSED on today, Friday July 31, until 1:00pm so that the staff can attend the ceremony. Both buildings will be open on Friday 1:00-5:30pm.

Great Railway BazaarWhen you think “travel writer,” you usually think of someone like Paul Theroux or  Bruce Chatwin. Not exactly  laugh riots. In fact, they can be pretty grim. The more painful the journey and annoying their companions, the more they like it. The Great Railway Bazaar was Theroux’s first travel book  and became a classic of the genre. He celebrates the hardship and minimizes the joy of travel – increasingly so, the further he goes along the Orient Express.

Theroux does excel in describing the people he meets  in Europe and Asia – London to  Afghanistan to  India to Japan to Siberia. Ghost Train to the Eastern Star was a sequel of sorts, in which Theroux travels by train again to China, Vietnam, the former Soviet Union and sees the incredible changes 30 years have wrought.

Other masters of the travelogue as endurance test are Bruce Chatwin (In Patagonia) and Jonathan Raban. A British writer, Raban writes about the Mississippi River in Old Glory. (He irritated many locally with his depiction of Davenport).

So, if you find yourself in the midst of a very bad vacation, start writing – you may as well get something constructive out of it!

No, we’re not trying to push the start of the Christmas season even earlier than it already is (Halloween is plenty early) We’re just reminding all crafters out there that if you’re going to make any presents this year, the best time to start making them is now. Handmade gifts are probably the nicest, most thoughtful gifts you can give, but they take time. Here are some great resources for ideas and inspiration.

Closely knitHandmade home

Closely Knit: Handmade Gifts for the Ones You Love by Hannah Fettig

Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures by Amanda Soule

Crafty chicaMartha Stewart craftsCrafty Chica’s Guide to Artful Sewing by Kathy Cano-Murillo

Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts by Martha Stewart

pillowcasebag bazaar

Bag Bazaar: 25 Stylish Bags to Make in an Afternoon by Megan Avery

Craft Challenge: Dozens of Ways to Repurpose a Pillowcase by Suzanne Tourtillot

August 4

Race to Witch Mountain – Dwayne “The Rock” JohnsonRace

When Las Vegas cab driver Jack Bruno encounters two teens with supernatural powers, he finds himself in an adventure in the middle of the Nevada desert known for unexplained phenomena and strange sightings – Witch Mountain.

soloistThe Soloist – Robert Downey, Jr.; Jamie Foxx

A Los Angeles newspaper reporter discovers a homeless musical prodigy while looking for a new article for the paper. The two form a unique friendship that will transform both their lives.

August 11

1717 Again – Zac Efron, Michelle Trachenberg, Matthew Perry

What would you do if you got a second shot at life? Mike’s glory days are decidedly behind him. His marriage has fallen apart, he’s been passed over for a promotion, and his kids think he’s a loser. But Mike is given another chance when he is miraculously transformed back to the age of 17. Unfortunately, Mike may look 17 again, but his thirtysomething outlook is totally uncool in the class of 2009.

i love youI Love you, Man – Paul Rudd, Rashida Jones, Jason Segel

After Peter gets engaged to the woman of his dreams, he realizes he has not one friend to serve as his best man. To rectify the situation, he goes on a series of man-dates before he meets Sydney Fife, with whom he instantly bonds. While Peter and Sydney become closer, his relationship with his fiancee begins to suffer, forcing him to choose between her or his new B.F.F.

August 18

Hannah Montana the Movie – Miley Cyrus, Brian Bostwickhannah

When stardom threatens to take over Miley’s life as pop sensation Hannah Montana, her father takes the entire family back home to the country, where Miley finds herself in the middle of fun adventures and even a little romance!

August 25

dupDuplicity – Julia Roberts, Clive Owens

Two sexy spies turned corporate operatives attempt to pull off one of the biggest heists ever. As the stakes rise in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, they’ll put everything on the line to remain one double-cross ahead of the rest.

Sunshine Cleaning – Amy Adams, Emily Bluntsunshine

Trying to better her financial situation, a single mother starts a crime scene cleaning business and asks her unreliable sister to join her. Together they clean up the deadly messes left by others, and deal with the messes in their own lives as well.

With the recent movie release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, fans who are still hungry for more may want to consider some of the supplementary materials that have been inspired by this popular series.

letters to harry seven rowling

One cute one is Kids’ Letters to Harry Potter from Around the World.  In this collection compiled by Bill Adler, you’ll find conversational excerpts such as “The Dementors almost got me two days ago.”  Or, as only a child would ask, “What is Snape like?  Why doesn’t Snape like you?”

There’s also a wealth of critical analyses, including 7 by Frederick Zimmerman.  Though it weirdly but proudly proclaims to be ‘unofficial and unathorized,” these books can still be especially helpful if you’re in a Harry Potter book club.  This one gives a chapter by chapter inspection as well as “Points to Ponder.”

Finally, your study is never truly complete until you read at least one biography of J. K. Rowling.  Her rags to riches story is a treat for any aspiring author, struggling or not.  Now a multi-millionare, when Rowling first started writing she was living on public assistance in an apartment without heat.  Plus, she didn’t even have enough money to photocopy her book before submitting it to a publisher.  There are biographies available in both the adult and children’s sections, but one easy read is Meet J.K. Rowling by S. Ward.  What better way to celebrate her birthday (and of course, Harry’s) come July 31st?

Bix 7Just in case you’re new to the Quad Cities, here’s a heads up – this is a big weekend for events in Davenport! The Bix 7 road race, featuring world-class runners and ordinary-Joes alike, gets started at 8am today. And then the celebration of all things Bix Beiderbecke gets going with the Bix Biederbecke Memorial Jazz Festival, filling the Davenport riverfront and various locations with the sounds of jazz.

Because of the crowds and congestion, the Davenport Main Library will not be open today, Saturday July 25. However, the Fairmount Branch library will be open their usual hours, 9:30am to 5:30pm. Both buildings will be open their regular hours on Monday.

Now get out there and soak up some jazz! Have a great weekend!

Though we have only one week of hot, laying around the pool weather, I recommended the following author to readers who enjoy light romance with an ability to suspend some disbelief.

SARAH ADDISON ALLEN – is from Ashville North Carolina, and brings the full flavor of her southern upbringing to bear on her fiction — a captivating blend of fairy tale magic, heartwarming romance, and small-town sensibility.

garden spellsIn Garden Spells there is a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, where an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit grows. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it….The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.
A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants–from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys–except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.
When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down–along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy–if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom–or with each other.
Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own….

sugar queenThe Sugar Queen was written in 2008. In this irresistible follow-up to her New York Times bestselling debut, Garden Spells, is  the tale of a young woman whose family secrets–and secret passions–are about to change her life forever. Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds it harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tenderhearted woman who is one part nemesis–and two parts fairy godmother. Fleeing a life of bad luck and big mistakes, Della Lee has decided Josey’s clandestine closet is the safest place to crash. In return she’s going to change Josey’s life–because, clearly, it is not the closet of a happy woman.

With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey is soon forgoing pecan rolls and caramels, tapping into her startlingly keen feminine instincts, and finding her narrow existence quickly expanding. Before long, Josey bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who makes the best sandwiches in town, is hounded by books that inexplicably appear whenever she needs them, and–most amazing of all–has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush. As little by little Josey dares to step outside herself, she discovers a world where the color red has astonishing power, passion can make eggs fry in their cartons, and romance can blossom at any time–even for her. It seems that Della Lee’s work is done, and it’s time for her to move on. But the truth about where she’s going, why she showed up in the first place–and what Chloe has to do with it all–is about to add one more unexpected chapter to Josey’s fast-changing life. Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love–and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.

BixIt’s time again to celebrate one of Davenport’s own – the Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Festival kicks off today with the 22nd annual Davenport Library Bix Porch Party at our Main library. There’ll be live music – provided by Don Estes and the Prairie Ramblers – hot dogs and free lemonade and popcorn. It all starts at 11:30am.

Interested in hearing more of Bix’s music? Be sure to check out Riverboat Shuffle or Bix Lives! from the library. If you’d like to learn more about the brilliant but brief life of Bix and the era he lived in, take a look at Remembering Bix: a Memoir of the Jazz Age by Ralph Berton or Bix: Man and Legend by Richard Sudhalter.

And don’t forget – grab a lawn chair and head to the Main Library for lots of great music and fun!

breaking awayThere’s lots of bicycling in the news this week – RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) is at the halfway point and the Tour de France will finish on Sunday (can Lance Armstrong pull off his comeback?) Keep the bicycling theme going and check out the movie Breaking Away, one of the best sports movies ever made.

Set in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana, four friends are caught in limbo after finishing high school, not know what they want to do next. The college kids derisively call them “cutters” (for the stone quarry where most of their blue-collar fathers work). Dave escapes into his dream of becoming a bicycle racer for the world champion Italian team by training rigorously and even learning to speak Italian (much to his father’s chagrin). After one dream is shattered, an unexpected opportunity opens when a local team (the “Cutters”, led by Dave) is allowed to compete in the famous Little 500 bicycle race at Indiana University. What follows will have you cheering for what’s possible against impossible odds.

Loosely based on a true story (there really is a Little 500 race at Indiana University) this heartwarming (in the best sense) movie is more than a story about a bicycle race – it’s also about family and home, about loyalty and friendship, about accepting and embracing change, about finding your perfect place in the world. Beautifully acted (Dennis Christopher, Paul Dooley, Daniel Stern, Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earle Haley, Barbara Barrie) this inspiring film will make you laugh, cry and cheer.

beer exhibitBefore Red Bull and Monster Drink the victual of health around Davenport was a frothy mug of suds. There weren’t national brands in refrigerated trucks endorsed by athletes and scantily-clad models in the first half of the century. Each town had their own local brands, crafted by mustachioed laborers using recipes from the Fatherland.

For the 20 percent of Davenport Germans, it was a beverage steeped in tradition and culture, and one of the few remaining creature comforts they could control. They did so with a flourish as a number of brands sprung up in Davenport, including Mathias Frahm and Son, Koehelr and Lange (also known as the Arsenal Brewery), Littig Brohers, and Zoeller Brothers.

All of this information is featured in the latest exhibit at the German American Heritage Museum as you look at snapshots of the malthouse workers, tavern operators, and ancient conetop cans and vessels.

I found it to be a fascinating little tour and a great excuse to visit the GAHC for the first time, at the low Depression-era price of $2.