Floret Flower’s Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein

Happy first day of Spring! This is, by far, my favorite time of year, when the earth wakes up from it’s winter slumber and all things are new and possible. And best of all, flowers are blooming in the garden again.

There is always a surge of new gardening books published in late winter and early spring – you will find many of them on the new book shelves at the library. Gardening books tend to fall into one of two categories – practical or beautiful. Now, there’s nothing wrong with beautiful – you can find a lot of inspiration and ideas from those gorgeous pictures and who doesn’t like whiling away a winter afternoon dreaming of colorful gardens? And there’s nothing wrong with practical – these are the books that get you through the growing season. (My favorite is Barbara Damrosch’s The Garden Primer) But the fact is, there’s not always a lot of overlap. Happily, this year there’s a gardening book that is both practical and beautiful – Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein.

If you have ever dreamed of being a flower farmer, or if you’re passionate about growing your own flowers (that’s me!), or if you simply want to grow a few flowers for your kitchen table, this book is for you. Over 170 plants are included in this book, all of which are easy to grow, some of which you may not have considered for bouquets (like vines, branches, and grasses). There is well-written practical information for each plants as well as lovely photographs (I love the use of lighting and perspective in these photos). And there are instructions for creating beautiful bouquets, arranged by season so that you can use readily available flowers from your yard or the farmers market. Erin includes “minor” flowers that are easy to grow but that you’re unlikely to find at the florist (something that I’ve been an advocate of for years) such as grape hyacinth and nasturtiums. It doesn’t take a lot of land or expensive tools to add a lot of life and beauty to your corner of the world.

I’ve long been a fan of the floret website and blog – there is an incredible amount of helpful information on the site (and, much like the book, it’s overflowing with gorgeous photography). I also enjoy the behind-the-scenes views of the job of growing flowers for a living – romantic yes but mostly lots of hard work. Much like their book, it’s the perfect combination of beautiful and practical.

OK Spring – bring it! I can’t wait!

 

 

Library Closed for In-Service

The Davenport Public Library will be closed on Thursday, March 16th for In-Service. The library does this once a year in order to train staff on new technology and policies, all with the purpose of providing the best possible service for the community.

Remember, our website is open 24 hours a day with access to the library catalog, your account information and a wealth of online databases to help meet your immediate information questions.

All three of our locations will reopen on Friday March 17th with their regular business hours of 9:00am to 5:30pm.

 

Online Reading Challenge – Halfway Home!

Hello Challenge Readers!

How has the month of March been treating you? Have you found a great book or movie set in Japan? For many of us (and this is a massive over-generalization), the Japanese culture can be very foreign in a way that Europe is not. Western European culture permeates our lives here – even if we have no European blood, we easily recognize and mostly understand their literature and customs (this seems especially true of Great Britain whose power and influence at one time stretched across the globe). Japan, on the other hand, was closed to foreigners, with few exceptions, for centuries and sometimes seems to be an enigma even now.

Of course, no matter our differences we are, at heart, much the same – we love our families, we know pain and joy, great tragedy and incredible luck. It’s simply the setting and the way our society teaches us to handle these truths that is different. And isn’t that why we travel and why we read about other lives? To understand our differences and to see our similarities?

I’ve read an incredibly good book for our Japan adventure – The Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton. One day Amaterasu Takahashi opens to the door of her home in the United States to a young man with hideous scars on his face and hands. He claims he is her grandson Hideo Watanabe who she believed had died when the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945, forty years ago. She is understandably skeptical and wary and also frightened – his appearance reopens a very painful part of Ama’s life, of family secrets, betrayals, regrets and loss, pain that she has shut away and is now forced to confront.

What follows is a look back at Ama’s life, her poor, desperate youth, the daughter she protected fiercely, the husband who brought her a measure of peace. When the Allies drop the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, both Ama’s daughter and grandson were within the bomb blast and though they search for days, weeks, months, Ama and her husband are unable to find anything of their beloved child and grandchild. Eventually they move to the United States and Ama is able to fairly successfully ignore the pain of the past – at least until the man claiming to be Hideo arrives.

Descriptions of the day of the bomb and its horrible aftermath are vivid but not sensationalized. And while the fact of the bomb is a shadow throughout the book, it is not an the focus of the story. It is simply an unchangeable fact, a division between the past and the future. And while this may sound like a grim, depressing novel, it is actually about finding joy and accepting happiness and learning to not just survive, but to live.

I also liked that at the beginning of each chapter a Japanese word would be defined and explained. These words usually described concepts that are uniquely Japanese values and do not translate easily to English or to Western society. Many of these concepts are rooted in the ancient history of Japan and Buddhist philosophy and are a fascinating clue to what makes Japan distinctive. This added a lot of depth and understanding to the actions of the characters. This is one of those books that you keep thinking about long after you finish. Highly recommended.

What about you? What are you reading this month?

 

 

Now Departing for: Japan

Welcome to the next stop in our read-the-world Online Reading Challenge! This month we’re heading to Japan.

A beautiful land with a diverse culture very different from our own, Japan offers a wide range of possibilities for exploration through reading, from ancient shoguns to modern anime, there is bound to be something for everyone. Here are some suggestions.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. If you haven’t read this gem of a book, now is the perfect time. Memoirs is an inside look at the mysterious, often misunderstood world of the geisha, a uniquely Japanese occupation. Set in the 1930s, the beautiful, serene face of the geisha hides an often harsh and brutal reality. A fascinating read.

Shogun by James Clavell. This is the best kind of historical fiction, completely immersive and impossible to put down. We are introduced to late 16th century Japan through the eyes of a shipwrecked Englishman named Blackthorn. This is a Japan that is still ruled by military shoguns and has  been long isolated from the Western world. The massive culture shock, the beauty and brutality of this foreign land and the lives of the people in this drama are unforgettable. Read it. (There’s also an epic movie, staring Richard Chamberlain)

Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. A blend of surreal and fantasy, Murakami’s novels have been popular in the US for years. Imaginative, philosophical, experimental, intense are all words that describe this novel about a man searching for his wife’s lost cat. Of course, there is much more going on than that simple story line would indicate.

The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz. As the first commoner to marry into the royal family, Haruko, worldly and well-educated, faces cruelty and suspicion in the Imperial court, suffers a nervous breakdown and becomes mute after the birth of her son. Years later, now Empress herself, she must persuade another worldly and well-educated young woman to marry her son. This book draws heavily from real stories of the Japanese Imperial family and royal court.

Shall We Dance (DVD) Please, please I beg you – do not watch the version of this movie that stars Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. It might be a fine movie, but it entirely misses the point of the original Japanese version. In Japanese culture, men and women do not touch in public, even if they’re married. A businessman taking up ballroom dancing is shocking; this is the story of one man who, dulled by routine and boredom, falls in love with the beauty of the dance he glimpses every day on his train ride home and takes the leap to learn. Yes, it’s in Japanese and you’ll have to read the subtitles – buck up! It’s so completely worth the effort (and it’s funny too!)

I am planning on reading A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton which explores the long term consequences of Nagasaki and long-held family secrets. I also plan to watch the movie of Memoirs of a Geisha; I’m not sure how well it will follow the book, but it should be beautiful to watch.

What about you – what are you going to read/watch/listen to this month?

 

Now Arriving from: Seattle

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

How did Seattle treat you – did you find something especially good to read this month?

I read a great book this month, Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple and I loved it. Told via emails, memos, letters, text messages and narrative, the story of Bernadette and her unraveling comes together bit by bit. A brilliant architect, a petty argument nearly destroys her and she withdraws with her husband and daughter to Seattle. Bernadette’s acerbic observations of the people and world around her are very funny and her slow descent into madness is heartbreaking. Misunderstandings and missed communications spiral events into a madcap comedy-of-errors until Bernadette’s only choice, she believes, is to disappear. However Bee, her teenage daughter, will not give up on her and goes looking for her, piecing together Bernadette’s story both past and present.

Bee makes a lovely narrator. She’s as scrappy and observant and brilliant as her mother. That Bernadette is able to return and reunite with her husband and daughter is due in large part to Bee’s determination and love. I got a lot out of this book, about how lack of communication can destroy, how forgiveness can heal, how love can overcome many things, but most of all, I felt this book was about being true to yourself. When Bernadette denies her creativity and tries to be someone she’s not, she nearly kills herself and puts her family in turmoil. Despite the seemingly heavy themes, the book is laugh out loud funny and sometimes just this side of absurd – a fun read that quickly captures your attention.

Seattle plays a big part in this book, especially the first half (interestingly – and somewhat oddly (although it works) – the second half takes place mostly in Antarctica!). Some of the characters love Seattle and some hate it, so you get a pretty balanced view of both the good and the bad. Lots of rain, of course, but also lots of descriptions of the neighborhoods and traffic and businesses that keep the city running. A fun, quirky city that makes the perfect backdrop to a fun, quirky book.

What about you – did you find a great Seattle read this month? Let us know in the comments!

 

Library Closed for President’s Day

The Davenport Library will be closed on Monday February 20th in observance of President’s Day. All three buildings will reopen on Tuesday with their regular hours – 9am to 5:30pm at Main and Eastern, noon to 8pm at Fairmount.

Be sure to enjoy some cherry pie (for George Washington who could not lie about chopping down the cherry tree) or Lincoln Log Cake (for Abraham Lincoln, who grew up in a log cabin) and have a fun, safe holiday!

Don’t know what a Lincoln Log Cake is? Check out this recipe from Taste of Home. They’re delicious!

To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin

To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin is, on one hand, a love story between two people from very different circumstances and the obstacles they must overcome, but it is also a story about change, in the world and in ourselves as symbolized by the building of the Eiffel Tower.

Caitriona Wallace is a young Scottish widow, tasked with chaperoning two wealthy young adults on their Grand Tour of Europe. By chance Cait meets Emile Nouguier, one of the designers of the Eiffel Tower, while in Paris. They connect almost immediately, but the friendship seems doomed to end before it begins since Cait and her charges must return to Scotland in a few days. When, several months later Cait is given the opportunity to return to Paris, she seizes it immediately and she and Emile are able to resume their friendship which soon leads to something more.

Of course, it’s not smooth sailing. Emile is from a wealthy family and is expected to marry well. In addition, the demands of his career and the expectations of his family trap him into a role almost as much as Cait’s societal limitations (poor, widowed, female). Times are changing though, as symbolized by the building of the great Tower – not everyone likes it (in fact, most Parisians hated the Eiffel Tower when it was first built), but life and society cannot remain stagnant.

I very much enjoyed this novel for several reasons –  it’s historical setting of the world on the cusp of great change, the story of two people falling in love, the city of Paris in the belle epoch era, and the behind-the-scenes descriptions of the building of the Eiffel Tower.

Built for the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower is a marvel of engineering brilliance. The original plans called for it to be torn down after 20 years, but it was a huge success with the public and soon proved it’s worth as a communications tower and was allowed to remain. It’s now a designated historical site and one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. I’ve been to Paris several times and have visited the Tower each time. There are two things about it that strike you  – it’s much bigger than you imagined, and, especially up close, it’s much more beautiful than you expected. Building codes instituted in the 1970s insure that the Eiffel Tower remains a prominent feature of the Paris skyline, unhindered by modern skyscrapers (the codes also protect the many other historic buildings in Paris, but it’s the Tower that most obviously benefits)

You can read more about Beatrice Colin and her research and writing process for this novel in an interview she did with Bonjour Paris.

Halfway Home from Seattle

Hello Readers!

How is your Seattle reading going? Have you found any gems? If you’re still looking, here are a few more recommendations.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown. I’ve recommended this book many times and have yet to hear from anyone that was disappointed. At its most basic, it’s the true story about the young men who represented the US in rowing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but there’s so much more. The majority of these athletes came from difficult backgrounds made worse by the Great Depression and worked hard not only to stay on the team, but to stay in school. The bulk of the story takes place at the University of Washington in Seattle and gives you a feel for 1930s Seattle and the great shifts that were beginning in its economy and outlook. Also, the book is can’t-put-down good.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This book is one of my all-time favorites. It’s funny and heartbreaking and beautiful. Told from the point-of-view of the family dog Enzo, it follows the story of Danny Swift as he works to become a professional auto racer. Along the way Denny falls in love, marries and has a daughter. After his wife dies, Denny must fight for his daughter. Through it all, Enzo, who wishes for opposable thumbs and the ability to speak, is Denny’s silent, loyal supporter. To be honest, Seattle does not have a starring role in this book, but Garth Stein lives in Seattle which gives the setting real authenticity.

Or go grunge, put on a flannel shirt and listen to some Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. (Did I get that right? The grunge movement completely missed me) Try Montage of Heck or Nevermind. Or try a documentary about the grunge movement such as Soaked in Bleach. Remember, you don’t have to read a book – watching a movie or listening to music also count (um, so long as it has something to do with Seattle!)

I’m still reading Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple and so far, I’m loving it. It took me several pages to catch onto the rhythm of the writing – it’s told through a combination of texts, emails, letters and narrative – and figure out the cast of characters, but I caught on soon enough. I’m loving Bernadette’s snarky remarks and her brand of crazy (although I suspect there’s more going on) So far, it’s been a great read.

Now, over to you – what are reading/watching/listening to this month?

Book Crafts – Book Folding

Hi! Welcome to Book Crafts where we explore book-related crafts. Sometimes we’ll use an old book (NOT a library book!) and sometimes we’ll try our hand at making our own tiny books and journals.

(If you’re uncomfortable with reworking an old book into something new, you might want to skip this series! I prefer to think of it as extending the life of the book and giving it a new purpose while still celebrating the written word. And, it’s fun.)

Today we’re going to try Book Folding. This is where you take an old book, fold some of the pages in a prescribed pattern to create an image or word with the pages. OK, that sounds kind of convoluted. Here’s a picture of our finished craft:

This heart is a very simple pattern (and quick to complete). If you do a Google or Pinterest search you will find oodles of these designs, many of them extremely intricate and complicated, but we’re going to go with beginner level. Here are the materials you’ll need:

A book (duh), a ruler with centimeter markings and a pencil (you don’t need to use a fancy pencil like this, but isn’t it pretty?). A bone folder (a piece of hard plastic with a smooth edge used in bookbinding and other crafts) comes in handy but isn’t required.

Be choosy when picking a book. It needs to be sturdy enough to stand on it’s own and slim enough to make the folded section stand out. Take a look at the three books in the picture. The red one is very pretty with a lovely, speckled design on the page edges, but it’s a little heavy and lists to one side. The blue one would have worked well, but I decided to use the lavender one because of the color of the page edges. Hint: I found all three of these books at the Friends bookstore!

Now that you have your materials, it’s time for some math. Only a little math, I promise!

The heart uses 40 pages. To find the page to start on, divide the number of pages in the book by 2, then subtract by 20. This will put the center of the heart at the center of the book. Example: for a 300 page book, divide by 2 which equals 150. Subtract 20 which equals 130, thus start folding on page 130. My book is 268 pages; divided by 2 equals 144, minus 20 equals 124. Easy!

Open your book to the page number that you’ve just calculated. Lay the book down vertically with the page numbers on your right and the first part of the book closest to you. Confession here: I actually started folding my pages on page 125 because page 124 fell on the lower of the two pages. You will be folding the pages that are on the top part of your book layout.

Now take your ruler and lay it along the edge of the top page with the start of the ruler on the left. Use your pencil to mark the two values for Page 1 on the list (the list is at the end of this post) in centimeters. You can see the two tiny pencil marks I made here.

Fold the sides of the page along the lines you’ve marked. Keep the folds as close to 90 degrees as possible. This is where a bone folder comes in handy to make a smooth, even fold, but you can also use the side of your thumb.

Turn to the next page and continue folding each of the 40 pages as indicated on the list. Each page will have marks in different places which creates the design. Here I’ve folded the first four pages of the pattern. Try to be as accurate as possible with your marks as this will make the design clearer. I also found it helpful to print off the list and mark off each page as I completed them – it’s easy to lose your place if you don’t!

This is a fun, relaxing craft (really, it is!), a great project while watching tv or listening to an audio book. I would love to hear if anyone tried this craft and how it turned out! Send us a photo on Instagram to @davpublib and use the hashtag #davenportlibrarybookcrafts.

And here’s your chart:

 

 

 

Now Departing for: Seattle

It’s time for our next stop on our 2017 Online Reading Challenge! This month we’re exploring Seattle in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Home of Pike Place Market, the first Starbucks, the Space Needle and lots of rain (although I’m sure there’s much more to it as well!). It’s also the setting for some great books and movies so this month’s Challenge should be a lot of fun too. Some suggestions to get you started:

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.Set in the ethnic neighborhoods of Seattle during World War II and Japanese American internment camps of the era, this novel tells the heartwarming story of widower Henry Lee, his father, and his first love Keiko Okabe.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. Steampunk. Zombies. Air-ships. Mad-scientists. All in a toxic and ravaged Civil War era Seattle. Don’t say we can’t mix things up.

Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister. Six women gather to celebrate their friend Kate’s recovery from cancer, where she strikes a bargain with them: to celebrate her new lease on life, she’ll do the one thing that’s always terrified her, but if she does, each of them will also do one thing that they’d find difficult.

Second Watch by J.A. Jance (all of the JP Beaumont series is set in Seattle) Second Watch shows Beaumont taking some time off to get knee replacement surgery, but instead of taking his mind off work, the operation plunges him into one of the most perplexing mysteries he’s ever faced. His past collides with his present in this complex and thrilling story that explores loss and heartbreak, duty and honor, and, most importantly, the staggering cost of war and the debts we owe those who served in the Vietnam War, and those in uniform today.

If you’d rather watch your Challenge this month (and remember – that’s totally allowed!), check out 10 Things I Hate About You with Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles, based (very) loosely on The Taming of the Shrew and is full of sharp and witty dialogue, Sleepless in Seattle (of course) with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan or any season of the television series Frasier, possibly the best tv show ever unless you don’t like superb comedic acting, clever writing and engaging characters. Also look for Say Anything, the modern classic love story.

I’m planning on reading Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple which has been on my “to read someday” list for ages and has been a favorite with our patrons.

What about you? Do you know what you’re going to read for the Seattle leg of our journey? If you’re still looking for ideas, be sure to stop by any of our locations and check our Reading Challenge displays!