Bring Back Snail Mail!

 

April is National Letter Writing Month!

In this age of email and texting and snapchat – one more transitory than the next – the idea of sitting down and writing a letter – with a pen! and paper! – seems quaint and a waste of time. But think about how you feel when you receive a handwritten note, something physical that you can hold in your hand, evidence that someone cared enough to take a few moments and let you know they were thinking about you. There’s a need for the quick and ephemeral, but that doesn’t mean that we have to abandon something more permanent. And who doesn’t like to get something special in the mail, even if it’s just a “hello, how are you?”

Write_On, which began in 2014, is a campaign created “to promote joy, creativity, expression, and connection through hand-written correspondence”  and challenges you “to write 30 letters in 30 days during April…” Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?

You don’t have to write long, angsty letters – just a quick hello is fine. And you don’t need special stationary or cards. Write_On offers a starter “kit” but it’s completely optional.  Also, postcards are completely ok. And you don’t have to mail a card, you can always hand deliver!

Interested in trying but not sure where to start? Write_On has lots of encouragement and resources.

Don’t know who to write too? Chronicle Books has a great article about the importance of letter writing and a nice long list of people you might write to (Hint: notice “a librarian” is on the list and I love to get mail. You can write to me at Davenport Public Library, 321 Main St, Davenport, Iowa 52801)

I’m not going to commit myself to the full 30 days this year, but I am going to try to write a few more quick notes this month. It feels great to get letters, but it’s also pretty awesome to send them too!

 

 

Now Departing for: Paris

Bonjour!

April in Paris! We’re traveling to the City of Light this month in our Online Reading Challenge, a city of art and beauty (and fantastic croissants!) and a long, complex, fascinating history. Who could resist?

First, a confession: I love Paris. I’ve been three times in the past few years and plan to go again and again for many years. I love the museums and the architecture, the cafe culture (and the food!) and the history. I did not expect to fall so completely head-over-heels in love with this city on my first visit, but I did, almost from the first moment I emerged from the Metro station and glimpsed the top of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Like any big city, Paris has serious issues to deal with and it is far from perfect, but that doesn’t take away from what’s right and beautiful about it either.

There are oodles of books set in Paris – almost too many. I’ve found that some/too many writers use a Paris backdrop as a shortcut to creating mood and atmosphere – everyone has heard about Paris (usually heavily romanticized) so there’s no need to create a world for their novel. I consider this cheating and rather poor writing and it never feels “true”. Another habit I’ve run across is name dropping, for example “she tied her Hermes scarf around her neck, picked up her Louis Vuitton bag and walked down the Champs Elysees to Laduree’s for a macaroon”.  Um, yeah. All of those are very French, but not very “real” – using name dropping and stereotypes is just lazy writing. On the other hand, there are some incredibly good books set in Paris. Here’s a few to get you started:

The Greater Journey by David McCullough tells the story of American artists, writers and doctors that went to Paris between 1830 and 1900 and how what learned and experienced and then brought back in turn greatly influenced American history. McCullough’s writing is as honey smooth as his voice (he’s narrated several of Ken Burn’s films) and the stories he tells are fascinating.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is historical fiction about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley and their life in Paris. This is the time period when Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises and developed friendships with other rising stars such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. But the hard-drinking, fast-living lifestyle of Jazz-age Paris puts a strain on Ernest and Hadley’s marriage and threatens the happiness of their early romance.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Although this is a lighter, happier story, this book has a lot of depth that is a lot of fun to read. Anna is sent to Paris against her wishes for her final year of high school but it becomes a pivotal year in her life as she learns what she is capable of and gains independence and confidence. Paris is beautifully integrated as backdrop here.

A Family in Paris by Jane Paech. This is the true story of an Australian family that moves to Paris for the husband’s job. Their two girls are enrolled in the local school and Jane works to integrate herself into daily Parisian life. Fascinating insights into the lives and rituals of ordinary Parisians, the French educational system and the reality of Parisian bureaucracy. Lots of photos too.

Sarah’s Key by Titiana Rosnay is a novel that brings to light a rarely told, shameful chapter in Parisian history – the deportation of Jews from Paris during the Nazi occupation in 1942. Heartbreaking and often difficult to read, this story shows the suffering, the impossible decisions that had to be made and the guilt carried by the survivors. Long unacknowledged, there is now a memorial in Paris dedicated to the victims of the deportation.

Paris Letters by Janice Macleod. Another story of someone packing up and moving to Paris and finding her happily-ever-after. It’d be kind of annoying except that Janice worked really hard to make it happen and she’s pretty funny. The book also acts as motivation to work for what you want and to hold onto those dreams. Also, lovely hand drawn illustrations.

If you’d rather watch something this month you have nearly as many choices. Three of my favorites:

Hugo is breathtakingly beautiful and magical. That train wreck really did happen (in 1895) and that clock is based on the iconic clock at the Orsay Museum. The book the movie is based on, The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the 2008 Caldecott Award and is well worth reading too.

Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen’s love letter to Paris. I’m not always a Woody Allen fan but this movie is gorgeous and fun with just the right amount of fantastical. Paris never looked so beautiful.

Amelie. If you have not seen this, drop everything and find a copy immediately. It’s quirky and delightful and sweetly romantic and very funny. Filmed entirely on location in Paris, you see the “real” Paris beyond the tourist sites. Yes, it’s in French and yes you have to read subtitles – grow up! Read a movie! It is so worth it.

There are so many more books and movies about Paris from classics (Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, A Moveable Feast) to mysteries (Cara Black has a series set in Paris) to history (look in the 944 Dewey subject area) to cookbooks (David Lebovitz and Julia Child to name just two) that there is sure to be something that catches your eye. We’ll have displays at all three of our buildings too so stop in and get your ticket (er, book or movie!) to Paris!

Allons-y! (“let’s go!”)

Stay With Us!

The staff here at the Davenport Public Library have been working incredibly hard behind the scenes lately, frantically getting ready for some super exciting news! It’s coming together beautifully – better than we imagined! We are so excited and just can’t wait any longer for the big announcement, so today is the day:

The Davenport Library at Main is now a registered Airbnb host!

We will be welcoming guests from all over the world, helping them enjoy a unique and unforgettable experience in beautiful downtown Davenport! And you don’t have to be a traveler to book with us – locals can enjoy a staycation right here with us as well! As you might imagine, the Main library can accommodate quite a few people – think of the family reunions and wedding receptions you can host here!

Of course, it’s not a free-for-all – while we want you to enjoy your visit, there are some rules that need to followed, rules such as – no food in the library – only covered drinks – no alcohol – no sleeping – two hour limit on the computers – and, of course – please keep your voices down.

This gem is sure to book up fast – call the library today to reserve your stay with us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Now Arriving from: Japan

Hello Challenge Readers!

How was your reading this month? Did you find a great book (or movie) set in Japan that you really enjoyed? It’s such an interesting culture set against a beautiful and dramatic landscape that the possibilities for good reading are boundless.

I read The Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton which I blogged about earlier. I highly recommend this book – it’s not only a great story, it has a lot of information about the Japanese culture, much of which is unfamiliar to those of us raised in a Western European tradition.

I also watched the movie version of Memoirs of a Geisha. I loved the book (written by Arthur Golden) but had never seen the movie. I never expect a movie to be as good as the book (and they almost never are), but I had high hopes for it to be visually stunning (as I had imagined when I read the book) I was pretty disappointed – the movie concentrated on the personal interactions (which were petty and brutal) and very little on the history and background of the geisha which was a vital (and fascinating) part of the book. If you hadn’t read the book, there were large parts of the movie that you would have no idea what was going on, or why. Also, it wasn’t as beautiful as I think it could have been – the kimonos, the tea houses, the gardens – all of those were barely touched on. In addition, many of the scenes were filmed in the dark and/or rain making it very difficult to follow the action. And the ending was changed. So. Read the book (which is excellent) and skip the movie (in my opinion!)

Now it’s your turn – tell us what you read this month! Everyone loves a good recommendation!

Keeping Track

Hey Everyone!

Question for you: Do you keep a record of the books you read? If yes, how do you keep track – in a journal or notebook? In a spreadsheet or google doc? Or do you use an online service such as goodreads or LibraryThing? Or do you just live on the edge and hope you’ll remember?

When I was little I would keep track of titles on paper (and, of course, with reading logs from my local public library’s summer reading program), and I have taken a stab at keeping track every once in awhile since then, but mostly I’m pretty bad at doing this consistently. And, quite frankly, most of the lists I did keep were just that – lists, with no hint of what the book was about or if I liked it or not. Boy, I wish I had a list of everything I’ve read though – it’d be fun to see how my tastes changed and remember old favorites.

One way to keep track of your reading is with goodreads a free, online service. With goodreads you can list books that you’ve read or are in the midst of reading or would like to read someday. You can also see what your friends are reading and get recommendations based on titles you’ve read and liked. There’s a rating system and room to write your own review. One of the great things about it is that it isn’t just a list of titles, there is also a summary of what the book is about (as well as a picture of the book cover!) right at your fingertips, ready to jog your memory. There’s even a goodreads app for your phone so your list is always handy and easy to update.

If you’re already using goodreads, or if you join, be sure to request the Davenport Public Library as a friend (we’ll friend you right back!) AND – special bonus – our Online Reading Challenge now has a book club listing on goodreads! Join the “Read the World 2017” book group and you can list the books that you’ve read each month for the challenge, see what others are reading and talk about what you liked (or didn’t like!) in the forums. Hope to see you there!

Book Craft – Folded Note Book

Hello Fellow Crafters!

Today we’re going to make our own book! Awesome-sauce! Now, don’t get too excited – it’s not the kind of book you’d submit to the Library of Congress or assign an ISBN number to but it is super-practical, super-easy and super-fun! (OK, enough with the super and the exclamation points.!)

Have you ever seen an interesting title at the bookstore, or heard an author interviewed on NPR or gotten a recommendation from a friend and think “I’ll remember that” but when you need the information, it’s long gone or completely muddled? (Or is that just me?!) The Folded Note Book can help you with that! It’s a nice trim size that will easily slip into your purse or pocket. You can use it to make quick notes or reminders on-the-go. Shelley from Customer Service pointed out that it would make a great bookmark, handy if you want to note down a great quote from the book you’re reading or list the author’s next book.

They’re also great for adapting to whatever you’d like – make it into a tiny art journal or doodle sketchbook, write inspiring quotes and positive reminders, or, you know, your grocery list! It’s up to you. Here are a couple of examples.

The Folded Note Book is very simple to make and requires very few materials – you probably have everything you need at your desk. You’ll need some paper (duh). I’m using 8 1/2 x 11 in these examples, but you can experiment with different sizes. Plain old photocopy paper works just fine, but again, you can experiment with different types of paper depending on what you have on hand and what you want to do with the note book. Make sure the paper isn’t too heavy or stiff – you need something that will fold crisply without tearing or breaking.

(NOTE: A bouquet of daffodils sitting nearby is not required, but aren’t they pretty? Daffodils make everything better – it’s one of my Life Mantras!)

You’ll also need a pair of scissors. A bone folder is super handy, but completely optional. That’s it! That’s all you need! If you want to decorate the note book you can go crazy – stickers, markers, colored pencils, washi tape – but that’s entirely up to you.

Step One: With one of the long sides of the paper closest to you, fold the paper in half horizontal. If you have a bone folder, use it to create a crisp, even fold otherwise use the side of your thumb.

Step Two: Without unfolding your paper, now fold it in half vertically from right to left.

Step Three: Repeat Step Two.

You now have a piece of paper folded to the final size of the Note Book.

Step Four: Unfold the paper and observe the folds. You’ll have eight “sections” created by the fold lines. At this point I like to refold the fold lines in the opposite direction so that they will fold easily in either way during a later step, but this is optional.

Step Five: Fold the paper in half along the short center fold. You will have four “sections” on either side of the fold (ok, I guess that is obvious!) Take your scissors that have been waiting patiently and make one CUT in the center of the paper (follow the fold line) from the fold across ONE section. Try to be as neat and accurate as possible.

Step Six: Open up your now cut paper. The cut should be right smack dab in the middle of the paper along the long fold.

Step Seven: Here’s the “tricky” part. Pick up each side of the paper on the short ends and PINCH it together (this is why I like to refold every fold – it helps with this part) while folding the paper in half lengthwise. As you gently push the two ends together, an alarming hole should appear. Continue to push the ends toward each other and the folds should collapse together (sometimes the folds need a little encouragement)

Step Eight: Almost done! Wrap the outer sections around the two inner sections and voila! you have a little Note Book! Yay you!

There are lots of variations of the folded Note Book and how to create it. Our Note Books has eight pages (counting front and back) but I’ve seen where people cut the folds attaching the pages so that they have 16 pages (don’t cut the spine though!) And Christie from Customer Service pointed out that it can be folded as an accordion book (we’re going to do a “real” accordion book in Book Crafts later in the year), no cutting required. Experiment! Try different papers and styles. They take less than 5 minutes to make – a fun and relaxing way to push your creativity.

Here’s an example of a Tiny Art Journal (I use the term “art” lightly here!) that I made out of the kraft paper Note Book. It’s basically me cutting and pasting various bits of pretty paper and then doodling, but it’s tons of fun and very low pressure – so what if not every spread is a masterpiece? The idea is to make something and these little Note Books are the perfect (and safe) place for your crafting.

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BONUS! If you’d like a Note Book illustrated with green stripes like the one shown in the first picture, we’ve got a free download for you! Just click below and print it off. It’s sized to regular letter-sized paper so you don’t need to make any special adjustments. When you fold it, be sure to lay the printed side FACE DOWN with the “Notes” section closest to you.

Click HERE for the illustrated version of the Folded Note Book.

We would love to see what you come up with the Folded Note Book! Snap picture and post it to our Instagram account @davpublib with the hashtag #davenportlibrarybookcrafts. Enjoy!

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?