Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

I love The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum so much so that I wrote one of my final thesis papers comparing the book to the movie starring Judy Garland. This book and the subsequent series helped shape me to become the person I am today.  Knowing this, imagine my excitement when I saw a new book by Elizabeth Letts called Finding Dorothy on the  shelf at work.

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts is inspired by the story behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. L. Frank Baum’s wife, Maud, serves as the catalyst for this book by showing readers what is happening both in 1938 Hollywood and in her past both as a child and a newlywed. In Hollywood in 1938, Maud has learned that M-G-M is adapting Frank’s masterpiece for the screen. Without being asked her opinion on this development, seventy-seven-year-old Maud is convinced that she must make it on to the set in order to talk to the movie producers. Eventually making her way to the lot, Maud is eager to fulfill the promise that she made to Frank: the movie will stay true to the spirit of the book. Maud is the only one left who remembers the secrets of the book.

Maud is invited to the set where she witnesses Judy Garland rehearsing ‘Over the Rainbow’. As she closes her eyes, Maud finds herself transported back to the past. The yearning that Judy infuses into the song is reflective of the yearning that burned through Maud as she was growing up. Maud grew up in the shadow of her suffragette mother. When she decided to go to college, Maud made her way as one of the first women in the Ivy League. Meeting Frank one day drastically changed her life and Maud soon found herself growing fond of this young fellow. As their life grew together, Maud and Frank struggled. Desperate for a new beginning, they moved to the prairie where their life became even harder. The difficult times they experienced together on the prairie helped influence and inspire Frank as he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Watching Judy Garland bring Dorothy to life reminds Maud of the young girl that she helped to raise in South Dakota. Maud strives to help Judy more than she was able to help the other young girl. Seeing Judy under immense pressure from the studio and witnessing first-hand the advances the men made towards her serves to further strengthen Maud’s resolve to protect Judy.

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts works to tie together two storylines: the lives of the Baum family members beginning in the 1860s and the development of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1938 Hollywood. Even though Letts imagines the dialogue between the characters, this book is a reflection of her dedicated abilities as a conscientious researcher. Her in-depth research into the lives of Frank and Maud Baum allowed Letts to capture how one family persevered through a mess of love and loss to create a book that has inspired many generations of readers.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Can’t Get Enough Thanos?

If you loved your experience watching Avengers: Endgame when it came out back in April and you want to learn more about the Villain of the film, Thanos, then I have great news for you. The Davenport Library has a plethora of resources that you can sink your teeth into.

The Infinity Gauntlet  is the original graphic novel that inspired the events of both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

If you are more into a recent comic that features Thanos fighting the Avengers, we have you covered there too. Infinity  is a graphic novel that came out in 2014 that follows Thanos and his invasion of Earth while the Avengers are fighting an intergalactic conflict at the same time and earth’s mightiest heroes are spread between the two conflicts.

If reading novels is more your thing, we also have the novelization of the film Avengers: Infinity War written by Liza Palmer that covers all of the events from the movie entitled Destiny Arrives.

If you want to learn more about Thanos as a character, there is also the graphic novel Thanos: Titan Consumed available to check out. This graphic novel follows the origins of the Mad Titan from when he was young until he begins his quest for the Infinity Stones and gives insight into how the character became the galaxy-conquering destroyer that we see in Endgame.

All of these resources and many more are all available at your Davenport Public Library.

Free Solo on DVD

Imagine clinging to the sheer side of a mountain, no ropes, no superpowers, no safety harness. One slip and you will fall to your death. Now imagine going climbing this way – on purpose! People do – they are called free climbers and they climb mountains using only the strength of their hands and the agility of their feet.

Free Solo, which won an Oscar earlier this year for Best Documentary Feature, follows one of the best free climbers in the world, Alex Honnold, as he attempts to climb what has long been considered unclimbable – the sheer, 3000 foot wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Filmmakers Jimmy Chin and E. Chai Vassarhelyi knew the route that Honnold would be taking and were able to set up cameras along the way in advance and as unobtrusively as possible. Tension mounts as Honnold debates when to go (good weather is critical), trains for the most difficult sections and confers with other free climbers.  However, it is Honnold’s decision alone on when to climb and very early one morning, he slips away and, without fanfare, begins to climb.

The climb itself is harrowing to watch. The documentary goes into some depth about free climbing and what makes El Capitan so difficult. Judicious use of drone footage (the filmmakers were very concerned about not creating a distraction while Honnold is climbing) gives the viewer a clue to the immensity of this task. There is only one alternative if Honnold misses a step, or chooses the wrong foothold and that is dying.

Free Solo also reveals some of Honnold’s lifestyle and personality. He himself claims in the documentary that he is probably somewhere on the Asperberger’s spectrum. His demeanor is quiet and withdrawn, nearly emotionless. When asked if he worries about the dangers (many free solo climbers have died while climbing) of his sport, he shrugs and says that he accepts this and seems unconcerned about how any friends or family he would leave behind might feel. He is, in many ways, not terribly likable, but his skill and focus are admirable.

Beautifully produced by National Geographic, Free Solo will give you a thrill ride without the threat of dying.

Ancient Greece

Guest post by Wesley B.

I’ve always wanted to visit Greece. Something about the combination of its natural beauty – the snow-kissed mountains visible from the sunny beaches – and its immense historical legacy is irresistible to me. Unfortunately, I have not yet had the chance to make my pilgrimage there. Fortunately, few places are easier to experience vicariously through their cultural artifacts – and we have lots of them here at the Library!

A.N. Whitehead once wrote, “the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” So, if you’re interested in philosophy – and, as Plato’s teacher Socrates argues, we all should be – what better place to start than with the acclaimed ancient Athenian? We have several volumes of his writing available to check out, and despite the accumulated weight of their age and reputation, I find them to be highly accessible. This is partially due to their dramatic structure – Plato’s works are structured as conversations between Socrates and other notable Greek figures – but also to their subject matter. The dialogues explore issues that are still just as relevant today, such as truth, beauty, justice, and, above all, how to live a good life.

If you’re more literarily inclined, we also have several translations available of Homer’s epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Though The Iliad is a war story, it’s a war story filled with love – the war itself is launched by Menelaus, the king of Sparta, to reclaim his wife, Helen, who had been abducted by the Trojan prince Paris. Achilles, the greatest of the Greek heroes, withdraws from the war due to a perceived slight, until his lover Patroclus is killed, sending him into a divine rage that turns the tide of the war. The Odyssey takes place after the war has ended, and is a rousing adventure that shows the cunning Odysseus overcoming all sorts of obstacles to return home to his family.

Of course, it’s not all dusty old tomes – we have shiny new tomes as well! In the aforementioned Odyssey, one of the obstacles Odysseus has to overcome is Circe, the witch of Aeaea, who turns his crew into pigs, and attempts to do the same to Odysseus. She does this because… well, actually, Homer doesn’t give her a motive. It’s taken for granted that she does it because she’s a witch, and bewitching men is simply what they do. Unsatisfied with this explanation (or lack thereof), Madeline Miller gives us a different perspective in her aptly titled novel Circe. The first person account of the goddess’s life starts well before her meeting with Odysseus, and continues past that point, covering a broad swath of Greek mythology. More importantly, it allows Miller to flesh out her subject’s inner life, humanizing the divine figure and transforming her from an antagonist to someone we empathize with deeply. Simple yet elegant, Miller’s prose echoes Homer’s poetry while still asserting her (and Circe’s) voice as unique.

And if you want something that’s not a tome at all, we have you covered there too! Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the latest entry in Ubisoft’s long-running series, tells the story of Kassandra, a Greek mercenary. While trying to find her estranged family, she becomes embroiled in a massive cult conspiracy spanning all of Greece, all set against the backdrop of the Peloponnesian War. As you might expect, there’s a lot of assassinating to be done, but unlike older games in the series, the large (and beautiful!) open world is filled with characters to talk to, do quests for, recruit to your ship’s crew, and even romance! And perhaps most thrillingly (to me at least), you can have your very own dialogues with Socrates.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

What do you do when you fall in love with the last person you ever expect to? And they live thousands of miles (including an ocean) away in another country? How do you stay true to your homeland and your family and still create a life with someone that has become incredibly important to you? Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston attempts to answer these questions and lots more in this charming, funny, fast-paced romance.

Alex is the son of the first woman President of the United States. He is just finishing up his graduate degree and is eager to join his Mother’s re-election campaign. He has long mapped out a path of a political career for himself and is anxious to begin. Henry is a Prince, literally. He is the grandson of the Queen of England and fulfills many royal duties, part of the long tradition of his family.

There is animosity between Alex and Henry from the first time they meet, a feeling that is confirmed and intensified with each meeting until they come to blows at the wedding of Henry’s older brother which causes Alex to fall into (and ruin) the magnificent royal wedding cake. International diplomacy steps in, in the form of their respective families PR teams, and the two are forced to spend time together to assure the world that the sons of the two superpowers are actually ok with each other.

Of course, once they spend time together, they (reluctantly) begin to like each other, become friends and then confidants. They are both in unique positions, their roles in their families to be unfailingly supportive and are always under intense scrutiny. Their connection grows into attraction and love and now they have the added stress of keeping their romantic relationship a secret. Alex’s mother is facing a difficult re-election and Henry’s family will not approve of a gay son. Inevitably, the secret is leaked and all hell breaks loose. Through it all, Alex and Henry struggle to stay true to each other and their values and to find a way to be together.

I don’t typically read romance novels, but this one has been getting a lot of buzz and has great reviews and I can see why. It is snappy and fun and moves at a breakneck speed. The characters, both the main couple and the various supporting cast, are all appealing and relate-able (Well, mostly. One lives in the White House and the other lives at Kensington Palace!) In many ways this is a typical romance novel. A couple meet and hate each other; couple spends time together and start to like each other; couple falls in love; couple must overcome one or more obstacles to be together. The big difference of course, is that the couple in question are homosexual although this is treated as mostly incidental (but not completely without political consequences) There is a lot of politics in this book – all of the characters are fictional of course, but the issues they face are many that are prominent in today’s political arena – immigration (Alex and his sister are half-Mexican, their father being from Mexico), marital status (the US President is a divorced woman), gender equality, duty to country, conservative vs liberal (in both the US and England). If politics are not your cup of tea, you might want to skim over some parts. Otherwise don’t miss fun romance!

Fallout 76 Video Game

After the incredibly rocky launch in November of last year, Fallout 76 has received a number of updates and has been getting a lot more praise than it was just a few months ago. A lot of the lag and server side issues have now been patched to a reasonable level, the addition of new modes like Survival and new dungeons and questlines throughout the game world have also served to change a lot of people’s opinions about the state of the game. I think with all of these improvements in mind, it might be time to check the game out if you haven’t already or were turned away by it’s rocky launch back in November.

Fallout 76 is an MMORPG released by Bethesda Games Studio in November of 2018. It is the 6th Fallout game in the series and the 3rd Fallout title made by Bethesda Games Studio. It is the 1st Fallout game to allow multiplayer and that multiplayer is the central focus of the game. As with all Fallout games, you are placed in a post-apocalyptic wasteland tasked with scavenging, questing and looting to survive and thrive in the nuclear wastes. The familiar tongue-in-cheek cold war aesthetics can be seen throughout the game, from the soundtrack to the look and feel of the game world, this what you would expect from a Fallout game.

The gameplay is clunky, which isn’t really anything new for a Fallout game, and that clunkiness is further accentuated by the online nature of the game. That being said, the many server glitches have been remedied in recent months and the game is now in a relatively stable state to play and fight irradiated mutants throughout the wasteland with your friends. This game is at it’s best when playing with others. Even if you don’t have friends that already own the game, fear not, you can run across other players in the wasteland to play with. And if playing with people isn’t your thing, you can run it solo just like any other Fallout game and just ignore other players when you come across them. The game is very versatile and customizable in terms of the experience that you as a player want to get out of it.

You can focus on making settlements that you get to build and customize to your liking, you can focus on questing throughout the wastelands like in any other Fallout RPG, you can focus on getting nuclear launch codes and destroying a section of your server with it, or you can even focus on the photo mode and become a photographer for the West Virginia wasteland. There are tones of options in terms of variable gameplay for you as a player to experience and the game is largely about what you make of it. After the months of updates and fixes, I think Fallout 76 is in a state where players can now start really enjoying the game without having to worry about it crashing every 15 minutes.

If this sounds interesting to you, feel free to swing by the Davenport Public Library where we have Fallout 76 available on both PS4 and Xbox One!

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Challengers!

How’s is your June reading going?  Still looking for something related to the movies? You could always just watch a movie. You could watch a movie adapted from a book – even though the book is better 99% of the time, a well-done movie adaptation can add a lot of visual depth to a favorite story (I recommend watching one of the many Jane Austen adaptations) Or you could watch a movie about the movies. Here are a few suggestions.

Sunset Boulevard.  Pursued by creditors, Joe swerves into a driveway of a seemingly abandoned Sunset Boulevard mansion where he finds Norma Desmond, an ex-screen queen dreaming of a dramatic comeback.

The Artist. In 1927, George Valentin is a silent movie superstar. However, the advent of the talkies will kill his career and he will sink into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller, it seems the sky’s the limit as major movie stardom awaits. Though their careers are taking different paths their destinies will become entwined.

La La Land. A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. This original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing dreams.

Ed Wood.  A stranger-than-fiction true story of the early career of Edward D. Wood, Jr., the once voted worst movie director of all time.

The Aviator. Follows the life of Howard Hughes who comes to Hollywood with an interest in getting into the picture business. It doesn’t take long for Hughes to jump from producer to director of his first major film project, a World War I air epic.

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

Amy Byler is hanging in there. Her attention and energy are completely occupied by her two smart, active children, a full-time (if low-paying) job and an older house to maintain in The Overdue Life of Amy Byler. Sure, the first few months after her husband left were especially hard, but now she’s able to keep her head above water (if just barely). Yep, things are just fine.

And then, after three years, her ex returns.

All that precarious balance that Amy had been working so hard to achieve is suddenly thrown into chaos. Does Joe want to try again with her? How will the kids feel about seeing their father again after three years? Where does he fit into their lives now? Amy has mixed feelings about this new development, unable to trust Joe again and stung by the apparent ease of his slipping back into their lives.

Trying to assuage his guilt, Joe offers to take care of the kids for the summer so that Amy can (finally) have some time for herself and encourages her to make use of his credit card. At first refusing (she hates the idea of leaving her kids), Amy relents and heads to New York City for a week with her college roommate. A week turns into the whole summer and a tentative Amy begins to blossom, one adventure leading to another.

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is funny and bittersweet; it’s fun to watch Amy find her way and easy to cheer for her. Lighthearted and entertaining, this is a great summer read.

Travel Talk – Iowa, Part 1

Hello and welcome back to Travel Talk! This month Michelle and I are starting a multi-part series about one of our favorite travel destinations – Iowa! Yeah, I know, Iowa is often maligned as boring (I just heard Jimmy Fallon call Iowa boring on the Tonight Show – grrrrr) and flat (yeah, join me on a bike ride and I’ll show you “flat”!) – no big cities (sorry Des Moines!), no dramatic mountains or beaches, no famous historical sites. If you believe that Iowa isn’t worth exploring, Michelle and I are here to change your mind. Iowa is full of beautiful and interesting places with the added bonus of close-to-home and smaller crowds.

Michelle starts us off with some hidden gems!

For the last 5 years or so, my husband and I have trekked around our great state of Iowa in order to discover out-of-the-way places and things.  Whether we start heading north, south or west we have discovered all sorts of interesting and notable places that are definitely worth a look if you want to discover all our state has to offer.  The following is the first of a blog post series with some remarkable points of interest.  We are starting with one of my personal favorites – architecture in Iowa.

Frank Lloyd Wright in Iowa – If you are an architecture fan, Mason City should be high on your list. Mason City boasts one of the largest concentrations of Prairie Style architecture.  Among the highlights is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Park Inn Hotel that has been restored to its full glory. The hotel restaurant, 1910 Grill, is fantastic and worth a stop for either breakfast or dinner.  Within walking distance is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Stockman House, which is open for guided tours and is accompanied by a noteworthy interpretive center.  Along the way check out the Music Man foot bridge and the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum, which holds a large collection of Bil Baird puppets.  The museum also includes the marionettes from The Sound of Music.  The museum also has an impressive permanent collection, including works by Jasper Johns, Keith Haring and Arthur Dove.

A gem of Iowa architecture can also be found in Cedar Rock in Quasqueton, near Cedar Rapids.  Frank Lloyd Wright designed a home for Lowell and Agnes Walter, which was completed in 1950 during the time Wright was designing Usonian houses.  After their passing, the home was given to the State of Iowa and now the Department of Natural Resources offers tours with a small suggested donation of $5.  Built near the Wapsipinicon River, the home has all the furniture and design elements original to the home.  Walk the grounds to the river and you can explore the boat house, also designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Merchants National Bank (now the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce and Grinnell Visitors Center) Architect Louis Sullivan, who was Frank Lloyd Wright’s mentor and first employer, designed this bank in 1914 and it makes up part of Grinnell’s downtown.  It is one of the eight “jewel box banks” that Sullivan designed in the Midwest.  Sullivan came up with the term and designed each bank to take on appearance of a jewelry box.  Stop by the bank and take in the ornamentation and details on both the interior and the exterior, which includes radiant stained glass windows and lion-like figures guarding the front doors.

What architectural gems have you found in Iowa? Share in the comments!

Stay tuned for the next installment! Still to come – wild places, museums and uniquely Iowa!

Announcing Acorn TV !

The Davenport Public Library now offers Acorn TV !  Davenport library cardholders now have unlimited, streaming access to British TV and films.  Acorn TV streams world-class mysteries, dramas, and comedies from Britain and beyond. You can binge-watch a full slate of original and exclusive programming.

This digital resource can be enjoyed via the RBdigital app, accessed from the library’s    Online Resources page or you may browse available content.  To get started register for an RBdigital account or login with your existing.   When you are ready to watch a show, check out a 7-day license to enjoy unlimited, streaming content. Check out another week-long license when you are ready to watch more.

With thousands of hours of commercial-free programming and new shows added weekly, there’s always something to watch!

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