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.

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!

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.

Alias by Brian Michael Bendis

The final season of Jessica Jones is about to be released on Netflix on June 14th. If you have an interest in reading the graphic novels that inspired the show, Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Alias is a great place to start. You will be able to check out the full run of Bendis’ take on Jessica Jones at the Davenport Public Library.

Alias follows Jessica Jones, an ex-superhero as she works as a private investigator in New York city. When she is given a suspicious case from a shady client, she falls down a rabbit-hole of controversy and intrigue that implicates some of the biggest heroes in the Marvel universe.

Brian Michael Bendis does a phenomenal job of making the dialogue feel real and giving each of the characters a distinct voice and personality. Bendis has been known for writing a wide range of characters, from Moon Knight and Miles Morales to Superman, he is one of the leading writers of super hero comic books from the past decade.

Alias is a great book to get started if you are unfamiliar with the Marvel universe too, it doesn’t require any background reading and the reader can just jump in and enjoy Jessica and her many adventures as a PI with super powers. If you are also interested in catching up on the Jessica Jones TV show that was based on this graphic novel, the Davenport Public Library is also a place where you can check out the show as well.

 

Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Two women from very different worlds form an unbreakable friendship, a friendship that will give them strength during the worst circumstances, even when they are far apart. Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly brings their story vividly to life.

Eliza Ferriday, American and Sofya Streshnayva, a Russian related to the ruling Romanovs, become fast friends when they meet in Paris. Both women are wealthy and lead priviledged lives, but are also kind and compassionate. In 1914 Eliza travels to Russia to visit Sofya, but war breaks out in Europe and Eliza must cut her visit short and return to America. Sofya and her family flee to their country estate outside of St Petersburg, hoping to ride out the war undisturbed. Russia, however, is in turmoil as revolutionaries take up arms against the Tsar and anyone associated with him. The Reds take over the Streshnayva estate, imprisoning the occupants and looting the lavish furnishings.

Sofya manages to escape their captors, but is forced to leave her young son behind in the care of a trusted servant. Now on her own, she must find new depths within herself to survive, learning to gather food in the forest, evade capture from both the Revolutionaries and the invading German army and defend herself as she makes her way across the war ravaged countryside to Paris.

Meanwhile, back in America, Eliza is frantic with worry for her friend, especially as stories from Russian emigres begin to filter in – the violence, the bloodshed and the huge loss of life. Eliza channels her worries into helping the “White Russians” who have escaped the revolution by creating an American relief organization to help them with finding jobs, housing and other aid.

By depicting World War I from within Russia, Lost Roses delivers a new facet of the time period with the addition of the chaos and cruelty that accompanied the Russian Revolution. The huge gap between the very rich, who flaunted their wealth, and majority of people who were desperately poor, is astonishing as is the way the privileged seemed to be blind to the growing danger. As shown here, the Revolution appears out-of-control with vicious in-fighting and random violence leading to little or no improvement for the working class. Lost Roses is the kind of book that is hard to put down and even harder to forget.

Lost Roses is a prequel to the bestselling Lilac Girls, which takes place during and after World War II. Caroline Ferriday, who is a main character in Lilac Girls, is shown as a young woman in Lost Roses. Author Martha Hall Kelly has announced that she is working on another prequel which will be set during the Civil War and will follow Eliza Ferriday’s grandmother.

 

Online Reading Challenge – June

Challengers! It’s a new month! That means it’s a new subject for our Reading Challenge and this month it’s: Movies!

In many ways, this will be the easiest Challenge month ever – technically, you can simply watch a movie or television show and BAM! you’ve completed the month of June. Remember, there are no Library Police – no one will come knocking on your door and drag you off to Library Jail if you fail to read something heavy and serious! Read/watch something that interests you and enjoy!

That said, if you’d like to explore the world of movies (I’m including television as well), here are a few suggestions for interesting books.

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict is a novel about Hedy Lamarr who, in addition to being a great actress and famous beauty, was a brilliant scientist. Another novelization of a famous actress is Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates, about Marilyn Monroe.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter moves between 1960s Italy and present-day Hollywood and a romance lost and found again.

Black Dahlia by James Ellroy is a tense and atmospheric exploration of one of Hollywood’s most famous murders.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel follows a ragtag group of musicians and actors traveling through a not-too-distant dystopian future (I loved this book!)

As always, stop by any Davenport Library location for lots more suggestions on our displays!

I am planning on reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid in which an aging actress tells the story of her career (and all those husbands) It’s getting rave reviews and I have high hopes for a great read.

What about you? What are you planning to read this month?

 

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – Wrap-Up

Hello Friends and Readers!

Time to wrap-up the Reading Challenge for May. How did you do? Did you find something fun and intriguing? Or was this month a miss for you?

I read Nine Women, One Dress by Jane Rosen and it was a delight. The story centers on one perfect little black dress and the nine different women who wear it. With a little bit of sly help from the Bloomingdale’s sales people, the dress gets into the hands of the woman who most needs it each time. Simple and elegant, it makes every woman who wears it feel special and confident. Not every woman who wears it has a “happily ever after” story, but each gets what they deserve or need.

I’ve been reading a lot of books set during World Wars I and II lately and, while I enjoy reading about that time period, the change of pace to something lighter was great. The book was quick to read, with lots of characters to root for. Highly recommended.

I found it interesting how fashion, which many may consider frivolous in world with so many problems, can transform a person, how the right clothes can give you armor to make it through the day or express your personality or improve your mood. Actors use costumes to create and inhabit a character, the rest of us can use clothes to express ourselves and shape our day.

Now it’s your turn. What did you read (or watch) this month? Let us know in the comments!

The Tiny Journalist by Naomi Shihab Nye

The daughter of a Palestinian immigrant to the US, Naomi Shihab Nye, latest collection of poetry delves into the heavy topic of the the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the real disparage of land, power, culture, and control. The poems can each stand on their own but as an inter-woven tapestry are reminding the reader of the brutality of borders, walls, occupied lands and conflict.

In one of her poems from the collection:

“Losing as Its Own Flower,”

“Truth unfolds in the gardens,

massive cabbages, succulent tomatoes,

orange petals billowing,

even when the drought is long. . . .

In a way, we did lose. Where is everybody?

Scattered around the world like pollen.”

The reader is reminded of the beauty of life and the simplicity of the earth’s nourishment in contrast to boundaries – mental, physical, emotional, and the tragedies of war, death and fighting created by man.

The Tiny Journalist focuses on the struggles for all humans not just those in Palestine or Israel, but more on the elements of the disparities of war and the nonjudgmental hand of destruction.