Waste-Free World: Recycling and Sustainability

We all know we should be doing more to protect the planet and dispose of waste responsibly. But if you’re like me, you might spend a lot of time wondering what’s recyclable and what’s not, and what sustainability really means. Here are three ways we at the library and in the city of Davenport are here to help you figure out the world of eco-friendly living.

READ: The Waste-Free World by Ron Gonen is a manifesto highlighting what companies can and should do to make recycling and reuse part of their normal daily processes in order to protect the earth and increase sustainability.

Can I Recycle This by Jennie Romer is a more practical guide to reducing plastic waste in your home.

WATCH: Going to green. Volume 1, Towards a more sustainable community is a series of documentary episodes discussing specific environmental and sustainability issues with helpful information for all ages.

PLAY: the Quad City Recycling Quest Game through the City of Davenport Public Works department website is a fun way to test and build your knowledge of waste disposal practices locally. The game allows you to pick whether a given item goes in recycling, compost, trash, a hazardous materials facility, or an electronics facility. It doesn’t take long to play and it will definitely teach you something!

Check out this LibGuide for more resources on how to make an eco-friendly home – and thanks for anything you do to make this world a greener, healthier place.

Freaky Friday, Then and Now

When I was younger, one of our favorite movies to watch as a family was Freaky Friday starring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. The sass and attitude that both Lohan and Curtis (to say nothing of Mark Harmon) brought to the screen were (and remain) comedy gold. I felt both old and excited recently when I discovered how many iterations of the story there are to discover. Here’s a rundown of how you can laugh your way through some body-swapping action.

Start here: 

Through inter-library loan, you can start with the 1977 original Freaky Friday, based on a book of the same name by Mary Rodgers. This is the classic storyline: thirteen-year-old Annabelle thinks her mother Ellen sure has it easy, and doesn’t understand how hard Annabelle’s life is at all. But then, one hilarious and freaky Friday, she gains a greater understanding and sympathy for her mother after they swap bodies for the day. Hijinks include an out-of-control washing machine, parent-teacher conferences AND losing her little brother.

Then, a walk down memory lane:

Next comes the 2003 film Freaky Friday starring Curtis, Lohan, Harmon, and more comedic geniuses from my childhood. In this version, punk rock guitarist Anna changes her contentious relationship with straitlaced psychotherapist mother Tess after a magic fortune cookie makes them swap bodies…the day before Anna’s band is supposed to have the audition of a lifetime, and Tess is supposed to get remarried! It’s a laugh-a-minute race against the clock, and I doubt I’ll ever really get sick of it.

Gender-bend it!

In 2011, there was a gender-bending take on the concept with The Change-Up, starring Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman as childhood best friends Mitch and Dave who have drifted apart, and now find themselves envying each other’s lifestyles. While Mitch is still single and partying, Dave is an overworked father. After a crazy night and a bit of magic, they wake up in each other’s bodies, and not only have to figure out how to switch back but also discover the truth in the adage “Careful what you wish for…”

Next, a musical reboot:

In 2018, Disney made an updated version of the original story, with a few interesting tweaks. In this musical version of Freaky Friday, mother Katherine and her 16-year-old daughter Ellie are at the most stressful times of their lives, and struggling to see each other’s point of view, when a magic hourglass from Ellie’s late father sends them on a body-swapped adventure. Once again, the next day’s wedding adds urgency to their quest to switch back.

And now, a horror-movie twist!

Originally released in 2020, Freaky is the dark comedy story of Millie, a 17-year-old trying to survive high school, who finds herself the latest victim of the local serial killer The Butcher. The magic of his dagger swaps their bodies, and it’s up to Millie and her friends not only to find a way to switch back before it becomes permanent, but also to survive The Butcher on a killing spree, emboldened by his new innocent and feminine appearance.

Women’s History Month: Recommended Reads for Kids & Teens

To celebrate Women’s History Month, we asked staff for their favorite reads. Below you will find our recommended reads for kids and young adults. The descriptions are provided by the publishers.

Juvenile Nonfiction Series

Chelsea Clinton’s She Persisted series

She Persisted: 13 American Women who Changed the World

Chelsea Clinton introduces tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world to thirteen inspirational women who never took no for an answer, and who always, inevitably and without fail, persisted.

Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they have to fight to be heard. In early 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in the Senate inspired a spontaneous celebration of women who persevered in the face of adversity. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted.

She Persisted is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small.

This book features: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor—and one special cameo.

She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians who Changed the Game

Throughout history, women have been told that they couldn’t achieve their dreams, no matter how hard they tried. Women athletes have faced their own unique set of challenges, across countless sports and levels of play. In this third She Persisted book, Chelsea Clinton introduces readers to women who have excelled in their sports because of their persistence.

She Persisted in Sports is a book for everyone who has ever aimed for a goal and been told it wasn’t theirs to hit, for everyone who has ever raced for a finish line that seemed all too far away, and for everyone who has ever felt small or unimportant while out on the field.

This book features: Margaret Ives Abbott, Gertrude Ederle, Mildred Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Wilma Rudolph, Jean Driscoll, Mia Hamm (and the 1996 Olympic soccer team), Kristi Yamaguchi, Venus and Serena Williams, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, Diana Taurasi, Simone Biles, Ibtihaj Muhammad and Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux.

She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women who Changed History

Women around the world have long dreamed big, even when they’ve been told their dreams didn’t matter. They’ve spoken out, risen up and fought for what’s right, even when they’ve been told to be quiet. Whether in science, the arts, sports or activism, women and girls throughout history have been determined to break barriers and change the status quo. They haven’t let anyone get in their way and have helped us better understand our world and what’s possible. In this book, Chelsea Clinton introduces readers to a group of thirteen incredible women who have shaped history all across the globe.

Julia Adams’ Women Who Made History Series

Activists and Leaders

Women around the globe have made history through their activism and leadership. Through concise, but detailed biographies, readers of this inspiring volume can learn about some of these world-changing women. Colorful illustrations and captivating text introduce motivational figures readers may not be familiar with, and provide deeper insight on many they likely already know about, such as former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Featuring high-interest, historical content, this book is the perfect supplemental resource for any elementary social studies curriculum.

Adventurers and Athletes

From sports stars such as tennis icon Serena Williams to aviators and mountaineers, many women have overcome great hurdles to succeed as athletes and adventurers. These women have made history in their own rights and have paved the way for future generations to do so as well. This engaging resource tells the stories of these incredible women. Brief but detailed biographies hold readers’ attention while colorful illustrations bring the stories into splendid detail. This high-interest volume pairs well with social studies curricula and is sure to be a popular addition to any library and classroom. 

Inventors and Scientists

Women have always made great contributions to science, and some of the greatest inventors in history were women, but for far too long many of these individuals weren’t recognized for their accomplishments. For example, even today, many people don’t know it was a woman, English mathematician Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first computer program. Readers of this accessible volume will learn about Lovelace and many other inspiring women who changed the course of history through their inventions and contributions to science.

Writers and Artists

Throughout history, women have made countless contributions to all forms of art. This informative volume introduces readers to female musicians, writers, painters, and performers from many different countries and cultures. With the help of beautiful illustrations and engaging text, the stories of these women are delivered with fascinating detail. Detailed biographies of artists, such as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, will captivate readers and perhaps inspire them to become involved in art in their own ways. This stimulating text includes key historical content, making for an excellent resource to be paired with any elementary social studies curriculum. 

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series by Elena Favilli

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World

The latest installment in the New York Times bestselling Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series, featuring 100 immigrant women who have shaped, and will continue to shape, our world.

Packed with 100 all-new bedtime stories about the lives of incredible female figures from the past and the present, this volume recognizes women who left their birth countries for a multitude of reasons: some for new opportunities, some out of necessity.

Readers will whip up a plate with Asma Khan, strategize global affairs alongside Madeleine Albright, venture into business with Rihanna, and many more. All of these unique, yet relatable stories are accompanied by gorgeous, full-page, full-color portraits, illustrated by female artists from all over the globe.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women

To the rebel girls of the world: dream bigger, aim higher, fight harder, and, when in doubt, remember you are right.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a children’s book packed with 100 bedtime stories about the life of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present, illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world. This book inspires girls with the stories of great women, from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams.

 

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Juvenile Nonfiction

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

Get to know celebrated Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—in the first picture book about her life—as she proves that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable!

Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent a lifetime disagreeing: disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment, and standing up for what’s right for people everywhere. This biographical picture book about the Notorious RBG, tells the justice’s story through the lens of her many famous dissents, or disagreements.

Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children by Jonah Winter and Nancy Carpenter

A stunning picture book about Mary Mother Jones and the 100 children who marched from Philadelphia to New York in a fiery protest against child labor.

Here’s the inspiring story of the woman who raised her voice and fist to protect kids’ childhoods and futures– and changed America forever. Mother Jones is MAD, and she wants you to be MAD TOO, and stand up for what’s right!

Told in first-person, New York Times bestelling author, Jonah Winter, and acclaimed illustrator, Nancy Carpenter, share the incredible story of Mother Jones, an Irish immigrant who was essential in the fight to create child labor laws. Well into her sixties, Mother Jones had finally had enough of children working long hours in dangerous factory jobs, and decided she was going to do something about it. The powerful protests she organized earned her the name the most dangerous woman in America. And in the Children’s Crusade of 1903, she lead one hundred boys and girls on a glorious march from Philadelphia right to the front door of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Long Island home.

The Woman’s Hour: Our Fight for the Right To Vote by Elaine F. Weiss

American women are so close to winning the right to vote. They’ve been fighting for more than seventy years and need approval from just one more state.

But suffragists face opposition from every side, including the “Antis”–women who don’t want women to have the right to vote. It’s more than a fight over politics; it’s a debate over the role of women and girls in society, and whether they should be considered equal to men and boys.

Over the course of one boiling-hot summer, Nashville becomes a bitter battleground. Both sides are willing to do anything it takes to win, and the suffragtists–led by brave activists Carrie Catt, Sue White, and Alice Paul–will face dirty tricks, blackmail, and betrayal. But they vow to fight for what they believe in, no matter the cost.

Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World by Katherine Halligan, illustrated by Sarah Walsh

Move aside history—it’s time for herstory. Celebrate fifty inspiring and powerful women who changed the world and left their mark in this lavishly illustrated biography compilation that’s perfect for fans of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and She Persisted.

Throughout history, girls have often been discussed in terms of what they couldn’t or shouldn’t do. Not anymore. It’s time for herstory—a celebration of not only what girls can do, but the remarkable things women have already accomplished, even when others tried to stop them.

In this uplifting and inspiring book, follow the stories of fifty powerhouse women from around the world and across time who each managed to change the world as they knew it forever. Telling the stories of their childhood, the challenges they faced, and the impact of their achievements, each lavishly illustrated spread is a celebration of girl power in its many forms. From astronauts to activists, musicians to mathematicians, these women are sure to motivate young readers of all backgrounds to focus not on the can’ts and shouldn’ts, but on what they can do: anything!

Women Artists A to Z by Melanie Labarge, illustrated by Caroline Corrigan

How many women artists can you name? From Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe, to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Xenobia Bailey, this lushly illustrated alphabet picture book presents both famous and underrepresented women in the fine arts from a variety of genres: painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and more. Each spread features a simple line of text encapsulating the creator’s iconic work in one word, such as “D is for Dots” (Yayoi Kusama) and “S is for Spider” (Louise Bourgeois), followed by slightly longer text about the artist for older readers who would like to know more. Backmatter includes photos, extended biographies, and discussion questions for budding creatives and trailblazers.

Artists featured: Mirka Mora, Betye Saar, Helen Frankenthaler, Yayoi Kusama, Kay Sage, Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes Martin, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Elizabeth Catlett, Judith Leyster, Leonora Carrington, Carmen Herrera, Edmonia Lewis, Maya Lin, Hilma af Klint, Maria Martinez, Gee’s Bend quilters, Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, Loïs Mailou Jones, Alice Neel, Helen Zughaib, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Dorothea Lange, Xenobia Bailey, and Maria Sibylla Merian.

Women Who Dared: 52 Stories of Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers & Rebels by Linda Skeers, illustrated by Livi Gosling

Women have been doing amazing, daring, and dangerous things for years, but they’re rarely mentioned in our history books as adventurers, daredevils, or rebels. This new compilation of brief biographies features women throughout history who have risked their lives for adventure—many of whom you may not know, but all of whom you’ll WANT to know, such as:

• Annie Edson Taylor, the first person who dared to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel
• Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman who dared to fly in space
• Helen Gibson, the first woman who dared to be a professional stunt person
• And many more!

This is the perfect read for anyone who wants to know what it means to explore, discover, play, climb, and fight like a girl!

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World by Ann Shen

Aphra Behn, first female professional writer. Sojourner Truth, activist and abolitionist. Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer. Marie Curie, first woman to win the Nobel Prize. Joan Jett, godmother of punk.

The 100 revolutionary women highlighted in this gorgeously illustrated book were bad in the best sense of the word: they challenged the status quo and changed the rules for all who followed. From pirates to artists, warriors, daredevils, scientists, activists, and spies, the accomplishments of these incredible women vary as much as the eras and places in which they effected change.

Featuring bold watercolor portraits and illuminating essays by Ann Shen, Bad Girls Throughout History is a distinctive, gift-worthy tribute.

The A-Z of Wonder Women by Yvonne Lin

Celebrate historic and contemporary Wonder Women from around the world, from Ada Lovelace to Zaha Hadid!

Highlighting notable and inspiring women from across the globe and throughout time, The A-Z of Wonder Women features biographies of trailblazers and groundbreakers, including Ada Lovelace, Oprah Winfrey, Ruth Ginsberg, and Wajeha al-Huwaider.

This empowering alphabet-style book celebrates a wide range of skills and masteries in the arts, politics and activism, STEM, and more, providing accessible facts about these heroic women–and inspiring young readers to make the change they want to see in the world.

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Young Adult Nonfiction

Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys by Karen Bush Gibson

From the very first days of aviation, women were there. Katherine Wright, though not a pilot, helped her brothers Orville and Wilbur so much that some called her the “Third Wright Brother.” Pioneers such as Baroness Raymonde de Laroche of France ignored those who ignorantly claimed that only men possessed the physical strength or the mental capacity to pilot an airplane, and in 1910 became the first woman awarded a license to fly. A year later, Harriet Quimby was the first woman to earn a pilot’s license in the United States and in 1912 flew across the English Channel—another first.

Author Karen Bush Gibson profiles 26 women aviators who sought out and met challenges both in the sky and on the ground, where some still questioned their abilities. Read about barnstormers like Bessie Coleman and racers like Louise Thaden, who bested Amelia Earhart and Pancho Barnes to win the 1929 Women’s Air Derby, sometimes called the Powder Puff Derby. Learn about Jacqueline Cochran who, during World War II, organized and trained the Women Airforce Service Pilots—the WASPs—to serve their country by ferrying airplanes from factories to the front lines and pulling target planes during anti-aircraft artillery training. And see how female pilots today continue to achieve and serve while celebrating their love of flight.

Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

Like all A-Z books, this one illustrates the alphabet—but instead of “A is for Apple”, A is for Angela—as in Angela Davis, the iconic political activist. B is for Billie Jean King, who shattered the glass ceiling of sports; C is for Carol Burnett, who defied assumptions about women in comedy; D is for Dolores Huerta, who organized farmworkers; and E is for Ella Baker, who mentored Dr. Martin Luther King and helped shape the Civil Rights Movement.

And the list of great women continues, spanning several centuries, multiple professions, and 26 diverse individuals. There are artists and abolitionists, scientists and suffragettes, rock stars and rabble-rousers, and agents of change of all kinds.

The book includes an introduction that discusses what it means to be “rad” and “radical,” an afterword with 26 suggestions for how you can be “rad,” and a Resource Guide with ideas for further learning and reading.

American history was made by countless rad—and often radical—women. By offering a fresh and diverse array of female role models, we can remind readers that there are many places to find inspiration, and that being smart and strong and brave is rad.

Bad Girls of Fashion: Style Rebels from Cleopatra to Lady Gaga by Jennifer Croll, illustrated by Ada Buchholc

The title says it all: Bad Girls of Fashion explores the lives of ten famous women who have used clothing to make a statement, change perceptions, break rules, attract power, or express their individuality. Included are Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. Sidebar subjects include: Elizabeth I, Marilyn Monroe, Rihanna, and Vivienne Westwood.

Photos illuminate the text, while edgy, vividly colored illustrations depict the subjects with interpretive flair. Readers will learn not only about changing fashion styles through history, but about changing historical attitudes toward women, and the links between fashion and art, film, music, politics, and feminism. With an energetic, appealing writing style, Croll demonstrates how through the ages, women — often without other means of power — have used fashion as a tool, and how their influence continues to shape how women present themselves today.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu

Throughout history and across the globe, one characteristic connects the daring women of Brazen: their indomitable spirit. Against overwhelming adversity, these remarkable women raised their voices and changed history.

With her one-of-a-kind wit and dazzling drawings, celebrated graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world-famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers who Changed the World written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary.

The women profiled include well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. 

Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Women Who Played to Win written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Sports highlights notable women’s contributions to competitive athletics to inspire readers young and old. Keeping girls interested in sports has never been more important: research suggests that girls who play sports get better grades and have higher self-esteem–but girls are six times more likely to quit playing sports than boys and are unlikely to see female athlete role models in the media.

A fascinating collection full of striking, singular art, Women in Sports features 50 profiles and illustrated portraits of women athletes from the 1800s to today including trailblazers, Olympians, and record-breakers in more than 40 different sports. The book also contains infographics about relevant topics such as muscle anatomy, a timeline of women’s participation in sports, statistics about women in athletics, and influential female teams.

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Bill Nye The Science Guy Appreciation Post

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know I’m developing a real love for non-fiction books about cool science. Recently, I combined that love with a taste of nostalgia by reading an informative and often funny book by one of my childhood icons, Bill Nye (The Science Guy). Bill Nye became iconic in the 90s with his TV show about science for kids, and he remains a beloved source of science and inspiration to many today. This post is not only to recommend you read one of his enthusiastic, fascinating, and inspiring books, but to highlight how much Bill Nye you can get from your local library (or at least the Rivershare library system as a whole).

For Adults: 

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There are three books for adults that Nye has published in the last few years. To catch some of his general enthusiasm, check out Everything All At Once, an energizing look at how to identify your passions, strengthen your critical thinking, and solve ‘unsolvable’ problems. Embrace your inner nerd! If one of your passions turns out to be scientific causes, try one of his other two books: Undeniable and Unstoppable, about evolution and climate change, respectively. In these books, it’s obvious how much Bill Nye cares about kids and wants them to love science, create a better world, and have a fantastic time. And, he gets his message across with humor, which I always appreciate.

If those aren’t for you, you may appreciate his sense of wonder; he wrote the preface for both Earth + Space and The Planets, collections of breathtaking photographs from NASA’s archives.

For Kids (or Kids-At-Heart)

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Of course, this is where Bill Nye shines as a passionate educator and enthusiastic science nerd: he’s created a number of nonfiction titles including Bill Nye’s great big world of science, Bill Nye the science guy’s big blue ocean, Bill Nye the science guy’s big blast of science, AND a fiction series called Jack and the Geniuses.

Even better, you even can check out DVDs of some vintage Bill Nye the Science Guy content including Bill Nye the science guy. Electrical current, Bill Nye the science guy. Dinosaurs, Do-it-yourself science, and much, much more.

In any case, whether it’s a walk down memory lane or a call to action, I really do recommend you look at some Bill Nye for a wholesome dose of lifelong learning, can-do spirit, and hope for the future. 

Game Changers documentary

The recent passing of “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek inspired me to watch the 2019 documentary Game Changers, about the phenomenon of TV game shows, the hosts, the contestants, and the controversies. Viewers are immediately drawn in as Trebek recites a whimsical poem about all the things he could be when he grows up.

“My parents always said:
Alex, get a good education and you can be anything you want to be.
A miner, a designer, or a Vegas headliner.
A teacher, a preacher, or a deep sea researcher.
An actor, a factor, or a farmer in a tractor.
A banker, a flanker, or captain of an ocean tanker.
No one prepared me for game show host. It wasn’t one of the options in the high school career guide.”

From there, Trebek opens the door to the behind-the-scenes world of game shows. The documentary takes viewers through:
• the history of game shows making the transition from radio to television
• the 1950s game show scandals and how that changed the rules and regulations of the contests
• trends in daytime and prime time game shows
• and the more recent phenomenon of shows like “Deal or No Deal” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

Trebek is featured not only as a subject of the documentary, he also lends himself as the interviewer to other game show hosts such as Drew Carey, Howie Mandel and Regis Philbin. In turn, the hosts talk about how they got their gigs and their thoughts on their unusual jobs. Like his game show host persona, Trebek strikes the perfect balance of not taking himself too seriously in interviews while also protecting the integrity of the hosts.
At times a bit slow, there are enough anecdotes mixed in to make up for it. Pat Sajak’s first impression of Vanna White was that she was “too nervous” for the “Wheel of Fortune” job. The “Jeopardy” think-music will definitely get stuck in your head as Merv Griffin’s son explains how quickly it was written.

Plenty of nostalgia is woven throughout the documentary. Contestants reminisce about watching game shows with grandparents or while home sick from school. This documentary will motivate you to pick up the remote and play along with a TV game show again, perhaps “Jeopardy” as the final Trebek episodes run their course in the coming weeks.

Kedi on DVD

I heard about the 2016 documentary Kedi on the podcast “Movie Therapy with Rafer & Kristen.” The hosts were advising a listener looking for comfort after her beloved cat passed away.

Kedi is a documentary about street cats in Istanbul. The film explores the many ways the cats are viewed by the city’s human inhabitants. For example, one restaurant owner prefers a cat for pest control over chemicals. Another bakery owner considers the neighborhood street cat a nuisance, begging customers for food and refusing to be shooed away. Most often, the cats are loved. A market vendor is the to-go person when a cat is found injured. He has a running tab at the veterinarian’s office. A woman lets one cat come and go as she pleases through the apartment but can’t imagine even attempting to make the street cat a house cat.

Underlying clever cat camerawork is a commentary on a changing city. With buildings rising up and green spaces shrinking at ground level, the documentary’s human participants wonder how the cats will continue navigate their space. But after surviving for thousands of years in the city already, the cats are sure to adjust and change along with the city.

The film is subtitled but like many great documentaries the story is told through visual narratives from which it is impossible to look away. The cats are the stars of the film. Unlike internet cat videos, this isn’t a short clip of a cute trick. Rather, it’s a long observation of the joy and comfort cats can bring to the human experience.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Mystery fans, rejoice! Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, first published in 1937, is getting a new film version this October. The film acts as a companion film to the 2017 film Murder on the Orient Express, directed by Kenneth Branagh (also based on a book of the same name). Like its predecessor, this Death on the Nile film will feature a star-studded cast and promises a thrilling interpretation of Christie’s original book.

In the original story, the famous detective Hercule Poirot is on vacation in Egypt when he is approached by heiress Linnet Doyle, who’s being plagued by a stalker. Troubled by the depth of the stalker’s hatred, Poirot finds himself onboard a cruise ship with the stalker, her victim, and the other troubled passengers, none of whom are telling the whole truth. As they journey up the Nile River, the danger mounts and Poirot races against time to discover which of the passengers’ secrets leads to murder.

I’m very excited about this movie, being a lover of mystery books as a genre and Agatha Christie in particular. I saw Murder on the Orient Express when it came out a few years ago, and it was enjoyable. However, Kenneth Branagh’s interpretation of Poirot doesn’t always work for me. While I always read him as mostly dainty and intellectual, Branagh plays Poirot as a dynamic and dramatic character with a troubled past. In the case of Death on the Nile, though, tangled morality and stormy emotions take center stage, so this version of Poirot might actually be more effective.

Whether you’re brand-new to Agatha Christie and her most famous character, or a devoted fan, this is a great opportunity to experience a great mystery story AND think about how storytelling changes when books are turned into movies. You can even compare the new film to an older film version, released in 2004, for the full experience. That’s what I’ll be doing – so stay tuned for my review!

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello!

How is your reading going this month? Have you been able to squeeze in some reading time? Reading is a great way to escape for a bit, but in this especially crazy time sometimes there just isn’t room for long, leisurely afternoons spent with a book. If you’re finding this to be the case, why not try a movie? A couple hours of relaxing can do you a world of good and won’t absorb all of your time. Here are a few that fit into our “You’ve Got Mail” rom-com theme this month.

Ghostbusters. Bill Murray. Ghosts. New York Public Library. Who you gonna call?

When Harry Met Sally. Nora Ephron. Meg Ryan. Billy Crystal. That iconic scene at Katz’s Deli.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Finding yourself. Falling in love. A crazy family.

13 Going on 30. Jennifer Garner dances to Thriller.

Coming to America. Eddie Murphy. African prince finds his match in Queens, New York.

Say Anything. John Cusack. That’s a boom box kids. That’s how we used to listen to music.

Mamma Mia! Amanda Seyfried. Meryl Streep. Way too much ABBA music.

The Proposal. Sandra Bullock. Ryan Reynolds. Fake wedding. Alaska. Betty White being raunchy.

Notting Hill. Hugh Grant. Julia Roberts. Just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.

Princess Bride. Robin Wright. Cary Elwes. Inconceivable! Prepare to die! As you wish.

Groundhog Day. Bill Murray. Andie MacDowell. Don’t drive angry!

Four Weddings and a Funeral. Hugh Grant. Andie MacDowell. Gorgeous flowers and charming churches.

And of course, You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Sweet, funny and Bentley the dog! It doesn’t get any better than this.

Online Reading Challenge – August Wrap-UP

Hello Challenge Readers!

How was your August? Hmmm. Yeah, mine wasn’t great either. For one thing, it’s hard to read in the dark and for another, my DVD player doesn’t work without electricity! It’s been a crazy month in a crazy year! Let’s keep our fingers crossed for some calmer times.

I went a bit off the rails this month (surely I’m not the only one?) and did not finish Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose as I had planned. Someday, I will finish it though! It’s interesting and thought-provoking but I think I needed something a little less intense. So instead, I watched a movie.

The Searchers starring John Wayne makes most “best Western movies” lists and many just plain “best movies” lists. I had never seen it or even heard of it and I’m not a rabid John Wayne fan so I kept my expectations low despite the glowing reviews. Turns out that was pretty smart on my part.

John Wayne plays Ethan Elliot, a Civil War veteran that has returned to his brother’s homestead in Texas three years after the war. He arrives with a burning hatred of all Native Americans and a forbidden love for his brother’s wife. While he’s away helping the Texas Rangers track some cattle thieves a Commanche war party attacks and burns the homestead to the ground, killing the family and kidnapping two of the young girls. Ethan goes after them, set on revenge and letting nothing stand in his way.

It’s not a terrible movie – in fact there is a lot to like. But in my opinion it hasn’t aged well. There is a lot of racism – pretty typical for Westerns and for the time period they portray, but unpleasant and jarring nonetheless, and the jokes are awkward and clumsy. Some of the actors seem to express a range of emotion by either shouting or shouting loudly.

The landscape and scenery are stunning and beautifully filmed but that brings up another issue. The movie was obviously filmed in Monument Valley, a spectacular region located in northern Arizona and southern Utah. Dozens and dozens of movies have been filmed here. The problem is, this is a pretty unique area, easily recognizable and limited to a specific location. Movies that tell you they’re taking place in Texas or New Mexico (like this one) but filmed in Monument Valley aren’t trying very hard to be realistic. It’s a minor point really and can the filmmakers can be forgiven, but it bugged me.

So how did your August reading go? Did you find something great to read or watch? Let us know in the comments below!

Happy National Aviation Day!

Look!  What’s that in the sky?  Is it a bird?  Is it the sun?  By golly, it’s an airplane.

Now we take seeing these marvels of engineering for granted.  But back 120 years ago it was likely just a bird up in the air.

Today we mark the 81st anniversary of National Aviation Day.  Yes, it’s a little-known holiday, but that shouldn’t stop you from celebrating!  In 1939 President Roosevelt proclaimed August 19th, Orville Wright’s birthday, a day to commemorate the historic work of the Wright brothers.

The Wrights were not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, but they invented aircraft controls that made fixed wing flight possible.  And since that initial, historic, 1903 flight, brave men and women took to the skies in the 10s and 20s.  And now most US residents have flown at some point in their life.

What an impact the Wrights’ work has had!  One can go cross-country in an afternoon.  Behold the power of flight!

Honor Aviation Day and the Wrights.  Let your spirits soar by partaking of these great titles.

DVDS:

Memphis Belle  (2009)      Based on a true story about the famous plane of World War II, the Flying Fortress.  Memphis Belle is about the crew of one of the B-17s flying their last mission before they can go home to a hero’s welcome.

The Aviator  (2004)      Howard Hughes as the twenty-something millionaire, having already made a fortune improving the design of oil-drilling bits, comes to Hollywood with an interest in getting into the picture business.  His film was a massive hit, and the eccentric inventor became a mogul in Hollywood, making Jean Harlow a star and enjoying a romance with Katharine Hepburn.  But in time his passion for flying began to reclaim his attentions.  He began designing new planes, setting air speed records, flying around the world, and founded his own airline, Trans-World Airlines.

Sully  (2016)      The world witnessed the “Miracle on the Hudson” when Captain Sully glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River.   However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career.

Planes: from above the world of Cars.   (2013)      Dusty is a crop-dusting plane with dreams of competing as a high-flying air racer.  But Dusty’s not exactly built for racing, and he happens to be afraid of heights.  So he turns to a seasoned naval aviator, who helps Dusty qualify to take on the defending champ of the race circuit. Dusty’s courage is put to the ultimate test.

Airplane!  (1980)      In this spoof of disaster movies, an ex-Navy pilot with a deep aversion to planes finds himself on a flight with an ex-girlfriend he wants to win back.  He becomes embroiled in a crisis where the crew and many of the passengers have fallen seriously ill.  Now, it is up to him to overcome his fear of flying and land the airplane safely before the poisonings become fatal.

Books:

Unlocking the sky : Glenn Hammond Curtiss and the race to invent the airplane   By Seth Shulman.  (2002)      The first commercially sold airplane.  The first flight from one American city to another.  The first pilot license issued in this country.  These were just a few of the milestones in the career of Glenn Hammond Curtiss.  A tale of the race to design, refine, and manufacture a manned flying machine that took place in the air, on the ground, on the water, and in the courtrooms of America.  Who would be the first to make a workable airplane, and almost as critical, who would control the right to use or sell this revolutionary technology?

Area 51 black jets : a history of the aircraft developed at Groom Lake, America’s secret aviation base   By Bill Yenne.  (2014)      When most of us think of Area 51, we think of aliens, UFOs, and controversial government cover-ups.  It’s easy to forget that, since the mid-1950s, the United States’ famed extension of Edwards Air Force Base has served as a top-secret CIA testing ground for many of the most groundbreaking advancements in American military aviation technology.   The first fully illustrated chronology of Area 51‘s most famous aircraft projects.  This book reveals Area 51 for what it truly is: a clandestine area for the United States’ most cutting-edge technological innovators in military aviation.