Monday, August 14, 2017

Julie's Journal : Psychological Thrillers

This summer, I have had fun recommending books to Sydney and Kristin, our summer helpers.  They both have enjoyed several books in the popular genre of psychological thrillers.

Try one out and see what you think!  Guaranteed to keep you guessing!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Chance's Corner: What is a "Good" Movie?

I get asked to recommend movies all the time here at the library, and while I enjoy doing it, sometimes it proves to be no easy task. Movies are a form of art, and the appreciation of art has always been based on opinion. So, for example, when people ask me to recommend me a good comedy, I have to wonder what they consider to be "good". Are they Adam Sandler and Melissa McCarthy types? Do they prefer dry, black, toilet, screwball, satire, or slapstick? It's usually easy to figure out once I ask them what they like. However, you also have the ones that ask me to recommend them just a "good" movie. Oh dear. There's all sorts of possibilities there. Should I walk them over to the classic section or pick out the 17th (ha) Transformers movie?

Luckily, whenever I'm put in that situation, I have some movies that I can fall back on. One of them is called The Straight Story. No, it's not called The Straight Story because it's one of David Lynch's most straight-forward films. Yes, I'm talking about the same David Lynch behind some of the most enigmatic, freaky and surreal films ever made. The Straight Story actually gets its title from the true story of Alvin Straight, and his 260 mile journey on a '66 John Deere lawnmower to see his ailing brother in "party-town" Wisconsin. The Straight Story is more or less a family film, not one of Lynch's eerie masterworks, but his trademarks are still all over the film, adding complexity and symbolism as only Lynch can. I do warn that the film is slowly paced, but overall it's a very touching story and worth the wait (and tears).

The Straight Story is available at the Franklin County Library.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Upcoming After School Programs and a Request

Summer Reading is in full swing at Franklin County Library, but we are already looking ahead to the Fall and our After-School programs.

We will be picking up Marvelous Mondays again, beginning September 11th.  Kids of all ages will enjoy science experiments and crafts.  We are going to try a little earlier time this year, moving to 4:00, for the 20-30 minute program.

We are very excited this year, to introduce a new program on Wednesdays at 4:00, beginning September 13th.  In the as yet unnamed program, we will be learning about robots and coding.  The first semester, we will focus on Ozobots.  Ozobots are tiny 1" robots that can be programmed by drawing color codes on paper, or by using Ozoblockly to program them with a computer.  Following Ozobots, we will learn with Dot and Dash robots, Makey Makey, and Scratch.  This program is for kids ages 8 and up and will last 30-45 minutes.  

And now for the request...  Have you ever wondered how you could help Franklin County Library with all the things we do?  As you can imagine, there are several items we need in order to put these programs on.  We have created a "wishlist" on Amazon of things that would be helpful to have.  If you are at all interested in supporting our After-School programming you can click on the following links to see and/or purchase the things we need.


Marvelous Monday

You can also become a member of the Friends of the Library.  The Friends fund all of our programming including Marvelous Monday, Robots/Coding, and Summer Reading.  For a small membership fee, library staff can get you signed up to be a Friend!

Thank you!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Chance's Corner: Captain Underpants Review


I honestly wasn't expecting a movie about a faux superhero named Captain Underpants, who is really just a mean elementary school principal who has been hypnotized, to be any good. It has no right to be, because its source material, which I loved as a child, is rather silly and relies heavily on toilet humor, but Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie exceeded my expectations. 

Professor Poopypants
So, what did Captain Underpants do to transcend the typical children's film cash-in craze? Well, it stays pretty true to its source material and has a lot of heart. I say pretty true because the villainous Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) wasn't introduced until book 4, but I'm not complaining because he's a great villain... and yes, that's his real name. Don't laugh! The heart revolves around the friendship of George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch), a pair of fourth-grade pranksters. Hart and Middleditch really bring these two goofs to life, and their hijinks are a hoot - not headache inducing.

For a kid's film in 2017, Captain Underpants is actually well paced, taking its time and not just throwing things at the screen to keep little eyeballs glued to the screen. You can really tell that a lot of passion went into this project. It's gorgeously animated, the story is equal parts funny, crazy and heart wrenching (yes, really), and it also dares to break outside the box by throwing in a little sock puppetry, which manages to be a real highlight of the show. Another highlight is the theme song for Captain Underpants, which is sung by parody king "Weird Al" Yankovic, whose musical talent was specifically used as a prank by George and Harold in book 1. So, it's pretty cool that he got in on the gag.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Julie's Journal : Harry Potter's 20th Anniversary

Today marks 20 years since the release of the 1st Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and the beginning of a worldwide phenomenon.

I didn't discover the books right away.  I was in college and had come home for a weekend, probably in the spring of 1999.  My dad had checked the first two books out of Franklin County Library, and he handed them to me and said I needed to read them.  I had never heard of them and he told me there was controversy around the books, and that I should read them and decide if the books were evil, promoting witchcraft, or if they were innocent, lovely books about good vs. evil.

I was hooked from the first chapter.  I read both books that weekend, and then went back to college and opened an account, just so I could order my own copies, along with the 3rd book.  I became a defender of the books, and anytime I heard someone talking about how evil they were and how they promoted witchcraft to children, I asked if they had read the books. Then when they had inevitably not, handed them a copy and told them to decide after they had read them for themselves.

The summer of 2000 found me interning in Dallas with an accounting firm, and living with my future in-laws.  I remember astounding them when I ordered the 4th book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, to be delivered on the release date, and then sat down and read all 734 pages of it in one day.

Books 5, 6, and 7 were released later, when I was a young wife, working part-time as a tutor.  I read the books along with my 7th and 8th grade students, all of us trying to figure out how the series would end.

I have reread the series a couple of times since, and of course, watched all the movies.  The movies never lived up to the magic of the books, though.

Harry Potter will always be a big part of my young adulthood.  The magical series took me through the huge transitions that happen to everyone at that age, from living away from home for the first time, to getting married and graduating college, to making decisions about where to live and what type of job to pursue.      

I will always love the books, and I'm sure I'll read them again someday, but I envy those who have not yet read the books or seen the movies.  They still have a wonderful world of magic and adventure to discover!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Chance's Corner: Wonder Woman Review

WONDER WOMAN! All the world's waiting for you... Yes, we have been waiting, and you finally got the big screen adaptation that you deserve. 

Wonder Woman is the fourth installment of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) - a universe that (so far) connects the worlds of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman, and will soon lead into the granddaddy of all superhero films, Justice League. I've never read any Wonder Woman comics, and I've never actually seen the old television show starring Lynda Carter, but I have watched the re-runs of the cartoon Super Friends that started in 1973. In that show, Wonder Woman flew around in an invisible jet (she wasn't invisible, though), wielded the glowing Lasso of Truth, and was generally pretty cool. That's all I remember. So, it's pretty safe to say that I went into this film totally blind concerning the mythology behind Wonder Woman AKA Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta. 

Diana's (Gal Gadot) journey starts on a gorgeous, tropical island, where she is the only child amongst warrior women named the Amazons. The Amazons were created by Zeus to protect humankind from the blood lust of Ares, the God of War, and to serve as a bridge between humans and the gods. However, the will of man, and the will of Ares, proved to be too strong, and Zeus hid the Amazons away from the world. The Amazons continue to train, though, knowing Ares will eventually find them, but this time they have a secret weapon known as the Godkiller to defeat him once and for all. Diana longs to be the one of the warriors, and to wield the power of the Godkiller, but her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) forbids it. Diana's aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright), goes against her sister's wishes and trains Diana, anyways. 

Thank the gods she did, because a spy from the United States named Steve Trevor (Chris Pines) breaks through Zeus' protective barrier around the island and crashes into the sea. Diana saves Steve from drowning, and the world as she knows it is never the same. Steve tells the clueless Amazons about The Great War (WWI) and his mission to stop German General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Dr. Poison (Elena Anya) from developing a deadlier form of mustard gas that would embolden Germany and stop all armistice negotiations. Diana instantly believes that Ludendorff is Ares in disguise and sets out to kill him to put an end to war forever. She finds out that it's a little more complicated than that, though. 

The DCEU has had its fair share of detractors, some calling Man of Steel "Meh of Steel", some saying Suicide Squad made them want to commit suicide, and other stupid stuff like that, but Wonder Woman is the first one I think everyone can agree is wonderful. It's also a landmark film because it features a leading female superhero. Yes, there was that Catwoman movie starring Halle Berry all those years ago, but it was universally rejected, and it's pretty well forgotten. There might have been an Elektra movie, too, but it's forgotten, as well. Wonder Woman will not be forgotten, though. DC has finally done everything right. There's sprinkles of good humor, perfect doses of action-packed set pieces (with slow-mo thrown in for good measure), gorgeous production design, and well-developed characters that make you feel.

There's a key scene in Wonder Woman, where Diana climbs out of a trench and bravely walks across No Man's Land, taking fire from the Germans, and allowing the Allied army to advance and liberate a village. Every hair on my body stood up on end at that moment, and tears welled-up in my eyes, because it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It's everything Marvel's WWII adventure, Captain America: The First Avenger, could only dream to be - you know the comparison between those two films was going to come up sooner or later. On a side note, I really think Marvel should be taking notes now on how to present women in films, how to market them, and how to make female-led films in general, because... they're not doing that. Marvel only markets films starring a Chris, another Chris, and one more Chris for good luck. Ha!

I'll admit there has been some doubts in my mind about the future of the DCEU, but I have also been one of their biggest defenders. They've been taking risks, not restricting themselves to formula, and I greatly admire that. I'm glad they keep pressing forward, and if they keep moving in this direction, then we are in store for some great things.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Summer Reading 2017

We kicked off Summer Reading this week!  Our theme this year is "Build a Better World"!

Mrs. August read several books, and then the kids decorated aprons and hats according to what they want to be when they grow up.

Mrs. August figured out that she has been teaching summer reading for 16 years.  Mrs. Lisa is on her 14th year, and I (Julie) am on my 9th year.  It's crazy how fast time flies!

Summer Reading meets on Tuesdays at 9:30, 11:00, or 1:00.  See you there!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

Tom's Two Cents : Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

It may come as a surprise to many of you that Boris Karloff didn't invent the monster Frankenstein.  That dubious honor goes to a nineteen year old British girl, whose name just happened to be Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, who in 1816, at a house party on Lake Geneva, created the character and the subsequent novel in a writing contest.  It seems it was raining, there was nothing to do (no TV at the Lakeside villa), a contest of sorts was proposed, and Frankenstein was born.  Others who just happened to be present included two of Britain's greatest Romantic poets, Percy Shelley and George Gordon, Lord Byron.

Not the least of Mary Shelley's accomplishments in "Frankenstein" is the number of voices in which she tells her story.  Indeed the "creature" himself is not named "Frankenstein", or named at all.  His creator is Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a native of the Republic of Genoa, and in later versions of the tale, the Creature assumes the name of his creator.  It is, in fact, Dr. Frankenstein who tells most of the story to the ship captain Robert Walton, who, in turn, is relating it by letter to his sister, a lady named Mrs. Saville, who lives in England.  Captain Walton himself starts on a sea adventure from St. Petersburg to discover the North Pole, in the process rescuing Dr. Frankenstein from an icy death.  If all this sounds too convoluted, it is an acceptable way in the early part of the 19th century to tell a story that otherwise would have appeared totally unbelievable: summed up in a couple of words: "science fiction" was born.

By now science fiction as a genre has come so far through its exploration of outer space and alien worlds that Mary Shelley's little parlor tale may seem outmoded indeed.  But it was the first, and the most influential, and characters like R2D2 might never have been created without it.  Shelley is more interested, however, in the "whys" of scientific/technological achievement than the "how's"--her ultimate question remains unresolved:  is Man in his eternal quest for knowledge, in his aspiration for greatness and power, ultimately any better off?  Her story is her answer, and despite its antique language, one worth reading and pondering.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Marvelous Monday! : Ice Cream!

Yesterday was our last meeting of Marvelous Monday until school starts again in the fall.  For the 2nd year in a row, we finished off the year by making ice cream!  We have two Ice Cream Balls.

They open at each end.  One end is for ice and salt.  The other is for ice cream mix.  Then we just keep the balls moving for 15 - 20 minutes until the ice cream hardens up.

Everyone agreed that the ice cream turned out great!  One of our patrons brought brownies to go with the ice cream and Sydney, our summer worker, brought chocolate syrup and sprinkles.  

Check back with us in the fall for the resumption of Marvelous Mondays!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Chance's Corner: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Review

Wow, it's been a long, long time since I've seen this. I'm talking about a time when I actually used to believe this was a sequel to Mary Poppins. Seriously, I was so mad that they had recast the role of Mary Poppins with Sally Ann Howes! Sure, admitting that makes me sound like an idiot, but my younger self could sense the Dick Van Dyke and Sherman Brothers (who wrote the music for Mary Poppins) connection. Now that I'm old enough to know better, I'm actually surprised by a completely different connection. James Bond. That's right! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the book) was originally written by 007's creator, Ian Fleming. The film was also produced by Albert Broccoli, the long-time producer of the Bond franchise. The film also stars two Bond film legends, Desmond Llewelyn who played Q and Gert Fröbe who played Auric Goldfinger. Anna Quayle even starred in the non-canon Bond spoof Casino Royale. Crazy, huh?

The Child Catcher with his signature lollipops.

Besides all the amazing realizations washing over me this time around, I was swept away by the "fantasmagorical" adventure unfolding on screen. I'm telling you, the Sherman Brothers really outdid themselves when they cooked up the songs for this one. Fast and slow, wacky and meaningful, each song is insanely catchy. The stellar choreography that accompanies the music also proves that Dick Van Dyke is a dancing machine. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang isn't without its faults, though. My main complaint is that it's rather indulgent in its length. It could actually be two films, one comprised of reality and the other running wild with fantasy. Another idiot moment for me is admitting that when I was a kid I thought the entire last half of the film actually happened - flying cars and all. Instead, it's all just part of a story that Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) is telling his children to kill some time. Wow. If there's one thing that still stands true from when I was a kid, it's that my fear of the Child Catcher (Robert Helpmann) was not overblown. His lollipops will haunt my dreams forever.

If you'd like to re-visit this film, or experience it for the first time, you can find it here at the Franklin County Library!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Did you know? New Releases

We here at Franklin County Library work hard to keep our collection up to date.  We keep up with release dates for books and movies and order them in advance.  Often we get new items on the day they are released.

The first shelf of books you see when you come in the library is full of new releases.  Everything on that shelf is less than a year old, and may of them are very recent.  March and April were good months for new books coming out, so we added lots of new titles.

We have new books by Danielle Steel, Fredrik Backman, Jess Kidd, Catherine Coulter, and Anita Shreve among many others.

Chance keeps us informed of new movies and TV shows as they become available as well.  Our most recent movies are Gold, LaLa Land, Mean Dreams, Split, and Hidden Figures.  For kids, we have Sing, Lost & Found, and PJ Mask.  We have been slowly expanding our collection of TV shows.   We've recently added Endeavour, Home Fires, Doc Martin, Shades of Blue, and Chicago PD.

Come on in and check out some of these new releases.  Movies and books are FREE to check out at the library!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Tom's Two Cents: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

If you haven't heard of "Hamilton" by now, I would have to ask, "What world are you living in?"  The most successful Broadway musical in years, conceived and adapted by Lin Manuel Miranda, winner of multiple Tonys, "Hamilton" is now about to take to the road and will doubtless garner millions, if it hasn't already.  But the "Hamilton" I'm telling you about is the book it was based on, the 732 page biography of Alexander Hamilton by the eminent historian, Ron Chernow, published in 2005. 

When I say I've been reading this book on and off for at least ten years, I'm not exaggerating: it's gotten lost, mislaid, set aside deliberately for a shorter, quicker read, but I keep coming back to it, and now, only some 200 pages from the end, I'm certain I will finish it.  My meanderings have never been due to lack of interest, but I will say that this work is so full, so rich with detail, that it can hardly be digested in one continuous reading.  Like a multiple course dinner, it's better savored than gulped, and probably a rest between courses is even in order.

Alexander Hamilton has been given rather short shrift in American history, for a number of reasons.  First of all, he was born in Nevis in the Caribbean, under somewhat questionable circumstances, and only emigrated to the American Colonies as a young man.  During the Revolution he acquitted himself admirably, serving under General Washington himself, and becoming in effect one of Washington's most trusted advisors.  In the formation of the new government, he became Washington's first Secretary of the Treasury, and one of the most influential cabinet members in American history.  As such, he was subject to much criticism as a "Federalist" and a British sympathizer.  His conflicts with Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson became so monumental that in Washington's second term Jefferson left office and returned to the public scene only after he bested John Adams in his run for a second term.  Further, his sympathies with the notion of a strong, central government made him extremely unpopular with his Republican colleagues.  The genesis of our nation's conflict between two powerful political parties is clearly brought to life here.

That Hamilton came to a tragic end in a duel with Aaron Burr is generally known, but the events leading up to it are not.  Chernow is masterful in depicting these events and all others in Hamilton's life, making this work not only a significant slice of American history, but a thoroughly engrossing tale of the rise and fall of a great man.