Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Classics

Most of us are crazy busy at this time of year (including me). We're trying to juggle work, family, shopping, holiday parties, the budget and so on. To help keep some perspective, it's worth trying to carve out a little time to appreciate some of the literary and cinematic classics that bring the season to life.

A Christmas CarolRead or watch the wonderful Charles Dicken's tale A Christmas Carol, the story of miserly Scrooge and the three spirits that bring him to a new sense of the joy and wonder of the Christmas season. You can do a chapter a night as a family read aloud in the week preceding December 25th, or you can borrow one of the several film versions of the story that the library owns.

MCPL can offer anything from the 1951 Alastair Sim's version (which set the standard for screen portrayals of Scrooge) to Disney's Mickey's Christmas Carol, with Uncle Scrooge McDuck in the starring role.

Cover image of A Christmas Memory
 My personal favorite stars George C. Scott as a particularly curmudgeonly Scrooge. Or there's always The Muppet Christmas Carol—Kermit makes a wonderful Bob Crachit. If you have time after the holidays, and are looking for an interesting read for a cold January night, you can pick up The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford to find out more about Dickens and his beloved story.

It's a Wonderful Life coverAnother appealing short read is Truman Capote's autobiographical novella A Christmas Memory. This gentle story decribes the Christmas preparations of a young boy and his slightly eccentric, elderly cousin in the Depression era South.

cover of The Night Before Christmas by Jan Brett
Night Before Christmas - Jan Brett
Frank Capra's classic film It's a Wonderful Life seems to be on a TV loop during December, but if you need to schedule your own showing, the library can provide a copy. Remember, every time a bell rings.....

cover image of Tomie DePaola's Night Before Christmas
Night Before Christmas
Tomie de Paola
Another lovely family read aloud is Clement Moore's The Night Before Christmas. The library has many wonderfully illustrated versions of the poem, ranging from the  intricate and playful work of Jan Brett, to Tasha Tudor's warm and homey pictures of an elfin Santa, to one in the distinctive style of beloved children's author Tomie De Paola.

cover image of book "Hot Toddies"So pop some popcorn, make some warm drinks, for both the adults and kids, and gather everyone around to make some great holiday memories.



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fabulous Senior Moments

James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury 2013
James Earl Jones and Angela
Lansbury rehearse Driving Miss
Sydney, Australia 2013.
Photo: Eva Rinaldi
Last night, I saw a great stage performance by James Earl Jones, who played a lead role as Mr. Vanderhof in You Can’t Take It With You. At age 83 (born in 1931), Mr. Jones is on Broadway stage 6 nights a week this season. Simply amazing!

I am a baby boomer librarian. If you think I came up with this week's topic from reading AARP magazine articles, you are correct. I am in awe of the mental and physical capacity of seniors born years before me.
The Trip from Bountiful movie cover
Here are some others on stage and on screen that come to my mind: Vanessa Redgrave (born in 1937) playing a bone-shivering tiger mom on screen in Coriolanus (2011); Angela Lansbury (born in 1925) in Blithe Spirit; and Cicely Tyson (born in 1933) in The Trip to Bountiful. My list is growing.

Talking about active seniors, Meryl Streep (born in 1949), another talented senior, was the voice of Eleanor Roosevelt in the recent PBS series, The Roosevelts. Am I the only one who thinks there is, or should be, a movie about Eleanor Roosevelt coming with Ms. Streep in the leading role?

Two other stories about amazing seniors in other fields come to my mind as I write this post. I was once at a lecture by Eric Kandel (born in 1929) who received Nobel Prize for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. He shuffled to the podium in his signature red bow tie to speak to high school students. I could see in the students’ amused faces as they put at least a hundred years between them and the scientist. His lecture was so mesmerizing, he received a standing ovation when it was over. Take that, kids!

I’m a soccer nut. I used to play many years ago, and I’m known to watch games even while cooking. I once went to see a game between American and Japanese over-65 league teams. OK, the players’ feet might have been a few steps behind their minds, but we enjoyed the game because players were having so much fun. During half time, a short-skirted cheerleading team from an assisted living home performed. How great is that?

Megumi L.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Holiday Runaround

I've had an exciting year, gallivanting to London and various cities around the United States… so exciting that I've used all my annual leave and I am bound to the Washington, DC area for the foreseeable future. What shall I do? Well, as it turns out, there is plenty to do over the holidays, right here in our own backyard, so to speak.

I searched through the Washington Post’s Top 10 Washington, DC Holiday Activities and found Christmas Tree lightings and Hanukkah Menorah lighting ceremonies, along with the holiday light displays in various parks around the area.

But what caught my eye was ICE! at the Gaylord National Resort, which runs through January 4, 2015. Literally a “winter wonderland” created out of 5,000 blocks of ice, it took 40 artists to create this year’s Frosty the Snowman-themed display. The attractions are very approachable, so visitors can actually walk through them. And, of course, the kids will love it.

And more ice… ready for ice skating, latkes, and kosher hot dogs? Head on down to Chanukah On Ice for the lighting of the Menorah in Arlington, VA on Thursday, December 18.

If ice isn't your thing, maybe trains are. In Ellicott City, MD, home of the oldest train station in America, the B&O Railroad Museum presents the  Festival of Trains at the Ellicott City Station featuring, among others, “multi-level 360 degree LEGO layout by the Washington, D.C. at Metropolitan Area LEGO Train Club with interactive lights, motors, and sounds.” If trains aren't your thing either, then wander the streets of Ellicott City and enjoy the wonderful restaurants, antique stores, and cute boutiques.

For a Kwanzaa Celebration enjoy the Coyaba Dance Theater where special guests celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

Not sure which holiday to celebrate? Try them all as the Smithsonian Discovery Theater presents Seasons of Light, an interactive show about the history and customs of:
If you enjoy old town Frederick, The Holidays in Historic Frederick  may be to your liking. Tour historic homes and wander around in the festival of lights. There is also a display of an art competition showing Frederick during the holidays.

Closer to home you say? Try the Rockville Town Center Holiday Open House and Christmas Tree Lighting on Thursday, December 4 for their tree-lighting ceremony featuring singing, dancing, ice skating, and general holiday merriment. And enjoy the NIH Chamber Singers Holiday Concert on Saturday, December 6 at the Rockville Memorial Library.

And what would the holidays be without concerts, especially choral concerts! Here is a list of local Holiday Concerts at Strathmore, Gaithersburg, Takoma Park, and Rockville. You can't not go to at least one! Garrett Park has its own program,the Town Holiday SingAlong, Friday, December 12. There's nothing more fun than singing holiday songs!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Davis Library's events:

And for all Montgomery County Public Libraries events use our interactive Calendar of Events.

But wherever you decide to go, enjoy this season of hope and good will!

Happy Holidays,
lisa n

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

cover image of Thanksgiving by Janet Evanovich
A comedy of holiday errors.
Ahhhh, here we go again—Thanksgiving is upon us. Feasting and family fun and football (for some) or shopping (for others) or hibernating far from the madding crowds.

While I do try to stay away from the crowds, I also like to get in a little activity in my day to balance out the gluttony in which I know I will indulge once dinner starts. No matter whether the menu includes healthy dishes or decadent treats, I always end up eating more than I know I should.

There are plenty of local “Turkey Trots” that you can find to burn off those extra calories. Or just get everyone bundled up while the turkey is roasting and head out for a quick walk in your neighborhood.
Some of my favorite fall decorations.

Make it meaningful by carrying along a bag and picking up trash as you go (your neighbors will be thankful!). If you have time to spare, find a way to give some time or talent through volunteering for an hour or two. That can make a big difference to people who can’t be with family or can’t pull together a feast of their own.

The library has plenty of books on Thanksgiving (for kids and adults) if you need some reading material for the long holiday weekend. Traveling? Pick up an audiobook or two to break the tedium. 

No matter what you do or where you go for Thanksgiving, travel safe and enjoy yourself!

Tina R.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Pirate's Life For Me

End of a Pirate’s Day by ecstaticist, on FlickrI’ve been spending a lot of time with pirates lately. The virtual kind, on TV and iPad screens, and in the flesh. My two-year-old grandson is, well obsessed is not too strong a word, with all things pirate. The Disney cartoon show Jake and the Neverland Pirates is top choice every day for his allotted TV time. Thomas the Tank Engine and Caillou are consigned to his babyish past. For Halloween he dressed up as Jake, of course, and I had the pleasure of accompanying a little pirate around the neighborhood. We had to teach him to say “Trick or Treat” not “Yo, Ho, Ho.” He lagged behind his older brothers, a spy and Spiderman, but still managed to collect more candy than little pirate hands could carry. I console myself with the thought that Jake and the Neverland Pirates does have some redeeming value. The stories emphasize cooperation among friends to solve a problem, and at the end the pirates always count the gold doubloons they have earned for their treasure chest. My grandson counts along with them.

If there is a pirate obsessed child in your life here are some books you can find in the children’s section of the library:
  • Shiver Me Timbers by Douglas Florian is a collection of poems perfect to read aloud to the littlest pirates as they
    Shiver Me Timbers by Douglas Florian
    take in the lively accompanying paintings.
  • In Pirate Mom by Deborah Underwood a little boy’s mother is hypnotized into thinking she is a pirate. How can he change his Mom back? A Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award winner.
  • Eloise’s Pirate Adventure by Lisa McClatchy is perfect for little girls who aspire to the pirate life. Eloise dresses up as a pirate and goes on an adventure in search of treasure.
  • And don’t forget the classics Peter Pan and Treasure Island, both perfect for reading aloud a chapter at a time at bedtime.
How to be a Pirate by John Malam
  • Older children will enjoy Pirate by Richard Platt, one of the lavishly illustrated Eyewitness book series, and How to be a Pirate by John Malam.
You can find more children’s nonfiction books about pirates by exploring the shelves in the J910.45 section. And the children's librarians will be happy to recommend more pirate-themed fiction for specific ages.

There is some serious history behind the popular image of the swashbuckling pirate, some of it surprising. Quite how violent criminals of the past became beloved children’s characters is an interesting story in itself. (J.M. Barrie and Johnny Depp surely share some of the responsibility). Here is a sampling of some of the books for adults that explore this fascinating history:
Meanwhile I’m going to be watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates (or Ho Ho Pi as my grandson calls it) until he moves on to a new enthusiasm. But it has its uses. With some of my imaginary gold doubloons I purchased Jake the Pirate underwear as an incentive for potty training! 

Rita T.

Image: "End of a Pirate's Day" creative commons license by ecstaticist on Flickr