Wednesday, November 27, 2013


It hasn't happened since 1888, and it won't happen again for another 70,000 years, (depending who you listen to) so pay attention because Thanksgiving 2013 converges with Hanukkah 5774, and Jews and Non-Jews alike will all observe Thanksgivukkah.

Here are some links for more information:

So check out these Hanukkah materials from your MCPL library:

Hanukkah in America: a history - Diane Ashton
Ashton shows the different ways we celebrate Hanukkah, not only between the United States and other countries, but among the many regions of our country.

Jewish holiday cooking: a food lover's treasury of classics and improvisations - Cohen, Jayne.
Divided into chapters covering specific holidays, Cohen provides recipes for both traditional and new dishes, all kosher, and even vegan dishes. She includes important rituals and personal reminiscences. Perfect for the newly converted!

How to spell Chanukah : 18 writers celebrate 8 nights of lights - Franklin, Emily.
On this happiest of Jewish holidays, writers wax nostalgic about past Chanuakahs, whether they actually celebrated Christmas as well, how much weight gain is involved in eating pounds and pounds of latkes and much more. This is a good book to pass around the Thanksgiving table this year.

The lights of Hanukkah : [a book of menorahs] - Rush, Barbara.
You cannot imagine how many types of menorahs there are as Rush shows menorahs throughout the years.

H̲anukkah : the family guide to spiritual celebration - Wolfson, Ron.
The second edition of this classic manual to help families celebrate this holiday in a memorable way.

Oy Chanukah! [sound recording] - Klezmer Conservatory Band.
The Klezmer Conservatory Band delivers a rousing musical accompaniment to candle lighting. You’ll be dancing around the Thanksgiving table this year as well.

And while you're at it, learn about the real history of Thanksgiving as well:
Thanksgiving 101 : celebrate America's favorite holiday with America's Thanksgiving expert - Rodgers, Rick
A go-to reference for experienced as well as novice Thanksgiving planners.

America's hidden history : untold tales of the first Pilgrims, fighting women, and forgotten founders who shaped a nation - Davis, Kenneth C.
Davis puts together a collection of stories surrounding the myth of the Pilgrims, their relationship with the Indians and many other surprising facts about American history.
Mayflower : a story of courage, community, and war - Philbrick, Nathaniel.
National Book Award winning author covers the Mayflower crossing and the hard, cruel life in early Massachusetts.

A great & godly adventure : the Pilgrims & the myth of the first Thanksgiving - Hodgson, Godfrey.
Hodgson reviews the real history of the first Thanksgiving and looks at the Pilgrims in a different light.

The Thanksgiving ceremony : new traditions for America's family feast - Bleier, Edward
A lovely idea to create a Thanksgiving ceremony around the table, including a little history and something for every member of the family. (Sounds almost like a Passover seder!)

And what would Thanksgiving be without a recipe for leftover turkey: Turkey Matzo Ball Soup!

Have a memorable Thanksgivingukkah!!

Lisa N.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Library Makers

Have you been hearing about Maker Spaces and STEM projects lately? These are the buzzwords for a growing movement to get kids and teens (and adults, too!) involved in doing things that encourage creating and building and experimenting and gaming in ways that lead to innovation and learning. Maker Spaces are about making things—using everything from craft sticks and glue to hammers and wrenches to sewing machines to 3D printers.

STEM refers to activities that engage students in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Montgomery County Public Schools has a STEM based curriculum to help build skills and interest in these areas where many workers of the future will be needed. There was even a mini MakerFaire held in Silver Spring recently.

MCPL has also started blending STEM and Maker Spaces with library programs and events. Our MCPL Technology Plan describes the need for Digital Media Labs (see page 15) to help students learn and practice using the technology they need to succeed in the future. To that end,  a digital media lab will open in 2014 at the Long Branch Library. The library website will have news about this exciting venture once the lab is ready to open to the public. Even the youngest children can do STEM activities at a new program developed at the Wheaton Library.
Lego program 
On the more low-tech side, many of our libraries had mini Maker Spaces over the summer where children could make or do different projects: painting, building with Lego or Duplo blocks, simple science projects and more. Sound a lot like arts & crafts of yore? It is! But now the emphasis is on how these simple things relate to learning and how they can kindle a passion for doing something bigger later in life.

Today’s robot builder at the library could be tomorrow’s interstellar engineer designing life support systems on Mars! Today’s builder of the five foot tall tower of Duplo blocks might become tomorrow’s architect making earthquake and typhoon-proof homes!  (We like to dream big around here.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Remember, Remember, The Fifth of November

Historic print of Guy Fawkes and his accomplices
Guy Fawkes and his accomplices
Just about the time that Americans are eating the last of the Halloween candy and throwing away the rotting jack o’lanterns, the English are gearing up for a different fall holiday, Guy Fawkes Day.  “Remember, remember, the fifth of November” goes the traditional rhyme, “the gunpowder treason and plot.”  Guy Fawkes was a Catholic conspirator who plotted to blow up King James I and the Houses of Parliament in 1605.  The plot was discovered; Guy Fawkes and his accomplices captured and executed.  

Every year the English celebrate by setting off fireworks, lighting bonfires,
Burning the effigy of Guy Fawkes
Burning the Guy Fawkes effigy
burning Guy Fawkes in effigy, and eating candy.  It’s like a combination of July Fourth and Halloween. Today it is a secular event, the conflict between Catholics and Protestants that led to the plot long faded.  Many Americans only know about it from the movie V for Vendetta in which a freedom fighter wearing a Guy Fawkes mask battles a future fascist government.

The history of the 1605 plot takes us into a world not unlike our own, a world gripped by fear of terrorism, roiled by religious conflict, and where new ideas clashed with old superstitions.  Join me on a reading journey that will bring this distant past to life. 

Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot by Antonia Fraser is the best introduction.  Known for her biographies, including a popular book about the wives of Henry VIII, Fraser tells a gripping story and makes sense of the political and religious background for the general reader.  

God's Secret Agents: Queen Elizabeth's Forbidden Priests and the Hatching of the Gunpowder Plot by Alice Hogge takes us into the clandestine world of the Jesuits who entered England secretly to plot the overthrow of the Protestant Queen.  They lived harrowing lives hiding in secret chambers in Catholic homes, constantly hunted by the authorities, facing gruesome torture and death if captured.  Some like Edmund Campion are saints still venerated by the Catholic Church.  Hogge brings some of the lesser known martyrs out of the shadows.

The Daylight Gate, the new novel by Jeanette Winterson, is a vivid and disturbing account of the Pendle witch trials of 1612.  Pendle is in Lancashire, a Catholic stronghold where many of the Gunpowder plotters fled in the aftermath of November 5th.  Witchcraft and Catholicism were closely associated in the early seventeenth century in England; "witchery popery, popery witchery" was a popular saying at the time.  Where you find one evil, you'll find the other was a mindset that spawned hysteria and false accusations.  James I himself was obsessed with the dangers of witchcraft, even wrote a book about it, and ordered zealous witch hunts.  

Dr. John Dee is one of the historical characters who appear in The Daylight Gate. He also features in Prophecy, a historical thriller by S. J. Parris.  Dee sounds like a fictional character, but he really was Elizabeth I's official astrologer.  He was a necromancer who dabbled in alchemy, magic, and other dark arts, a gift to future historians and novelists.  Here he and Giordano Bruno, a notorious Elizabethan spy, investigate black magic and murder at the Queen's court. 

Shakespeare also makes an appearance in The Daylight Gate.  There is evidence that he spent time as a tutor in Lancashire and some scholars have even posited that he was a secret Catholic.  In Witches and Jesuits: Shakespeare's Macbeth, Garry Wills argues that the play can best be understood in the context of the religious and political turmoil of Shakespeare's times.  First staged in 1606, the horror of the Gunpowder Plot would have been fresh in the minds of the audience.  Wills compares the national trauma with America's experience of Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination.  Like Macbeth, James I was Scottish; the witchcraft in the play no mere entertainment but the dramatization of a perceived real threat to the nation. 

So Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day, which don't seem to have much in common at first, are actually both closely associated with witches.  Once you've read The Daylight Gate, though, you won't think of witches as those cute pointy-hatted creatures in Halloween illustrations any more. The Pendle witches are all too human and their fate pitiful and tragic.

 Rita T.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fun With Books

The Librarian by Giuseppe Arcimboldo
The Librarian by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

People keep on saying that paper and board, dead tree, turn-a-real-page-with-your-fingers books are dying out. I don't think so. There may be fewer of them in the future--e-books are so much better for things such as text books, manuals, and ephemera--but I think there will always be a place for books as an art form and a tactile, low-tech, no-distractions experience. Maybe we will even see a return to the elegant book making of yesteryear to give us more bang for our buck.

Meanwhile, even the most solid of books that we own in the library can take on another enjoyable dimension when paired with other technology. A number of popular children's books have emerged in recent years that have an on-line presence in addition to the books: sites that expand and enhance the story with original content not found in the book, games, quests, character studies, and chat rooms, etc. Books like the 39 Clues series and The Infinity Ring.  Even books for preschoolers can prolong the fun via a website.  Check out Scaredy Squirrel.

Transmedia--the weaving of many strands into the same story-- can go as far as costuming, fictional characters posting on Facebook, and role playing adventures out in the real world led by clues on your smart phone.

Cover of The Divided Path by Nial Kent
Published 1949 by Greenberg
This treatment isn't just for children's books. There are sites such as TruLOVEstories, an online romance hub featuring e-books, casual digital games, customized avatars, licensed merchandise, and other features, as well as sales of hard copy books. The site also offers both vintage and original romance content.  So if you run out of library romance novels, all is not lost. 

I really enjoyed some of the old covers posted on that romance site. The course of true love never did run smooth, however, as attested by these books banned in Australia over the years.

I'm a big fan of book covers and also of websites that play with book covers. One website asks, "What if one letter were dropped from the title of a book?"  Another asks, "What if best selling albums were books, instead?" And I'm asking, "What if a genre was made into cakes?" because I'm hungry that way.  Luckily there is an answer.

Of course, some people play with the whole book not just the covers.

And books past their prime needn't go to waste, either. Artist Ekaterina Panikanova "creates densely layered paintings across large spreads of old books and other documents, resulting in artwork that blurs the lines between painting, installation and collage."

So, in one form or another, books will be around for a long time, and just because a new form exists, it doesn't mean that the previous form has to die out. The forms can supplement and enhance each other. That's my story, anyway.