Andersonville Diary

For July, I thought something quintessentially American was called for, and as this is the sesquicentennial of the start of the Civil War, John Ransom’s diary of his 14 months as a P.O.W. in the Confederate prison system seemed a natural choice. 

Ransom was born in 1843, and joined the Union army in 1862.  He held the rank of sergeant and was the Quartermaster for Company A of the 9th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry. He was captured in Tennessee in 1863 and, after spending some time at Belle Isle prison in Virginia was sent to what is perhaps the most infamous prison camp in that brutal war – Andersonville in Georgia. 

Ironically, Ransom “flanked out” (i.e. he jumped the line) to get out of Belle Isle, where he was first imprisoned, figuring any other place had to be better – was he ever wrong.  In his first year at Andersonville, he writes, the combination of lack of food, poor conditions and a brutal administration result in the death of about half the prisoners at the camp. 

For example, one of the “dead lines” that prisoners are not supposed to get near is along the only source of fresh water in the camp, with the result that prisoners suffering extreme dehydration risk reaching beyond the line to get some fresh water, and are shot for their troubles.

Whether you hang your hat in gingerbread Victorian or a warehouse loft, the Library has the tools to help you uncover the history of your home. The Missouri Valley Special Collections contain a wealth of historical records in print, on microfilm, and online.

Though you can use the online resources without leaving the house you’re researching (assuming it has an Internet connection), some items on this list can only be accessed by visiting the Missouri Valley Room during regular hours.

Librarians are also available to answer questions – call 816.701.3427 or email lhistory@kclibrary.org.

Don’t miss: For antebellum architecture buffs, an ongoing speakers' series on Kansas City’s pre-Civil War homes continues this Sunday, July 10, 2011, at 2 p.m., at the Plaza Branch, where Tom Cooke examines the history of the Bent-Ward House (more info).

10 Resources for Researching Your Home’s History

 

1. City Directories

Last winter I experienced Disney World’s animated production It’s Tough to Be a Bug. I use the word experienced because no senses were left untouched. Wow, what imagination went into this nine-minute piece of entertainment! I walked out of the theater with all kinds of questions about creativity.

Is a person born with creativity? Can it be developed? Does artistic expression come easily to some? Why do some companies find awesome solutions while others primarily service the status quo? Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries, provides insight into some of these questions.

Business writer Peter Sims has corralled some entrepreneurial behaviors and attitudes into a philosophy he refers to as “little bets.” Don’t jump to the quick conclusion though that this book is just for business people. Little Bets will give ideas that will be useful to anyone who wants or needs to come up with new ideas or new ways of doing something – which means everyone.

It is a casual gesture – but when John Malkovich grabs a poker to stoke a fire warming his palatial estate, he also grabs filmgoers by issuing a sinister yet off-hand threat to Ray Winstone: "Do you want to tell me what you want, or do you want a truffling pig to find you dead in a month or two?"

What happens when people fall through the cracks? The dispossessed, the crazy street people, the runaways – they have to be running somewhere. In Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, we follow just such a person into just such a place

Richard Mayhew is the sort of character we can all relate to. He’s a securities trader, but he’s the kind who forgets to make reservations for important dinners and inadvertently collects troll dolls (people just kept giving them to him). He’s a bit of a bumbler. He has a beautiful, powerful fiancée, Jessica, but you really get the sense that she picked him to make herself look better.

Richard Mayhew is, when it comes down to it, a doofus who has lucked into what is supposed to be a perfect life. When Richard stops to help a bleeding, unconscious girl who falls onto the sidewalk in front of him, he finds that life suddenly gone.

He becomes essentially invisible – no one recognizes him, his apartment is given to someone else, and even the ATM won’t accept his card. He decides to find the girl, named Door, certain that she holds the key to getting his old life back. He follows her to London Below; the shadowy underworld made up of the basements, caverns, steam tunnels, and abandoned underground stations beneath the city. He joins her on her search for the persons responsible for murdering her family and attempting to murder her, hoping that he can somehow, someway, return to the London he knows.

In the summertime, the Library is more than just a place to read a book and cool off. It’s also a great place for talking gibberish. No, the heat hasn’t gotten to us quite yet – gibberish is just one of the ways theater instructor John Mulvey gets teens to think on their feet.

On a recent Friday afternoon, the orange-haired elder thespian led a group of 14 teens and preteens in a series of confidence-building improvisational comedy games. One such exercise included having off-stage students translate the gibberish issuing from the mouths of the actors on stage, creating a puppetmaster effect.

“My whole thing is, I want kids to be able to think for themselves,” says Mulvey, whose educational resumé includes the Theatre for Young America, Young Audiences and the Starlight Theatre.

For an hour and a half, under the lights in Truman Forum Auditorium, the teens engaged in the sorts of quick-witted sparring and comic improv you might see at the Westport Coffeehouse on a weekend night.

If you’re traveling abroad this summer, chances are pretty good that wherever you’re going, the people there speak English. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun – and improve your chances of making new friends – by learning some essential phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting.

For seven years Michael Elder begged his parents, Rich and Janet, for a dog. Their answer was always a predictable no. Then Janet received a surprise breast cancer diagnosis. It was a moment that changed her life forever and also her mind about having a family dog.

For Dorritt Kilbride, her mother, and her younger sister Jewell, a comfortable and affluent life in New Orleans high society is about to come to an end when a deceitful, irresponsible stepfather forces them to relocate to the untamed Spanish colony of Texas.

The Desires of Her Heart by Lyn Cote is the first novel in the Texas: Star of Destiny trilogy. This inspirational historical romance depicts the life of an independent, beautiful heroine as she and her family leave New Orleans and travel across the Sabine River into Nacogdoches in an attempt to settle in Austin, Texas. The family’s hope is to obtain free land under Moses and Stephen Austin’s agreement with the Spanish Crown to bring 300 Anglo-American families into Texas.

But Dorritt isn’t too keen on the idea going in. “I know we were close to ruin, but Texas? Why Texas?” she pleads with her stepfather, who has squandered the family’s fortune in a horse race.

When Chad Rohr lost his vision following an ATV accident at the age of 13, he never thought one day he'd read aloud to children. But last week at the Southeast Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, that's exactly what he did.

As his faithful seeing-eye golden lab, Caddy, lay patiently on the floor at his feet, Rohr traced his fingers across the Braille lines of Dr. Seuss's The Foot Book and Judith Viorst's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Seated on the meeting room floor listening to Rohr read were 83 kids from area day care centers. Southeast Children's Librarian Sandra Jones provided visual aids, holding up copies of the books to show the illustrations. (See more photos, courtesy of the Kansas City Star.) 

 "How can he see through his fingers?" one of the kids asked.

Three years ago, Blendtec CEO Tom Dickinson came up with a simple but highly effective means of advertising his product online to millions of people without spending millions of dollars. The secret formula: Household Object + High-end Blender = Supreme Entertainment for the Folks Online.

Delicious recipes, family stories, and an inseparable bond between parent and child make My Father’s Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow a touching standout from other recently-published celebrity cookbooks.

The roots for My Father’s Daughter began years ago with a giant supply of spaghetti and meatballs.  Paltrow was eighteen years old when her mother, actress Blythe Danner, was away working in New York.  Danner had kind-heartedly over-stocked the freezer with the spaghetti for Paltrow and her father, Bruce, but they were “meatballed out” and desperate to try something different – like cooking.

At the time of their drastic decision, neither Paltrow nor her father knew much about preparing meals except that they liked eating good food and tasting new dishes.  As they experimented with ingredients, they began watching the cooking channel together and learning basic things like the best way to chop an onion. Soon this determined father-daughter duo, which was already close, discovered that working together in the kitchen strengthened their parent-child bond even more.    

Every week here on the Teen Blog, we’ll be posting a roundup of the previous week’s Summer Reading book reviews submitted by our KCPL teens. To find out how you can get your reviews posted, check out the Teen Summer Reading page. And stay up with what’s going on this summer on our KC Library Teens Facebook page.

And without further ado, the latest batch of book reviews…

Revision book

The Kansas City Public Library has ample resources for the art and craft of writing. Whether you want to craft your first romance novel, construe a personal memoir, or piece together a modern political treatise, you will find plenty of books about writing books in the library, scattered throughout the 800 call number area, in all of our branches.

Use our catalog to find titles such as How to Write Mysteries, by Shannon O’Cork, and Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Getting Published, by Brian Stableford. Doing a keyword search on your genre of choice, i.e., “screenplay writing,” will yield plenty of titles in such categories as romance, science, plays, short stories, poetry, essays, novels and more.

In this tell-all book, Italian journalist Luca Rastello presents the story of an anonymous cocaine smuggler, referred to only as the Market, who gives an account of the war on drugs from his perspective.

With anecdotes spanning the continents of Europe, North and South America, and time periods ranging from the 1970s through the early 2000s, I Am the Market: How to Smuggle Cocaine by the Ton, In Five Easy Lessons would easily rise to the level of a globe-trotting Robert Ludlum thriller, if it wasn’t a real-life narrative of the global cocaine enterprise.

I first picked up this book because of its brazen and risqué title, though it was probably the teasing details in the jacket cover of the smugglers’ creative, ever-evolving tactics that got me reading: the drug-sniffing dogs provided to the police by kennels run by smugglers; the coca dissolved in water, hidden in electrical cables and building cranes; and the small-scale couriers who get caught as part of the overall plan to distract from larger shipments. As the Market says, “Nothing is better hidden than that which is in full view.”

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