The Heroines by Eileen Favorite

Anyone interested in novels that like to mess with classic literature should pick up The Heroines by Eileen Favorite.

This fanciful debut novel is full of literary humor poked liberally at the dramatic, tragic, soap-operatic heroines of the classics.

Budding teenager Penny Entwhistle is helping her mother, Anne-Marie, operate a home-based bed and breakfast business in a small Illinois town in 1974. Most of the guests are typical tourists, but every once in a while a special guest stumbles out of the woods or the rain and onto the Entwhistle door step. It is a heroine from classic literature seeking temporary respite from her tumultuous story.

Penny’s mother dutifully administers warmth and comfort, but no advice, to the heroines. For the most part, Penny doesn’t mind the demanding, whiny heroines, until the arrival of the most troublesome heroine of all, Deirdre of the Sorrows.

Deirdre is proving to be quite a handful. She is monopolizing all of Anne-Marie’s time and attention and has taken up residence in Penny’s bedroom. In fury, Penny runs to the forbidden woods behind her home and comes face to face with a Hero—or is he a Villain?—determined to steal Deirdre back to their tale.

Penny’s report of King Conor’s presence in the woods behind the bed and breakfast meets with a horrified reaction from her mother and well-meaning protection in the form of a psychiatric ward for hysterical and wayward girls. Now Penny must rely on her own heroic qualities to escape the hospital and summon her own Hero to her rescue.

Book groups can have a lot of fun with this title, too. Bring in copies of Madame Bovary, Gone With the Wind, Franny and Zooey, The Scarlet Letter and Wuthering Heights for members to peruse when the heroines make their appearance. Don’t be surprised if you start dipping into classics with a new perspective on the heroines of literature.

About the Author

Kaite Stover

Kaite Mediatore Stover is the Director of Readers’ Services at the Kansas City Public Library. She is a regular guest on KCUR's Book Doctors segment and moderator of The Kansas City Star’s FYI Book Club. She can tap dance, read tarot cards, and doesn’t bite.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook   Kansas City Public Library on Twitter   Kansas City Public Library on Flickr   Kansas City Public Library on YouTube   Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest   KC Unbound RSS feed

Summer Reading Program: Zoo to You Events!

Hey kids! This summer you can get up close and personal with creatures like the barred tiger salamander (the state amphibian of Kansas) and the sugar glider (a tiny Australian marsupial related to the opossum).

In June and July curators and docents from the Kansas City Zoo are visiting branches of the Kansas City Public Library to make free presentations.

Children will learn about exotic animals from experts and get a chance to hold an ostrich egg and rub their fingers over the pelts of several animals.


[video:http://youtu.be/30Gk9YjxwYw]


Here's the list of upcoming Zoo to You events at the Library:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
10:00 a.m. at the Southeast Branch

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
10:00 a.m. at the Westport Branch

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
11:00 a.m. at the Trails West Branch

Wednesday, July 10, 2013
2:00 p.m. at the Sugar Creek Branch

Monday, July 15, 2013
6:00 p.m. at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch

Tuesday, July 16, 2013
10:00 a.m. at Central Library

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook  Kansas City Public Library on Twitter  Kansas City Public Library on Flickr  Kansas City Public Library on YouTube  Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest  Film Blog RSS feed

Onward and Upward with Enterprise!

After two years of study and implementation, the Kansas City Public Library’s new on-line catalog – known as Enterprise – hits the Internet this month.

Digital Branch manager David LaCrone, the man in charge of implementing the new system, says that while patrons will notice some new bells and whistles, most of the changes aren’t obvious – except that they make searches of the catalog more accessible and easier.

Q. Lots of us users feel that the current online catalog works fine. Why change it?

We'd like you to test our new catalog and let us know what you think.
Try it now! >>>

LaCrone: “From a purely technical standpoint, our current catalog has been so heavily customized over the years that we just could no longer update it effectively.

“It also bears noting that our current software isn‘t compatible with newer Internet Explorer browsers. If you are using Windows 7 or 8, major portions of our catalog are ‘broken.’ You can’t use them properly. That certainly doesn’t make us look very good. We needed to go to a next-generation platform that would serve the future, not just the present.”

Q. What about new bells and whistles?

LaCrone: “One of the things the current catalog doesn’t offer – something that people have been asking for – is the ability to create wish lists. Now you’ll be able to keep track of titles that interest you, even if you’re not ready to put a hold on them right now.

“This is a really practical feature. I’ve worked at a library desk and you are always getting people coming in who say they want to find a book they saw reviewed, but cannot remember the title or the author. Now as soon as you read about a book or CD or movie you think you’ll like, you can add it to your wish list. It will be there when you’re ready to order it.”

Q. Will the new catalog look or behave differently from the one we’re accustomed to?

LaCrone: “Visually, it will be less crowded. We’re getting rid of the word cloud feature that ate up a big part of the screen. It’s a much cleaner look.

“And we think the new search function is a piece of cake. There are dropdown functions that allow you to search in a particular branch, by subject, author, title…that allow you to limit the search to books, movies, music., e-books, young readers…

“Really, if you can use our current catalog, this shouldn’t pose many problems. There will be a bit of a learning curve, but people will find that navigating their accounts is now much more intuitive.”

Q. When can we take the new catalog out for a test drive?

LaCrone: “Very shortly we’ll have it up on the site, alongside the current web catalog. For a while you’ll be able to use both the old and new catalogs. There will be a link to a survey where patrons can provide feedback. We’re happy to do some tinkering to make it even better.”

June 21, 2013 – Editor's Note: Our new catalog is available to try out and provide feedback. Let us know what you think!

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook  Kansas City Public Library on Twitter  Kansas City Public Library on Flickr  Kansas City Public Library on YouTube  Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest  Film Blog RSS feed

Berlin Diary by William L. Shirer

William Shirer opened the foreword to his published diary as follows: "Most diaries…are written with no thought of publication. They have no reader's eye in view. They are personal, intimate, confidential, a part of oneself that is better hidden from the crass outside world. This journal makes no pretense to being of that kind."

Shirer was already a well-regarded journalist when he took a job as a correspondent in Berlin for the Universal News Service, one of the wire services of the Hearst press empire. In his diary entry where he reports on this move, he notes he is going “from bad to Hearst.” In going to Berlin in 1934 he knew he'd have a story to tell, so from the very beginning, he was writing not just for the immediate news audience in America, but also keeping notes with a view to publishing some account later. The book he eventually wrote, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, is an excellent general history of Nazi Germany.

Inasmuch as he was a journalist, Shirer was a trained observer, constantly gathering information and attempting to make sense of the social and political trends of the day, and so this work does have an historic significance. This diary was published almost immediately upon Shirer’s return to the States (in early 1941), months before Japanese bombers hit Pearl Harbor and the United States entered the war. And in reading these observations jotted down at the time, even if somewhat modified in the writing or in the later move to publication—Shirer admits that not all of his notes made it out of Germany, and that revisions were made before publication—one gets a contemporary view (from an American perspective) of the Third Reich prior to the US’ entry into the war.

Such a view, as one might expect, will not reflect knowledge of the extent of Nazi atrocity – Shirer is aware of harsh actions taken against the Jews, but he did not have knowledge of the Holocaust at the time, nor is it reflected in this. Even so, there are strange omissions – e.g. there is a total absence in this work of an account of the awful evening of Kristallnacht ("the Night of Broken Glass" – Nov. 9-10, 1938), in which Nazi thugs ravaged Jewish businesses, homes and synagogues.

Shirer is clearly amazed at what he sees as a German tendency to kowtow to authority, and he clearly believes that in other countries (the US, Britain, and Holland, for example) Hitler's lies would have been exposed before he could take power and do so much damage. As an American myself, I'd like to think so too, but in my own life I've seen plenty of examples here of people drinking the Kool-Aid pushed by those in power.

Shirer also glosses over the Berlin Olympics and the Winter Games at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, both of which he attended. He tells us little more than that he attended the events and was so worn out by the crowds that he begged off attending the 1936 Nurmberg Party Rally—he had attended previous years' rallies.

There are some striking moments, as when Shirer talks about tricks he used to get material on the air and past the censors – most of the censors had learned English in England, and so did not pick up on some of Shirer's significant use of American slang. Here too, he seems to think that he'd have a freer hand in reporting war time activity in the US or in Britain, but the Allies were also quite careful about what made it on the air.

One story he told that I found especially striking was at some event in Goering's honor. He dishes dirt about the hostile relationship of Goering and Goebbels, and how Goebbels dared the press to print various unflattering remarks about Goering, but none did (even Shirer did not take the bait here). At another event, he shares how Goering, who had a pretty good relationship with the press—he came across as an affable guy—is stung when the press laughs when Goering talks of how the Nazis treated their enemies humanely. Goering sputtered that it was no laughing matter and that he, at least, was humane.

There is no clear sense in the book that America will enter the war – remember the book was published before Pearl Harbor. Though it is clear that Roosevelt and his allies are clearly sympathetic to the British and hostile to the Nazis, Shirer is constantly amazed at the isolationist camp in the US, led by Charles Lindbergh, and people like Hamilton Fish and William Borah in the US Senate, and at the number of American businessmen who feel the press has been too hard on Herr Hitler.

Shirer had the good fortune of being at the right place at the right time. He was also fortunate in being tagged by Edward R. Murrow to be part of CBS’ European team, the best American news team in Europe. He is quite frank in his reporting, even noting that foreign correspondents (himself included) in Germany practiced a pretty vigorous self-censorship prior to the outbreak of war (when the government in Berlin was much stricter in its censorship of the press). Still, he had remarkable access – witnessing the Anschluss first-hand, and seeing Paris after France surrendered to Germany.

This is not an unexpurgated document of Shirer’s experience in Germany, but it still remains a remarkable reflection of what many well-informed American observers saw and believed at the time regarding Hitler and his government. And, as such, it is a fascinating document.

About the Author

Bernard Norcott-Mahany, a library technical assistant at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, is our resident connoisseur of classic literature. He is also the leader of the Black Classics and In the Heat of the Night book groups.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook    Kansas City Public Library on Twitter    Kansas City Public Library on YouTube    Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest    KC Unbound RSS feed

Amazing Response for Sandra Day O’Connor at the Library!

Over the last 6+ years, the Kansas City Public Library has sought to transform the way the people of greater Kansas City use libraries to stay informed about current events and learn more about landmark moments in history with an aggressive schedule of programs featuring scholars, authors, and public figures made possible in large part due to a generous grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The response has been overwhelmingly positive with more than 14,000 people subscribing to the Library’s monthly print calendar of events and some 13,000 receiving weekly email updates.

On Monday, June 3, 2013, the Library (along with our partners at the Truman Library Institute and the Federal Court Historical Society) hosted retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for a discussion of her new book Out of Order. The Library received nearly 1,400 RSVPs, declaring the free admission event a “sell out” two weeks before her appearance. Close to 1,000 people actually attended the event, filling the Central Library in downtown Kansas City with 500 people in the live viewing area and another 400+ in closed-circuit viewing areas in two mezzanines, an exhibit gallery, and the Grand Reading Room.

Central staff responded to this unprecedented turnout. Members of the Public Affairs and Facilities departments, joined by a dozen librarians, ensured that the process went smoothly and Library officials received rave reviews about the event and outstanding public service provided by those working the event.



Lining up to enter the Central Library - Photo courtesy of Mark McDonald.

The first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States, O’Connor has learned firsthand the inner workings, history, evolution, and influence of the nation’s highest court.

The retired justice—who at 83 exhibits an energy level that keeps even her protective escort of U.S. Marshals busy—shared those insights in a presentation that combined personal insight with some big laughs.



The line wrapped around the Central Library - Photo courtesy of Amanda Graor.


Crowds waited outside before the event - Photo courtesy of Mark McDonald.

Out of Order sheds light on the 200 years of change and upheaval that transformed the Supreme Court from its uncertain beginnings into the remarkable institution we know today. From the early days of circuit-riding—when justices traveled thousands of miles each year on horseback to hear cases—to the changes in civil rights ushered in by Earl Warren and Thurgood Marshall, O'Connor weaves together stories and lessons from the Court's past.

Born to a ranch family near El Paso, Texas, Sandra Day O'Connor grew up on the Lazy B cattle ranch near Duncan, Arizona. She received her B.A. and law degree from Stanford University. Nominated by President Ronald Reagan as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, she took her seat as the first female justice in 1981. O'Connor retired from the Supreme Court in on January 31, 2006.



Library Director Crosby Kemper III introduced Sandra Day O'Connor - Photo courtesy of Mark McDonald.


Sandra Day O'Connor speaking at the Central Library - Photo courtesy of Mark McDonald.




Kirk Hall was filled to capacity for Justice O'Connor's talk, as were several overflow rooms within the Library - Photos courtesy of Mark McDonald.

Justice O’Connor was the biggest headliner at the Library this week, but hardly the only one. On Tuesday (June 4, 2013), the Library hosted Steve Coll for a discussion of his new book Private Empire; and on Wednesday (June 5, 2013), Cynthia Kierner discussed the life and legacy of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph. More than 250 people attended Coll’s talk and another 300 were on hand for Kierner’s presentation.



View more photos from this event on our Flickr page.

Want to know about other programming at the Kansas City Public Library? Check out our future events on kclibrary.org, and sign up for our weekly emails so you can always stay on top of what is happening at the Library!



About the Author

Liesl Christman

Liesl Christman is the Digital Content Specialist for The Kansas City Public Library, managing content for the Library's blogs and social media accounts. She is an unabashed enthusiast of comic books, roller derby, and all things food.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook    Kansas City Public Library on Twitter    Kansas City Public Library on YouTube    Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest    KC Unbound RSS feed

Revisiting America's Music: Pat Nichols

Lawrence bluesman Pat Nichols made some new fans this spring when he kicked off the Library’s ambitious America’s Music series at the Plaza Branch.

It was blues night, and Nichols began the evening by serenading patrons at the pre-event reception. Later he wowed the crowd with a display of picking on the National steel guitar.

Now Nichols has released a CD of performances, Blues from the Delta and Beyond, that was recorded earlier this year at producer Mike West’s recording studio in a former garage in Lawrence.

“Normally when you cut a record you pick the songs in advance and work on them during recording until you have them just right,” Nichols said.

“We did it differently. It was a lot like the early blues recordings in the 1920s and ‘30s where the producer would have these bluesmen perform a song two or three times and, later on, the record company would pick one version to release.”

Nichols said that over an 11-hour recording session he played a big chunk of his repertoire with virtually no advance planning.

“If a first take was good, we kept it and moved on to something else,” he said. “If by the third take it wasn’t making the grade, we’d try a different song. The idea was for my producer to pick out the very best cuts. Some of the songs that ended up on the CD were those I’d have chosen ahead of time to put on CD. Others weren’t.”


[video:http://youtu.be/ROZOjOQXOTc]

Songs on Blues from the Delta… range from the traditional (“St. James Infirmary Blues,” “Walking Blues”) and a Willie Dixon classic (“Little Red Rooster”) to three tunes penned by California-based bluesman Kenny Sultan.

And Nichols contributes three of his originals: “Kansas City Blues,” “Boogie Woogie Dance,” and “Bad Luck With Women,” the latter an amusing lament about a guy whose romantic choices are always wrong:

Well that woman I got is mean as can be

I got a house full of children don’t look like me

Bad Luck, yeah, that’s bad luck

I got bad luck with women, happens all the time.

Nichols says the CD soon will be available through Amazon.com and iTunes. If you can’t wait, contact him at kingbee@sunflower.com. And you can check out patnicholsblues.com or Pat Nichols Country Blues on Facebook.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook  Kansas City Public Library on Twitter  Kansas City Public Library on Flickr  Kansas City Public Library on YouTube  Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest  Film Blog RSS feed

Building a Community of Readers with Books to Go

Most library patrons must make a trip to the library to take advantage of its many services.

But for more than 6,500 Kansas City children at more than 351 sites, the Books to Go program brings the library to them.

Created almost two decades ago as part of an outreach effort that began even before the Building a Community of Readers initiative, Books to Go provides a rotating collection of books to locations where hundreds of local children spend much of their week: in-home childcare providers, day cares, schools (public and parochial), churches, the YMCA, and other sites.

And not just any books. Books to Go staffers Tiffany Alexander and Peggy Farney hand pick titles to complement the various programs directed at these young readers.

“We take requests,” explains outreach manager Mary Olive Thompson. “Teachers will develop themes for their programs – perhaps insects or sailboats – and Tiffany and Peggy select and fulfill these special requests.

“And we work closely with the library’s collection development team to get the books we need.”

The cost to the schools and day cares? Nothing. The entire program is built into the Library’s annual budget. And there are other perks in the Books to Go program. Like no overdue fees or replacement fines.

“We want the children to be able to take the books home with them,” Thompson says. “And if some books vanish and are never returned … well, they go to book heaven. We remove that as an issue so that children can just concentrate on the joy of reading.”

To make reading and sharing books that much easier, the Library provides participating children with Books to Go bags in which to carry their reading matter.

“It’s something that simplifies the process... and the book bags encourage the children to share books with their families.”

Going a step further is the Stories to Go program in which outreach associates Derrick Barnes and Rob Herron visit the sites to put on a show.

Barnes, the father of four, said that during a Stories to Go visit he and Herron may read to children from a book, sing, dance, play instruments – even put on a puppet show.

“We do a beat-box version of ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider.’ Anything that allows the children to interact with us,” said Barnes, who is himself the author of children’s books.

“It’s probably the only job where you are greeted by cheers and hugs.”

Barnes and Herrom put on between 15 and 20 shows a week, both as individuals and as a team. They’ve learned how much their young audiences can handle.

“You can lose a crowd that young,” Barnes said, “so the books and stories can’t be too complicated or too long winded. You have to be thinking like a child — never talk down to them. We always start out with a conversation, listening to the children’s ideas.”

The Stories to Go program is funded by the Building a Community of Readers initiative.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook  Kansas City Public Library on Twitter  Kansas City Public Library on Flickr  Kansas City Public Library on YouTube  Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest  Film Blog RSS feed

Tower by Nigel Jones

It has stood as a landmark for over nine hundred years. It has held infamous prisoners and royalty. Millions flock to it every year. The Tower of London has served many functions during its long life.

Nigel Jones in Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London details the story of this famous structure. William the Conqueror who became King of England in 1066 started this fortress in 1078 with the central White Tower. For several centuries successive monarchs expanded on the design building ever stronger fortifications. It also served as a Royal Palace until the time of the Tudors. The complex consisted of the middle White Tower with many smaller towers around the perimeter.

From its earliest days, the Tower began to be used as a prison especially for political prisoners. Rival claimants to the throne found themselves behind its walls. Over time, its reputation struck fear in anyone who entered under guard. Many who disagreed or angered a monarch were sent to the Tower. Even monarchs and their family members faced imprisonment in the structure.

Many well-known individuals spent time in the Tower. Henry VI became a victim of the War of the Roses and faced death by order of Edward IV. Edward’s own sons known as the Princes in the Tower were killed there though historians debate who committed the actual murder. Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, two wives of Henry VIII found themselves at the chopping block. The reign of the Tudor monarchs saw many Catholics and Protestants in the Tower as the religion changed with the whim of the ruler. The Tudors disliked any opposition and seemed happy to have their prisoners tortured. Sir Walter Raleigh stayed many years there as a prisoner. While in the Tower, he began to write a history of the world and also conducted scientific experiments.

The Tower continued to house political prisoners during the English Civil War from both sides of the conflict with some meeting a brutal end. William Penn of Pennsylvania spent time there before coming to America. Another early American imprisoned there included Henry Laurens, president of the Continental Congress.

The Duke of Wellington victor at Waterloo became constable of the Tower as the complex itself ceased being used to house political prisoners. He helped make it a place for tourists to visit. He oversaw the rebuilding of it after a fire. During the two world wars, prisoners once again were held in the fortress including Rudolph Hess. The last prisoner left in 1954.

The Tower is most famous for housing the Crown Jewels since the time of Henry III. Several attempts have been made to steal them over the years. One thief who tried and failed to steal the jewels, found himself a prisoner briefly before being rewarded with land and a pension. For many years, the Tower boasted of a zoo with lions, tigers, elephants, and other curiosities that people came to see. The Royal Mint also had its home in the fortress with many including Isaac Newton serving as caretaker. As to be expected, several ghosts are said to haunt the complex. The Tower of London has been a fixture in English history for centuries. Its colorful past ensures that interest in the palace, prison, and fortress should last for years to come.

As an English history fanatic, I enjoyed this in depth history of the Tower of London. I remember seeing the Crown Jewels in the Tower on a trip to London, but would like to have more time to spend there. Next to visiting, reading all about it brings it to life. English history has a vibrant history and the Tower of London plays a big part of it.

About the Author

Judy Klamm is a reference librarian in Central Reference. She has written book reviews for Library Journal and various Presbyterian publications.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook   Kansas City Public Library on Twitter   Kansas City Public Library on Flickr   Kansas City Public Library on YouTube   Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest   KC Unbound RSS feed

Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski

What happens when you combine a professional organizer with a messy personal life, an eccentric artist who considers hoarding a full-time job, and a huge secret that one of them is trying to keep from the other? You get Jill Smolinski’s newest novel, Objects of My Affection.

In this amusing and sometimes frustrating story about deciding what is valuable and what to let go, Lucy Bloom’s life is a disaster. She naively thought that when she published her first book, Things Are Not People, that she would become a best-selling author and her phone would be ringing off the hook with clients wanting her to organize their lives from A to Z.

Instead, her book tanks, her boyfriend dumps her, she loses her job, and worst of all, she sells her home to pay for her teenage son’s drug rehab bill and is left with nowhere to live.

Things seem to look up, however, when Lucy is hired by the son of Marva Meier Rios, a wealthy, reclusive artist, to unclutter her home. Lucy is excited about the job because it pays well and will give her a chance to get her feet back on the ground. However, when she enters Marva’s house, she is shocked. Except for small winding trails, the house is packed to the rafters with “Marva’s stuff.” Worse yet, if Lucy wants to earn a bonus that she desperately needs, she must finish the job in a matter of weeks.

As Lucy and Marva begin digging through the overwhelming piles of junk mixed with treasure in Marva’s home, they also begin to unearth their secrets to each other and sort through the painful clutter of emotions and relationships that hinder their personal lives. The one thing that Lucy can’t get Marva to tell her, though, is why it is suddenly so important for her to get her house in order and why does it have to do done by a very specific deadline.

Published in 2012, Objects of My Affection is a quick read with an easy writing style and somewhat falls into the “chick lit” category. It is also the type of book that is great for taking along on vacation because it is engaging without being too deep.

The one annoyance with the novel is that Lucy throughout most of the book is in denial about her life and allows people to walk all over her. At times, you find yourself wanting to shake her into reality. But by the end of the story, Lucy does begin to understand this weakness in herself and takes big steps to rectify the problem.

Objects of My Affection is the third book for author Smolinski, who has also written for many major women’s magazines in a career that actually started quite young. She was bitten by the writing bug at age six after creating her first short story and being inspired by her first grade teacher, Mrs. Lipson, whom Smolinski says was “amazing.”

Smolinski also has a wicked sense of humor, which is seen not only throughout Objects of My Affection, but also in her video, “Book Launch Gone Bad."

[video:http://youtu.be/zYCV6Te3BIY align:center]

To check out a copy of Objects of My Affection, simply visit the library catalog and reserve a copy, which you can pick up at the branch of your choice.

About the Author

Amy Morris

Amy Morris is a librarian technical assistant at the Westport Branch. She earned a B.A. in English, with an emphasis in creative writing, from Avila University. Besides reading and writing, Amy enjoys traveling, art, playing the piano, being creative, and spending time with her family. She also writes her own blog at livingkansascity.blogspot.com

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook   Kansas City Public Library on Twitter   Kansas City Public Library on Flickr   Kansas City Public Library on YouTube   Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest   KC Unbound RSS feed

The Mysterious Mind behind Lemony Snicket

What secrets are lurking in the mind of Daniel Handler? I recently had the opportunity to speak with the author, better known as his character/alter-ego Lemony Snicket, the narrator of the 13-book saga A Series of Unfortunate Events. The series has been published in at least 41 languages and has won numerous literary awards, even spawning a 2004 film adaptation with Jim Carrey.

However, A Series of Unfortunate Events is not the entirety of Handler’s work. He is the author of several novels including The Basic Eight, Why We Broke Up, and most recently The Dark, a picture book collaboration with Caldecott-winning illustrator Jon Klassen.

What books had the greatest impact on you as a child?

Probably The Hapless Child by Edward Gorey; Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl; The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder – Those are probably the really big ones.

In all those books, kind of terrible things happen. And all of them are atmospheric. And they involve unsupervised young people in creepy surroundings, and I really like that. That was my idea of a good time.

What role have libraries played in your life?

It’s hard to imagine what role they haven’t played. When I was a child the library was the place where I could go unsupervised. My dad would take me usually, and he would be in the adult section and I would be in the children’s section. I had some librarians who would help me, but one of the ways that they would help me when I was a child was by making me feel unguided. I felt totally alone when I was exploring. I’m sure they helped curate what I was reading when I was checking out, but they kept me thinking that I could take anything. And that was very liberating experience.

Then in college there were two really wonderful libraries on campus where I was at, which was Wesleyan University. I spent all my time there, working. When I was a young adult in particular, I didn’t have any money, so then libraries were my education as I was trying to be a writer. I didn’t buy any books at all; I was only checking books out of the library and that was a glorious feeling.

And then now, I’m not broke, but the library is more of a place I can work. It’s a great place to work if you’re thinking about the diversity and injustices of the world because you will see that in a public library in a big city, unlike many other places where a successful writer may be alone to write, in his own studio or something like that. It’s good because you see all kinds of people there doing all kinds of things.

What do you love about writing?

Blank Paper. I like blank paper a lot.

Why is that?

I like how it looks, and I like how it looks with ink on it.

What advice do you have for young people who want to become authors?

Do something else. [laughs] I mean, I guess read a lot and write a lot and take a lot of notes. I think writers really have to find their own path. I think one thing about being a writer is that it has a certain kind of allure for a certain kind of person, and you kind of have to get over that mythology. You have to figure out if you really like it or not.

I imagine being a librarian is kind of the same thing. It seems to me that many people who might be drawn to the librarian profession have something of an idea of “Oh, I’ll be alone reading all day in a beautiful space…” Whereas actually being a librarian is not that, so you have to learn that you like the actual thing rather than the idea of it. I think being a writer has some of the same things. There’s a fantasy that doesn’t have anything to do with sitting around and making your book better. You have to figure out if you really like to be alone for six hours a day, working on things on paper.

You use a pseudonym in your writing… Do you enjoy the extra anonymity that comes from that? Does it come with any advantages or disadvantages?

I guess the advantage is that if I’m buying ointment with a credit card, no one recognizes me.

I never talk about Lemony Snicket as a pseudonym, because I think of him as a character. He’s the narrator of the books, and I thought it would be fun to publish the books under the name of the narrator. So it’s kind of splitting hairs, but it wasn’t to keep me away from the teeming people or anything like that. I just thought it would be interesting to have the books be mysterious. And I think that’s one of the things people like about the books. They exist in some mysterious world.

Since early literacy skills are so key to future success, how do you think we can all build a stronger community of readers?

Perhaps I’m wrong about this, but I worry more about communities of adult readers than communities of young readers, because I think for the most part, young people, whether they're strong readers or not, they don’t have to be told that it’s something important to do.

I get more concerned about adults that kind of slack off about reading and often times when I meet parents who are having trouble with their kids reading, I say, “What are you reading right now?” and they’re like “Ugh, I’m so busy… I started this book on vacation six months ago and I haven’t finished it…” And I think, "That’s why."

I like to think about ways for adults to get as geekily involved in literature as children are. But I think writers are always asked that question, and we already love literature. We are kind of the last people to ask. We are already fans of it. Its inexplicable to me that people wouldn’t be interested in reading.


About the Author

Liesl Christman

Liesl Christman is the Digital Content Specialist for The Kansas City Public Library, managing content for the Library's blogs and social media accounts. She is an unabashed enthusiast of comic books, roller derby, and all things food.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook    Kansas City Public Library on Twitter    Kansas City Public Library on YouTube    Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest    KC Unbound RSS feed

Words in Air: the Complete Correspondence of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, ed. Thomas Travisano and Saskia Hamilton

In his poem, "To Sir Henry Wotton," John Donne observes:
"Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls,
For thus, friends absent speak. This ease controls
The tediousness of my life; but for these
I could ideate nothing which could please…"
This is a sentiment Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell would heartily endorse.

The two were in the top tier of American poets in the 2nd half of the 20th c. They quickly became friends after their initial meeting in 1947, a time when Lowell was already an established poet, and Bishop was just breaking onto the scene. They remained life-long correspondents, producing a substantial body of letters up until 1977 when Lowell died.
As two important American poets, they knew well other great poets of their time: Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, Randall Jarrell. Much of their correspondence deals with the craft of writing poetry, and reflects on what it means to be a professional poet.
In an early exchange, Robert Lowell, then working as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress (this position would become that of Poet Laureate), writes Bishop about recordings she made of some of her poetry (the recording quality of some was poor) for the Library, and Bishop sends a series of observations and suggestions about Lowell’s poem, "Falling Asleep over the Aeneid"; in his reply, Lowell indicates that he had already incorporated many of her suggestions even before getting her letter, which suggests a high level of sympathetic understanding between the two.
Unlike Horace’s verse epistles of last month, which were essays in verse on philosophical and literary matters, always intended for a wider audience, the letters in this collection were not intended for publication. This collection is one of a plethora of books of letters from famous people, gathered after their death and edited by some scholar. I find many such collections a big disappointment as they are rather broadly based and even prosaic. You’ll get an author writing to his agent or publisher or editor about royalties, or bills, or other mundane matters. Often the letters in such collections are very brief, more like business correspondence than anything else.
This collection, though, is a of a correspondence between two friends, who are professionals (both famous American poets), both very concerned with their craft and each serving as a very conscientious and generous commentator and editor of the other’s work. In addition, despite their personal differences (Lowell from a famous Boston family, a Brahmin, who liked to think of himself as just one of the boys; Bishop, though she had gone to Vassar, often worried about money, herself a very private person), they care a lot about each other. And as people in the top tier of versifiers, they talk about important poetical matters in the 2nd half of the 20th c. (what it meant to be poetry consultant or professor in poetry; the relative merits of other poets; the workings of the various committees that choose the poetry awards). And we get to see the two poets for almost their entire careers – their correspondence starts soon after Bishop’s first book of verse comes out, and pretty early in Lowell’s career, and continues until Lowell’s death in 1977.
This collection is also notable in that both Lowell and Bishop are not much for small talk. Bishop does send her fair share of postcards to Lowell, but both Lowell and Bishop write fairly long and thoughtful essays. Though full of the niceties of the epistolary form dealing with personal matters, there is plenty of meat here on matters of language and literature. A reader of these letters can get a good sense of the pains a poet takes in crafting his/her poem, in choosing the right word, and of being challenged by another respected poet over word choice and structure.
One remarkable feature of this correspondence was how close these two poets were, though separated by class, by sexual orientation, by personality. Bishop's poetry displays an amazing attention to detail in observing the world around her, composed in a cool style, while Lowell's verse is much more reflective of his inner self – he is considered an early "confessional" poet, even the “father” of confessional poetry. The two only met occasionally – very often plans to meet just didn’t work out. They spoke on the phone more frequently, but their friendship rests largely on their respect for and enjoyment of the other's works, and on their voluminous correspondence. Bishop claimed that, when she was working on her own verse, she had to take care not to read Lowell's work, as the power of his work would affect her own compositions, while Lowell took Bishop's criticisms of his poems very seriously, and imitated some of her poems in his work.
The two had been introduced in 1947 by a fellow poet, Randall Jarrell. At the time, all three were young poets, Lowell the best known of the three -- he was already the Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress. Lowell remained the best known of the three, and served as the inspiration for the confessional poets who followed, some of whom, like Anne Sexton, he taught. Bishop remained lesser known until the 1970s when she took a position at Harvard, and gave many readings of her work around the country.
This book, though it can be read with some pleasure even if you have little knowledge of either poet, will be a much more enjoyable and valuable experience if you have read some of their poetry. So I'd recommend Lowell's For the Union Dead or Life Lines and Bishop's North and South; a Cold Spring, or simply look them up on Poetry.org (http://www.poetry.org) and read a selection of their works there.


BERNARD NORCOTT-MAHANY

About the Author

Bernard Norcott-Mahany, a library technical assistant at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, is our resident connoisseur of classic literature. He is also the leader of the Black Classics and In the Heat of the Night book groups.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook    Kansas City Public Library on Twitter    Kansas City Public Library on YouTube    Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest    KC Unbound RSS feed

Staff Reading Picks for May

We are starting a regular blog post here at the Kansas City Public Library: Staff Picks!

Every month our staff will list their reading selections. It could be a new release, an old favorite, or just something unique that they have come across. Whatever it may be, it caught the attention of the employees here at the Kansas City Public Library, and we want you to be as excited about reading as we are.

Here are this month’s titles:

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

“Ella lives on a tiny fictional island off South Carolina that prizes literacy and language above everything. On the island is a monument to a deceased citizen, revered because he invented a phrase in which every letter of the alphabet is used at least once. Trouble starts when a few letters fall off the monument. Concerned residents take it as a sign from above, and ban the fallen letters from use. Then the rest of the letters start to fall. It's a quirky story about language and censorship and what happens when society goes to extremes.” – Kate, Missouri Valley Special Collections

The Incident Report by Martha Baillie

In her novel told entirely in the form of library incident reports, author Martha Baillie has created a unique narrative. What is an incident report, you ask? Whenever anything goes sideways in library land, whether it is a disruptive patron, theft, vandalism, or other malfeasance, your hardworking library workers must document the occurrence. Suggested by Kaite, Reader's Services

Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie King

“Right now I am reading the book Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie King. It is a novel/mystery and kind of fun. It seems to be: Sherlock Holmes, meet your new assistant, a young woman who is his neighbor. The two become friends and she begins to help him with his cases. It is the start of a series. This might interest Sherlock Holmes fans.” - Judy, Reference Services

Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington

The candid biography of the Vogue magazine creative director, with pen and ink illustrations by Coddington herself.

“I just read Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington. I felt like you did not have to be passionate about fashion to enjoy this memoir or ever had read Vogue magazine. It came out last November.” – Angela, North-East Branch

The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber

The Anatomist’s Wife is a well-paced historical mystery pot-boiler with a very likeable central character. Set in early Victorian Scotland at an estate house party that ends in murder. It's a good read-alike for Before Versailles by Karleen Koen or Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James.” – Melissa, Library Service Program


The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch

“Fantasy is at its best when it draws upon other types of genre fiction to fill out its stories. Otherwise, you're just reading about a bunch of phony spells, pretend animals, and other assorted made up gobbledygook. The Lies of Locke Lamora is as much a well-crafted heist story with a smattering of Dickens' Oliver Twist thrown in as it is a traditional work of high fantasy. Locke and his friends make up a gang of young thieves who would like nothing more than to go about robbing from and scamming the noble citizens of their city in peace. The city in question is called Camorr and resembles more medieval Venice than say, Camelot with all its gallant knights rushing into battle and whatnot. However, despite their earnest desire to go unnoticed, the scope and success of their operations piques the interest of Camorr’s new crime lord. When both parties aren’t able to reach a mutual agreement, the gang finds its schemes hamstrung by a particularly troublesome warlock for hire.” – Michael, Missouri Valley Special Collections

Hungry Monkey: a Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater by Matthew Amster-Burton

Hungry Monkey details a food writer’s attempt to raise his young daughter to eat something besides processed and bland kid’s food.

“I recently finished Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton. Very funny. It’s not an advice book, because the author doesn’t claim that what works with his child will work with yours. I loved it, and I’m not a parent.”– Bob, Human Resources

Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy

Two men, identified only as Black and White, debate life and death from wildly different worldviews after encountering each another during a suicide attempt on a subway platform.

“Cormac McCarthy's Sunset Limited is one of my favorite books although it is written as a play. I just reread it.” – Angela, North-East Branch

About the Author

Liesl Christman

Liesl Christman is the Digital Content Specialist for The Kansas City Public Library, managing content for the Library's blogs and social media accounts. She is an unabashed enthusiast of comic books, roller derby, and all things food.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook    Kansas City Public Library on Twitter    Kansas City Public Library on YouTube    Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest    KC Unbound RSS feed

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Earlier this year, the final book came out of a series that I have been reading most of my adult life. Its author never lived to see the final books published. The Wheel of Time is a master work and is a treatment of the Epic in prose form for the modern age.

I have spent the last several years at a library desk looking for people that were interested in The Lord of the Rings books or were piqued by The Chronicles of Narnia now that they’ve seen the movie, grown-up teenagers who were ready for something else after finishing Harry Potter and Eragon, and the recent onslaught of viewers ready to see what Tyrion is going to do next and not able to wait for the next installment of The Game of Thrones; I have seen all of these people come in looking for the next adventure in epic fantasy and I’ve asked them, “have you heard of the Wheel of Time?”

The Wheel of Time is a 14 book epic fantasy series by Robert Jordan. Jordan began the books in 1990 with The Eye of the World. The story opens at the Bel Tine festival in the village of the Two Rivers. Bel Tine normally welcomes the coming of Spring. But Spring is late this year and there are unexpected visitors in the village for the festival: Padan Fain the peddler, an extravagant gleeman named Thom, and an Aes Sedai (named by some as the witches) and her Warder.

In the dark after the festival Trollocs attack. Trollocs are fabled creatures of myth: horrible, looming creatures that go on two legs with the body of a man and the head of a boar, a hawk, or a goat. But they prove all too real as they sweep the Two Rivers, killing, burning, and destroying the peace of the quiet village.

Moiraine Sedai and her warder, Lan, provide aid where they can to defend the village, but the altercation pushes her purpose out into the open. The Trolloc raid is something that has not been seen in the area of the Two Rivers in hundreds of years. The Trollocs are after something very specific. Or rather, they are after someone: three boys, born weeks apart, are the focus of all the destruction. With some urging from Moiraine Sedai, the boys agree to leave the small village for the sanctuary of Tar Valon, the city built as an edifice to the One Power, the power of the Aes Sedai.

Thus begins a journey that takes the reader through fourteen books and the boys through three years in storytime and many layers of character and plot. The books of the series are varied, and there are standouts in the story development, but one things always rings true: each one benefits from additional readings.

As I mentioned, in January the final book, A Memory of Light, came out, and it is a satisfying conclusion. Its publication, however, was not without its moments of uncertainty. In 2007, Robert Jordan died of cardiac amyloidosis. At the time of his death, he was one book short of a 12 book saga (his intention). Jordan left extensive notes and scene work for the final book. The task of finishing the series would fall to Jordan’s widow and another author, Brandon Sanderson, to finish. One book, in a somewhat characteristic Jordan-esque style, took three novels to complete.

The release of A Memory of Light in January saw many fans breathe a sigh of relief and contentment. The Wheel of Time series is grand on a scale of mountains. It contains battles, magic, sacrifice, long-waged wars, betrayal, love, friendship, deception, and the struggle to maintain the human spirit in the face of uncertain odds.

I am unsure that my lifetime will see another wielder of the fantasy epic such as Jordan was and it pained me immensely as I closed the final pages of A Memory of Light to know that it was well, and truly, finished.

And then I open The Eye of the World, and the Dragon rides again on the winds of time.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. . . . There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

About the Author

Melissa Carle is a Support Specialist with the KC-LSP and thinks life is too short to read a book that doesn't excite you in the first 40 pages. She likes cooking, herb gardening, and, of course, reading and thinks all good books, fiction and non-fiction alike, share one thing in common: they're just a good yarn.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook   Kansas City Public Library on Twitter   Kansas City Public Library on Flickr   Kansas City Public Library on YouTube   Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest   KC Unbound RSS feed

America's Music at the Library

Bob Walkenhorst’s regular Wednesday night gig at the Record Bar in Westport is usually standing room only.

And in Norway he’s revered as a rock god who plays before crowds of avid fans.

But you don’t have to stand in line, pay a cover charge, or fly to Scandinavia to get an earful of fresh Walkenhorst.

All you have to do is show up on Tuesday, April 30, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.

Walkenhorst, born in Norborne, Missouri, and famed as the singer/songwriter of the legendary rock band The Rainmakers, will be the guest artist at the next installment of America’s Music, the six-part film-and-discussion series that’s been unfolding on Tuesday nights this month at the Library.

Created by the Tribeca Film Institute, the American Library Association, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, America’s Music offers an hour of documentaries about pop music idioms followed by live performances and talks.

So far Library patrons have heard Lawrence bluesman Patrick Nichols hold forth on the National steel guitar, UMKC’s Chuck Haddix explain Kansas City’s place in jazz history, looked into the roots of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley, and tapped their toes to the KC’s own Bluegrass Brigade.

Tuesday night’s program opens with a screening of Plugging In, an episode of the TV documentary The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll that looks at the mid-1960s, when singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan transformed rock from moon-June-spoon songs about teenage romance to a mirror reflecting the upheavals of American society.


[video:http://youtu.be/dMnnPI5GUps]

Walkenhorst is just the man to illustrate the idea of the singer/songwriter. His songs – Government Cheese, Let My People Go-Go, Big Fat Blonde – combine the wit of Mark Twain with the rockin’ intensity of Chuck Berry.

He’ll play his tunes, talk about his music with our project scholar - UMKC’s Andrew Granade – and, heck, he may even take your requests.

Arrive early for the reception that begins at 6 p.m.

And remember…it’s at the Library. Which means it’s absolutely free.


About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook  Kansas City Public Library on Twitter  Kansas City Public Library on Flickr  Kansas City Public Library on YouTube  Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest  Film Blog RSS feed

Preserving Kansas City Women’s History

As part of Preservation Week, we are highlighting one of the recent projects here at the Kansas City Public Library: the preservation of the Athenaeum Collection.

The collection, donated to the Library’s Missouri Valley Special Collections in July, 2012 by the Kansas City Athenaeum Board of Directors, includes the minutes, membership records, building blueprints, and photographs from the archives of this historic women’s organization.

The Athenaeum is the oldest active Kansas City women's club, founded in 1894. The history of the Athenaeum is closely tied with that of Kansas City, as its members campaigned for the betterment of our community. Over the years, the Athenaeum has been instrumental in advocating for women’s suffrage, juvenile court reforms, child labor laws, and educational reform.

The first Athenaeum president, Mary Harmon Weeks, was a leader in the public kindergarten movement and started the first Parent Teacher Association in Missouri. And Phoebe Jane Ess, a charter member and later president of the Athenaeum, guided the local women’s suffrage movement, also organizing the Susan B. Anthony Civic Club. Both of these organizations moved Jackson County toward becoming one of the first counties in Missouri to adopt women’s suffrage.

Today the Athenaeum is still active with philanthropy supporting Missouri Girls Town which it helped found, and has even started allowing membership by men in recent years.

Though the Athenaeum’s clubhouse at 900 East Linwood Boulevard is an historic structure built in 1913-1914 and nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the environmental conditions inside the building were detrimental to its historical collection, necessitating its removal to preserve the records for future generations.

The Athenaeum Collection, now occupying a full shelving unit within the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Central Library, follows the organization from its founding in 1894 up through 2012, and includes the correspondence, newsletters, minutes, and other memorabilia.

Included as well are the annual albums compiled by the members, which contain everything from photographs and pressed flowers to membership and financial records, providing great insight into the daily lives and activities of the club members.

The Kansas City Public Library was awarded a Missouri Historical Records Grant in December 2012 to help preserve this collection. The funds are being used primarily for rehousing the records in new enclosures and better storage materials. This will allow the collection to be more stable long-term and safer for public access and future digitization.

Archivist Lucinda Adams is working with special collections librarian Kate Hill and project director Eli Paul, arranging and describing the collection, as well as adding the Athenaeum Collection to the MVSC’s online catalog. Currently the Athenaeum Collection is open only to Athenaeum members. The general public may have access once it is stabilized and cataloged. The estimated completion date of the preservation project is November 2014.

About the Author

Liesl Christman

Liesl Christman is the Digital Content Specialist for The Kansas City Public Library, managing content for the Library's blogs and social media accounts. She is an unabashed enthusiast of comic books, roller derby, and all things food.

Kansas City Public Library on Facebook    Kansas City Public Library on Twitter    Kansas City Public Library on YouTube    Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest    KC Unbound RSS feed

Pages