Thursday, December 22, 2011

Oliver's twist by Craig Oliver

Christmas seems to have snuck up on everyone this year. Don’t let it catch you without a book this holiday, so hurry in now. This is the season to catch up on all the new titles that are released in the months before Christmas.

Such a book is Craig Oliver’s, Oliver’s Twist: The life and times of an unapologetic newshound. Craig Oliver is well known as the chief parliamentary correspondent for CTV news. His experiences in that position alone could fill many volumes. This book is much more. It begins with the sentence, “My father was a bootlegger and, for a short time, a jailbird.” With an opening sentence like that, who can resist. The book documents Oliver’s decades as a journalist and offers his reflections on the changes in the relationship between the media and those in power from the carefree attitudes of the 1970s to the tightly controlled communications of recent years. The most startling revelation of the book is that Oliver has been legally blind for more than a decade.

Lawrence Martin writes “A storehouse of insights, anecdotes, and eye-popping close-ups that make for a strappingly good book”. If you enjoy a great political book, this is a must.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

100 days that changed Canada

If you were asked to list some of the important dates in Canadian history, how many could you come up with? Most of us probably couldn’t come up with very many. Mark Reid has compiled a new book, 100 days that changed Canada, in which he offers important dates in our history and the story behind them.

It is the photographs that first catch the reader’s eye, but one is quickly drawn into the story behind each headline. For example, April 12, 1876, the Indian Act came into force; November 16, 1885, Louis Riel is executed; June 21, 1919 is a day that is remembered as Bloody Saturday when Mounties charge into the crowd during the Winnipeg General Strike. More recent events, like April 27, 1967, the opening of Expo 67; and sports celebrations like October 24, 1992 when the Toronto Blue Jays won the world series; and Feb. 28, 2010, when Canada owned the podium at the Vancouver Olympics, are easier to recall. Political events that have shaped our country like the FLQ crisis, and the abolition of the death penalty are included, as are Canadian’s contributions to the arts. Articles are written by prominent Canadians from backgrounds that are as diverse as the people they write about.

Sometimes at this time of year our thoughts focus on the past. This book full of memories, and is as beautiful as it is informative.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Christmas Carol

“Marley was dead to begin with … Old Marley was as dead as a doornail”. So begins one of the most loved Christmas stories of all time; Charles Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol. The story of the old miser, Ebeneezer Scrooge, the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” has been loved since it was first published in 1843.

The library holds many editions of this classic. To get the true sense of Scrooge’s terror at seeing the ghosts, or the horrid living conditions of the poor, I would suggest an unabridged copy of the original. The strength of Dickens’ language, phrasing and imagery are best enjoyed that way.

The library also holds some abridged versions that are appropriate for younger readers. One of these is the Stephen Krensky adaptation, in which the artwork by Dean Morrissey is exceptional.

The Altona Library will be hosting a reading of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on the evening of Dec. 12, at 7:30. Guests will be reading and refreshments will be served. Admission is free, but in keeping with Dickens’ own interests and advocacy, donations will be accepted for the Empty Stocking Fund.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas videos

Almost everyone has a favourite classic Christmas video and most of these can be found on the library shelves. Rather than waiting to see if your favourite will be on TV this holiday season, check the library.

Animated holiday classics are fun for the whole family and many enjoy them year after year. A Charlie Brown Christmas is especially memorable, as is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Each shows how a little love can overcome adversity as the Christmas message shines through.

Among classic holiday favourites are Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life. Both have been around for over 50 years and are still favourites for many.

Of course, we all like to share our favourites, and apart from some of those named above, I always enjoy Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. There is just something about the music, and the sentimentality of this movie, that makes me want to watch it every year. My other favourite has to be The Christmas Story. This classic comedy about the little boy who desperately wants a Red Ryder B.B. gun seems to find new fans every year.

I can’t possibly list all of them here, but check the library catalogue and hopefully you’ll find your favourite.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Christmas Books

For all those who are Christmas-challenged, and even if you’re not, the library may be a good place to visit. Each branch has books to help you decorate your home, prepare the feast, and host the gathering you've dreamed of. Not all of these titles are held in every branch, but all locations have similar items.

One book that is a great help for those planning to entertain this Christmas is Canadian Living’s The Complete Christmas Book. It is mostly a cookbook, but also includes decorating and craft ideas.

I know there are many who enjoy giving gifts from the kitchen. Company’s Coming: Gifts from the kitchen by Jean Pare is available in several branches. This book has been around for about ten years, but, as is the case with all Jean Pare’s books, it is timeless.

For anyone who enjoys making crafts with children during the holiday season, check out Christmas crafts from around the world by Judy Ann Sadler. The book includes a note about each easy to do, inexpensive craft.

And if all this is too much for you, check out Holiday Cocktails by Jessica Strand, curl up on the couch and watch one of the classic Christmas movies, which is what I’ll be talking about next time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Half-blood blues by Esi Edugyan

‘Tis the season for book awards. Last week Esi Edugyan’s novel Half –blood blues was awarded the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Award. This novel has been nominated for other big awards as well, so we may be hearing about it again.

The novel focuses on the time periods from 1939 – 1940 and 1992. The main characters, “Chip” and “Sid” are young Americans who travelled to Germany in the late 1920s to pursue careers as jazz musicians. Their bandmate, Hieronymous Falk (“Hiero”), is a brilliant trumpeter who is of German-African descent, and dark skinned. During the 1930s it becomes increasingly difficult to make a living in Germany after the Nazis brand jazz as “degenerate”. On the eve of war, the trio escapes to Paris where they find temporary relief. Unfortunately, this is shortlived. Heiro is arrested by the Nazis and never heard from again. Decades later, in 1992, as their former bandmate is honoured, Chip and Sid must face their past, and their guilt.

This novel has been described as “an entrancing, electric story about jazz, race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art”. The library holds a copy of this title, so check it out.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Back in the Bigs by Randy Turner

Though I am not a hockey fan, I really am very pleased that the Jets have returned to Manitoba. Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press has compiled a book of photographs and memories of the Jets, new and old, and I think it’s worth a mention here. It has a great title and captures the community’s sentiment, Back in the bigs.

There are so many great memories relived in this book. Of course it begins with Bobby Hull and the WHA years. The chapter entitled A Swedish Rhapsody, describes the incredible impact the signing of Hedberg and Nilsson had on the team and the league. The chapter on John Ferguson’s leadership is entertaining and informative. The contributions of players whose names will forever be tied to the team, like Dale Hawerchuk, Keith Tkachuk, Randy Carlisle, and the Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne are documented. Of course, the book includes the attempts to keep the team, and the eventual heartbreak. Details of the long road travelled by Mark Chipman and his team are fascinating.

This book has everything: drama, interesting characters, a great plot, and a happy ending. The fact that we know how it will end makes it that much better. Whether one is a hockey fan or not, it’s great reading about the team that has become an important part of our province’s history, and our future.