Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

Some things are just timeless, and the videorecording of It’s the great pumpkin Charlie Brown certainly is. This week, with Halloween coming, is a great time to borrow this animated classic from the library.

If you have forgotten the story, let me remind you. This is the night that Linus sits in his very sincere pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to rise up with a bag of toys for all the good children. Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally, decides to stay with the object of her affection in the pumpkin patch. Meanwhile the other children are trick-or-treating, with Lucy being her usual self, and Pig-pen kicking up his little cloud of dust behind him. Charlie Brown finds rocks in his treat bag. And of course, Snoopy, the World War I flying ace, is shot down by the Red Baron, and wanders through the French countryside.

The copyright date for this production is 1966, but the underlying themes of failure, faith, and hope are as relevant as ever. The library has VHS and DVD copies of this classic available. The DVD has some special features as well, like: It's magic, Charlie Brown, and We need a blockbuster, Charlie Brown.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lost on Brier Island by Jo Ann Yhard

Each branch has a Young Adult collection. It is somewhere that readers who enjoy books that explore a range of emotional subjects and circumstances enjoy browsing.

In the book Lost on Brier Island by Jo Ann Yhard, fourteen year old Alex is going through a very difficult time following a horrible family accident. Everyone in her family is hurting and her parents think that a summer on tiny Brier Island, Nova Scotia, with her aunt will help her to heal. She’s not so sure. At first she resists any interest and concern Islanders show her, but gradually the island begins to work its magic, with quirky characters, sea swept landscapes, and amazing sea creatures.

I noticed this book on a holiday in Nova Scotia this summer. We had spent a day on Brier Island and really loved the sea mists, the quiet town, and the rugged coastline. There indeed was a beauty and magic about the island which rang true when I read this book. This is a powerful story about a teenager who has lost loved ones and found a way to heal with the help of others.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Matter with Morris by David Bergen

This week, Winnipeg author, David Bergen’s novel The Matter with Morris is featured in the Sunday Book Review of the New York Times. It seemed like a good time to highlight this book.

In this novel, Bergen delves deeply into how we deal with grief. Morris receives the devastating news that his son, who joined the military after an argument, has been accidentally killed in Afghanistan, by a fellow soldier. Now Morris, a pacifist, must come to terms with this tragedy. He and his family react with anger and grief. Morris’ wife and daughter blame him for the tragedy. Morris’ behavior changes and soon he finds solace in writing letters to some unlikely recipients.

Polly Morrice, the reviewer, writes that this is not a novel about writing, family and betrayal, but that ultimately “The Matter With Morris is more interested in showing that simply getting on with life is one of the best ways to counter grief, a premise it supports with quiet effectiveness.“

To read the full review in the New York Times, please find the link on the library’s facebook page. The library holds several copies of the novel.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Emperor of all maladies: A biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

It isn’t often that a book on cancer is lauded as “A pleasure to read”, “beautiful”, “elegant” and “a thriller”. But these words are common among reviewers describing the 2011 pulitzer prize winner for General Nonfiction, The Emperor of all Maladies: A biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Mukherjee tackles the subject of cancer as if he were writing a biography. He tracks the history of the disease for more than five thousand years. The ancient Egyptians wrote about the disease, as did the Persians. The early attempts at surgically removing cancerous tissue are explained. Horrifying as it is, the release of mustard gas in Italy during World War II led pharmacologists to consider the use of chemicals to fight cancers, and chemotherapy was born. Most of the book deals with the past 50 years.

But this book is not just a collection of facts. David Rieff writes, “Mukherjee has done something that should not have been possible; he has managed to write an authoritative history of cancer for the general reader, while always keeping the experiences of cancer patients in his heart and in his narrative. At once learned and skeptical, unsentimental and humane, … a noble book”. This is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the disease, how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go in the fight against the emperor of all maladies.