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.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Otto: the biography of a Teddy Bear by Tony Ungerer

So many times I have found that the most poignant messages for all of us are found in children’s picture books. This is the case with Otto, by Tony Ungerer. The subtitle of the book is The autobiography of a teddy bear.

This beautiful story begins in Germany before the second world war. David receives a teddy bear and he and his friend Oskar enjoy many happy times. But David is Jewish. As he and his family are hauled away, he leaves Otto with Oskar. In a bombing raid, Oskar’s home is demolished and he is separated from his little friend. Otto is picked up by an American G.I. and has a few more adventures before travelling to the United States, and being loved by a little girl. Eventually, Otto finds himself lonely, on the shelf of an antique store, watching the world go by. Otto has one distinguishing feature, a large ink stain on his face. It is because of this stain that many years later, Oskar recognizes him, and eventually the three childhood friends are reunited.

This is a story of lifelong friendship and is certain to bring tears to the eyes of any child, regardless of age.