Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Happy Family Literacy Day!

I hope that all of you are having a great Family Literacy Day.  Literacy should be a daily practice for everyone of all ages.

Here are some suggestions of fun literacy activities from the Lincoln Public Library's Family Literacy Day bingo card.

1. Make a family picture where everyone draws themselves.
2. Tell a family story together
3. Go to the library together
4. Tell each other a 'knock-knock' joke.
5. Write and illustrate your own mini-book
6. Read a recipe and cook together
7. Read a 'wake up' story in the morning together

There are some many easy and practical ways to practice literacy.  Try one tomorrow!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

What To Read If You Want More Downton Abbey


If you’re one of the millions of Downton Abbey fans whose hearts go all aflutter at the mention of the name Matthew Crawley, or Bates and Anna, or even Mr. Pamuk…well then this stack of books is for you.
It’s been a few years now since we all first caught Downton fever. For a while Downton Abbey was cropping up everywhere – there were parodies and drinking games; it appeared as “Woodworthy Manor” in How I Met Your Mother and even had a cameo in Iron Man 3.
Since then we’ve been through weddings and funerals, car accidents and pig farming crises, and oh just so much drama with that Crawley family, haven’t we?

Now as series five ends in the UK and kicks off in the States, I made a little reading list for you, my fellow Downton Abbey addicts, in case you too just can’t get enough of the drama and intrigue of the class system in pre-WWII England.
Books About Downton Abbey
The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes
The Chronicles of Downton Abbey
The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes
The Chronicles of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes and Matthew Sturgis
These books shamelessly cater to their demographic – and we are their demographic. (Just look at that cover – “The Rivalry and Romance Revealed… The Secrets and History Unlocked…”)
These books are written by Jessica Fellowes, the niece of Downton creator Julian Fellowes, so they’re legit. You’ll find behind-the-scenes photos and making-of stories, but there is also a lot of history. The books were released alongside each season of the show, so The World of Downton Abbey roughly correlates with the first season or two, The Chronicles of Downton Abbey came out during the third season, etc.
Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey by Emma Rowley
A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes
Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey by Emma Rowley
A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes
More behind the scenes, more anecdotes, more history. Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey came out last year with season four, and A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey is brand new with season five. Just when I start to think maybe I’m over the whole thing, a new one comes out and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Books About Highclere Castle
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon
Lady Catherine, The Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon
Lady Catherine, The Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon
These books are written by the current Countess of Carnarvon who lives in Highclere Castle, where Downton is filmed. I first picked up Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey because I just can’t resist anything Downton related, but my expectations weren’t very high – I wasn’t sure I was interested in the history of the house itself.
But then I starting reading and I found stories of Highclere Castle being transformed into a hospital during the first World War… and an Earl discovering King Tut’s tomb… and of course a bit of drama and some romance and even a visit from the Prince of Wales. I liked the first book but Lady Catherine, The Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey was even better.
Books That Inspired Downton Abbey
To Marry an English LordBelow Stairs by Margaret Powell

To Marry an English Lord by Gail Maccoll and Carol Wallace
Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
If you’re a real history geek like me, you’ll love these two. Below Stairs is the memoir of a kitchen maid (I haven’t read this one yet but it has the endorsement of Julian Fellowes himself), and To Marry an English Lord traces the history of how rich American women married Dukes and Earls and moved to England (the character of Cora was written after reading this book).
So there you go: a bit of history, a bit of drama; a bit of Downton Abbey reading to while away the winter days.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Canadian Library Association Responds to the Attack on Charlie Hebdo

 OTTAWA, ONTARIO—(January 9, 2015)—The Canadian Library Association (CLA) and its community are profoundly saddened by the brutal attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The CLA condemns this and all acts of violence against the freedom of expression and against those who exercise free expression, regardless of who considers it unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable anywhere in the world.

The CLA affirms that libraries in Canada and in every democratic country have a fundamental responsibility to collect, curate, preserve, and provide access to the widest variety of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity that is essential to the moral health and intellectual development of our societies and that forms the bedrock of democratic culture, social and economic improvement, innovation, and civic engagement. Our work celebrates and reinforces diversity, supports lifelong learning, and contributes to the development of just and equitable communities. Our libraries and the civic interests we uphold serve as the foundation for modern democracy and human advancement.

The CLA encourages libraries to resist all efforts to limit the exercise of free speech while recognizing the right of criticism by individuals and groups.

The Canadian Library Association is Canada's largest national and broad-based library association, representing the interests of public, academic, school and special libraries, professional librarians and library workers, and all those concerned about enhancing the quality of life of Canadians through information and literacy.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Downton Abbey season 5: The triumph of period drama

By Janet Davison, CBC News Posted: Jan 03, 2015 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Jan 03, 2015 5:00 AM ET       
Downton Abbey returns to North American TV screens Sunday night with Allen Leech as Tom Branson and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary.
Downton Abbey returns to North American TV screens Sunday night with Allen Leech as Tom Branson and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary. (Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for Masterpiece)     
Isis was actually named for an Egyptian goddess, and Hugh Bonneville, the actor who plays her doting on-screen master, went to some online pains to point out the Egyptian reference after U.K. newspapers went into a tizzy a couple of months ago.

Still, the fact that Bonneville felt obliged to correct the record reflects the strange confluence that can develop between the past and the present for those caught up in a period drama such as Downton Abbey, which returns for a new season Sunday night on PBS's Masterpiece. (British viewers watched season 5 last fall.)
Downton Abbey
Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, and his Labrador, Isis, are seen in this tumblr image of the popular ITV series Downton Abbey. (ITV)
"All historical fiction is a mixture of things we know about the past, or things we think we know about the past, and things we're thinking about the present," says Rohan Maitzen, an associate professor in the department of English at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Although anyone seeing references to Islamic militants was likely projecting a bit too much of the modern world into a show set in 1920s England, suggests Bill Brioux, a long-time television columnist for Toronto newspapers,.
"This really isn't a show that's trying to make political headlines that I can see," he says. "It's embraced by fans who like period drama," which is huge on TV right now. 
"It really is the hot genre," says Brioux, rattling off shows like Game of Thrones and Murdoch Mysteries.

Brioux, for one, sees a number of reasons for the current popularity of period drama.
"It takes us back to a time and place before cellphones and social media. Just in terms of storytelling, I think it's a richer time."
But the show also has its own very modern way of merging the periods.
"We're at a time when computers can generate entire armies and villages and castles and just a look of a show," says Brioux.
Downton Abbey Mr. Carson and Daisy
Jim Carter as Mr. Carson and Sophie McShera as Daisy are returning in Season 5 of Downton Abbey, which has been compared to series such as Upstairs, Downstairs. (Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for Masterpiece)
"Even something like Downton Abbey, you've got to make hydro wires and towers that are erected for cellphone transmissions, you've got to make all that stuff disappear."
(Yet even Downton Abbey, a much-awarded show well-known for stunning production values, can have the occasional hiccup. Much online attention was focused last summer on a promotional photo that had a plastic water bottle sitting on the mantelpiece.)

Brioux sees another technical nod to modern times in Downton Abbey: the way the episodes are put together.
"It's set 100 years ago and it's reminiscent of old miniseries like Upstairs Downstairs, but it's shot like a cutting-edge drama. There are more cuts to this show than The Walking Dead."
It looks like "your mom and dad's show," he adds, "but it's shot for a short attention span generation."

The whole Isis episode notwithstanding, Brioux does see ways in which modern viewers project their lives into period drama, just "as much as if it was Star Trek.
"It's exotic and removes us from our lives today, and it's romantic."
Speaking of which, there's plenty of romance in Downtown Abbey — above and below stairs — and more is promised this season, for the buttoned-up Lady Mary among others.
"I liked Downton Abbey because it's a soap essentially, it's a good soap," says Laurie Finstad Knizhnik, creator of the considerably less soapy period drama, Strange Empire, which debuted on CBC-TV in October.

Finstad Knizhnik doesn't want Strange Empire, a sweeping and non-traditional western set in southern Alberta in 1869, to get as frothy as Downton Abbey.
But she sees virtue in drawing insight from the past, and in exploring larger questions "of how capitalist structures .... changed everything for aboriginals over the course of 300 years."

Cara Gee plays a gun-toting M├ętis cowgirl seeking justice on the Western frontier in 1869 in the CBC-TV series Strange Empire. (Kharen Hill/CBC)
"It's really interesting to attach that kind of history to the present moment because we tend to wear blinders. We don't tend to look around.
"We don't tend to go, 'Oh I need to read about the fur trade in 1770. I need to understand what was going on then.' And I just find when I do that kind of reading, it just gives so much perspective on the present."
To succeed as a period drama, Finstad Knizhnik says a series has to engage with its audience. And how best to do that?
"I think it's the Downton Abbey way. People develop an affection and an interest, and they begin to care for these characters," she says.

Still, if Strange Empire, which features three very strong-willed and un-Edwardian female characters, comes back for a second season, Finstad Knizhnik says it will be a little more soapy.
"You can't really sustain television, I don't think, otherwise. I mean, in The Sopranos, yes there were larger thematic concerns, but ultimately it got down to how Tony was getting through the day. I think that's what links an audience to a show on TV."
On Downton Abbey, there are characters — and actors — who do that in spades.
"Maggie Smith — she's awesome," says Brioux of the legendary stage and screen actor who has gained renown as the Dowager Countess of Grantham.
"It's that basic. People just love watching great actors let it rip."