Blogs

Ah the stories of King Arthur and his knights, the cute thatched cottages, the banquets, the country life, and the bustle of growing cities!  What’s not to like about the Middle Ages and Medieval period in history?  Well, the smell for one.  And let’s not forget the plague. Get all the dirt on what life was really like in Europe during this time.

picture of knightsStart at the Annenberg Learner Middle Ages site for loads of info on everyday life in medieval times including the feudal system, religion, clothes, the arts and more.  This includes movies and other cool interactive stuff.  After you click on the link, scroll to the right to get the content!

 Click on the different people in the street in the Camelot International Village to learn more about their craft or trade and how they lived in the Middle Ages. Find out about entertainers, peasants, traders, thieves, knights, church and religion, women, and lords of the manor.

For a funny and informative video series about the Middle Ages, watch Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives.  Each 30 minute episode examines a different type of person important during the time period like kings, knights, monks and damsels.picture of a king's seal

For a video and interactive introduction to medieval life, watch Everyday Life in the Middle Ages and see if you could survive way back in the day!

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook is super boring to look at, but amazing in its amount of primary source material (letters, legal texts, religious documents etc.).  It’s a comprehensive collection of online texts from the entire medieval era, organized by topic and chronologically.

Now that you’ve learned a lot about the Middle Ages, test your knowledge here.

As much as I love to cook, love to shop for ingredients, love to put a tasty meal together, sometimes I am a bit confused. And the nutritional labels on cans and packages? Forget about it. The print is small and often I am too hungry or tired to care. Sometimes I give up all together. Isn’t it easier to just go out to eat? Or throw some frozen thing in the microwave? If only I had the time to figure it all out.

Luckily for me and other confused eaters, the authors of Eat This Not That by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding have more than figured it out. They have written a series of books that are so simple and easy to use that you could easily take one along with you to the grocery store to help you make the right choices about what to feed yourself and your family. Plainly put: the left side shows what you should eat, the right side shows what you shouldn’t eat. There are bullet points that give you tasty tidbits about nutrition and eating right.  Each volume in the series also has a section of straightforward delicious recipes and menus. The books themselves are small enough to fit into your coat pocket or purse or to lend to a friend. Their idea is not that their recipes or suggestions are low cal or carb or fat. Rather, they show you how to make the best choice based on what packs the most flavor and ease of preparation for the most nutrition. The Eat This Not That Restaurant Guide has a helpful section that covers the best fast food choices.

There are also price comparisons. Stay tuned for the next in the series: Eat It to Beat it!

Lately, educators have been talking about grit as a character trait that can predict success. I have always associated the term with girls, thanks to Charles Portis's original book, a title that was remarkable for its time. In the late 60s and 70s, there weren't a lot of stories about young women with gumption. Sure, there was Nancy Drew, but she so often relied on 'the boys' when the going got rough; There was also Pippi Longstocking, but she was for  younger readers. When the most recent movie came out, I was glad to see that the Coen brothers were true to the original Mattie and her enterprising spirit. Truly, she was the hero in the book, and not Rooster Cogburn, as the 1969 John Wayne film version suggested.

Ree Dolly, the tenacious teenager from the movie Winter's Bone is cut from the same cloth as Mattie Ross. The movie follows follows the mostly falling fortunes of 17 year old Ree as she discovers that her meth-cooking father is on the lam, having put the family house up for bond. If he doesn't show up in court, the family - 2 kids and a mentally absent mother - will lose everything. She sets out to find him among all the hard luck people living in her corner of the Ozarks and gains some unwanted attention from those who wish her father to stay hidden. The book is based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, an author whose works have been called "country noir".

Another novel featuring a woman who finds herself in an untenable situation is the award-winning Outlander by the poet, Gil Adamson. In the winter of 1903, Mary has lost her baby son to sickness and is frequently beaten by her abusive husband. She takes desperate measures, killing her husband and fleeing west. She is pursued by her husband's vengeful twin brothers, a pair of single-minded, characters who could easily have stepped out of a Cormac McCarthy novel. Along the way she falls into the company of a group of eccentrics in a hard-scrabble mining town. 

All of these stories share an unforgiving landscape, a sense of lawlessness, and a determined underdog on a quest. And there are more of these than you might think: Molly Gloss's story of eastern Oregon, The Hearts of Horses, the somewhat obscure and spoofy Caprice by George Bowering, and Away by Amy Bloom. All of these stories feature strong female characters who move the action along. If that's your cup of tea, then happy reading and watching.

If you're in the middle of one, the phrase "healthy breakup" may sound like some kind of sad joke. But whether you're breaking things off or you've just been broken up with, you can make the breakup more bearable.

If you feel like your relationship is unhealthy and you're trying to decide whether to break up, check out Love Is Respect's "Should We Break Up?"

Rookie Magazine has some great advice: "Making A Clean Breakup" makes the point that "breaking up with someone can be just as painful, if not more so, than being the one who’s left behind." "Cures for Love" explains how to "beast through the aching immobility of heartbreak by conducting specific rituals, exercises, and experiments."

Oakland artist Jess Wheelock drew a comic that helps explain what the brain goes through during a breakup.

And there's no subsitute for connecting with others who've been through the same thing, so register for the first annual Healthy Breakup Summit, which will be:

Thursday April 24th, 2014
5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
5135 NE Columbia Blvd Portland, OR 97218
 
 
·         Dynamics of break ups and tools to build healthy relationships
·         Specialized activities for youth of all ages (0-24), parents/guardians and Elders
·         Two-Spirit and LGBTQ Perspectives of break-ups/relationships
·         Building communication skills to navigate relationships
 
For more information please contact:
Brighton, Native American Youth & Family Center: brightonk@nayapdx.org; Office 503-288-8177 x220
Erin, Native American Youth & Family Center: erinh@nayapdx.org; Office 503-288-8177 x316
Lesley, VOA HomeFree: lramos@voaor.org; Office (503) 988-6475, Cell (503) 473-7396
 

Whatever Needs to Be Done

Picture of Sachiko Vidourek

by Mindy Moreland

“Quietly doing tremendous good” is a fitting description of Library Outreach Services, which brings library service to our community’s homebound, homeless, and incarcerated populations. Sachiko Vidourek is one of many volunteers helping this department to thrive; her dedication and flexibility have made her a valued part of the LOS team. Sachiko works with the adult literacy coordinator and the library outreach specialists, with a job description that could read  “whatever needs to be done.” Each week she performs tasks ranging from data entry and preparing materials for citizenship classes to shelving materials and labeling shelves. Sachiko also helps the staff with more abstract problems, brainstorming issues of process, organization, and programming. “Sometimes I might suggest something ridiculous, but it gives a different perspective,” Sachiko says with a warm smile. “When someone has an idea, even if it’s the wrong idea it helps give clarity to the problem.”

 

"If I was a librarian, I'd want to work for LOS."

Sachiko has been drawn to libraries since she was a child. Growing up in Ohio, she used to walk three and a half blocks (an epic journey at the time, she recalls) to visit the local library, where she participated in Summer Reading and was fascinated by the pre-digital checkout machines. As an art history student in college she loved spending time in the cozy art and architecture library, and even considered a career as a librarian. Today she manages the gourmet chocolate shop Cacao, and enjoys the serenity of her volunteer hours in the Library Outreach as a respite from her bustling customer service job. She takes great satisfaction, she says, in the balance of the concrete progress and philosophical problem-solving that volunteering at the library affords. Perhaps most importantly, she adores working with the LOS team, who she describes as quirky, fun, and deeply dedicated to the amazing work they quietly do. “I feel really appreciated there,” she says fondly. “If I was a librarian, I’d want to work for LOS.”

 

A Few Facts About Sachiko

Home library: Hillsdale Library

Currently reading: Technically I'm in between books. I just finished The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. A good friend gave me Neil Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane for Christmas, and I think that's next. But I also have in-hand-and-waiting Lost Japan (Alex Kerr) and the start of the latest series by Jacquline Carey. I find that my list of books to explore grows faster than I can read, and I often get sidetracked on my way to a particular book.

Most influential book: Books by Alistair MacLean shaped me the most growing up in middle school. Also influential was Setting the Table (Danny Meyers) which sounds like a cooking book but is really about hospitality. Others titles include Lessons in Service from Charlie Trotter (Edmund Lawler) and Joy of Cooking (Irma Rombauer et al.).

Favorite book from childhood: Only one?! I loved Dr. Seuss, Encyclopedia Brown (Donald J. Sobol), and Key to the Treasure (Peggy Parrish), but what I still have on my shelves as an adult are The King and His Friends (Jose Aruego), Max (Rachel Isadora), and A Pair of Red Clogs (Masako Matsuno). Just couldn't give 'em up.

A book that made you laugh or cry: Press Here (Herve Tullet), The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie) and Dog Heaven (Cynthia Rylant)

Favorite section of the library: Usually Young Adult

E-reader or paper book? Paper, paper, paper! (But I might say e-reader later when I need bigger fonts and my glasses aren't enough.)

Favorite guilty reading pleasure: Jacqueline Carey & fantasy in general

Favorite place to read: On the couch with the dog!

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

I blame the library. The first time my four-year-old daughter, who I’ll call Thing One, saw a Disney book at the library, she became obsessed, and soon, her babysitter told her there were movies, too. It wasn’t long before she was wearing nothing but pink and purple, and insisting on wearing tiaras to the supermarket. She wanted new princess books all the time. I didn't mind her fashion choices, but I wanted her to value things like bravery, loyalty, brains, individuality, and diversity, and to see that a woman’s main job in life was not to be pretty, well-dressed, and passive. Princesses with the enormous eyes and tiny waists were getting too much power over my child's imagination. It was time to fight back...With research.

I found a number of picture books and several collections of folk tales that celebrate female strength. I especially like Jane Yolen’s Not One Damsel in Distress, a collection of stories featuring strong, clever girls. And some of them are actually princesses! The young women in these stories defeat serpents, outsmart sultans, discover underground caves full of treasure and steal ships to sail away from the controlling men who want to trap them in marriage against their will. Jane Yolen’s writing is engaging and suspenseful enough to charm any princess wannabe between the ages of, say, four and eight.

Here’s a list of more good books for princess loving girls, or boys, that will make their feminist parents happy. Feel free to let us know in the comments if you have other titles that should be included in this list!

cover image of the feast nearbyThe Feast Nearby contains all the things I like in a memoir: a woman in the midst of some major life crises (her husband asked her for a divorce and she lost her job all in the same week), an element of budgeting and simple living by necessity, and recipes! She did lose a bit of credibility when she went on about "retreating to her small Michigan cabin."  Really, how bad could it be if you've got a little cabin all squared away for retirement I wondered?  But I digress...She imposes a strict limit on her grocery budget of just $40 a week and tries to have as much of it as possible be locally sourced, but not necessarily organic.

Forty dollars a week is a stretch no matter what you do these days, so reading about her method and reasoning seemed fantastic. Having shunned the freezer for a number of years, I have only just come round to the idea that the freezer is your friend and can save you not only time, but a little dosh as well. Of course it will save you nothing without the planning and preparation, so that is what I found most helpful about this book. Ms. Mather goes through the year in seasons and has some simple pleasing recipes to use the foods now as well as preserving them for future use. She shows that it is indeed possible to live the good life while enjoying the bounty of nature on a budget.

The ancient Egyptians get all the credit for pyramids, but they weren't the only ones building these massive structures. Not only did pyramids appear in neighboring areas of Africa, but halfway around the world, the Maya and Aztecs, along with the Toltecs, built stepped pyramids. These pyramids of Mexico and Central America were often used as foundations for temples. This meant they usually had flat tops instead of the pointy Egyptian style. Built at different times thousands of miles from each other, the pyramids of the Old and New Worlds still have some similarites.

infographic of Egyptian and Latin American pyramids

Check out this New Book of Knowledge article for more information about pyramids or try some of the books below. If you want or need any more help, ask a librarian!

Sometimes one finds sparkle in the most unexpected places.  As a proper Portlander, I try to take public transit to and from work whenever possible.  To work, this involves a walk up a big hill (yay, exercise!), a bus ride, and another short walk. I try to walk home at the end of the day. Not bad, right?

Well, it's been one of those weeks. You know the ones, everything conspiring against me.  Not on top of my game, so to speak. This morning, the internal argument went like this:

Healthy Me:  Get on up that hill and catch the bus!

Whiny Me:  I don't wanna!

Healthy Me wins, and I truck on up the hill. Attitude in need of major adjusting, I wait for the bus in the dark.

It arrives, my regular driver in his seat, and when I board, lo and behold, the bus has been transformed into a sparkly wonderland!

Garland, flowers, twirly things, it looked like some sort of new club - the Bus Club!  I was smiling before I even sat down.  And on the short ride to work, I watched as everyone who boarded the bus smiled as well. 

When I quizzed the bus driver, he told me it was a surprise for his 34th anniversary with the company.  34 years!  He seemed a bit embarrassed about having to accept so many well wishes from his riders.  Congratulations, I say!
 
The morning commute, often not the most pleasant of tasks, turned out on this day to be just the pick me up I needed. I was reminded that sparkle can be found almost anywhere, even in the least sparkle-worthy places. Today and onward I shall try to remember to keep an eye out for it.  
 
Another place to search for sparkle?  Your local library!  Why not hop on some public transit and visit us.  One never knows what beauty will be found on the bus, and I am certain that we can help you find some sparkle at the library.  See you when you get here!

Cover image of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb PerlmanWhen I first stumbled upon Deb Perlman's food blog Smitten Kitchen, I was home with a small toddler and on a mad Google quest for homemade cracker recipes. Goldfish crackers specifically. My sister had recently exposed my son to the highly seductive, cheesy toddler staple and I wasn’t having it. I was on a passionate whole grain, non-boxed snack mission, and I approached it with the fervor that only a well-meaning and admittedly obsessive new mother can know.   

While it was Perlman’s labor intensive goldfish snack cracker recipe that reeled me in (I know..), I quickly found that while she would indulge my whim for scratch baked versions of boxed favorites, the vast majority of her recipes are much less demanding. Her specialty is simple, uncomplicated food that tastes delicious and leaves the impression that you’re a much better cook than you really are (I may only be speaking for myself here). 

Perlman makes her creations in a teeny tiny Manhattan apartment kitchen that doesn’t allow for huge productions.  Me in my teeny tiny Portland ranch kitchen can appreciate that kind of efficiency and I've learned to trust that if a Smitten Kitchen recipe takes more than 30 minutes to make or 3 bowls to mix in, it’s because that’s the way it has to be, because it will be worth it.  While I still visit the blog fairly regularly, when The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook came out, I quickly made space on my crowded kitchen shelf.

If you invite me to a potluck, it’s a fair bet that I’ll be bringing some variety of baked dish from this book.  The caramelized onion and butternut squash galette is a fool-proof crowd pleaser and when I breeze in twenty minutes late, with play clay stuck to my pants and Legos in my coat pocket, 'galette' just makes more of an impact than 'casserole.'

Ah, the allure of the three handed woman.  What, you aren't familiar with this particular woman?  I am betting you are, but this was a new term for me, too.  Last night I was enjoying my favorite jazz show, and the host played a song with this very title by Louis Prima and Keely Smith. The lyrics were so delightful and wicked:

'She's a three handed woman, a three handed woman
She's right-handed, and left-handed, and under-handed too
She's a three handed woman and she knows just what to do
She's a three handed woman and she ain't no good for you'

What a fabulous turn of phrase!  It immediately conjures up images of a femme fatale, a con woman, a woman no man can resist.  I don't know about you, but I have certainly daydreamed about living a life of crime, taking advantage of worldly, handsome, and, of course, rich men, while every hair remains in place and the line up the back of my stockings never goes crooked.  You know, like this:  pulp cover 

How fierce is she?

If you would like to indulge your inner three handed woman, the library has many choices, whether you prefer books or movies.  Take a look at the list to give some a try. You might discover a few hidden talents that you didn't know you had, and it's all perfectly legal in your imagination!

 

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Troy the Musical! put on by the Odyssey Program at PPS’s Hayhurst School. There were laughs aplenty as we were taken through a musical romp starting with the tale of that trickster Eris, goddess of strife, and the Apple of Discord through to demise of Troy with that pesky Trojan Horse. It was a much livelier version than the somber, yet stunning, 1971 classic The Trojan Women.

Though it had plenty of romance, a little less heated than the the 1956 Helen of Troy.

My curiosity piqued I had to some more digging (pun included) with the great archeology information found at University of Cincinnati's Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites and the Troia Projekt of the University of Tübingen, Germany. Most of our written history about siege of Troy comes from Homer’s The Illiad, but that often reads more as fiction with the Grecian Gods often stepping in and taking an active role. The Greeks were often at war, but for the Trojans thia war was epic, and historians tell us how it lasted for over ten years.

The students at Odyssey should be very proud of themselves, for their great singing, comedic timing, and the ability to dance in flippers. Thanks for the glitter, laughs and bringing Homer’s story to life.

 

I love cooking in late winter and early spring, because this is the time of year that you can get really experimental. In the summer, from the time the asparagus and rhubarb start to sprout until you get those last tomatoes, there’s all this pressure to eat local, eat what’s ripe right now. Then in the fall, everyone wants comfort food, which is heavily prescribed by tradition. Roast chicken! Minestrone soup! Pot roast! Next, the holidays come along, and if you don’t cook just what everyone’s come to expect from you during the holidays, there  might be a rebellion.

But now, at least until May, we can go a little crazy in the kitchen and try new things. For me, that means checking out some of the library’s wide collection of international cookbooks and traveling the world a little, in a culinary way. And now, after the excesses of the holiday and while the rain is falling down outside, we want lighter recipes that take us to warm and sunny places.

Try Jerusalem by by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, two cooks who were raised in opposite ends of that city and inspired by its cuisine. My husband and I both cook and peruse a lot of cookbooks, and often when we look at cookbooks, we’re all, “Ho-hum, we’ve seen this before.” Jerusalem’s recipes are new and exciting, full of contrasts and sunshine. Make chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice and a spinach salad with dates and almonds.

Or head off to Vietnam with its beguiling combination of salty, sweet, hot and sour. A great book to explore Vietnamese food is Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan. You will be inspired by this cookbook's big, gorgeous pictures to cook delicious things like Lemongrass Beef Stew and a salad with leeks and roasted eggplants.

Visit India with Madhur Jaffrey, who has released a bunch of cookbooks celebrating Indian food, most recently At Home with Madhur Jaffrey. She has the knack of taking exotic, ingredients-laden recipes and making them seem utterly doable in your home kitchen. This is a great cookbook for someone who is exploring Indian cuisine for the first time. Cook Salmon in a Benghali Mustard Sauce and treat yourself to Kheer, a saffron- and cardamom-scented rice pudding, for dessert.

Portland is rich in international grocery stores where you can find the ingredients you’ll need to cook some of these recipes, and even trips to Fubonn, Barbur World Foods, or International Foods Supply can make you feel like you're traveling. Bon voyage!

Having recently lost the companion of an old and dear dog friend, I find myself both grieving her passing and anticipating the future. It is admittedly a weird place to be. I don’t want to rush the mourning process, but I am just no good without a dog. I’ve always had one and I feel a little adrift at finding myself dogless. Plus crying too much makes my eyeballs ache and gives me a headache. I need something to look forward to, but also need to deal with the present. The books I’m reading reflect this dichotomy and are an odd mix of coping with dog death and puppy parenting. It has been over sixteen years since I last trained a puppy after all, and I want to be prepared for that eventual newcomer, whenever the moment is right. But first, the long haul of grieving. Dylan was my superstar dog who led a very full and amazing life. She brought much happiness, was loved, and is missed.

Things I’ve found that may help ease the pain are of course work and friends (especially other pet parents), but also our local animal hospital Dove Lewis. They offer a free drop-in pet loss support group where you are able to share with other people experiencing the loss of a best friend and family member. They also have art therapy classes to memorialize your pet, which sounds intriguing. And of course the library is there with many books on the topic as you find your way. Here is my personal reading list:

In any given year I read quite a few books. Once I stopped trying to finish novels that turned out to be awful, I found I finished notably more books each year. The pages fly by when you're enjoying a book. When reading becomes a dreary slog through the pages it's too easy to find a more pleasant way to pass your evening and not much gets read. Once you stop reading the awful books, however, it takes a certain something extra for a title to really stand out from the mildly pleasing and good enough crowd of the average novel. So far in 2014 I've read two books that have really stood out.   

The Rook book jacketThe first of these titles was The Rook by Daniel O'Malley. The scene opens with a woman standing in the rain, in the mud, in the center of a ring of bodies. She doesn't know her name, she doesn't know where she is and she doesn't know what happened. All she has is a letter in her pocket from herself. Having read the letter, Myfanwy discovers that she is a member of a secret government agency that protects the UK from supernatural threats and is one of the few that has a supernatural power. Most powers are useless or nearly so; her power is not useless. Myfanwy must discover why her memory is gone, who she really is, and who found her enough of a threat to wipe her entire past from her mind. I would consider this a fairly literary novel for the genre and the author's use of the letters Myfanwy wrote herself to fill in the back story of her world is an interesting one. 

As I have often done before, I used my husband as my test reader. This time it was for Red Rising by Pierce Brown. It had been well-reviewed but I thought it seemed like it might be too much action and too little character development for my taste. I handed him the book to try at the start of a weekend when I had a nasty cold. I told him he'd love it and staggered off to suffer through my sniffles. I slept oblivious through his all-night reading session and he finished the novel in a single sitting! When I asked him how it was the next day, he 'fessed up to why he looked so tired and had slept so late. I've often read novels in one sitting but that was unusual for him. Here’s a bit about that compelling read:

Red Rising book jacketOn Mars there's very little gravity so when they hang you they let your loved ones pull your legs to hasten your death. Darrow is sixteen and works in the mines of Mars.  He knows, as all the Reds do, that the materials he is mining will help to terraform Mars (that is, make it habitable for humans) so that one day his descendants can walk on the surface. All he knows, though, has been a lie: Mars has been safe for generations. The Reds are slaves who have been kept in ignorance and despair by the higher castes who live well on the surface. The materials the Reds mine are being used on other planets and moons now instead. Darrow is strong from years of mining, but his young wife is small and thin. She always gives him part of her rations because he's still growing and she's "not hungry". She scarcely weighs a thing when he pulls her legs down.  Darrow now has nothing left to lose and gets pulled into a conflict between the ruling Golds and the Sons of Ares who are trying to overthrow the corrupt system.  Darrow only wants to live in peace, but they have brought him war.

I started the book that same evening and, miserable as I was with watering eyes from the congestion, the pages just flew past. I would have also stayed up far too late to finish the book in a single sitting if my husband hadn't come and taken the book from me and told me to be sensible and go to bed since I was so ill. Happily, Red Rising has been optioned for a movie even though it was just released; hopefully it turns out to be a good production of the book!

Lewis and Clark traveled to the Pacific Ocean and back using a variety of water vessels. Until they crossed the Rocky Mountains all water travel was against the current and hard work! The rest of their journey was on foot and horseback. The total number of miles there and back was between seven and eight thousand.

The expedition began with a keelboat, a pirogue and canoe. Eventually the keelboat was sent back to President Jefferson packed with written reports, Native American artifacts, plant and animal specimens, minerals, four live magpies, a prairie dog and a grouse.

Image Keelboat Cabin

Over the course of the expedition they paddled about 15 canoes, most made themselves, using tools they brought along. They carved the canoes very slowly by hand until the Shoshoni Indians taught them how to burn out the logs. An incredibly challenging leg of their journey occurred at the Great Falls in Montana when the Corps climbed out of their canoes and had to portage around this magnificent natural obstacle.

Image Great Falls PortageImage of PortageImage of Great Falls in Montana

When the Missouri River could no longer be navigated their plan was to switch to horseback. They hoped to purchase horses from the Shoshoni to cross the Bitterroot Mountains. Although there was already snow in the mountains, the Corps decided to keep going and consequently, this is probably the closest they came to losing their lives. They arrived in Nez Perce country sick and starving. 

The fabulous finale to the expedition's trek to the Pacific was an exciting ride down the Columbia River. After wintering at Fort Clatsop in Oregon, the Corps re-traced their steps, with a few changes, back to where they began their journey. Check out this detailed timeline listing what form of transportation was used at each place on the Lewis and Clark trail.

Chris a page at the Hollywood Library says this about the documentary Room 237:

Have you ever watched a movie and thought "There might be more going on here"? Well here's a movie about some people who have read many amazing things into the subtleties of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.

The Sixth Gun Volume One Book coverThere were no undead in the wild wild west.  At least, not that we know of…Toss in six magical guns with unfathomable power, a world turned upside down, and a reluctant heroine and you’ve got the fatastically addictive graphic novel series, The Sixth Gun.

Not a graphic novel reader?  Well, pardner, maybe it’s about time you started. Combining the classic western genre with a touch of the supernatural and fantasy, The Sixth Gun has something for everyone.

Becky Montcrief is the reluctant heroine who inherited one of the pistols.  Not knowing the repercussions of picking up a gun, she’s thrust into the unforeseen adventure of fighting for her life. You see, once you pick the gun, it’s with you till death do you part.

Drake Sinclair is an enigma draped in black with a complicated past. Crossing his path means trouble from him or the folks on his tail. Will his past deeds catch up with his mission of atonement?

The other folks?  Their stories are even better.

Strap on your holster and get ready for the adventure of a life and an afterlife time…

For Hanna Lundmark, born in the forests of nineteenth century Sweden and abandoned in the Portugese owned colonial town of Lourenco Marques, what could be more alien than to wake up bleeding, in a hotel with a chimp named Carlos who wears a white waiter's coat and serves tea?  After the bare, bone chilling temperatures of her native Sweden, the African heat is overwhelming, blinding, suffocating. The bright colors are intimidatingly lush and foreign. And all the Africans! Is it true that they can't be trusted? That you have to lie to them and keep them from knowing too much or they will take advantage of white people?

Hannah feels uncomfortable and strange but when she slaps the black woman who saved her life and unjustly accuses her of lying, Hannah knows that she is no better than the powerful white Portuguese colonists who live there. Without  quite knowing how or why, Hannah realizes that something inside her is paralyzed, without words to make sense of what she feels and sees. It is then that she picks up an blank book discarded by her husband and begins to record everything that happens to her and to those around her.

Asked about the incredible detail of the book, author Henning Mankell says he found out about some remarkable tax records in the colonial archives of Maputo, capitol of Mozambique. At the end of the nineteenth century they show that a Swedish woman owned the biggest business in town - which was then called Lourenco Marques. After a few years she is no longer mentioned - she came from nowhere and vanished mysteriously. Who was she? What happened to her? Where did she go? Mankell couldn't quit thinking about her. So "based on what little we know and all that we don't know"  he imagined  a captivating story of prejudice and transformation that begins in the bleak forests of  Sweden and ends in the sun soaked continent of Africa. Read Henning Mankell's A Treacherous Paradise and you won't be able to quit thinking about her either.

When John Marshall discovered gold on the American River in 1848, he tried to keep it a secret.   California was still a territory with a population of about  157,000 and he knew if word got out about the discovery of gold, it would change everything.

The secret proved impossible to keep and  “gold fever” started the  biggest migration in U.S. history. Just a few years later more than 300,000 people moved to California with hopes of striking it rich,  fast-tracking the territory to statehood. Take a look at the maps, letters and images from this remarkable time.

Most of  miners were American, but news of the discovery spread around the world. People came from Europe, Australia, China and Latin America, creating one of the first multi-ethnic workforces in the world.   Experience the Gold Rush from a variety of perspectives with this game.

Miners from different backgrounds working side by side.

Though miners discovered more than 750,000 pounds of gold between 1848 and 1853, more business entrepreneurs than miners struck it rich!

For more information on the California Gold Rush,  just ask a librarian!

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