I've always loved singing, and the sound of a lot of powerful voices joined in harmony. So when a picture book celebrating Stan Rogers' song Northwest Passage showed up in the library, I was thrilled. Never heard of him, you say? Let me explain.
The name Stan Rogers resonates for generations of Canadians. A singer/songwriter who died at 33, he captured the romance of life across the vast landscape of the country. He sang about the prairie farmers, Nova Scotia fishermen, and Alberta oil field workers. His songs portrayed the struggles of average people as heroic. Perhaps that's why his music excites a pride that Canadians don't always exhibit.
I like how this picture book works on so many levels. Follow the lyrics at the top of each page to learn about the ill-fated Franklin and his crew who, in 1845, tried to find a Northwest Passage through the Arctic to Asia. If you want to know more, read the detailed history on each page. Matt James provides gorgeous illustrations that depict Stan Rogers and his dog in his VW van, contemplating Franklin's voyage while making his own cross-country jouney. And of course, those of you who know it can sing along.
This song has particular resonance for me. One day I was with a group musical friends in a cafe when the song came on over the sound system. We all joined in at the top of our lungs, because it's impossible to sing this song quiety. Nearby, a table of tourists commented 'how quaint'. Looking back, I see how incredibly geeky this must have seemed - especially for those who wouldn't understand the mythic status that Stan Rogers had for us.
If you've never had the pleasure of hearing the song, I present to you Northwest Passage, as sung by the great man himself.
Lori, a regional librarian describes her latest read, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki: "Nao, A Japanese teenager navigates the rough road of life by writing to a future reader in her diary. Meanwhile ( but also later) Ruth, a writer in Canada with angst of her own is reading the diary she found washed up on the shore. Time, self and relationships play a big part but great characters keep me reading. A healthy dose of Zen philosophy and a bit of Proust also keep it interesting!"
Jane, Belmont Library's youth librarian, is reading Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin. She says, "The biography of Ben Franklin's obscure and poor younger sister makes you think about how awful it used to be to be a woman. The dichotomy of their lives is amazing despite knowing that she could have been just as smart as he was."
A year or so ago, I started having a frequently recurring dream that I was living with something dangerous, usually a big cat, a tiger or a lion. In the dreams, I would try to go about my business while being conscious that the dangerous creature could lunge at any moment. It took me a while, but I realized finally that the dreams were about my teenage daughter. I knew long ago that my oldest, who I will call Thing One, would be a difficult teenager, and I tried to ready myself, but I was not ready. So I dived into the world of parenting books at the library until I found Laura Scribner Kastner's Getting to Calm. I find that I need to keep it around and go back to it again and again in order to keep my head in the right place and keep my cool when Thing One is behaving like the little girl in The Exorcist.
Getting to Calm doesn’t just throw theories at you; it actually walks you through conversations between teens and their parents, showing not only the content, but also the process, analyzing each participant's responses. It points out mistakes that parents make and explains what parents should avoid, and shows how to be more successful talking with teenagers. With the help of this book, I stopped seeing my daughter's resistance to rules and instruction as a personal rejection, but as something she simply has to do, part of the process. Mind you, I have to remind myself of this again and again, because sometimes my gut response is that I’m living with a demon.
I've accepted that there’s not an answer that will magically make everything go smoothly. It feels kind of like my idea of Buddhism. Being a parent is something you practice from day to day, as mindfully as you can. And keeping this book close will help me do the best I can, along with deep breathing, counting to ten, conversations with other parents who have already lived through this, and occasionally, a glass or two of wine. I might make it through Thing One’s adolescence. By then, Thing Two, a little over three years younger, should be in the thick of his own teen years.
Some parents sing "Rock a bye Baby" or hum "Brahm’s Lullaby" to help quiet their kids for bedtime, but my brother and I were rocked to sleep with songs like “Down in the Valley” and “Goodnight Irene”.
We lived in the Yakima Valley, and one of my grandma’s close church friends was named Irene, so I was well into grade school before I realized that these songs were not personally made up for our family, but were sung by one of my dad’s favorite groups: The Weavers. Pete Seeger, song writer, singer, activist was an important member of the Weavers. Born into a musical family himself, Pete popularized folk music in the best way possible - he got people to sing it. He made singing fun for people of all ages with stories like “Abiyoyo” and “The Foolish Frog” or by teaching his listeners about how things were in the world by sharing his favorite song "Guantanamera".
See the thing is, for Pete, every song was a singalong. He got his audience involved in a way that was copied by singers like Arlo Guthrie, Harry Chapin and John Denver. In our family we called it ‘The Pete Way’. Here is how the the ‘Pete Way' works. First Pete introduced the song with a story or background about it. Then he taught the chorus by feeding it line by line to the audience until they could sing it back to him. Then he taught the verses the same way, line by line. Then everyone sang it altogether. The main ingredient of the “Pete Way” was his enthusiastic energy: you simply could not ignore it. He had complete confidence that evil could be conquered by song. That singing was fun! There are some who called him a communist, a socialist, an atheist. Some who felt he couldn’t be trusted to be patriotic or true to his country. But Pete remained true to himself, to ideas about bringing freedom and justice to the world - one song at time. Because that is truly the “Pete’ way.
If you want to know more about Pete Seeger and listen to his music, take a look at my list.
Do people cause climate change? How will it affect us as we grow up? Here are three informative websites for students that explain the basics of climate change. They can serve as a starting point for your report and answer other questions you have.
First we have a site from NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Climate Kids. This site answers some of the big questions about climate, such as "how do we know?" and "what is the greenhouse effect?" There are also games to play and things to make, if you want to have fun.
The Environmental Protection Agency's A Student's Guide to Global Climate Change is full of information about the effect of climate change on the environment. Learn the basics, see the impacts, and begin to think like a scientist at this well organized site. It includes thoughtful answers to frequently asked questions, such as "Is climate change the same thing as global warming?" The video above was produced by the EPA to explain the basics of climate change.
The most scientific of these sites, Spark Science Education, has a wealth of information, and comes from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The focus is mainly on atmospheric issues. This site includes a section on climate change activites, to explore projects and data about climate change.
The library also has online resources and encyclopedias to help with your report. Look up "climate change" on Grolier Online, with material for students of all ages. You will need your library card number and PIN to use this resource from home or school.
Want to learn more? Ask a librarian online or at your nearby library.
Ben Franklin was always thinking and exploring new ideas. He was a practical man who invented things that helped make life better.
1. His kite flying experiments to study lighning and electricity are still famous today.
2. He was the first person in America to invent a musical instrument.
3. Lightning rods are still used today on buildings and houses.
4. Bifocal glasses allow people to use just one pair of glasses to see thing far away and close up.
5. The Franklin stove kept houses warmer and used less wood than fireplaces.
Ben Franklin invented or improved many other things as well. He never patented any of his invetions or made money from them.
If you want to discover more about Ben Franklin and his inventions watch this
I'm a big Blazers' fan. I watch pretty much all of the games on TV (the only reason my household keeps Comcast is so we can get channel 37 to watch all of the Blazer games) and try to go to at least a couple of games every season. An entire group of my colleagues went to the San Antonio game in February. Though we (I'm a 6th man all the way!) lost by 2 points, it was an exciting game. And we all got LaMarcus Aldridge glasses, though we were very sad that he had to sit out the game with an injury. And I made it onto the Jumbotron. Woohee!
I was really happy to see that Robin Lopez attended Comic Con this year and also posted a great video of his tour through Powell's Books. He's a super big comic book fan. I grew up reading comic books - Archie, Little Dot, even Spider Man and the Fantastic Four. Then I got older and put away my comics thinking that phase of my life was over.
However, while working at the library, I stumbled upon some amazing graphic novels. One of my favorite genres is memoirs and there are some absolutely fantastic memoir graphic novels. The first one I read was Persepolis, a memoir of Marjane Satrapi's childhood growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. I learned both about the history of Iran and the wrenching story of Satarapi's life in a terribly repressive society.
Another graphic novel that speaks directly to me is Ellen Forney's, Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangolo & Me: A Graphic Memoir. Forney struggles with bipolar disorder and the most difficult part is her worry that her creativity is connected to the disease. She didn't want to do anything that would take away from her artistic passion. I think that many people can relate to this - are there qualities that we possess that hinder us in living our lives to the fullest but are those the same qualities that make us who we are?
It's pretty amazing to me that comic books can teach us so much about the world and ourselves. There are lots more graphic novels that will open up whole new worlds and not just where superheroes live.
Thia, a clerk at the Belmont Library, is reading The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter. "It's a complex discussion of the biology of trees," she says. "I'm learning a lot."