The Play Ground

The Play Ground

Are You A Brother To The Blues? If the answer to that question is yes, then you are in luck. Your brother is in town. Billy Joe Shaver and his Honky-tonk band led by this veteran Texas singer-songwriter who is arguably the most gifted of the country music "outlaws" who emerged with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings in the mid-70s. Shaver's singing is distinguished by its quiet emotional power and unaffected grit, and his songs, keenly observed and sharply delineated, move easily between homely directness and an authentically spiritual intensity. Saturday, August 26 at 8 p.m. The Ark, 316 S. Main. Tickets $15 in advance. To charge by phone, call 763-TKTS.

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Best Sellers List (8/20/06)

At the top and the bottom of this week's List are the two latest entries. One author is almost an industry unto himself and the other is a first time contender.

At #1 is Judge and Jury by James Patterson and Andrew Gross: "An inspiring actress and an F.B.I. agent join forces against a powerful mobster."

At #16* is The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist: "In Victorian England, a manor hides erotic and violent secrets."

*This title actually tied with Beach Road, another James Patterson novel. He co-authored this one with Peter de Jonge and it has been on the List for 14 weeks this summer. Patterson plans to publish 5 titles in 2006, the same as he did in 2004 and 2005.

Kid Bits - School Days

Chrysanthemum loves her name until she starts school and other children make fun of it. Kevin Henkes is a masterful author who tells satisfying stories which illustrate creative adult solutions to complex young feelings. If you are looking for more "School Stories" as the new school year looms, try Wemberly Worried, Countdown To Kindergarten, Twelve Days Of Kindergarten, Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready For Kindergarten, Edward Unready For School, Preparate Kindergarten Ala Voy!/Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come!

ArmChair Travels - Sicily

What a way to travel and never leave the comforts of home! Every chapter in The Stone Boudoir: Travels Through the Hidden Villages of Sicily by Theresa Maggio can be read as a short story about a different village on the island of Sicily. The villages are unique from each other and the residents are memorably "alive". My favorite "visit" was to an ancient (and still inhabited) home built into granite walls with stone ledge balconies overlooking the valley below. Of course, the boudoir was in stone. I swear I felt the Medite

ArmChair Travels - Pakistan

Schools for Girls in remote Pakistan and Afghanistan? Built and thriving with the full support of village leaders? For more than the past fifteen years? Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin is the gripping true story of how this project started and continues in spite of wars, illiteracy, devastation and poverty in the region. Read more about Mortenson's efforts at Mortenson's official website. Mortenson was in Pakistan when his driver/bodyguard reported "A village called New York" had just been bombed.

Looking for a great documentary?

Tarnation is the true life story of Jonathan Caouette's childhood with a schizophrenic mother. Made up of snapshots, Super-8, answering machine messages, video diaries, and early short films, this film is unlike anything else I have seen. Visually, this documentary is amazing, especially knowing it was edited with Apple's free program "imovie". If you are looking for a change from traditional cinema, certainly, give Tarnation a look!

You know they don't want to talk about it but it's just around the corner...

Whenever I think of back-to-school time, I am reminded of the Staples commercial that played several years ago. To the tune of "It's the most wonderful time of the year" it showed two children slowly walking through the aisles of the store staring at the floor with hunched shoulders. Meanwhile we see Dad joyously pushing a cart of school supplies behind them and kicking up his heels with excitement.

Going to school doesn't have to be a cause for distress. One way to help kids, especially the youngest students, get excited about school is to read stories that help them understand what to expect on their first day. For the youngest children there are stories such as Back to school is cool by Jim Jinkins, Brand-new pencils, brand-new books by Diane De Groat and Countdown to kindergarten by Alison McGhee.

For older children we have an assortment of books about middle school and high school experiences. So pick up a book and get your kids excited about Fall and going back to school!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #30

If you are still waiting for Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, rest assured that the wait is well worth it.

In the meantime, there is Renee Dodd's A Cabinet of Wonders. There are many similarities between these two Fabulous Fiction Firsts - they are well researched, engrossing in the storytelling, and chock-full of realistic, behind-the-scenes details of the little known world of circuses and traveling carnival shows.

Set in the Depression, they both paint a vivid portrait, with emotional authenticity, of the lives, dreams and relationships of the performers and personalities, as well as their struggles to stay together for what might very well be, one last season.

Starred Kirkus review praises A Cabinet of Wonders as "...a rare treat: a diverting and insightful piece of quirky fiction".

Henri Cartier-Bresson

bresson

August 22 is the anniversary of the birth of Henri Cartier-Bresson, co-founder of the Magnum Photo Agency, who was born in 1908 in Chanteloup, France. Originally a painter, Bresson fell in love with photography after purchasing his first Leica camera. Known for capturing "the decisive moment," Bresson is well known for his sometimes brutally honest portrayals of lives often lived on the edge.

Many of the current Magnum photographers follow his precedent as evidenced in the moving and powerful travelling exhibit of photos taken of the September 11th tragedy currently on display in the lower level Multi-Purpose Room at the Downtown Library.

Bessie Smith and the Night Riders by Sue Stauffacher

Emmarene is excited when Bessie Smith and the Harlem Frolics arrive in her town. She can't afford a ticket to the show and waits outside the tent for a peak at Bessie. She sees a member of the Ku Klux Klan pulling out the stakes of the tent and runs in to warn Bessie. To her surprise Bessie comes out and confronts the Ku Klux Klan, frightening them off. Based on a true story with some embellishment for the entertainment of younger readers, Sue Stauffacher shows how the courage of one person can save the lives of many.

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