Ma Rainey turns 120

April 26 marks the 120th birthday of Gertrude Pridgett, otherwise known as Ma Rainey, legendary "Mother of the Blues." Rainey was the first great professional blues recording artist and, by all accounts, the first woman to incorporate blues into vaudeville and minstrel shows. AADL owns a variety of books and CDs on the life and work of the blues pioneer, including, "Ma Rainey" and Blues Legacies and Black Feminism. She's also featured in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, August Wilson's 1982 play about racism and black rage set during a fictional recording session in a run-down Chicago recording studio in 1927.

Fancy Nancy

Ooooh . . . Nancy is so fancy. She uses tiaras, sequins, lace and anything else she can dream up. She is dismayed because no one else in her family is fancy. So she gives them lessons in how to . . . well, accessorize. When mom, dad and little sister are fancied up, they all go out to dinner. "When we arrive at the King's Crow, everyone looks up. They probably think we're movie stars."
Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser is a wonderful family story. The pictures are colorful and clever, just perfect for the story. (Take special note of Nancy using scotch tape to afix a crown on her little sister's head!)
It's hard to imagine a picture book that blends words and pictures better. This one is worth a look.

Bestsellers on Audio

The usual suspects top the New York Times bestseller list this month: Jonathan Kellerman’s Gone, James Patterson’s 5th Horseman, Steve Berry’s Templar Legacy, Jodi Picoult’s Tenth Circle, Tami Hoag’s Prior Bad Acts and Danielle Steel’s The House. Following up on the popularity of the Da Vinci Code, Javier Sierra joins the list with The Secret Supper, about a papal inquisitor's investigation of the secret hidden in da Vinci's The Last Supper .

So That’s How They Do It

It’s not until you’re halfway through that seemingly simple task that you realize you really don’t know what you’re doing. How do you tie a bow tie? What does sort the laundry mean exactly? When will the paint dry? Listen to The Experts' Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do and hear Larry King, Letitia Baldrige, Bob Vila and 97 others explain the intricacies of your to-do list.

Hear This Book!

If you missed it when it first came out, you must hear the Pulitzer-prize winning novel, The Known World by Edward P. Jones. Every accolade and prize is deserved for this exquisitely written story of a black slave-owner in the antebellum South. Time called it "a masterpiece that deserves a place in the American literary canon." Equal praise is in order for his short story collection, Lost in the City. The stories rank with the best of O’Hara, Salinger and Fitzgerald.

Young Parrotheads' fancies turn to . . . country music?

With the upcoming film release of Carl Hiaasen's Newbery honor book Hoot, there's potential to create a whole new generation of Parrotheads. Everyone's favorite resident of Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett, not only produced and stars in the film, but he also penned much of its original soundtrack.

Of course, Mr. Buffett isn't the only artist who stands to benefit from an influx of new fans. Many country musicians carry on this tradition of carefree beach relaxation, not the least of whom is one of Buffett's most prominent successors: Kenny Chesney. Despite having such distinctly un-parrotlike hits as "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," Chesney has staked his claim in the Parrothead pantheon with such songs as "When the Sun Goes Down" and "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem." Indeed, his 2004 album Be As You Are is a veritable smorgasbord of tropical freewheeling goodness.

Young and old Parrotheads alike may also enjoy the works of some other country greats such as Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, or the legendary Willie Nelson.

Falun Gong: The End of Days

During last week's White House welcoming ceremony for China President Hu Jintao, a protestor interrupted Hu Jintao's opening speech by standing on a camera platform on the South Lawn and shouting at both Hu Jintao and George Bush. The woman pleaded for Bush to help stop the Chinese persecution of the controversial Chinese religious sect Falun Gong.

For those who want to know more about this topic, the library has a book called Falun Gong: The End of Days. According to Booklist, "Political scientist Chang provides a brief and accessible introduction to Falun Gong that places the movement in political and historical context, and she offers a critique of the Chinese government's policy toward religion that raises important questions about relations between quasi-religious groups such as Falun Gong and modern states.

The library also has two copies of Zhuan Falun, which is the core writing of Falun Gong's founder, Li Hongzhi. Finally, those interested in learning more about one of the central practices of Falun Gong can browse through the library's materials on Qi Gong.

E-greetings to the Queen!

Queen Elizabeth II

Do you know what today is? It's Queen Elizabeth's 80th birthday!

Why don't you send her an e-greeting! (Did you know that Her Majesty sent her first email in 1976?)

Can't make it to the birthday festivities? Check out the BBC News for video footage.

Don't know much about her? Peruse AADL's collection on "Lilibet". She may not be as stuffy as you think...

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #17

For Wendy Wasserstein fans, her passing this past January was deeply mourned. (Blog)

However, we could somehow feel a little comforted with the release of her first (and sadly also her last) novel The Elements of Style.

This dishy satire in the wake of 9/11, centers around Frankie Weissman, the down-to-earth pediatrician who treats the children of Manahattan's A-list, but is herself little affected by their excesses. Chock-full of shopping, private preschool worries, anxiety of maintaining a perfect image, or the scrambling simply to be top of the heap, “Wasserstein gets the trappings and tribulations of friendship and of romance right, making her depiction of the rich and fab trying to connect with one another witty and entertaining”. Enjoy.

Celebrate the opening of the first movie theater

On April 23, 1896, the first movie that was shown in a theater was seen at the Koster and Bials Music Hall in New York City. Until this time, people only saw films individually by using a kinetoscope.

Movies have dramatically changed over the years. As evidence, explore our diverse video and dvd collection including the dvd set, Treasures from American Film Archives, a four dvd set of fifty films that represent the breadth of American film making in its first one hundred years. Winner of the 2000 Film Heritage Award from the National Society of Film Critics and hailed by one critic as "...a bottomless bottle of blue tequila..," the series includes silent films, avant-garde works, documentaries and some of the earliest American films.

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