Queen of the Falls Is Over the Top

Next time you’re confronted with riding a monster Cedar Point roller coaster, think of the Queen of the Falls and ease your racing heart. An aging charm school teacher in Bay City, Michigan, finds she must close her school because of dwindling student enrollment. Over the years she had traveled and taught but had not saved much money. Now in her sixties she needs a get-rich-quick plan.

Author and illustrator, Chris Van Allsburg sheds light on this surreal, true story of 63-year-old widow Annie Edson Taylor who hatches the idea of riding over Niagara Falls as a means of financially securing her retirement. In typical Van Allsburg style, he mysteriously unfolds the story of Annie as she persuades a local cooper to build a custom-sized barrel and how she “sells” a carnival worker to pitch her soon-to-be famous feat to newspaper folks in Niagara, NY. Van Allsburg uses his trademark sepia tones to transport the reader back in time and to cast a sense of unbelievability – features that so many of his books are known for.

As the pages turn, the tension builds. Will Annie succeed? If so, will she also win the hearts and dollars of thousands of fans? Open this book and hold onto your hat!

Bastille Day 2011


Today marks the anniversary of Bastille Day, just one event in 1789 that began the French Revolution. Revolutionaries attacked the Bastille, a prison that had become a hated symbol of the Bourbon monarchy. Tumultuous years followed before the entrenched privileged aristocracy, feudal system and clergy lost much of their power and lots of heads were chopped off along the way!

Louis XVI helped fund the American Revolution, but it didn’t help him at home with the French people. They didn't care for the higher taxes and food prices (remember "Let them eat cake?") that resulted, not to mention the extravagant lifestyle he and Marie Antoinette led.

Sitting in Versailles, Louis knew there was trouble, but was not keenly aware of the thousands rioting in Paris, witness his diary entry for that day: “July 14th; nothing.”

Marie, Louis and thousands of others were guillotined as nobility was eliminated and the Declaration of the Rights of Man became part of the French Constitution.

Here’s more about Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité and the French Revolution with this selection of history: Citizens : a Chronicle of the French Revolution, Voices of the French Revolution, Paris, The Secret History.

Here are some great films set in the period: The Affair of the Necklace, Marie Antoinette, Danton and The Lady and the Duke.

Lastly, here are a few novels: A Tale of Two Cities, Madame Tussaud : a Novel of the French Revolution, Annette Vallon : a Novel of the French Revolution and The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Click on Vive la France! to find the name of this famous city and use it as a code for points in the AADL Summer Game 2011.

Author Birthdays: Heinlein, Eddings, McCullough

July 7th marks the birthday of authors Robert A. Heinlein, David Eddings, and David McCullough.

Robert A. Heinlein was an American author of science fiction and first winner of the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement. He still holds the record for winning the most Hugo Awards for Best Novel, awarded for Double Star, Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and the Retro winner Farmer in the Sky.

Heinlein also had a few Hugo Best Novel short-listed books: Have Space Suit--Will Travel, Glory Road, Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long, Friday, and Job: A Comedy of Justice.

David Eddings was an American writer mostly known for his fantasy series. Many of these series, including The Dreamers, were co-written with his wife, Leigh.

Eddings also wrote some non-fantasy novels. Regina's Song, also written with his wife, is a fictional work about twins and their relationships. Booklist called it "a story of murder and revenge sporting supernatural overtones."

David McCullough is an American author and historian, and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has also won the Pulitzer twice for his biographies of Harry S. Truman and John Adams. The HBO television series John Adams and the film Truman were both based on his books.

McCullough has also written non-biographies. His The Path Between The Seas : The Creation Of The Panama Canal, 1870-1914 won four awards in 1978. Library Journal noted that in it "McCullough's careful research and genius for narrative come brilliantly through."

Ben Franklin and Liberty's Kids, on DVD

This youth animated adventure is set in the 1700s, and stars Ben Franklin and his teenage apprentices… Sarah, James, Henri, and Moses. Originally airing on PBS, Liberty's Kids tells of young people in dramas surrounding the major events in the Revolutionary War days, and aims to educate those aged 7 to 14.

Visit the show’s website, where you can play Liberty’s Kids related games, make your own newspaper, learn more about your favorite character, or watch an episode.

Some of the voice actors portraying famous historical figures include Liam Neeson, Norman Schwarzkopt, Annette Bening, Billy Crystal, Dustin Hoffman (as Benedict Arnold), Maria Shriver, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Ben Stiller (as Thomas Jefferson), Sylvester Stallone, and Whoopi Goldberg. Now, that sounds interesting!

This is the last week for AADL's Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World exhibit. Be sure to have a peek if you haven't already! It's located Downtown, on the 3rd floor, and in the Multi-Purpose Room. For the kids, stop in the youth department and check out our Ben Franklin Renaissance Kid wall! We've got some activity sheets for kids to work on to learn more about Ben Franklin.

Spy School: Continuing Education

Crafting, sending, and decoding your own spy letters can be a great way to practice writing, reading, and counting skills with an exciting twist! If you were interested by the recent Spy School and Revolutionary War Spycraft events, the exploration and learning can continue through these engaging resources:

First, check out the public lists Codes and Ciphers and Renaissance Kid - Spycraft!. On these lists, you will find a range of items available at AADL. There are books for youth and adults as well as videos for youth.

Next, head to the William L. Clements Library's online exhibit, Spy Letters of the American Revolution. Browse through real spy letters from the 1700s, and learn about the methods of invisible ink, codes, mask letters, and quill letters! Find out the stories of the people behind these fascinating letters, including men and women who spied for and against the American cause. Learn about the history and geography of this time period and the famous and lesser known heroes involved.

For some hands-on fun, practice your own spy letter skills with recipes for invisible ink, instructions for using a dictionary code similar to the code used by the Culper Gang, and a guide to make your own St. Cyr slide (and scroll up and down that page for many more types of codes!). Try sending a Morse code message with a flashlight in the middle of the night. There are forty more codes and spy activities to try in this book! And don't forget, inventing your own code after practicing some of these examples is a great way to stretch your brain and creativity!SpySchoolSpySchool

Author Birthdays: de Saint-Exupéry, Toland, Fallaci

June 29th marks the birthday of authors Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, John Toland, and Oriana Fallaci.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a French author most known for his children's fairy tale The Little Prince. The story has also been turned into a graphic novel and opera.

de Saint-Exupéry also wrote some things for adults, including the memoir Wind, Sand and Stars and the posthumous The Wisdom of the Sands, printed four years after his disappearance in 1944.

John Toland was an American historian, known for his works on WWII, especially the Pulitzer-winning The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945. He also wrote a book on the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese. In regards to the Japanese people, he was known to have said, "You don't have to take sides. All you have to do is get people's motivations."

Toland also wrote a biography of Adolf Hitler; in order to write the book, he actually interviewed people who had known Hitler. The biography is thought to be something of a "myth-buster."

Oriana Fallaci was an Italian writer and journalist, and opponent of the fascist regime during WWII. Interviews with History and Conversations with Power was compiled after her death and includes interviews with powerful leaders.

Fallaci also wrote some fictional works. These include A Man, which is a historical novel based upon the would-be assassin of a Greek leader, and Inshallah, a novel about Italian soldiers stationed in Beirut.

The Medieval World

Mandylion of EdessaMandylion of Edessa

Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe is a new British Museum exhibit that runs through Oct. 9th. It is a collection of incredible objects, many rarely on public view, from the Vatican, British Museum, European churches and museums.

The practice of using devotional objects or relics purportedly from saints for worship became popular during the Middle Ages. Fragments of the True Cross, the St Baudime Reliquary and the Mandylion of Edessa are just a few of the opulent treasures that will be on display.

To celebrate the opening a list was created to highlight related items in the library's catalog. Take a look and enjoy this fascinating time: The Medieval World!

Ben Brilliant: Science Experiments for Kids!

Ben Franklin was a legendary inventor whose imagination and hard work led him to conduct famous scientific experiments and invent many new devices.

Inspire the young scientist in your family with stories of Franklin's experiments and inventions with Gene Barretta's Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions Of Benjamin Franklin, Rosalyn Schanzer's How Ben Franklin Stole The Lightning, and Pamela Nettleton's Benjamin Franklin: Writer, Inventor, Statesman.

Then dig into some experimenting yourself! This website from the Franklin Institute has instructions for experiments with electricity, air, heat, and the glass armonica. If electricity sparks your imagination, there are plenty more experiments on this topic, including how to build your own Leyden jar!

Did you know that Ben Franklin was the first scientist to study the Gulf Stream, a powerful, warm current in the Atlantic Ocean. Take your own voyage on the Gulf Stream with these science and math activities!

If you're a teacher or parent seeking to incorporate educational lessons and experiments inspired by Ben Franklin's life, refer to the PBS Benjamin Franklin Teacher's Guide, a series of eight lesson plans aligned to National Standards.

BenFranklinScienceBenFranklinScience

Ben Franklin on Video

The Ben Franklin exhibit continues!

Obviously, there are many documentaries on Ben Franklin. One from the History Channel not only features Ben, it also has a snippet from the series Save our History. Another from the History Channel includes a small printed study guide. Ben is even the main subject of one of the discs of the channel's The Founding of America series.

There are also some more interesting DVDs we have that include Ben. Liberty's Kids, a chidlren's TV series from 2002 has Ben as one of its main characters. There is also a short Disney production based on the book Ben and Me.

Two characters that have been named after the real Ben are Benjamin Franklin Pierce, from M*A*S*H, and Benjamin Franklin Gates, from National Treasure.

My personal favorite is either the "Ben Franklin" episode of The Office, or the musical film 1776, starring Howard Da Silva as our beloved Ben.

Poor Richard's Almanack

Poor Richard's AlmanackPoor Richard's Almanack

Almanacs generally contain a calendar of the days, weeks and months of the year, astronomical and climatological information, as well as suggestions for farmers throughout the seasons. Rising and setting times for the sun and the moon, moon phases, planetary information, tide schedules, holidays, and even medicinial remedies are typically included in an almanac as well. Perhaps you are familiar with The Old Farmer’s Almanac? It is still published every year!

Under his pseudonym “Poor Richard” or “Richard Saunders”, Ben Franklin published Poor Richard’s Almanack annually from 1732 until 1757. Since almanacs were very popular in colonial times, Ben Franklin felt it was his duty to educate the public. In fact, it was common for the almanac to often be the only publication a person ever purchased. Poor Richard’s Almanack sold as many as 10,000 issues per year. Most notably, Poor Richard’s Almanack is memorable for Ben Franklin’s aphorisms and proverbs emphasizing frugality, good sense and hard work. You can view some scanned pages from original Poor Richard’s Alamanacs here.

“Take counsel in wine, but resolve afterwards in water.”
“Beware of little expenses: a small leak will sink a great ship.”
“Be always ashamed to catch thyself idle.”
-Benjamin Franklin

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