Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee

Diamond Jubilee: Queen Elizabeth II Diamond JubileeDiamond Jubilee: Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee
February 6 marked the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's 60 year reign starting in 1952. To read about the Diamond Jubilee celebrations click here. Recent biographies written about the Queen include: Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by noted biographer Sally Bedell Smith. Smith follows the young princess as a student to a love-struck teen (after meeting Philip) through her current reign. This is a well-written and engrossing account of a Queen that successfully balances royal tradition and modernity. Another title, The Real Elizabeth : an intimate portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, takes on the subject of the role of the monarchy itself specifically under her auspices over the past 60 years and how it has changed over time. And do not forget, her royal consort, Prince Philip, who has served by her side (and one step behind her). There is a recent biography, Prince Philip : the turbulent early life of the man who married Queen Elizabeth II that focuses on his turbulent childhood as his family is exiled from Greece (where he was born) to his mother’s schizophrenia and his father leaving him at an early age in order to live with his mistress. His charm and good looks eventually win him the hand of the-then Princess Elizabeth for whom he renounces his titles, religion and even family. A storybook romance indeed! To read more about their life together, read Philip and Elizabeth : portrait of a royal marriage. Movies about her include Helen Mirren’s outstanding portrayal in the Queen and the British TV show, Queen : a dramatic portrait of one of the world's most powerful women, as well as several documentaries including Windsors, a royal family.

'Dead End in Norvelt'

Handed to me late last year by a savvy children’s librarian, Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos, surpassed my wildest hopes for a good read. Imagine my delight in January when the novel -- written for ages 10 and up -- won the American Library Association’s 2012 Newbery Award for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children, plus the 2012 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction!

This fabulous story is the "entirely true and the wildly fictional" story of the author’s childhood, unfolding in historic Norvelt, Pennsylvania, during the summer of 1962, as the narrator awkwardly turns twelve. “Eccentric” is not too strong to describe his family and his adorable, elderly buddy, Miss Volker, the town historian who helps Jack with his nosebleeds, while also teaching him valuable life lessons about humans, tenacity, and love. The writing in the novel is seamless, while the story manages to be both heartwarming and hilarious. Comedian Dave Barry praised the book as “brilliant . . . full of history, mystery, and laughs. It reminded me of my small-town childhood, although my small town was never as delightfully weird as Norvelt.”

Lance Armstrong Finishes 2nd at Panama 70.3 Triathlon

One year after Lance Armstrong's second retirement from professional cycling, the seven-time Tour de France champion entered the long-course triathlon world, stunning a deep field of professional triathletes by clinching 2nd place overall, just 42 seconds behind winner, Bevan Docherty, who ran Armstrong down at the very end of the run portion of the race.

Lance was almost a minute behind the leader coming out of the 1.2 mile swim, but he made that time up on the 56-mile bike (no surprise there), moving into second place. On the 13.1 mile run, he passed American Chris Lieto to take the race lead until the final few miles, when Olympic medalist, Docherty, ran him down.

Armstrong and his Livestrong foundation bring a lot of attention to the endeavors he tackles, and his impressive performance in his first long-course triathlon is sure to bring more spectators and participants into the multi-sport community. If you are interested in completing a triathlon this year, the AADL has books and video to help you get trained and motivated for the swim-bike-run challenge.

The Secret World of Walter Anderson

“There once was a man whose love of nature was as wide as the world. There once was an artist who needed to paint as much as he needed to breathe. There once was an islander who lived in a cottage at the edge of the Mississippi, where the sea meets the earth and the sky. His name was Walter Anderson. He may be the most famous American artist you’ve never heard of.”

So begins The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass, a youth biography of the Mississippi artist. Known as the “homegrown Van Gogh”, he sketched and painted the natural world of the Gulf coast from the 1930s to the mid-1960s. He also carved sculptures, made furniture, created murals, decorated pottery and wrote poetry. He was driven by an intense desire to produce his art and express the beauty and transcendence of nature. “The heart is the thing that counts, the mingling of my heart with the heart of the wild bird; to become one with the thing I see…”

He was brilliant, reclusive and eccentric, living on the edge of sanity in a small cabin and making frequent excursions by rowboat to Horn Island in the Gulf, where he camped in primitive conditions for weeks at a time, sketching the turtles, birds and waves. In his cabin, he kept one room locked and completely off-limits to his family. When he died, and they opened “The Little Room”, they found every square inch had been painted with glowing, vibrant colors, depicting a Gulf coast day from dawn to night. It was his secret and it is magical.

This book is a beautiful introduction for young people to his art and life. The first part is useful for lower elementary students for doing biography reports, but could be read to younger children as well; the second part (the author’s note) expands the information to be appropriate for middle school or even the curious adult. In trying to learn more about this artist I found several books in MeL which were wonderful.

Walter Anderson’s art is worth spending time with. See some images of his artwork here. If you happen to find yourself in New Orleans, the Walter Anderson Museum is a day-trip away.

Biography in Context: Research Someone Famous!

If you are searching for biographical information about important people, click into Biography in Context. This valuable database offers reams of information on notable people from the past and present. Moreover, you will find news articles to help you place an individual life into historical context. Access to this and any of our other reference databases and resources is available at every branch of the AADL, as well as from outside the library with a valid AADL library card. For access from an outside location, please sign in to your library account, visit our reference database page, and navigate to the desired resource. To access Biography in Context, go to the research page, and select Biography in Context from the History and Biography category.

The Inaugural Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration

Established in 2010 by the American Library Association Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of RUSA, The Listen List recognizes and honors the narrators who are a pleasure to listen to; who offer listeners something they could not create by their own visual reading; and who achieve an outstanding performance in terms of voice, accents, pitch, tone, inflection, rhythm and pace.

This inaugural list (Be sure to check out the wonderful listen-alikes with each of the winners) includes literary and genre fiction, memoir and history and features voices that enthrall, delight and inspire.

The 2012 winners are:

All Clear by Connie Willis. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren.
This sequel to Blackout, a stellar science fiction adventure, follows the plight of a group of historians from 2060, trapped in WWII England during the Blitz. In a narrative tour de force, Kellgren brings to life a large cast of characters, including a pair of street-smart urchins who capture the hearts of characters and listeners alike.

Bossypants by Tina Fey Narrated by Tina Fey.
In a very funny memoir made decidedly funnier by its reader, Tina Fey relates sketches and memories of her time at SNL and Second City as well as the difficulties of balancing career and motherhood. In a voice dripping with wit, she acts out the book, adding extra-aural elements that print simply cannot convey.

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley. Narrated by Dominic Hoffman.
Dominic Hoffman reads this elegiac novel of memory and redemption with fierce grace, inhabiting Mosley’s characters with voices perfectly crafted in pitch and rhythm. His rough, gravelly narration manages the pace and mood of the book with astounding skill, brilliantly capturing the mental clarity and fog of 91-year-old Ptolemy Grey’s world.

Life Itself: A Memoir by Roger Ebert, Narrated by Edward Herrmann.
Ebert’s clear-eyed account chronicles his life from his youth in Urbana, Illinois, to his fame as a world-renowned film critic in Chicago. Herrmann’s engaging, affable reading mirrors the author’s tone—honest, often humorous, sometimes bittersweet—as he unhurriedly ushers listeners through Ebert’s moving reflections on a life well lived.

Middlemarch by George Eliot. Narrated by Juliet Stevenson.
Juliet Stevenson brings crisp clarity, a witty sensibility and a charming tonal quality to Eliot’s masterpiece of provincial life. Through her deft management of pacing and tone, she reveals character motivation and illuminates the many themes of the novel. But most of all she reclaims Eliot for listeners who thought they did not enjoy classics.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willg. Narrated by Kate Reading.
In this Regency Christmas caper, a pudding, a spy, a hilarious school theatrical and a memorable country house party lead to laughter, love and an offer of marriage. Reading’s lovely English accent and exuberance are a perfect fit for the wide range of characters, from young girls to male teachers to members of the aristocracy.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde. Narrated by Emily Gray.
In this genre-bending romp, the “written” Thursday must rescue the “real” Thursday from a nefarious Bookworld plot. Emily Gray wears Thursday like a second skin, as she does the robots, dodos, and space aliens running around. The story is paced such that every nuance of pun and word play is captured and rendered aurally.

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley. Narrated by Jayne Entwistle.
Flavia de Luce, a terrifyingly proficient 11-year-old amateur chemist and sleuth, investigates the beating of a gypsy and the death of a villager in this third outing. Entwistle’s spot-on narration reveals the irrepressible, intrepid heroine’s prowess and captures a delicious range of secondary characters in these whimsical mysteries set in 1950s rural England.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø. Narrated by Robin Sachs.
The icy chill of the Norwegian countryside and a series of cold-blooded murders dominate this Harry Hole crime novel. Sachs contrasts Hole’s world-weary professional attitude, his unquenchable thirst for justice and his yearning for love and comfort, as he skillfully maintains a suspenseful pace and projects an overarching sense of doom.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Narrated by Simon Prebble.
The tragedy and heroism of the French Revolution come alive through Prebble’s distinctive and graceful narration. As the lives of Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton intersect, Prebble takes listeners deep into France and England, narrating terrifying descriptions and breathless acts of courage with a cadence that sweeps one away.

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht. Narrated by Susan Duerden and Robin Sachs.
In this imaginative novel, Balkan physician Natalia, on a mission of mercy, learns of her beloved grandfather’s death. Duerden’s mesmerizing voice leads listeners through the complexities of this rich novel with its intertwining stories, while Sachs memorably relates her grandfather’s haunting tales in a gentle and gruff voice.

Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick. Narrated by Nathaniel Philbrick.
In what should be required reading before cracking the pages of Moby-Dick, Nathaniel Philbrick’s homage to this great American novel compels the listener to experience Melville with an almost incandescent joy. His voice resonates with palpable enthusiasm and calls to mind a New England professor giving a fascinating lecture.

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads Event - Film: Brainman: The Boy With The Incredible Brain

Sunday January 15, 2012: 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads 2012 focuses on the book "Born On A Blue Day: Inside The Mind Of An Autistic Savant" by Daniel Tammet - a journey into one of the most fascinating minds alive today--guided by the owner himself. Get to know the author better as you gain insight into the mind of this extraordinary individual through this documentary, "Brainman: The Boy With The Incredible Brain."

Daniel Tammet is one of the world's 100 living geniuses. A twenty-something with extraordinary mental abilities, Daniel Tammet is one of the world's few savants. He can do calculations to 100 decimal places in his head, and learn a language in a week.

This documentary follows Daniel as he travels to America to meet the scientists who are convinced he may hold the key to unlocking similar abilities in everyone. He also meets the world's most famous savant, the man who inspired Dustin Hoffman's character in the Oscar winning film Rain Man.

Biography and Genealogy Master Index: Who Would You Like to Learn About?

The Biography and Genealogy Master Index offers a comprehensive index of current, readily available reference sources, as well as the most important retrospective works that cover individuals, both living and deceased, from every field of activity and from all areas of the world.

This database meets research needs by giving you access to an index of major biographical resources that have been published over the last 40 years as well as newly published biographical works. Source citations are included with each article to make your research projects even easier.

Here is a helpful tip for finding accurate search results in the database: several listings for the same individual, with slight name and date variations, may sometimes be found. In other words, a search for a particular biography may result with a variety of articles to choose from on the same person. Small differences in subject names may result in completely different search results. While searching, it is important to consider all possible forms under which a name may be listed. For example, stop to consider if the middle name, prefix, suffix, or initials of the person should be included. Such small adjustments can widely broaden database results.

Access to this and any of our other reference databases and resources is available at every branch of the AADL, as well as from outside the library with a valid AADL library card. For access from an outside location, please sign in to your library account, visit our reference database page, and navigate to the desired resource. To access the Biography and Genealogy Master Index, go to the research page, and select the Biography and Genealogy Master Index from the History and Biography category.

The 5th Beatle

Looking through the new DVDs list in the catalog, I was excited to see that AADL will soon have copies of the movie, Backbeat! As a huge Beatles fan, this is one of my favorite movies because of how funny and also fairly accurate it is in its portrayal of the early days of the group.

In general, the story follows the band's start in the seedy nightclubs of Liverpool and Hamburg. More specifically, it chronicles the close friendship between John Lennon and "Fifth Beatle," Stuart Sutcliffe. The film is touching in its honesty towards this relationship and Lennon's struggle with Sutcliffe's decision to leave the Beatles in order to pursue a promising painting career (you can view some of his art at the link above...). Sometimes with all the "peace and love" Lennon tributes and memorials out there, it's easy to forget that the icon was once an angry, smart-aleck teenager with all kinds of abandonment issues. For me, understanding this Lennon makes me appreciate all the more the person he grew into later in life.

"Backbeat" is R-rated and as gritty and raw as the streets in which it takes place. The music, of course, is great. It's well worth checking out (if only to learn all about how the group got its famous hair-cut...), along with other John Lennon videos and albums. Or you can always buff up on your Beatles history with the wide range of books and videos at the library. And, of course, there will ALWAYS be the music.

Musician Aaron Dworkin, Founder & President Of The Sphinx Organization, Discusses His Memoir

Tuesday December 13, 2011: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

AADL is extremely proud to host violinist, arts educator, and President of the Detroit-based Sphinx Organization, Aaron Dworkin, as he discusses his long-awaited inspirational memoir "Uncommon Rhythm: A Black, White, Jewish, Jehovah's Witness, Irish Catholic Adoptee's Journey to Leadership." The book is a harrowing yet moving account of Aaron's personal journey through social isolation and discrimination to found one of the nation's cultural jewels, the Sphinx Organization. Books will be on sale at the event and the evening will include a book signing.

"Uncommon Rhythm" is a tapestry of stirring narrative, precious photos and poignant poems. A MacArthur Fellow, Aaron is driven by the single vision of inclusion for all, and hopes that this book will inspire all people who have ever felt like outsiders to nurture their own gifts and make valuable contributions to society.

An author, social entrepreneur, artist-citizen and an avid youth education advocate, Dworkin has received extensive national recognition for his vast accomplishments.

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