Valentine Fun

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Valentine's Day is coming up again, and with it, the chance to show all your friends and loved ones how much you appreciate them.

Some of you have undoubtedly purchased your boxed sets of Valentines already, but remember, nothing says "love" like that special, homemade touch. Come on down to Mallett's Creek Branch this Saturday, Feb. 13 from 2-4 to make a creative Valentine or two for those you love!

Youth Nonfiction Finds -- Special Edition: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day when we should look forward and backward -- backward into history to appreciate how far we have come as a country and the hard work of those who brought us here, and forward to the challenges we still have to face in order to bring about true equality. Here are some good books to help you get a good understanding of the history of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr.:

Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.? provides a concise biography of its titular subject and background on the issues underlying the Civil Rights Movement, such as Jim Crow Laws and the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision. My Brother Martin, written by Christine King Farris, tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr.'s childhood, for a more human picture of the great man. Did you know that he was quite the prankster as a child? I Have a Dream presents Dr. King's famous speech in manageable bites, accompanied by evocative illustrations.

For those who want to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement itself, Nobody Gonna Turn Me 'Round presents a very understandable, illustrated history of the major events of the movement. A Dream of Freedom provides a more in-depth look at the issues, from Emancipation to the Black Panther Party. In Freedom's Children activists like Claudette Colvin and Ruby Bridges share their experiences of growing up during those tumultuous times. Finally, The Civil Rights Movement for Kids combines history with activities, like skits, songs, speeches and even recipes, to really bring history home.

Carting Off the Christmas Tree

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Drop and drag time will be here before you know it! The City of Ann Arbor's curbside collection of holiday trees will be held Monday, Jan. 18 - Friday, Jan 22, 2010. If Mother Nature delivers a snowstorm, just leave them buried and the City will pick them up when things thaw out. Be sure and get those ornaments off your holiday tree -- metal, glass or plastic can ruin the recycling machinery and spoil the mulch. Wreaths and roping have wire/plastic backing so put those in the trash cart. If you'd like to drop off your undecorated holiday tree, head to parking lot adjacent to the Drop-Off Station through Jan. 30, 2010.

Christmas with Dylan Thomas


Spend a holiday evening with Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales on dvd, audiobook, or book. Thomas' lilting Welsh voice lends a magical air to the audio recording. Listening to the story gives me the feeling of an old fashioned Christmas complete with peppermints and caramels, candle light, and thick blankets of snow.

Dylan Thomas is most well known for his villanelle "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night", and his poems and stories about life in Wales during the first half of the 20th century, including Under Milkwood, which was originally written as a radio play exploring the private thoughts of people in a small Welsh town. In 2008 a story about Dylan Thomas' adult life with his wife and childhood sweetheart opened the Edinburgh Film Festival. The Edge of Love stars Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller, and Cillian Murphy and wonderfully captures the WWII atmosphere, however, a warning to those who are interested in watching it: it's not a cheerful movie for this joyful time of year.

Happy Holidays!

Holiday Inn (1942) - which White Christmas (1954) was partially based on - is a fun movie for any time, but especially at this time of year. Although it came out generations before I was born, I still found it entertaining and even funny. Holiday Inn also introduced the song "White Christmas" which ended up winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song. This musical is about entertainer Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) who winds up opening an inn that is only open on holidays. Jims old partner Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire) decides to show up and causes a stir when he meets Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), Jim's friend who works at the inn. I don't want to ruin anything so you will have to watch it to see what happens!

A century ago: Christmas in Ann Arbor

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On Christmas, 1909, the staff of Fred Hoelzle's butcher shop worked all night cutting fresh meat for their customers' holiday celebrations. (Click on the photo for a larger view.) Read more about the shop and Metzger's restaurant in our digital collection of Then and Now columns from the Ann Arbor Observer.

The Darkest Night of the Year

As we approach what one of my favorite bands refers to as "The Darkest Night of the Year," it feels right to consider how often we must wait and endure, how both the dark and light are required to give the other meaning, and (maybe) how we can bond over the end to this shared suffering that is bitter coldness.

Wendell Berry's recent Whitefoot is a "gifty offering" that is formatted and appropriate for youngsters, but finely-crafted enough to warrant wider attention. The mouse at the center of the story finds itself swept away from home by the elements, in constant danger, and with simple needs that are at odds with the tendency to want to stay out of said danger. Despite the urgency of this situation, "Berry finds a heroic dimension to Whitefoot, and his gift is to make readers feel it, too," according to Publishers Weekly.

Minor White: The Eye that Shapes has been called "a landmark book" of photography and notes in a Library Journal review. While it might seem that White can find inclusion in this note simply because a vast amount of his work is in black and white, he uses contrast to its most effective. Of "Snow on Garage Door, Rochester, New York 1960," I feel alternately frigid and resentful of the shoveling I'm about to have to do, or cozy and thankful for early weekend evenings around the fireplace. Not that I have a fireplace. This book is full of silent nights, patient waiting, and frozen potential.

For some lighter fare (and to make sure this modern classic gets all the attention it deserves), check out Elf. I was amazed to meet someone the other night who hadn't seen this sweet Will Ferrell tale. If anyone in your family is the Christmasy-type, this one's required viewing for all. With a buoyant outlook on even the most emotionally challenging moments in the film, Buddy the Elf finds true happiness in the light at the end of the long, dark (Lincoln) Tunnel.

Finally, if you (and your kin) would like to know a little more about why, when, and how the sun will come back, check out The Return Of The Light : Twelve Tales From Around The World For The Winter Solstice. That this transition is such a universal cause for celebration and reverence makes me feel like it's warming up already.

Christmas Carol'd at Performance Network through Dec. 27

For holiday entertainment, consider Christmas Carol'd at Performance Network Theatre. In this adaptation by Joseph Zettelmaier, five actors play all the parts. Sounds fun. To get into the spirit, you could read the classic story, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, on which the play is based -- or just some words spoken in the original story by Scrooge's nephew, calling Christmas "a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time, the only time ... when men and women seem by common consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow travellers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."

Carols in the rough

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This weekend, December 18 and 19, Kerrytown Concert House presents the Black House Ceilidh, a group that performs traditional Christmas music in its raw and raucous form as it was played in ceilidhs, a Gaelic word meaning a social gathering of music and dance, often in someone's living room. Members of this Detroit based group play bagpipes, Norweigan fiddle, viola de gamba, guitar and percussion. For a rollicking good time, check them out. Shows each night start at 8 p.m.

And for listening at home, find a great variety of holiday music at the Library.

White Christmas

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas..."There are so many Christmas movies to choose from but Irving Berlin's White Christmas is withough a doubt one of my favorites. After WWII ended the two male lead characters (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) become a successful song and dance team. They end up meeting a song and dance team of sisters (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen) and staying at an inn located in Vermont that they later find out is owned by their old army general. The four of them end up putting on a Christmas show to help out the general. With the voices of Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby the music is as good as the dancing. Watching this movie might actually make you want it to snow!

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