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.

Author Birthdays: Lorca, Scarry, Drabble

June 5th marks the birthday of authors Federico García Lorca, Richard Scarry, and Margaret Drabble.

Federico García Lorca was a Spanish poet and playwright who is believed to have been killed during the Spanish Civil War. Some of his unpublished poems and essays were collected in a volume in 1998, A Season in Granada; the overall theme of the collection is Granada, where Lorca was supposedly killed.

Lorca's works also include: In Search of Duende, which describes theories on dance, music, and bullfights; the play Yerma, which was made into a Spanish language film; and a collection of his letters, which gives a sort of autobiography of his life.

Richard Scarry was an American author and illustrator of children's stories. His most well-known works include those about Busytown, a place inhabited by animals.

Scarry wrote for many ages; we have board books, picture books, and readers. We even have some of his works in Chinese.

Margaret Drabble is an English writer of novels and biographies, as well as some other assorted non-fiction subjects. Of these non-fiction works, AADL has a biography of Angus Wilson (a fellow novelist), and a book on jigsaw puzzles, The Pattern in the Carpet.

Drabble's novels include: The Red Queen, which details the story of a London woman who receives an unpublished memoir of a Korean princess; The Seven Sisters, which Library Journal noted as having "a character who describes herself accurately as having 'much to be ashamed about'"; and The Millstone, set in 1960s London.

Nebula Award Winner

Nebula AwardNebula Award
The brilliant writer, Connie Willis, has achieved another award to add to her auspicious collection. Having won a previous 6 Nebulas and 10 Hugos, she recently won another Nebula for her 2 volume novels, Blackout and All Clear (released separately in 2010). These novels were also nominated for the 2011 Hugo. These two books further the time-travel storyline started in a 1982 short story, "Fire Watch" (included in her short story collection Fire Watch), and the books Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, all multiple award winners too. They all revolve around time traveling history students and their professors at Oxford University circa mid-21st. In these latest award winning books, the students' field work assignments involve time-travel to various points during WWII England. The assignments involve reporting on the events while taking on roles like a shopgirl during the Blitz, an American reporter at Dunkirk, and a servant helping to evacuate children to England's countryside. But time-travel is never without some hiccups along the way. If you like adventure, historical fiction, and don't mind a bit of time-travel, dive into these right away! Great summer reading awaits!

Author Birthdays: Doyle, Hergé, Peck

May 22nd marks the birthday of authors Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Hergé, and M. Scott Peck.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a Scottish writer, most known for his stories of Sherlock Holmes. According to Wikipedia, there were 56 short stories and 4 novels about the detective written by Doyle.

Doyle's other works include those that focus on the character of Professor Challenger, and quite a few historical novels such as The White Company, which was set during the Hundred Years' War.

Hergé was a Belgian comic writer. His real name was Georges Prosper Remi, and you may know him if you've ever read a Tintin comic. We even have Tintin in the original French.

While Hergé also wrote a few other comics (Quick and Flupke, The Amiable Mr. Mops), copies of them are quite hard to find.

M. Scott Peck was an American author and psychiatrist. His most well-known book is The Road Less Traveled, about human fulfillment.

Peck's others works include Glimpses Of The Devil: A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts Of Possession, Exorcism, And Redemption and Denial Of The Soul: Spiritual And Medical Perspectives On Euthanasia And Mortality, two of his more spiritual works.

Author Birthdays: Baum, Porter, Bulgakov

May 15th marks the birthday of authors L. Frank Baum, Katherine Anne Porter, and Mikhail Bulgakov.

L. Frank Baum was an American children's author most well known for his story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; there were at least 17 total Oz books that Baum wrote.

Baum also wrote short stories about the magical land of Mo. You may be interested in looking up other books by Baum which were actually published under the pseudonyms Edith Van Dyne, Floyd Akers, Schuyler Staunton, John Estes Cooke, Suzanne Metcalf, and Laura Bancroft.

Katherine Anne Porter was an American writer and Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner (for The Collected Stories). She was also nominated numerous times for the Nobel Prize.

Porter's novel Ship of Fools was a best-seller and was made into a film starring Gone with the Wind's Vivien Leigh.

Mikhail Bulgakov was a Russian playwright and novelist. His most well known work was The Master and Margarita, a novel about the Devil visiting Soviet Russia. The book is something of a cult favorite now.

In addition, we have a collection of six of Bulgakov's plays. There is also another of Bulgakov's novels at AADL, Heart of a Dog, which is a strange story about a dog-turned-kind-of-man.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #263

Touch *, Alexi Zentner's debut is set in Sawgamet, a north woods boomtown gone bust, where the cold of winter breaks the glass of the schoolhouse thermometer, and the dangers of working in the cuts are overshadowed by the mysteries and magic lurking in the woods. Stephen, a pastor, is at home on the eve of his mother's funeral, thirty years after the mythic summer his grandfather returned to the town in search of his beloved but long-dead wife. And like his grandfather, Stephen is forced to confront the losses of his past.

"Touch introduces you to a world where monsters and witches oppose singing dogs and golden caribou, where the living and the dead part and meet again in the crippling beauty of winter and the surreal haze of summer."

It brings to mind another powerful debut Three Day Road by fellow Canadian Joseph Boyden. It is a stunning tale of brutality, survival, and rebirth set in Northern Ontario where Niska, an Oji-Cree medicine woman journeyed to retrieve Xavier Bird, her only relation, who has returned from the trenches of Europe, gravely wounded and addicted to morphine.

Sharron Smith, a librarian who knows everything Canadian (mostly books and authors), also suggests Gil Adamson's The Outlander as a readalike for its setting (wilderness); the suspense (the deadly pursuit of a young woman accused of murder); the style (slow and lyrical unfolding of the storyline); and the elements of magical realism.

* = Starred review

Author Birthdays: Leroux, Jarrell, White

May 6th marks the birthday of authors Gaston Leroux, Randall Jarrell, and Theodore White.

Gaston Leroux was a French author most known for his novel The Phantom of the Opera, which has been made into both a musical and a few films.

Leroux also wrote detective novels, two of which have been translated into English: The Mystery of the Yellow Room and The Perfume of the Lady in Black, which are both part of the series on the character Joseph Rouletabille.

Randall Jarrell was an American writer of poetry, children's books, and essays. We have his Complete Poems here at AADL; his collection The Woman at the Washington Zoo won the National Book Award for poetry is within it.

Among Jarrell's works for children, we have The Animal Family, a Newbery Honor Book, and The Bat-Poet, which was illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are).

Theodore H. White was an American historian. His book The Making of the President, 1960 won the Pulitzer for General Nonfiction in 1962. It details the election of JFK, and is the first in a "series" of books about elections.

White's other works include Breach of Faith: The Fall of Richard Nixon, about the Watergate scandal, and his autobiography, In Search of History: A Personal Adventure.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #261

Amanda Hodgkinson's debut 22 Britannia Road * is "... (a) tour de force that echoes modern classics like Suite Francaise and The Postmistress". It is an eloquent, heart-wrenching account of one couple's struggle to reunite as a family after devastating wartime experiences.

When Janusz Nowak brings his wife and young son to the little house at 22 Britannia Road (Ipswich), they meet again after years of separation, almost as strangers. When Germany invaded Warsaw in 1939 Janusz enlisted, leaving Silvana and Aurek living lean and rough in the forest with other survivors. Finally liberated, they hope desperately for a fresh start as a family, only to find that their reunion is marred by mistrust, guilty secrets and things they thought they had left behind.

"Hodgkinson enters boldly into well-trodden, sensitive territory and distinguishes herself with freshness and empathy". A stellar example of literary WWII fiction.

Amanda Hodgkinson will be at Nicola Books, for reading and signing on May 12th.

* = Starred review

Author Birthdays: Niven, Dillard, Boyne

April 30th marks the birthday of authors Larry Niven, Annie Dillard, and John Boyne.

Larry Niven is an American author of science fiction. He is probably most well known for Ringworld, a winner of many literary awards, which has three sequels and a few prequels.

Niven's latest works include Stars and Gods, a collection of short stories and pieces of non-fiction, Betrayer of Worlds, a prelude to Ringworld, and The Best of Larry Niven, a collection of short stories with the author's explanations for them.

Annie Dillard is an American writer and former contributing editor of Harper's magazine. Her most well known work is The Maytrees, a story of "loving and longing", which was named one of the Top 10 Best Books of 2007 by the New York Times Book Review.

Dillard won the Pulitzer Prize for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a book about religion and philosophy in the style of a journal. She also has written a book of found poems called Mornings Like This.

John Boyne is an Irish author; you may have heard of his novel The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, which was also made into a film. His forthcoming novel is called The Absolutist, set to come out in the UK in May.

Boyne's other books include The Thief of Time, a mixture of historical fiction and fantasy about a boy born in the 18th century who doesn't age, and Crippen, a mystery set in the early 20th century.

Author Birthdays: Shakespeare, Marsh, Laxness

April 23rd marks the birthday of authors William Shakespeare, Ngaio Marsh, and Halldor Laxness.

William Shakespeare was and is probably the most well-known English poet and playwright in history. You may know him for writing Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Love's Labour's Lost, and Twelfth Night. Almost all of his plays have been produced on stage, in film, or both.

Shakespeare's lesser known works, though I feel silly saying that at all, may be some of his many histories, like Coriolanus, about a Roman leader; Troilus and Cressida, a story of the Trojan War; Cymbeline, about a legendary British king and his daughter; or The Life and Death of King John, about the famed signer of the Magna Carta.

Ngaio Marsh was a writer from New Zealand who is probably best known for her detective novels. Her name may also be familiar to those who watch the Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, since the show is based on her works about Roderick Alleyn.

Marsh also wrote short stories, which we have collected in Alleyn And Others: The Collected Short Fiction Of Ngaio Marsh. She wrote so many books that I don't know, really, which one to talk about, so I'm going with the best title: Killer Dolphin, an Alleyn mystery set in the Dolphin Theater.

Halldor Laxness was an Icelandic author and Nobel Prize winner. He wrote three rounds of stories that focused on the Icelandic people: Salka Valka, Independent People, and The Light of the World (also called World Light).

Laxness also wrote The Fish Can Sing, called by the publisher "a poignant coming-of-age tale marked with his peculiar blend of light irony and dark humor". It tells the story of an orphan who changes his dream of becoming a fisherman when he meets an Icelandic celebrity.

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