Moomin!

Join Moomin, the beautiful Snorkmaiden, and their friends as they send bad language (with legs) to Aunt Jane, encounter exploding pancakes, and introduce pirates to gardening. Tove Jansson has created a rare treasure that speaks to all generations and all ages. Moomin sums up Jansson's philosophy best when he tells his friend Sniff:

"I only want to live in peace, plant potatoes, and dream!"

Jansson first introduced the Moomins (Scandinavian troll-creatures that resemble white hippopotami) in books that she wrote and illustrated, beginning in 1945 with the book The Moomins and the Great Flood. More Moomintroll books followed, including Comet in Moominland, Finn Family Moomintroll, and Moominpappa's memoirs. These were so popular that she was approached by the London Evening News to do a daily comic strip featuring the Moomin characters. Drawn and Quarterly has released (for the first time in North America) a collection of these strips. This first volume includes four adventures: Brigands, Family Life, Moomin on the Riviera and Moomin's Desert Island.

Happiness In! Demon Out!

We will be tossing beans to keep those demons away and celebrate Setsubun, at our Japanese Family Cultural Celebration this Sunday at 2:00 pm at the Downtown Library. We will begin the festivities with a story and a demon mask craft upstairs, then parade downstairs for music with Miyabi and pocky treats. Families with children of all ages are invited to attend and while you are here, check out Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories and other folktale collections.

February 2: Imbolc (Imbolog), Candlemas, and Groundhog Day

February 2 is a cross-quarter day, marking the mid-point of Winter, midway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox. We have gotten off easy so far this Winter. Let's hope Punxsutawney Phil does not see his shadow.

Stormfax Weather Almanac has historic data. The odds favor six more weeks of winter. Shadow: 96 years; No Shadow: 14 years.

On Groundhog Day the Pittsfield Branch is hosting Harley, a groundhog from the Howell Conference and Nature Center. We are not sure what weather effect can be expected when the groundhog visits the library on Groundhog Day.

Wikipedia (have you noticed how many recent New York Times articles cite Wikipedia? An article in Monday's New York Times reported on the use of Wikipedia by judges in their opinions) on Imbolc; Candlemas; and Groundhog Day

Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell in Groundhog Day

Library books about Groundhog Day

Library picture books and readers about Groundhog Day

Someone has busily been tagging the library's Groundhog Day materials.

Groundhog Girl Power!

Harley the groundhog will be taking a break in her long winter’s nap this Friday to join us at the Pittsfield Branch for a Groundhog Gathering. Harley is one of a pair of female groundhogs at the Howell Nature Center. While Harley spends the day making diplomatic visits, her best friend Woody has an important job closer to home—she’ll be predicting the weather from her habitat at the center. According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, Woody is almost never wrong—she’s correctly predicted the spring weather six of her eight years. For a further celebration of groundhog girl power, the Downtown Storytime at 11am this Tuesday will feature Punxsutawney Phyllis, the tale of a female groundhog determined to succeed, despite her gender.

"Smoke gets in your eyes," Mr. Kern

Today, January 27, is the birthday of American composer, Jerome Kern. Kern was born in New York City in 1885. In addition to writing scores for stage and screen, Kern wrote many memorable songs like "Ol' Man River" and "The Last Time I saw Paris." His song, "The Way You Look Tonight" won an Oscar for the best song of the year in the film, "Swing Time." Who can forget those sweetest of verses:

"Lovely...Never, ever change.
Keep that breathless charm.
Won't you please arrange it?
'Cause I love you...Just the way you look tonight."

There's Nothing Like the Art from our Youth

If the Downtown Library seems like a cozier place to be during this icy month, it may be due to the warm colors and shapes emanating from the paintings by young artists on the lower level and third floor of the building. Now the glass case in the Youth Department is filled with colorful ceramic, woodwork and other hand work created by the 1st through 12th grade students from the Rudolf Steiner School. We look forward to this exhibit each year! For books to inspire youthful creators, try A Rainbow at Night, My Wish for Tomorrow and Children of the World Paint Jerusalem.

To the Moon!

melies-moonmelies-moon

NASA plans to return to the moon by 2020 and hopes to build a moon base by 2024. While you are waiting for the Ares I & V to launch, take a look back at other trips to the moon: Project Apollo and Méliès.

From the Earth to the Moon a superbly done HBO series, produced by Tom Hanks, and based on the book A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin, takes you through the entire Apollo program.

Moon Shot: the inside story of America's race to the moon by astronauts Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton.

First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen.

Méliès the magician contains the 1902 "La Voyage dans la lune" along with other films by Méliès.

Another Children's Book Award - Historical Fiction

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages is the recipient of the 2007 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The prize was established by the late author of Island of the Blue Dolphins to honor the best work of historical fiction in a given year.

The Green Glass Sea is the story of the group of children that accompanied their parents to Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1943. These were the children of America's best and brightest scientists. They knew their parents were working on a Big Project but they did not know what it was. After the experimental detonation of the atomic bomb in the desert, the children were taken out there to see the aftermath. The heat of the bomb turned the desert sand into the glass sea of the title.
I have a strong suspicion that there will be a sequel to this book. By the end of the story one of the mothers, a scientist, is starting to question what they have done and what should happen with The Project in the future.
Another children's fiction title about this same event is Where the Ground Meets the Sky by Jacqueline Davies.
For some really interesting history lessons, go the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction website and work your way through all the winning titles since 1984.

"There's gold in them thar hills!"

On January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall noticed some flakes of gold in the American River while building a sawmill. That discovery started what became known as the California Gold Rush, the frenzied migrations of thousands to California to strike it rich. At that time, California was still technically part of Mexico. Only a week later, The United States purchased land that later became California and other southwestern states for only $15 million. If Mexico had only knwn.

The Gold Rush caused an increase in California's population from 2,700 to 200,000 in two years. Few people actually became wealthy from panning gold but revenue increased enough to help expand the American West.

One person who did become wealthy was Levi Strauss, an immigrant from Bavaria who was a traveling merchant specializing in trousers made from sailcloth held together with copper rivets. These, of course, were the precursors of modern jeans.

2007 Caldecott and Newbery Awards Announced

The highest awards in the field of children's literature were announced in Seattle this morning at the midwinter conference of the American Library Association.
The Caldecott Award, a prize for illustration, was given to David Wiesner for the picture book Flotsam. This is the third Caldecott for Mr. Wiesner. He won his first award in 1992 for Tuesday and his second in 2002 for The Three Pigs.
Caldecott honor books are Gone Wild by David McLimans and Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.
The Newbery Medal, for the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" goes to Susan Patron for her book The Higher Power of Lucky.
Honor books are Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm, Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson and Rules by Cynthia Lord.
For a complete list of all the award winners announced by the American Library Association, go to this site.<--!break-->

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