Learn about The Polar Express' Michigan Roots

How many of you knew that the classic picture book, The Polar Express, has Michigan roots? The book itself is based in Grand Rapids, which is where the author, Chris Van Allsburg, is from! The story starts out with a young boy who is feeling a bit sad because he’s not so sure anymore that Santa Claus is real. As he lies in bed on Christmas eve, waiting hopefully for the sound of Santa, he instead hears the sound of a locamotive! He hops out of bed and runs outside, only to find a gigantic train waiting for him, filled with other young children. Together, they set off on a Christmas eve adventure to the North Pole.

The Polar Express was also adapted into a film back in 2004, starring Tom Hanks. Did you know that the film, too, has Michigan connections? NPR recently did a story on the locamotive that the film makers used for direct inspiration. When making the movie, the film crew traveled all the way out to little Owosso, Michigan, in order to capture the magic that is the 400 ton Pere Marquette 1225!

“Finally, the train arrives: 16 feet tall, puffing huge blasts of steam. The smell of burning coal fills the air, and the ground literally shakes.”

Do you love The Polar Express? Click through the links in this blog post to place requests on the original book, DVD, or Blu-ray. In fact, if you or your little one are interested in some festive decorating during this holiday season, the AADL even has a Polar Express art print that you can check out and hang up on your walls at home!

Graphic Novel Recommendation: Little Fish

Little Fish : A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year begins with Ramsey Beyer’s reflections on growing up in a little farm town, Paw Paw, Michigan. But nothing exciting seemed to be happening there and the culture felt one-dimensional. As a high schooler, the most fun she could extract from between the cornfields was punk music and the internet (Livejournal, to be more specific). Armed with her own intimate records from years worth of personal journals, Beyer crafts her memories into an offbeat coming-of-age story with intricate details and drawings in a zine-like fashion. Eventually, she makes her way off the farm in Paw Paw and into the big city of Baltimore, where she transitions into a whole new life at an art college; the graphic novel continues to blossom from there.

Personally, I can relate immensely to this unique story: I, too, grew up in the little town of Paw Paw, Michigan, pop. 3,534. I also spent my childhood following my mom to “The Shopping Center” and eating ice cream in the summertime at “The Sugar Bear” (see Ramsey’s map of Paw Paw in the book). Although I didn't leave to go to art school, I also flew the coop as soon as I could, and headed due east. I have in turn grown an appreciation for the distinct city life and diverse cultures that fill the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti/Detroit area of Michigan, and have had many new experiences similar to Ramsey’s since leaving our small town.

Don’t get me wrong, though, Paw Paw - with its vineyards and slower ways of life - will always have a place in my heart, and Ramsey’s too, as anyone can tell from this extraordinary graphic novel.

Comic Artists Forum with Ted Woods

Sunday December 1, 2013 | 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm | Downtown Library-4th Floor Meeting Room

We all have our favorite artists and try to emulate them. But how do you develop your own style? Artist Ted Woods, creator of The Book of Love, will focus on the long development of his own artistic style. He'll discuss the various artists that have influenced him over the years, and the different ways he has melded their styles into one of his own.

Get fresh ideas for your next comics or graphic novel creation at the Forum. Drawing supplies are provided, so drop in to draw, learn, and network with other cartoonists.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas

From author Jim Ottaviani’s boundless curiosity and research springs another fascinating graphic historical science comic. Primates relates the stories of three female scientists and how their life experiences brought them to discovery in the world of primates. All three women are protégés of anthropologist Louis Leakey and each find their niche of study – Jane Goodall researches chimpanzee behavior, Dian Fossey becomes a leading expert on mountain gorillas, and Birute Galdikas builds world awareness and understanding of orangutans.

The adventures of these three women who would come to know one another are ably illustrated by Maris Wicks who employs a cartoon style that infuses the energy and passion of each woman. Though cartoony the earth green/brown colors lend a realism that help the reader imagine the habitats in which these women live and work.

World War II Veterans Tell Fascinating Stories

On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, an Ann Arborite walked into the library and told me about a project she started in the 1980s -- working with about a dozen World War II veterans to record service memories. She produced printed manuscripts -- at no cost to veterans -- to share with their families. One result of her project is that three transcripts are now accessible on her blog, "World War Two Remembered: Veteran Memoirs from World War Two." The blog honors the memory of her father and his father, both veterans, in addition to the men she worked with. "Some of them became good friends, and I miss them," she writes. All her life she has been interested in World War II, particularly the North Africa campaign.

Comic Artists Forum with Cartoonist Jesse Hughes

Sunday November 3, 2013: 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm -- Downtown Library: 4th Floor Meeting Room

This event is intended for adults and teens (grade 6 and up).

CosmiCat creator Jesse Hughes will talk about developing expressive facial expressions and body language.

Join the Forum to get fresh ideas for your next comics or graphic novel creation. Drawing supplies are provided, so drop in to draw, learn, and network with other cartoonists.

Drawing Lab: Capturing the Human Gesture

Saturday November 2, 2013: 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event is intended for adults and teens (grade 6 and up)

Drawing the human body has been an artistic endeavor since the cave paintings of Lascaux, France. Throughout art history many artists have tackled this complex form. From Michelangelo's robust figures to Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending Staircase", the human body has undergone many different forms of representation. But what remains present throughout these drawings, paintings and sculpture? What separates stick-figures and mannequin-like drawings from figure drawings full of life? The gesture. The gesture of a figure captures not only the static pose in front of you, but also the energy, the movement, the being that is essential in human-being.

Math Monahan, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Stamps School of Art & Design, will lead this workshop in an exploration of the human gesture. There will also be a model (clothed) present for you to practice drawing. They will be taking several short timed poses throughout the session and then a longer pose toward the end. If you're looking to add life to your drawings or just want some practice drawing the figure, this workshop is for you!

New Download: Local Artist Papillon's "The Amber Dawn"


Paris-born Actor, Artist, Musician and Ann Arborite Papillon's first solo album, The Amber Dawn is now available for instant download by AADL cardholders. A bit of hiphop infused with Jazz and Soul makes for an outstanding full-length set of tracks that will find a home in many local music collections. Papillon is also running an Indiegogo Campaign to help fund his newest album, Calligraphy, and it wraps up soon, so have a listen to The Amber Dawn and check Papillon out if you're looking for more!

Teen Stuff: 45 Pounds (More Or Less)

Michigan native K.A. Barson’s first novel, 45 Pounds (More Or Less), tells the story of young Ann. Ann is 16 and wears a size 17 while her weight-obsessed mother wears a size 6. Her aunt is getting married in 2 months and Ann is determined to lose 45 pounds (more or less) to squeeze into that bridesmaid dress. Those are the numbers that rule her brain this summer. Among her daily adventures with friends, boys, a job, family issues, and her own insecurities, Ann is a 16 year old girl full of humor, heart and courage in this worthy debut young adult novel.

Meet the author! Kelly Barson will be in Ann Arbor at Nicola’s Books on Tuesday, October 8th at 6:30pm for a discussion and signing of 45 Pounds (More Or Less)

College Night: Solving the College Admissions Puzzle

Wednesday September 25, 2013: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event is intended for adults and teens (grade 9 and up).

For those involved in the college selection process, it's AADL's 7th annual College Night with the co-authors of "Solving the College Admissions Puzzle: A Guide for Students and Families About College Selection, Essay Writing, and High-Stakes Testing"- Community High's college prep counselor John Boshoven; Debbie Merion, the founder of Essay Coaching; and performance coach Geraldine Markel.

Learn about the college selection and application process: Part 1: Finding the College that Fits; Part 2: Applying to College: Those Pesky Essays; Part 3: Applying to College: Those Pesky Tests.

This event will include a book signing with copies of the book available for purchase.

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