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The winners of Golden Globes have long been considered foreshadowing for potential winners of the Academy Awards. But, it is important to remember that the Golden Globes offer a lot more variety when it comes to categories, and also includes TV. And this past Sunday, they were handed out.

 

One of the major differences between the Globes and the Oscars is the split the Globes give between Drama and Comedy/Musical films. And while there has been no shortage of controversy over what qualifies as a comedy over the years, the split provides twice the opportunities for deserving films (and some undeserving *cough*Mary Poppins Returns*cough*) to be recognized.

 

This year’s winner for Best Drama was Bohemian Rhapsody, (Blu-ray/DVD) shocking for two reasons. First, because it a largely musical movie – tracking the career of Freddie Mercury. And second because it beat A Star Is Born (Blu-ray/DVD), which was expected to win (and is also a largely musical movie that was put into the Drama category and did win Best Original Song). Rhapsody has had a tumultuous history, from its original star Sacha Baron Cohen being dropped in favour of Rami Malek (who also won Best Actor in a Drama for his role), to losing its original director half way through filming, to general on-going controversies regarding the accuracy of the film. Still, despite all of this, audiences have loved it and apparently so did the Hollywood Foreign Press.

 

Best Comedy/Musical went to the biographical film Green Book (Blu-ray/DVD), starring Viggo Mortensen and winner of Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy/Musical Mahershala Ali.  This film, which is set in the American Deep South in the 1960s, also won Best Screenplay. These are just the latest in a series of prestigious wins, including the People’s Choice Award at last year’s TIFF, where it premiered. Expect Green Book and its examination of racism in America to feature heavily at next month’s Academy Awards.

 

Best Animated Film went to the completely amazing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Blu-ray/DVD). You might ask yourself, does the world need another Spider-man movie? The answer is yes, this one. This is the Spider-man movie the world has been waiting for. Using a variety of different animation techniques and styles, this film (from the makers of the Lego Movie) seamlessly blends heart and full body laughs into a spectacular film that will amaze the entire family. Also, Chris Pine sings a Spider-man Christmas song, so that alone is worth the price.

 

British actor Olivia Colman took home the Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical for her role as Queen Anne in The Favourite (Blu-ray/DVD), easily this year’s strangest and  driest comedy. While not exactly or intended to be historically accurate, the tale of court intrigue in early 1700s England, the film is director Yorgos Lanthimos’ most accessible film (though if you haven’t seen his English language debut The Lobster, please stop what you are doing and watch it now. It is a special kind of brilliant).

 

Best Director and Best Foreign Language film went to Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma (Blu-ray/DVD). The director of Gravity and Children of Men is a front-runner for the Oscars, and Roma stands a good chance of being the first foreign language film to win Best Picture. The semi-autobiographical film depicts Cuaron’s childhood in Mexico City in the 1970s. The film, which was also shot in black and white, is one of the year’s best reviewed films, and was runner up at TIFF for the People’s choice Award – losing to Green Book, so some friendly rivalry being built up there.

 

Canadian Sandra Oh won Best Actress in a TV Drama for her stellar performance in season one of Killing Eve (Blu-ray/DVD), based on the Codename Villanelle novellas by Luke Jennings. If you haven’t seen the series, a playful reconstruction of the British Crime genre, you have time before season two airs later this year. Oh plays an American analyst working for British Intelligence, hunting down a mysterious assassin who has become obsessed with her investigator. Starkly violent, surprising at every turn and shockingly funny, Oh absolutely deserved her win. Hopefully season two lives up to the first.

 

Best Dramatic TV series went to the final season of the cold war spy series The Americans. The win is the first time in seven years that a series has won the top prize without also giving a trophy to at least one of its stars. The slow burn series - of Russian sleeper agents living in 1980s America - was a critical darling throughout its run on FX (Season 1Season 2Season 3Season 4, and Season 5).

 

Will any of these winners replicate victory at the Oscars in February, or will a dark horse come from behind (looking at you, If Beale Street Could Talk)? In any case, some really impressive performances this season. And a lot of titles that will be gaining interest over the next little while.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy watching!

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The Holocaust is one of the most horrifying and devastating events in history, and while those who experienced it firsthand are fewer each year, Holocaust Education week is held annually in November and International Holocaust Remembrance Day occurs every January 27th  to ensure that the history doesn’t die with the last survivor.

 

Thankfully, as sales statistics prove, reader interest in the Holocaust endures for both modern and classic books on the subject. Elie Weisel’s memoir Night, chronicling his experience surviving Nazi death camps as a teenager is one such example.   

 

Since the original Yiddish publication in 1956, it has been translated into more than 30 languages, was an Oprah book club pick in 2006, and is widely studied in schools around the world. Today, it remains a fixture on the Publisher’s Weekly Biography/Autobiography bestseller list, and tops Amazon’s Jewish Biographies list. According to Publisher’s Weekly, the book has sold 209k copies as of November, 2018, and the book has sold more than 10 million copies overall.

 

My first introduction to the Holocaust was through Anne Frank's Diary. I still remember the first time I read it. I was around 8 or 9 years old and my teacher assigned it in school. I was way too young to fully grasp everything that Anne was talking about in her diary (particularly the stuff about sexuality), but I did understand the reason that she and her family had to hide and the tragedy of what happened to Anne and her family.  

 

When the movie Schindler’s List released 25 years ago this Christmas, it became a huge box office success, and brought fresh attention to Thomas Keneally’s Booker Prize-winning historical novel of the same name.  Oskar Schindler was a German man who found a way to save 1200 Jewish people from execution by employing them in his factories. It's a story of heroism and courage, and viewers/readers flocked to it. 

 

In recent years, the genre has become so popular that it now has its own category on Amazon and is mainstream in bookstores. From The Book Thief to this year’s hit The Tattooist of Auschwitz, these titles resonate with readers, so what is it about the Holocaust that appeals both to writers and readers?

 

I believe there are a few reasons. One is that the generation who fought in WWII and survived the Holocaust are in their 80s and 90s, and there is a renewed sense of urgency to share their stories before there’s nobody left to tell them.

 

Another is that good historical fiction on any subject allows readers to make connections between the past and the present. For children especially (and adults too), history can be highly abstract and it can be difficult to understand what something that happened so long ago has to do with them. I hated history when I was a kid because my teacher was dry and boring. She had obviously forgotten the most important part of the word history is ‘story”.  Holocaust fiction brings it to life in a way that most textbooks can’t, and makes facts matter.

 

Lastly and most importantly is the emotional connection. If there wasn’t someone to care about or root for, why would anyone keep reading? These characters persevere against all odds and in one way or another are heroes.

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is based on interviews that Morris had with the real Lale Sokolov in the three years before he passed away at age 90.

 

What makes this book successful is not just that it’s a Holocaust story, but a human story. It is a story of triumph, hope, resilience and love. Lale didn’t want to be the tattooist. It was a terrible task but one that he knew offered him a layer of protection and a chance to survive. When Lale inked the tattoo on Gita’s arm at Auschwitz, it was love at first sight, and he vowed to survive the camp and to marry her when the war was over.

 

Lale's story is like a beautiful flower in a barren wasteland. The fact that he and Gita survived at all is miraculous, let alone falling in love and finding each other after the war. It's about incredible courage, and love triumphing against all odds.

 

Readers want Lale and Gita to survive. They hope for the happily ever after. He is a hero for finding ways to help others when many wouldn’t, and for finding ways to give them hope. Gita was shipped out of the camp before he was, and all he knew was her name, not where she was from. At this point, it seemed like hope was lost and he’d never see her again, yet somehow they found each other. The couple was married in 1945, and were together until Gita’s death in 2003.

 

Some reviewers have criticized the book for focusing too heavily on the romance and of glossing over the horrors of the Holocaust, but I disagree.  In an age where the news is so bleak, we need hope. We need to be uplifted and to be reminded that even when things seem their darkest, something good can still exist.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy reading!

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When my oldest daughter was little she never seemed to really like reading, This was always a bit of a worry to me as both a librarian and lover of books. I also know that you cannot force your kids to love what you love, and as long as you surround your kids with a multitude of stimuli (books, ideas, activities, sports, etc.) they will eventually decide what they like and run with it. Regardless of whether I like it or not.

 

Throughout my daughter’s elementary years I would bring home books or suggest books at the library. I suggested books about horses (she did horseback riding) and fairies (she loved fairies and Tinkerbell), fun mysteries and adventure books (she has an amazing imagination) and cats (her favourite animal). Nothing captured her interest. She would read a book here and there for school but she didn’t really love it. So I eventually gave up, figuring one day she would find “her book”.

 

Turned out it wasn’t my daughter who found the book, it was the school librarian. Not her mother the librarian, but the school librarian. I went into her room one day to find her reading a graphic novel. I was shocked. I backed slowly out of the room, so as not to upset the delicate balance of the universe, and let her be. Still, I would never have pegged her to be a graphic novel reader. What was happening? And how did I not see this?

 

The book was Smile by Raina Telgemeier, a biographical story of a sixth grade girl learning what it means to be a preteen. She absolutely loved it. She read it again and again, but more importantly she wanted more. The flood gates were, as they say, opened. The school librarian did their best to quench her new found thirst for reading, but once she started, there was no stopping her. She was, finally and properly, reading!

 

She eventually started the Harry Potter series, which led to the Magisterium series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Then she stumbled upon Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and on and on she went. We would hit up the public library and I let her wander from the juvenile shelves to the Young Adult shelves, never once forcing her to pick something I wanted her to read, or limiting where she looked. Instead, I let her take her time and pick what she thought looked like fun.

 

Throughout all this, I waited. I waited to see if she might one day share my love of YA fantasy. She had certainly seen me read various books in the genre, but hadn’t shown any interest in them herself. Then, this past summer I got a text from her telling me that she had picked up The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater at the library. My heart sored. This is one of my all-time favourite series and my daughter had started reading it! On her own! Without me leaving copies strategically around the house, in her book bag, or stapled to the sleeves of her jacket!

 

She devoured the first one, continued straight through the next three, and then went right into Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. Six of Crows followed and finally An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. The girl has not stopped and we now have long conversations about our favourite characters, who should be “shipped with whom” and so on. As I type this she is reading the fifth in the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare and for Christmas she is getting The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas. I asked her what she wanted this year for Christmas and she said books. Only books.

 

Sometimes it takes that outsider - a librarian, a teacher, or a friend, an aunt or uncle - someone separate from a parent to help break through to a child. Children have a filter through which everything a parent says is strained, like pulp from juice. As much as we want to make them see our point of view, they resist. They want to find their own way. It can take that outsider to break through their filter. To hand them a book and for them to see it for the first time not as an obligation, or an assignment, but as a portal to imagination. I will forever be grateful to that school librarian for introducing my daughter to the limitless adventure books hold. And for making my holiday gift buying a little easier. Seeing how my daughter came to books has opened my eyes and helped me to be a better librarian (and parent) myself.  

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Take care!

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A few months ago, I decided to learn how to cook.  Although I grew up with a mother who went to culinary school, my family is both British and (according to my mother) peasants.  This meant a lot of simple meals without a lot of seasoning beyond salt.  I’m not blaming my mom (especially since she’s probably reading this); both my parents worked and myself and my brother were, shall we say, a touch picky.  It just means that most of my meals growing up were the basics.

 

When I moved out at 19, I still didn’t have much interest in cooking.  It took time and dirtied dishes and what the heck was a shallot anyway.  The list of foods I didn’t like was also much longer than the list of foods I did, and included most vegetables.  This was fine in my twenties, sort of, but now I’m getting older and fast food is not only expensive but doesn’t seem all that satisfying anymore.

 

I started cooking using a food delivery service, which sends me the ingredients for recipes I’ve chosen from their list.  It means I actually have to use my dishes (and then wash them) but the food comes pre-portioned and all I really have to do is chop it and throw it in a pan or oven tray.  Which is usually about the point that I remember I have no sense of timing and run back and forth in my kitchen trying to keep things from burning.

 

The biggest benefit of learning how to cook is that I’m trying new foods.  I used to hate onions, but honestly, they’re not that bad mixed in with other stuff.  I’ve discovered jicama, pilafs, spinach-ricotta meatballs, and learned that a shallot is a type of onion related to my favourite herb, garlic.  I still find mushrooms mildly horrifying and tomatoes give me heartburn, but I’m willing to try almost anything that isn’t too spicy.

 

I’m also incorporating what I’ve learned via the food delivery recipes into buying my own groceries.  Fortunately cooking is more forgiving than baking (I’m not entirely sure that food created using math can be trusted) and I’m not subjecting anyone else to my creations.  This means that I might actually have to look at some cookbooks, especially those with quick and easy recipes.

 

Although I live alone, I like to make big meals so that I have plenty of leftovers for lunches at work and those evenings where I haven’t actually washed the dishes yet and just want to stick something in the microwave.  Cookbooks with family recipes, like The Super Big Book of Easy, Delicious, & Healthy Recipes the Whole Family Will Love!: 500+ Recipes You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less, are usually geared towards making enough food for 3-4 people so I don’t have to do any math to expand a recipe only meant for one person.

 

Even better, there’s been a trend lately towards meals cooked using a minimum amount of dishes, which is perfect for someone who likes to pretend her kitchen sink doesn’t exist.  Canadian Living offers a cookbook called Essential One-Dish Favourites, which has the added bonus of shopping tips for when I realize that jicama is available at approximately one store 20 minutes out of my way.

 

I might be in my thirties now, but there’s still some benefit to looking at cookbooks geared towards the college and university market.  They don’t get too fancy and they assume you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, so you don’t have to go ask Google what it means to ‘mince’ something.  How to Feed Yourself from Spoon University has recipes that are simple, low-budget, and include a giant PB&J cup.

 

It’s fine with me if I never become a great cook with the ability to wow dinner guests.  I’m just happy to make some food that I look forward to eating, even if my mom complains that I use too much garlic (no such thing).  I’ve even asked for some cooking tools for Christmas, which I think might make me an actual real adult now (also no such thing).  I’m expanding my horizons, eating way more veggies, and discovering spices, and that’s good enough for me.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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Jodi Picoult got me my first job in this industry. Not literally, but indirectly.

 

Let’s start at the beginning. I have always been a voracious reader. My parents used to tease me that I was born with a book in my hand, and I learned to read at an early age. I was also that person who would not only hang out in a bookstore for fun, but couldn’t resist recommending something to people who were in the store. I also have a compulsion to fix shelves, but that’s another story.

 

Many years ago, when I was not that long out of university and still wondering what I could do with a degree in English literature, I saw a posting for a job fair at Indigo. Seeing as my philosophy was to buy 5 new books for every book I finished, so I decided to take a chance. I mean, I had to do something for money, and being paid to be around books all day seemed like a really good idea.

 

Fast forward to interview day. While I was waiting, for the manager to come out, I was drawn to a display table near the front of the store. On the table was The Pact and the summary caught my attention. Without even thinking about what I was doing, I opened it up to the first page and started reading. I was hooked!

 

I was about one chapter in when I was interrupted by the manager. She asked me what I was reading, and when I showed her, she told me that she was also reading that same book. I’d never met her before and I certainly didn’t know that this was her current read. I took it as a sign that I was meant to get that job. I also bought the book before I left the store because now that I’d started it, I had to keep reading!

 

If you’ve never read the book, the story follows the impact of the apparent murder-suicide pact between two teens on their families. What was happening in their lives that they felt driven to do something so drastic? How do the families reconcile this act with the kids they thought they knew? Twenty-years after its original publication, it’s still as relevant as it was then.

 

That experience not only launched my career in books, but has also made me a loyal reader of this author.  What I like most about her is her ability to address contemporary issues in accessible and interesting manner, and to make you think. How do you define normal when your Asperger’s child is accused of murder? If you are the grandchild of Holocaust survivors and your neighbor turned out to be a former Nazi SS guard, could you forgive him? What would it feel like to be a nurse and be told not to treat a patient because of the colour of your skin?

 

Her new title, A Spark of Light  asks readers to consider why a man would enter a women’s reproductive health services clinic, open fire, and take hostages. It is as thought-provoking and relevant as her previous books andI couldn't put it down. 

 

In honor of her new book, and new mass-market editions of her older titles, I thought I’d recommend  three other backlist titles that I most enjoyed.

 

I don’t think you can properly discuss this author without referencing My Sister’s Keeper. Of all her books, this is the most well-known, and probably her most popular. The book was made into a movie back in 2009 and really put her on the map. The story follows two sisters- Anna and Kate, and the moral conflict that comes with Anna’s family’s expectation that she be a permanent bone marrow donor for Kate, and Anna’s desire to lead a normal teenage life- even if it means her sister could die. Picoult is careful to make sure the reader can understand all the points of view, and you come out of it realizing that there are no simple choices.

                                                                                         

Sadly, school-shootings continue to be in the news and Nineteen Minutes, published a decade ago,  looks at bullying in high school, mental health, school violence, and how we can prevent incidents like this from happening. While she never tries to justify the shooter’s actions, she does look at some of the reasons why he did what he did, and looks at the impact of those horrific 19 minutes on not only the teens, but everybody in the town. This is a popular title in high school classrooms as well, and it’s heart-wrenching and riveting.

 

Leaving Time is a book that made me want to immediately go to the library and learn more about elephants. Unlike some of her more issue based books, it’s a story of a daughter’s grief for the mother that seemingly abandoned her years ago, and her determination to find out what really happened to her all those years ago. It’s amazing how many parallels there are between elephants and humans (did you know elephant’s grieve?), and it explores loss, grief, and the complex relationship between mothers and daughters.

 

There are countless other books by Jodi Picoult that I could put on this list, and a corresponding selection list of in-print Jodi Picoult titles is available on our website if you need to replace or fill in missing titles in your library.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

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According to Wikipedia, there are over thirty holidays, observances, and traditions celebrated world wide in the month of December. Some as ancient as Shabe Yaldā and some as new as Festivus. Most of them celebrating, in some manner, the shortest day of the year, and the turn away from the Bleak Midwinter. One holiday in particular nearly lapsed into obscurity until, a century and a half ago, it was rescued by some ghosts.

 

Last year saw the release of the film the Man Who Invented Christmas, telling the story of Charles Dickens and the mutual life support his A Christmas Carol gave to both himself and a fledgling celebration that had long since been dwarfed by Boxing Day. By the beginning of the 1800s, Christmas had already had a turbulent history. The Romans had celebrated Saturnalia at this time, but didn’t have to contend with snow. As they expanded into Northern Europe, they encountered the Germanic Yule, and other “pagan” celebrations happening at the same time, and merged those traditions with their own.

 

Time, as it likes to do, moved on, and Christmas largely remained an excuse to drink and be merry, with emphasis on the drinking. The rowdier elements of the pagan traditions did not sit well with the English Puritans, and Christmas was banned in England by Oliver Cromwell in 1645. It was restored along with the monarchy a few years later, but the wind was taken out of its sails, and for the next two hundred years the celebration in the UK was a much more subdued, private affair. No decorations, no presents, no carols or fanfare.  Just a goose, if you were lucky.

 

In 1819, Washington Irving (of Sleepy Hollow fame) wrote an account of Christmas celebrations, which were almost certainly fabricated. Irving was a notorious liar, who is also responsible for the myth that people before Columbus thought the Earth was flat. But Irving’s idea of a seasonal gathering which brought together people of all status, to celebrate a new year and enjoy the customs of the ancients caught the imagination.

 

In 1823, Clement Moore published The Night Before Christmas in New York (with its long Germanic and Dutch heritage, as well as healthy immigrant population), fully bringing the Germanic and Nordic traditions of St. Nicholas into the Christmas story. A few years later, back in the UK, a young Queen Victoria married the German Prince Albert and with him came more of the German traditions, still heavily influenced by the ancient pagan practices. Mistletoe, Holly wreaths, candles and carols came to England with the Prince. In 1841, a tree was decorated in Windsor Castle for the first time, illustrations of which made their way across England and over the ocean, cementing the Christmas tree as the centerpiece of the holiday home.

 

For more on the history of Christmas, and how it evolved over the centuries, check out the gorgeously photographed Christmas: from solstice to Santa by Nikki Tate.

 

Then came the ghosts. The Victorians were no strangers to ghost stories; they permeated much of their literature. As the Victorian age marched on and the Scientific Revolution began to take hold, spiritualism spiked. Charles Dickens wasn’t a spiritualist, but he did think of ghosts often. Not as the white sheeted frights of horror, but as the memories of those who have passed, especially in the last year (this being the Victorian era, and death common and indiscriminant). It was his belief that there was no better time of the year to consider the lessons ghosts might teach us then in the deep of the winter, when the trees were bare and the air cold, and candles danced shadows through long nights.

 

Having suffered a series of commercial failures, Dickens was desperate for a hit. But Christmas was a long shot at best. A holiday people barely made mention of was hardly the foundation for a best seller. His publishers were nervous, but Dickens had his ghosts to guide him, and wrote his Christmas Carol not based on any religious practice but on a common human decency. That Christmas was a time for families to come together, to celebrate and rejoice in their company, and toast the year to come. Most of this was – again – largely fictional. It made for a good story but shared little in common with a reader’s actual experience.

 

It struck a chord though. Upon publication, it was an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Readers saw in Dicken’s morality tale not what they had, but what they wanted and could have. Christmas as an idea exploded across the British Empire, heralded by ghostly warnings and promises. Ghosts never really took off as a Christmas staple – they lost their moral compass and became spooks over on Halloween. Thanks to Dickens though, they’ve never really left Christmas either. Each year more writers are inspired to tell their own paranormal tales - such as in the short story colletion Ghosts of Christmas Past, including the works of Neil Gaiman - usually featuring spirits seeking to put right what once went wrong.

 

This year we’ve put together two lists (40777 for fiction and 40653 for everything else) of recent and popular material the celebrate the holiday season. With more than thirty to choose from, there is surely something for everyone in the coming month. And if you’d rather skip them all, there are still roaring fires, hot cocoa, and thoughts of tropical beaches you’d rather be on to keep you warm. Whatever and however you celebrate being halfway out of the dark, if you happen to meet any ghosts along the way, mind what they tell you. They might be friendlier than they look.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

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With great power comes great responsibility. Many would recognize this as the philosophy that has driven Spider-man for the past 56 years. Equally it could apply to Spider-man’s creator, Stan Lee, who passed away last Monday at the age of 95.

 

It is no exaggeration to say that Stan Lee invented the modern superhero. While Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the architype with Superman in 1938, and Bob Kane and Bill Finger hit on a cultural icon with Batman in the following year, the early years of superhero comics were filled with pulp stories of war-time intrigue, gangsters, and simple characterization. Comics in the forties and fifties were more interested in tales of chilling horror to delight and amaze than telling complex, human stories.

 

Stan Lee changed that. Having already been a veteran of the industry by the 1960s, Lee was given a chance by the new Marvel comics to tell more complex stories. Instead of white-and-black hatted cowboy stories, Lee wanted heroes that had personalities, who suffered loss and self-doubt, and didn’t always win at the end of the day. Marvel’s heroes were modern heroes, and their masks became metaphors.

 

It is no surprise that Lee’s heroes – the rage-induced Incredible Hulk, the prosecuted mutants of the X-Men, the morally questionable Daredevil – all appeared and rose to popularity during the tumultuous time that was the 1960s. The counter culture revolution had young people questioning their parent’s straight-laced and more repressed mindsets. Unlike Superman, who was a stalwart beacon of truth, justice and the American way, Captain America was a man out of time, proud to wear his uniform but also willing to question his orders if he thought them unjust. The Civil Rights Movement and second wave feminism allowed the voiceless to rise up, and readers wanted to see themselves reflected in the comics. Lee obliged, with characters like Black Panther, and the Wasp.

 

His motivations weren’t all altruism and social responsibility. Lee was a showman, and had an eye for what would sell. He created She-Hulk – Bruce Banner’s similarly green afflicted cousin – as a response to the popularity of the Bionic Woman. His first creation for Marvel, the Fantastic Four, was a direct response to DC Comics own Justice League, and would eventually lead to the creation of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers

 

His instinct for the limelight wasn’t always positive though. Through his monthly column Stan’ Soapbox, Lee became the face and the voice of Marvel throughout the sixties and seventies. However, the contributions and accomplishments of his frequent artist collaborators Jack Kirby and Steve Dikto were minimized. It was these artists’ designs and visual storytelling that gave the comics revolution their style. Lee’s self promotion did not always win him friends, and he tied the Marvel Brand to his own.

 

Ditko – who died earlier this year – was Lee’s co-creator on Marvel’s most popular character, and the most relatable hero of the 20th century: Spider-man. Not a brilliant inventor, a billionaire playboy, a famed scientist, or an all-powerful alien; Peter Parker was just a boy. He found himself out of his element, in a world increasingly dangerous and unpredictable. He had responsibilities but struggled to keep up with them. He doubted himself. He had girl problems. Take off the mask, and he was no different than multitudes of readers picking up the comic week after week.

 

Lee left Marvel in the nineties, during a period of near bankruptcy for Marvel. Because of the nature of the industry, when Lee started working for them, he never saw any of the profits from the dozens of characters he created. But Lee had spent decades tying his name to his characters in the public mindset, and neither could ever escape the other. Lee’s cult of personality lead him to movies and television, where he pushed to have Marvel’s characters take to the screen.

 

While a painted green Lou Ferrigno won fans in the eighties, it wasn’t until the turn of the millennium when the action truly left the page and jumped to the screen, and Lee went along for the ride. From the release of 2000’s X-Men to this year’s Spider-man ; Into the Spider-verse, Lee made a humourous cameo in every film based on his creations, the superhero equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock. Lee lived to see his characters go from the funny pages to Saturday morning cartoons to the company he helped put on the map being bought by Disney for $4 billion. The MCU movies featuring Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson are among the most successful movies ever made. Not bad for a bunch of characters jumping around in their pajamas.

 

"I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers,” Lee once told the Washington Post. “And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing."

 

We’ve put together an Slist of books and movies created or inspired by Stan Lee, which you can view here.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Excelsior!

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I’ve been riding horses since I was thirteen. By the time I was seventeen, I had convinced my mom to go halves on a horse. I had visions of a trained show pony, preferably black as coal, who never spooked and did everything I asked. Instead, I got Riff Raff. 

 

While he’s actually (mostly) named for the Rocky Horror Picture Show character, the name also fit him as an unwanted baby from Alberta, brought to Ontario to be sold to the African Lion Safari for food. At first, I didn’t want him either.  He was unbroke, spooky, and somewhat ugly with his big heavy head and giant donkey ears.  I wanted a horse I could get on and ride, not an uncut stallion terrified of the little white Shetland pony he shared a field with.  I remember bringing him into the stall the first time (after spending 20 minutes catching him) and being really angry at him for his antsy behaviour.

 

To see him, Riff looks similar to the horse featured on the cover of Scholastic’s upcoming Horses: the Definitive Catalog of Horse and Pony Breeds.  Inside are some horse breeds that even I’m not that familiar with, despite spending the past 20 years around horses in some capacity.  Everyone remotely interested in horses (which I’m pretty sure is all of us, at least those of us who were once little girls) knows about the Chincoteague, but there are plenty of other wild island ponies, including the Eriskay from Scotland, the Padang from Indonesia, and the Skyros from Greece.

 

Canada also has its own horse, called – shockingly – the Canadian (or French Canadian) Horse.  Before their popularity waned in the 1970s, there were three types of Canadian Horses: the Canadian Heavy Draft or St. Lawrence; the Frencher (also sometimes called the St. Lawrence for maximum confusion); and the Canadian Pacer.  The Pacer was known for being able to race on ice, which probably means it should replace the beaver as our national animal.

 

The Canadian Pacer is thought to have influenced a number of breeds in the United States, including the Tennessee Walker, a horse well-known for its unique gaited walk; the American Saddlebred; and the Standardbred.  Riff currently lives in a small herd with a Standardbred mare named Elly and Elly’s daughter, Raina. 

 

Standardbreds are best known for their harness racing, and Elly was in a few races in her youth, meaning she’s trained to pull a sulky or buggy.  She didn’t do very well, possibly because she’s somewhat bad-tempered and uncoordinated.  When leading Elly somewhere, watch your toes; she tends to fling her feet off to the sides.  She and Riff are both approaching 20 years old, so she’s mellowed somewhat.

 

I’ve had Riff for 14 years now.  Once he was gelded and given some attention, he blossomed into one of the sweetest horses I’ve ever known.  When he's feeling good, he plays keepaway in the field: he waits until I get almost close enough to put his halter on, then trots off a good distance before turning back to watch me try to approach him again. He’s good-natured and patient, though that doesn’t mean he won’t buck me off if I deserve it.  And he did, finally, grow into his ears.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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I would jump at the chance to have a pet dinosaur.  Despite five movies (and counting) focused on just why this would be a terrible idea, there’s still something appealing about it.  I already share my space with a miniature panther; a chicken-sized dinosaur would probably be just as happy to sleep under a pile of blankets on the couch.  Whether it and my easily offended cat would get along is a different concern.

 

Dinosaurs capture the imaginations of people of all ages.  Whether these creatures are searching for the Great Valley, solving crimes with Whoopi Goldberg, or just a pile of bones in a museum, there’s something incredibly appealing about these ‘terrible lizards.’  Especially those large enough to tower over people.

 

Of course, I could have a pet dinosaur.  They just go by a different name now: birds.  Anyone who’s dealt with swans, geese, or particularly aggressive roosters would likely spot the similarities to their ancestors.  Swans and geese are large enough to cause a person damage; just ask the Cambridge University rowers in the UK who had run-ins with Mr. Asbo and his descendants, Asboy and Asbaby.  Chickens may be smaller, but I can personally attest that those beaks are sharp and the spurs on a rooster’s legs can cut skin when they attack you from behind - like the bane of my farm existence, my parents’ Polish rooster, Tolliver.

 

Still, the idea of owning a bird is different from the idea of owning a creature ten, twenty, thirty times bigger, with a mouthful of razor sharp teeth and claws to match.  That doesn’t mean I don’t still want a pet dinosaur; I just reluctantly acknowledge a pet T. rex would probably be dangerous.  No matter how much I might want to sic it on the pickups tailgating me on my daily commute.  T. rex has always been my favourite and the history of its fossils is fascinating to dive into.

 

The largest, best preserved T. rex fossil found to date is FMNH PR 2081, commonly known as SUE.  Discovered in August 1990 by Sue Hendrickson, SUE the T. rex spent most of the 1990s at the center of a legal dispute over ownership of their bones.  SUE was eventually purchased for $8.3 million by the Field Museum in Chicago, and still resides there.  SUE can be followed on Twitter @SUEtheTrex (where they declare not only their nonbinary status but also that they’re a LARGE M U R D E R B I R D and who hasn’t felt that way every now and then) and had a documentary made about them in 2014 called Dinosaur 13, available on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

Although possibly the most famous of the fossils under ownership dispute, SUE isn’t the only one.  In 2012, a fossil collector named Eric Prokopi brought a tarbosaurus skeleton from Mongolia to the UK.  It was later sold in New York for $1 million, but the Mongolian government halted the sale with the complaint that their Constitution declared all dinosaur fossils to be culturally significant and illegal to remove without government permission.

 

Prokopi was charged and convicted - via a guilty plea - of multiple counts of felonious smuggling.  This not only caused the return of the disputed tarbosaurus skeleton, but also the return of more than 18 other fossils; enough that Mongolia was able to open a new dinosaur museum in Ulaanbaatar.  The case was the subject of a 2014 article written by Paige Williams for The New Yorker: “The Black Market for Dinosaurs.”

 

Four years later, Williams has published a book diving more deeply into both the case and the world surrounding it.  The Dinosaur Artist is a combination of paleontology and true crime, exploring the fine line between the advancement of our scientific knowledge and the private collectors’ market.  These collectors pay high prices to claim these bones, in part as a status symbol, but maybe also driven by the same desire I have: to keep a dinosaur as a pet.  By doing so, however, collectors prevent the fossils from being studied and hinder our knowledge about these ancient, magnificent animals.

 

I know that I’ll never have a pet dinosaur.  Even if we were able to bring them back, it’s unlikely that dinosaurs would ever be classified as pets, easily adoptable from the local Humane Society.  Regular lizards – geckos, iguanas, bearded dragons – require specialized care as it is.  And despite the increasing population of urban chickens, city councils would probably draw the line at urban dinosaurs.  Even the small ones.  The idea is still fun to fantasize about, however, and as long as there are books, movies, and novelty T-shirts keeping dinosaurs alive, I’ll be waiting in line.

 

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter.  To keep up to date with all of our services and other information, we encourage you to subscribe to our Green Memo, sent weekly.  And finally, come back to this site each and every week for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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