Blog - Library Services Centre

I don't consider myself a foodie. I'm not picky enough to pull off that moniker. But I do love food, and I love cooking. I am a recipe hog, taking pictures of recipes in magazines, or having innumerable tabs open on my phone to curious concoctions I’ve stumbled across. I’ll try anything, and try to make anything. And very occasionally, I stumble across some unusual cookbooks that really challenge me.

 

My partner and I just completed the Whole30 diet in February. Well, to be fair, it was a Whole28 (leap days don’t count). Now, I’m not one for dieting; I believe that diet culture is as malicious and poisonous as gluttony. Folk have enough body image issues without policing what they eat, and I won’t feed that beast. I believe that food is life’s great pleasures, and should be celebrated in all its configurations. There should be no guilt, no feeling like you have cheated, and no deniying yourself something you love or something you need because of society’s pressures. It turned out though that the Whole30 “meal plan” wasn’t that different from how I normally eat, so in solidarity, I took it on.

 

Whole30 recommends removing grains, dairy, and sugar from your diet for a month. It is a meat-protein and vegetable heavy course, and helped me to realize a deep inner truth about myself: I love bread. I knew I loved cheese, and being cheeseless for a month was hard enough. But never have I so crystalized the notion that bread is an intrinsic part of the my being. You better believe the first thing I did on the 29th was slap a grilled cheese on the skillet. Never has a sandwich tasted so good.

 

I took the tact of seeing Whole30 as a challenge rather than a diet. I have a food comfort zone, the lulls we all fall into when we have neither the time nor energy to attempt a grand production. For some it is frozen fish sticks and crinkle cut fries. For me, its jasmine rice and stir-fry. And a lot of take out. Too much take out. If nothing else, the last month has done my wallet a courtesy. Whole30 made me have to think about my meals again. What are rice alternatives? What are bread alternatives? What are sauce alternatives, sauces purchased in stores laden with excess salts and sugars?

 

There are a myriad of Whole30 recipes books by Melissa Hartwig, but the one I found the most helpful and enjoyable was Whole30 Friends and Family: 150 Recipes for Every Social Occasion. This was more of a snacks and hors d'oeuvre compendium. Sweet potato stuffed dates, for instance, wrapped in bacon was a hit. Potato sausage breakfast bites became a Sunday staple for sure. Lemon garlic sautéed zucchini noodles were a terrific replacement for pasta. Sweet potato waffles (or pancakes) were a quick and easy addition to any meal, made all the tastier with the discovery of a syrup replacement made from pureed dates. While dietitians can argue the health ramifications of diets, I at least found these books a unique looks at how to shake up my food rut.

 

But I’m glad to be back on the bread.

 

As for other books that adorn my shelf, one I return to often is Feeding Hannibal: a Connoisseur's Cookbook by Janice Poon. Ms Poon was Toronto-based the food stylist for the TV series Hannibal, which followed Hannibal Lecter’s murderous and cannibalistic culinary adventures. Her challenge was preparing meals in a way that it looked gorgeous on camera, and the legally available food could reasonably be cooked human. This cookbook brings those recipes to life. While Hannibal might have been cutting into a bit of man-thigh, readers can recreate the recipe with Clay-baked Chicken. Can’t enjoy the mythical French dish of ortolan? Why not sculpt the small birds out of tofu. If you are feeling adventurous, you can make Heart Tartare Tarts from veal heart instead of insurance broker. And despite Hannibal’s insistence, there are vegetarian dishes here too.

 

Speaking of Vegetarian, Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck is a terrific resource for those looking for less meat in their diet, but not wanting to sacrifice fun or flavor. Their motto of verbally abusing you into a healthier diet holds up, as the pages are littered with obscenities as well as delicious recipes. Looking for a pulled pork alternative, why not give the Cola Braised Jackfruit a shot? The Crispy Crabless Cakes make surprising use of artichoke hearts instead of shellfish. And it you’re searching for something hearty, give the pumpkin chili a whirl; all the flavor, none of the beef!

 

And now we come to my favourite way of making food: waffling it. Waffles are not a singular food, they are a genre. Anything can be a waffle if you believe it can be. And there is a whole cookbook with exactly that premise: Will It Waffle by Daniel Shumski. The basic notion is, there are far far more foods that you can cook on a waffle iron than just batter. And you should. If I had my way, all food would come in waffle form. The waffle pocket is the perfect flavor delivery device.

 

Think outside the waffle box. Mix some shredded cheese into mash potato, cook that on the iron, and pour over with gravy, and you’ve got poutine waffles. Want to keep things vegetarian, how about a falafel waffle with hummus? A personal favourite of mine: panko crusted mac and cheese, done in the Belgian style. It’s not just savory and cheese based options. Cinnamon buns are ideal for the waffle treatment, as are double chocolate brownies or cookies or pretty much any construction. Just make sure your iron is hot and well greased!

 

Cookbooks are one of the most published genres of book, and if you dig, there are more than a few that will scratch the itch of an oddball in the kitchen. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go waffle a grilled cheese.

 

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.

 

Yours, Fictionally

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

January 19th, 2020 is the inaugural I Read Canadian day, a day (and week) dedicated to encouraging young people to celebrate the richness, diversity, and breadth of Canadian literature.  The aim is to have Canadians, especially young people, take just 15 minutes out of their day to read a Canadian book, or have it read to them. 

 

Many libraries and schools are participating, including Ajax Public Library, Guelph Public Library, and Lethbridge Public Library. Here at LSC, we asked staff to let us know their favourite Canadian authors and/or books.  See below for their choices!

 

CEO Michael M. notes that one of his daughter’s favourite books was The Paper Bag Princess by the one and only Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko.  Originally published in 1980 by Annick Press, the book has withstood the test of time, Mike feels. Robert Munsch was a theme among our staff, also mentioned by CFO Kirk O., Multilingual Selector Julie K., and Nonfiction Selector Stef W. This year is the 40th anniversary of this classic book.

 

Stef’s personal favourite Canadian authors are Tanya Huff, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Gemma Files.  All three authors have written urban fantasy set in and around Canada: Tanya Huff’s Smoke trilogy and Enchantment Emporium trilogy; Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry; Gemma Files’s We Will All Go Down Together; and short fiction The Puppet Motel from the collection Echoes, edited by Ellen Datlow. 

 

In juvenile nonfiction, Stef recommends the Scholastic Canada Biography series, Indigenous author Theresa Corky Larsen-Jonasson, the Mothers of Xsan series, Eric Zweig, Elise Gravel, Jess Keating, the Haunted Canada series, and Helaine Becker.  In adult nonfiction, be sure to check out Metis author Jesse Thistle’s autobiography From the Ashes; The Skin We’re In: a Year of Black Resistance and Power by Desmond Cole; and The Vagina Bible by Jen Gunter.

 

Kirk O. cites Patrick DeWitt as one of his favourites; he’s loaned and recommends The Sisters Brothers to friends and family as a great read.  He also loved Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

 

Acquisitions Clerk Fabiana S. recently read Sweep: the Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier and enjoyed it so much that she plans to read the rest of his bibliography.  She also recommends the Lullaby series, which includes Canada Lullaby, British Columbia Lullaby, and Alberta Lullaby.  They’re even available to listen to on Youtube.

 

Rachel S., Adult Fiction Selector, has always had a special place in her reading heart for Gordon Korman.  Not only did she attend the same elementary school he did, but she’s met him professionally (he’s always charming and funny) and his book Don’t Care High was loosely based on the high school she attended.  She also recommends quintessential summer camp book I Want To Go Home, as well as No More Dead Dogs.

 

Outside of Gordon Korman, Rachel makes a point of reading Courtney Summers’s YA fiction, and books like Very Rich by Polly Horvath.  She notes that Dennis Lee wrote a picture book – Lizzy’s Lion – in 1984 that’s one of the most twisted and brilliant picture books she’s ever read, and some of her favourite adult fiction authors are Timothy Findlay, Michael Ondaatje, and Robert Sawyer.

 

Finally, Library Service Representative Michael C. has two recommendations to make.  First up is John Bianchi, who was actually born in New York but came to Canada in 1968 and made his career here.  Snowed in at Pokeweed School was a childhood favourite of Michael’s, and he’s always found Bianchi’s drawing style a delight.  His second recommendation is Canadian writer – and computer programmer – Ryan North.  North created Dinosaur comics, has written a Choose Your Own Adventure style version of Hamlet, and recently published How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveller.

 

These are just some of the great Canadians creating great literature.  For more information on I Read Canadian Day, check out their website, which offers awesome reading lists, including the Forest of Reading Awards and the CCBC Book Awards.

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

As a mom of a toddler on the spectrum, recent life has been a crash course about neurodiversity. It’s painful to acknowledge that until recently, the main representation of autism in popular culture was the movie Rain Man, where Dustin Hoffman plays an autistic savant. Things have come a long way since then, but there is so much room for improvement. Still, only characters with “cute” special needs are reflected in popular media. Think Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory. What is never addressed is that our world is built for those who are “normal.”

 

Some treatments that were considered effective for autism therapy are being described by the now autistic adults who undertook the therapy as detrimental to their core being. Instead of focusing on inclusion and support, the focus was on compliance, but a tide is turning. Consider for example being nonverbal. Books like Ido in Autismland by Ido Kedar and The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, both nonverbal young adults on the spectrum, have opened eyes globally. Both of them learned to express themselves (from basic needs to complex imaginative thoughts) through a simple alphabet chart. Previous to these books, there was a basic understanding among professionals that nonverbal meant non-understanding; meant non-intelligent.

 

Luckily, we have great author advocates like Meg Raby who released picture book My Brother Otto: An Autism Awareness Book this year. Otto is a young nonverbal crow on the spectrum. The book is told by his sister who describes his traits, likes and dislikes, and how much she loves him. He is pictured ordering bugs and cheese for lunch using an alternative communication device like an iPad. This picture book is ground breaking, in my opinion – the underlying message doesn’t leave you pitying Otto, it’s about two kids’ everyday experiences with an emphasis on kindness and understanding, one of them just happens to be autistic. It is also extremely refreshing to see an alternate mode of communication in popular media.

 

In a similar vein, I shared a copy of I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism by Pat Thomas with my son’s daycare teachers for reading with his class. The gentle, informational approach describes the sensory challenges people on the spectrum deal with daily, how they might feel like an alien on their own planet sometimes, and how everyone needs a friend for love and support.

 

A less serious picture book we have enjoyed very much is Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap: NT is OK by Clay Morton. This book reverses the common depictions of neurodiversity by showing how a neurotypical (NT) kid is seen by his best friend on the spectrum. The narrator’s funny confusion at his NT friend’s habits (for example, his tardiness for showing up at 4:59pm or 5:01pm instead of 5pm on the dot) show that “normal” depends on who you ask. Similarly, we can all take a page from recent picture book My Shape is Sam by Amanda Jackson, about a square who wants to roll like a circle – but scratch that, Sam ISN’T a square or a circle, he’s just Sam! He doesn’t have to be what others want or expect him to be.

 

The point is, “normal” doesn’t exist anymore. Put your love and patience into high gear and show those who are flappy, nonverbal, hyper, and differently abled from you that you love them, want them around, and that the world is becoming a more inclusive place day by day. 

 

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.

 

Until next time!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, we asked staff here at LSC to choose their favourite books, movies, games, and/or music of 2019.  And boy did they have some.

 

Nan M., our Plant Manager, chose Kate Mulgrew’s second memoir How to Forget (3544210), following 2015’s Born With Teeth.  In How to Forget, actress Kate Mulgrew returns home to Iowa to care for her ailing parents, and discovers long-hidden family secrets after their deaths.  Nan says the book hooked her immediately and Mulgrew, most famous for Star Trek: Voyager and Orange is the New Black, is a great writer.

 

Paul A. in Shipping chose Jojo Rabbit, directed by Taika Waititi as his top movie of the year.  Based on the book Caging Skies, the film follows a young boy in Nazi Germany who discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in the attic, and who must face blind nationalism with the help of his imaginary friend – Adolf Hitler.  Paul says, ‘Great acting, great story, above average production values and above all else, a human story with wicked social, moral and intellectual value. It will make you chuckle, think, and maybe tear up a bit too.’  His runner-up movies are Judy and Rocketman.  

 

Cataloguer Ray G. chose two movies as his top of 2019.  The Farewell is based on Lulu Wang’s What You Don’t Know radio essay and features a Chinese family returning to China to say goodbye to their matriarch – who doesn’t actually know she only has a few more weeks to live.  Avengers: Endgame is, of course, the conclusion to the Avengers storyline (for now), where the Avengers have to restore balance to the world after Thanos snapped half of it into nothing.  Ray also chose More Giraffes, Ali Gatie, and Guardin for best music of 2019, but loved too many games to choose just one.

 

From HR, Carrie P. chose Crawl – also Quentin Tarantino’s favourite movie of 2019 – and Downton Abbey as her top movies of 2019.  While Downton Abbey continues the story of the wealthy Crawley family in the early twentieth century, Crawl is a creature feature horror movie about a girl and her father trapped by a hurricane in a house filled with alligators.  Carrie’s favourite book of the year is Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, an adult fiction novel about a legendary rock band of the 70s – and the reasons why they broke up just when they were most popular.

 

In Selection Services, Children’s Product Manager Sara P. picked a board game as her favourite of the year: Ms. Monopoly, where female players collect $240 when they pass Go.  Her favourite book is Holly Black’s Queen of Nothing, the third in the Folk of the Air series.  Sara says Holly Black is the queen of writing about the Fae.

 

Michael C. in Marketing had three great book selections for 2019.  If, Then by Kate Hope Day, in which three neighbours start seeing visions, almost ghosts, of their lives on very different paths. Are they hallucinations? Are they another world, another time? The book is emotionally focused on these characters and the existential ramifications these visions have on their lives, each reacting in a wildly different but completely believable way. 

 

Recursion, by Blake Crouch was also one of Michael's favourites. As with his previous novel Dark Matter, Crouch explores the nature of self and reality through the tragedy and perseverance of his characters, while driving us through the chapters with action and intrigue. In this novel, a grief and guilt stricken police officer has to contend with the outbreak of a disease which implants an entire life's worth of new memories into people, memories they cannot stand to live with.

 

Finally Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch. McCulloch explores how the internet and mobile technology has created an entirely new facet to language. From the evolution of slang and text abbreviations, to memes and how digital communication has changed over the last 20 years, this book is a fun read for anyone who wants the TL;DR on 21st century language.

 

Back to Shipping, Patrick B. has a favourite book, movie, and music release.  His book choice is Booker Prize shortlist nominee Quichotte by Salman Rushdie, a comic but tender love story about a TV-obsessed travelling salesman, his imaginary son, and their road trip to find love, as told by spy novelist Sam DuChamp.  In movies, Patrick enjoyed Us, directed by Jordan Peele, where a family’s vacation at the beach turns to horror when they’re attacked by doppelgangers.  For music, Patrick’s choice is the second studio album, South of Reality, by The Claypool Lennon Delirium, a psychedelic rock band comprised of Sean Lennon and Primus’ Les Claypool.

 

Accounts Payable Clerk Lee-ann B. already knows she’s going to love the new Star Wars movie, but her movie pick for 2019 right now is Motherless Brooklyn.  Based on the Jonathan Lethem novel, and written, produced, directed, and starring Edward Norton as a private investigator with Tourette’s, Motherless Brooklyn is a neo-noir focused on Norton’s character’s quest to solve the murder of his mentor.  Her best book choice is a tie between domestic suspense novel The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald and The Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad, which Lee-ann says taught her a lot about the service of homing pigeons during World War II.

 

Kirk O., our CFO, said, "while looking for something to read I find that I can never go wrong with titles that have been nominated for consideration for the Man Booker Prize.  I did wander down to my local library, Idea Exchange, to grab two titles that are nominated and were available.  Both are new authors for me.  The first was My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.  I didn’t read this book so much as inhale the 238 pages in a few days.  Engaging story with great characters taking place in modern day Nigeria.  I highly recommend this book.  I will also be looking for other titles that she has written.  If I would compare her to anyone in style I would say it is Patrick DeWitt, another author I enjoy.

 

"The second title that I tackled from this list is The Wall by John Lanchester.  Once again a well written book that I enjoyed immensely.  Whereas the book above was as light hearted as a serial killer book could be, The Wall, set in the near future, takes on a much more serious tone.   You can read this story with a thought to both migrants looking for a better life as well as the effect of climate change on future generations.”

 

Customer Experience Manager Jamie Q. has two favourite books for 2019 in Shortest Day by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Carson Ellis and Guestbook: Ghost Stories by Leanne Shapton.  She said, “Carson Ellis beautifully illustrates a poem about winter solstice by Susan Cooper. The moody illustrations remind us of the origins of Christmas, and what a celebration light is after a dark winter.  Shapton creates tales by combining writing, photographs, artifacts and other ephemera to express the cryptic imperfection of human life. It has the feeling of marveling over someone’s private cabinet of curiosities, or being in a dream.”

 

Last but not least, Elizabeth K. in Cataloguing chose a contemporary fantasy called The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H. G. Parry.  In the book, Charley Sutherland is hiding an unpredictable ability: he can call literary characters out into the real world.  He discovers he’s not the only one who can do this when the escape of various literary characters threatens the world itself, forcing Charley and his older brother, Rob, to save it.

 

Those were but a handful of the media we enjoyed this year. And now, with 2019 behind us, we can look forward to starting all new lists in 2020. As, we expect, will you.

 

Happy new year!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

When I was 16, a friend of mine asked me if I’d heard of NaNoWriMo.  It turned out that there was this event going into its second year called National Novel Writing Month, where the goal was to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.  Both of us were writers and at 16, my only real time concern was being in my last year of high school, so we decided we would both sign up and attempt this challenge.

 

NaNo (as it’s known to us Wrimos) was small back then, at least compared to today; its inaugural year in July 1999 featured a whole 21 participants.  By the time I heard of it, I was one of 5000, and the event was being reported in the L.A. Times and the Washington Post.  I won that year with a terrible novel about vampires, a talking cabbage, and a hellhound named Fluffy, because when you need to write 50,000 words in a month, reality is the least of your concerns.  I’ve participated every year since, in both the original NaNo and in the spinoff Camp NaNoWriMo, which began in 2011 and allows me to choose my own wordcount goal rather than sticking to the 50K.  I’ve also won every year, sometimes legitimately, sometimes by cheating... I mean, rebelling.

 

In 2003, NaNo’s founder, Chris Baty, wrote No Plot? No Problem (updated and revised in 2016), a guide to writing a novel, whether in 30 days or not.  My copy hangs out on my overburdened bookcase along with Stephen King’s On Writing, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and Dreyer’s English. NaNo taught me a lot about writing a first draft quickly, including the fact that it will suck and that’s okay.  As King says, you write your first draft with the door closed.  And preferably locked, when you live with your parents or roommates who inevitably want to know what you’re doing (writing), why (because I want to), and if they can be characters in your story (no).

 

In past years, there’s usually been one or two news articles or blog posts questioning NaNo and whether it’s ruining the sanctity of the written word.  They usually point out that a novel written in 30 days probably isn’t very good, and also such a singleminded focus on length won’t improve that.  This is true.  A novel written in 30 days will be awkward and ungainly, full of run-on sentences, illogical actions, and plotholes you can drive a truck through.  Characters change names, appearances, and occasionally gender.  Authors forget how to English (or whatever their language is), as proved by the hilarious NaNoisms thread that pops up every year for participants to chronicle their worst typos and brainfarts.  At the end of the month, you have a novel that is certainly not in any state to be published, or even shopped around to agents.

 

That’s not the point.  The point of NaNo is to get yourself writing.  It’s to train yourself to sit down in your chair, put your hands on the keyboard, and write some words.  Sometimes that’s only a sentence.  Sometimes you drag out the first few (hundred) words and your muse finally engages and you’re off flying, words spilling out so fast your fingers can’t even keep up.  Either way, you’re doing something many people say they’ll do but never carve out the time to actually do it.

 

Of course, there are plenty of novels out there that started as NaNovels and were beaten into submission, polished, and published by real live publishers.  They include Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Wool by Hugh Howey, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and many more.  And this year, though I haven’t actively been searching for any, I haven’t seen any handwringing about how NaNo is destroying writing as an art.  I have seen news articles, pep talks from famous authors, and library programs in areas like Burnaby, Montreal, and Cambridge’s Idea Exchange.  I’ve seen another official NaNoWriMo handbook in Brave the Page, a juvenile nonfiction guide and inspiration for middle graders.

 

In the 18 years I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo, I’ve written almost 1 million words.  I’ve written halves of novels, full novels, short stories, novellas, 104K in a month, 50K in 6 days (Surgeon General’s Warning: not recommended unless you like uncontrollable tremors).  Whether I finish a full novel or rebel by rewriting older stories (or by writing blog posts), NaNo has taught me to just put my head down, stop complaining, and get it done.

 

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!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

If you’ve turned on the news lately, you may have heard of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist who’s been making waves with her passionate speeches.  In August 2018, Greta began to protest climate change by sitting outside of Sweden’s national legislature, the Riksdag, with a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate).  Her protests have inspired countless similar protests throughout the world, and Greta herself has been invited to speak on many global stages, including here in Canada.

 

Greta and her family will be releasing their autobiography, Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis, at the end of April 2020.  For those who can’t wait for more information, however, Jeannette Winter has published a nonfiction picture book with the same title.  Other books featuring Greta’s story include Greta and the Giants by Zoe Tucker and No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta herself.

 

Fortunately Greta isn’t the only one concerned with both the environment and our world as a whole.  Youth activism is on the rise, according to author and scholar Jessica Taft.  In the United States, the survivors of the Parkland school shooting have been campaigning for better gun control.  Malala Yousafzai has been working on behalf of girls and women since 2009, even surviving an assassination attempt.  Here in Canada, we have our own youth focusing on a range of topics, from Stella Bowles in Nova Scotia – whose juvenile nonfiction book My River: Cleaning up the Lahave River was recently nominated for the Forest of Reading – to Metis-Jamaican Larissa Crawford, and LGBTQ2+ activist Fae Johnstone.

 

Human impact on the environment and climate change have been big topics over the past few years.  In our recent election, climate change was second only to health care among Canadians polled by Ipsos.  The book world has seen a number of publications focused on the environment, climate change, and the plight of the natural world and its animals.  At the beginning of October, Kari Jones published Ours to Share: Co-Existing in a Crowded World as part of the Orca Footprints series.  The book focuses on the growth of the human population – from just a few hundred thousand people to our current population of nearly eight billion – and our impact on the world around us.  It’s a positive book, however, highlighting how we can share with our neighbours and what kids can do to help better the world.

 

One of the bigger issues in the climate change discussion is the issue of plastic.  Some steps have been taken to reduce our plastic waste – like encouraging reusable bags at the grocery store and charging for plastic ones – but there’s a glut of information out there that people may struggle to sort through.  The Plastic Problem by Rachel Salt. Written by a producer for the YouTube channel AsapSCIENCE, the book breaks down the issues and lays out solutions.  For younger readers, there’s also Join the No-Plastic Challenge by Scot Ritchie, part of the Exploring Our Community series.

 

We’re headed into winter now and the forecast for the year is milder but stormier.  While I can’t say I’ll particularly miss the dreaded polar vortex, unpredictable and stormy weather is still a sign of climate change.  According to NASA, the rising ocean temperatures are likely to lead to an increase in extreme rainstorms.  In the winter, despite the colder temperatures, the increase in evaporated water can also lead to heavier snowfall.

 

All hope isn’t lost, though.  Many people all over the world, including youth activists like Greta Thunberg, are working towards reducing our carbon emissions, pollution, and plastic garbage.  This past spring and summer, the #trashtag challenge went viral, encouraging people to clean up an area near them and post before and after photos.  Much better than throwing slices of plastic cheese onto your baby.

 

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!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

In the 1800s, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the world to his "consulting detective." As Sherlock Holmes is described, he is a private citizen who puts his powers of deduction and his network of allies and informants to work solving the crimes of England and beyond. Now, in 2019 another detective has emerged, this time in the real world, helping to bring unsolved crimes to a close using technology and deduction. Enter: Billy Jensen.

 

Jensen began his career as a crime beat reporter in New York, but he quickly grew disillusioned with the dispassion involved in the industry. Show up, jot down the facts that the police can divulge, and whether it gets reported on depends on how sensational the crime was. This kind of reporting was not helping to solve crimes, only to melodramatize the effects of crime on certain portions of the population.

 

Jensen likes a mystery. He likes to see all the pieces of a mystery laid out, and to work through the process of drawing connections and solving the mystery. This might be exemplified by his taking on a decades old missing person case in his spare time: who is an actor in the original Star Wars movie. In an early scene, Obi-Wan interacts with essentially an extra briefly. The character has no lines, just a shrug. He received no credit in the film. However, this being Star Wars, this character has a name - BoShek - and extensive back story, and action figures. Yet the man who played him was a day player, and his identity was unknown.

 

Jensen began his investigation conventionally, but hit dead end after dead end. The identity of this actor remained illusive. Finally, Jensen posted the materials he had gathered online. He lacked some piece of critical information that would unlock the key, and he hoped that the internet might be a tool that could be used to fill in the gaps of his knowledge. And it paid off. A family member of the actor - now known to be Frances Tomlin - saw the post and reached out to Jensen. Definitive proof was provided. The mystery was solved. And there the methodmight have withered on the vine, were it not for another tragedy.

 

In 2016, Michelle McNamara died. She had spent years investigating (and naming) the Golden State Killer when the case had long presumbed to have gone cold. After her death, Jensen along with Paul Haynes and McNamara's widower Patton Oswalt finsihed the book she had been writing, later released as I'll Be Gone in the Dark. And inspired by her focus on bringing this case back to the surface and the killer to justice, Jensen began to wonder if there were other crimes that could be solved by a consulting detective. What if the internet could be used to solve actual crimes, not just identify unknown science fiction actors?

 

In an era of where everything is crowdsourced - medical costs, pet projects, films, video games, arts and crafts, the naming of NASA rovers and tugboats - the idea of using the captive audience of the internet is no different than the idea of Sherlock Holmes using his network of homeless people to gather information. I personal might not know anything about sports, but there are people out there who are experts on every minor aspects of every concievable sport. Jensen's idea was to leverage that expertise to solve crimes.

 

So he began, finding street level crimes that the police had reached a dead end on. Cases where video evidence was available, but all leads had gone cold. Jensen examined the evidence and picked out elements that could be used to generate new leads. A partical glimpse of a getaway vehicle? Post it to a car forum on Reddit, and someone will be able to identify the design of the bumper down to the production line. Have a good shot of sneakers? Someone knows how many pairs of that shoe were made, and where they were sold. Jensen took it a step further, and started using Facebook ads to push footage to people who lived within blocks of where crimes happened, as many crimes are committed by locals. 

 

The methods and successes of this Crowdsolving has been put into a new book, Chase Darkness with Me. Want to follow along as Jensen solves minor crimes, and works his way up to investigating the murders of the Allenstown 4? Want to learn how to solve crimes on your own, using the powerful potential of the internet and social media. Jensen lays out the rules, the things to avoid, and what hasn't worked for him. So we can all be the Sherlocks of our Baker Streets.

 

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.

 

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

John Hodgman has described himself as a former weird 13 year old, who has made a career appealing to the weird 13 year old in all of us. For many of us, he remains the belligerent personification of the failings of Microsoft products. For others he is the cool voice of absurd reason in our ear-buds every week. The through-line in all of this has been his sardonic, laconic wit, put on display in four previous books and this October he will add a fifth as he achieves Medallion Status.

 

Hodgman has said that he never expected to become famous. He was the last person to every expect to be famous. No one expects a bespectacled, bookish, nerdy type to become a national icon. Such people were not prepared for the nerd revolution that gripped the early millennium, of which Hodgman became a patron saint. A native of Massachusetts, he grew up an only child imbued with, as he tells it, all the selfishness that that situation permits. He has described his parents more as old roommates, who happily shared their favourite movies and books with this increasingly weird kid who happened to be in their home. 

 

His career started as a literary agent, where he represented horror movie icon Bruce Campbell among others. Through this job he began writing columns and small humorous essays for McSweeney's. This inspired in him to write a book that had been long simmering in his brain, a book inspired by the weird 13 year old he had curled up inside him, a book of lies masquerading as facts delivered with the straight face and earnestness of a bookish New Englander. This was An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled with Instructive Annotation and Arranged in Useful Order by myself, John Hodgman, a Professional Writer, in The Areas of My Expertise, which Include: Matters Historical, Matters Literary, Matters Cryptozoological, Hobo Matters, Food, Drink & Cheese (a Kind of Food), Squirrels & Lobsters & Eels, Haircuts, Utopia, What Will Happen in the Future, and Most Other Subjects. As the title might suggest, absurdity ran amok.

 

Here things might have ended for this whimsical nerd, were it not for an opportune interview on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart called his chapter on 700 hobo names, which lists the 700 most common hobo names, a "kind of genius," and Hodgman conducted the appearance in "character" as John Hodgman, Expert, for whom certainty is absolute. The segment was a hit, and Hodgman was invited to join The Daily Show as it's Resident Expert, appearing from time to time to lampoon whatever craziness was happening in the news as though it were normal and natural, and above all, Known To Be True.

 

Hodgman's international recognition came from his role as PC in the incredibly popular Apple "Get A Mac" ads, alongside Justin Long's Mac, where PC would flounder at simple tasks while Mac looked on with pity. These ads brought fame and fortune to Hodgman, and an unexpected, mid life career as a Famous Minor Television Celebrity, the character through which he wrote his second book and direct follow up to Expertise (the page numbers continue from the original, as though it were a single tome, For Your Consideration, The Firms of Dutton & Riverhead Books Present in the English Language: A Further Compendium of Complete World Knowledge in "The Areas Of My Expertise," Assembled and Illumined by Me, John Hodgman, A Famous Minor Television Personality, Offering More Information Than You Require On Subjects as Diverse as: The Past (as There Is Always More of It), The Future (as There Is Still Some Left), All of the Presidents of the United States, The Secrets of Hollywood, Gambling, The Sport of the Asthmatic Man (Including: Hermit-Crab Racing), Strange Encounters with Aliens, How to Buy a Computer, How to Cook an Owl, and Most Other Subjects

 

In these waning days of the aught decade, social media became prevalent and Hodgman used his Minor Fame to develop a large following on Twitter (@Hodgman) and later Instagram. As the Mac ads came to end, he began acting in earnest, appearing in small rolls in niche series like Flight of the Concords, Battlestar Galactica, and Bored to Death. During this period he took on a new character, a Deranged Millionaire, and in this guise wrote the final book of complete world knowledge, That Is All, which while still featuring the absurdest humour of the others is also a meditative and somber examination of sudden and unexpected fame. He released a Netflix comedy special to promoted the book, Ragnarok, which has since been removed to avoid confusion with the most recent Thor movie. As Jon Stewart left the Daily Show, so too did Hodgman. And then he did as many white dudes in the 10s were want to do: he started a podcast.

 

Judge John Hodgman is a comedy justice podcast, set up like court TV shows like Judge Judy. Real people submit petty and hilarious disputes on which Hodgman listens to their arguments, cracks jokes, and issues rulings. For nearly a decade, he has dispensed swift justice weekly from his chambers in Brooklyn on the Maximum Fun network. And through his Fake Internet Court he has built up a large backlog of Settled Law: hotdogs are not sandwiches, about which he debated Stephen Colbert; weird dads are the font of all embarrassment to children in the world; and husbands always come up with systems to make things easier which in practice never make things easier and are nearly always the wrong way of doing anything. 

 

In the last decade, Hodgman has continued to be a part time actor, most recently appearing in the second season of Amazon's The Tick, but he has largely dropped the characters of his past and is now just Hodgman, a weird 13 year old turned Weird Dad. He wrote of these experiences in 2017's Vacationland, which began as a one man show and series of essays on his teenage children, the summers that his family spend in Maine (a world of Painful Beaches), and losing his parents at different times in his life. The book is his personal crisis of discovering the "awful truth of my life, which is that I am a strange, white, male monster with bad facial hair staring down what... I hope is the beginning of the second half of my life and not the brief, final tenth."

 

This month he releases a companion volume, Medallion Status in which he details his new career as a professional Delta Airlines passenger while crossing North America on book tours, taking acting jobs, and dispensing Live Justice for performances of the his podcast. Where Vacationland looked as this personal life as an aging man, Medallion Status will examine the second act of a career he never expected to have and still is uncertain if he earned, as objectified by his Delta medallion status and access to the privileged and secretive Delta Sky Club (which, I highly recommend his appearance on the Dough Boys podcast in which they review the buffet of the Sky Lounge).

 

Those near to the GTA have the opportunity to see some Live Justice this November, as Judge John Hodgman and his bailiff Max Fun founder Jesse Thorn come to the Danforth Music Hall for a night of good clean rulings and musical accompaniment. I have seen Hodgman live three times, and his wit is no less weird, his delivery no less straight, but his empathy so much more on display. 

 

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.

 

Yours, Fictionally

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

In February 2017, journalist Robyn Doolittle and the Globe and Mail published their Unfounded investigation.  The result of 20 months spent interviewing sexual assault survivors and gathering data, the series showed that, across Canada, 1 in 5 complaints of sexual assault were dismissed as ‘unfounded’ – an official police code that closed the case with no investigation.  In the wake of the report, over 37,000 cases were put under review, the Federal government pledged $100 million towards a national strategy to prevent gender-based violence, and the RCMP reviewed their unfounded policies.

 

This month, Robyn Doolittle publishes her follow-up book, Had It Coming: What’s Fair in the Age of #MeToo? Originally coined in 2006 by American social activist Tarana Burke, #MeToo became a global phenomenon in October 2017, spreading virally on Twitter and Facebook thanks to actress Alyssa Milano and the allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein.  The movement has helped change the view on sexual assault and enabled women to speak out about their experiences, resulting in a number of resignations across the world.

 

Also published this month is She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who originally broke the Harvey Weinstein story in the New York Times.  The book follows not only their Weinstein investigation, but looks at Christine Blasey Ford and her testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh – and the results of her allegation.  Not only was Kavanaugh still confirmed to the Supreme Court, but Blasey Ford received death threats, has been forced to move multiple times, and has been unable to resume her teaching job.

 

These kinds of consequences are what keep many victims silent about sexual assault and harassment, but with the global spread of the #MeToo movement, this is beginning to change.  And it’s not just women speaking out; male victims, including actor Terry Crews, have shared their stories, and many men are looking at how they can be allies and shut down sexual harassment when they see it.  In the book world, we’ve had a number of books on how to raise boys to become men who value consent, including Raising Boys Who Respect Girls by Dave Willis, Decoding Boys by Cara Natterson, and Boys: What It Means to Become a Man by Rachel Giese.

 

The focus on women has also resulted in many books on forgotten female heroes, feminism, and women’s rights.  In October, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton will publish The Book of Gutsy Women, focusing on stories of the female heroes who have inspired them.  These heroes include Malala Yousafzai, who published We Are Displaced at the beginning of 2019; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who published Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions in 2017; and LGBTQ pioneer Edie Windsor, whose posthumous book in also publishing in October: A Wild and Precious Life.

 

Here in Canada, #MeToo spawned AfterMeToo via a Globe and Mail symposium featuring, among others, actresses Mia Kirshner and Freya Ravensbergen, and film producer Aisling Chin-Yee.  AfterMeToo calls for change in the entertainment industry, including creating reform and improving current policies, in cooperation with the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

 

In January, Lisa Dalrymple published Fierce: Women Who Shaped Canada, detailing the forgotten women from Canada’s history. In May, Orca Books published two entries in their Orca Issues series: I Am a Feminist: Claiming the F-Word in Turbulent Times and My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights.  In August, Kelly S. Thompson published her memoir, Girls Need Not Apply, about her time serving in the Canadian Armed Forces – a traditionally masculine culture.  And at the end of this month, Jessica McDiarmid will publish her account of B.C.’s Highway 16, Highway of Tears, where for decades Indigenous women have vanished or been found murdered, with little done to protect them.

 

The publication of these books, and others, helps bring the focus onto women and our experiences, both positive and negative.  #MeToo and the other movements it’s helped spawn have created a global conversation around women’s rights and the sexual assault and harassment that happens to far too many people.  While we still have a way to go, I’m hopeful that society as a whole will continue to shift towards a world where both women and men feel safe, supported, and valued.

 

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!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

A couple years ago, I was in Michaels looking for something that I could make my Nanny as a present for Christmas, as there’s only so many gift sets one woman needs.  Wandering through the aisles, I came across a small section containing cross-stitch kits and various supplies.  I figured, can’t be too hard to do a kit; everything is included and besides, I had a vague memory of doing one back when I was eight or so.  If a child could do it, surely a 30-something alleged adult could too.

 

So I bought a lovely little kit featuring goldfinches and lilacs, took it home, opened it up, and stared in horror at the graph.  There was a grid and a lot of symbols and apparently I needed to be able to count to do this arts and crafts project.  I put it on a nearby surface and that year, my Nanny got gift cards for gas and Tim Hortons.

 

This whole cross-stitch thing stayed in the back of my mind, however.  Sometime in the new year, I was back in Michaels and ended up in the cross-stitch aisle again.  This time, I chose a kit that said it was specifically for children, took it home, and promptly did it completely wrong because reading directions is for other people.  Two days later (after reading the directions this time), I’d redone it correctly and it actually looked pretty good.  More importantly, I’d gotten the bug and I got it bad. 

 

Fast forward to the end of 2019 and I know all the terms: Aida cloth versus linen, DMC versus Anchor, cross stitch and half stitch and quarter stitch and back stitch.  My apartment is covered in embroidery floss in piles and little baggies, and draped over my spare monitor.  I have an entire box full of kits, supplies, picture frames, and random related things my mother (bless her) picked up at garage sales and thrift stores.  I know that removing stitches when you make a mistake is called frogging... because you rip it, rip it.

 

Cross-stitch as represented in media and in the public consciousness is usually pastel flowers and religious sayings, done by 50s housewives and your local grandma.  Modern cross-stitch can certainly be that (and there’s nothing wrong with it), but it can also be subversive (2641425), feminist (3475227), and the poop emoji.  Anyone of any age can pick it up if they have the money for a little kit and the time (and patience) to repeatedly stab a needle through tiny holes. Personally, I like lots of bright and contrasting colours and basically any subject, though I prefer images over text.  Everyone in my life gets finished projects as presents now, and if they’re really lucky, I’ll even frame it for them.

 

In a fast-paced world with constant bombardment of everything that’s going wrong at any given time, I find cross-stitch to be soothing.  In the evenings after work, I put something on Netflix and I spend a couple of hours working on a project.  I even have a project at work that I can spend my breaks on when I need to stop looking at a computer screen for fifteen minutes.  I’m also one of those people who bounces around projects so I’ve got half a dozen on the go most of the time and switch depending on my mood.  I’ve been told that I’m (finally) becoming domestic, but really it’s just the pleasure of doing something with my hands and creating.

 

Crafts of all kinds are on the rise.  In the UK, Hobbycraft reports that craft sales are rising each year: jigsaws by 10%, paint-by-numbers by 80%, and crochet patterns by a whopping 179%.  I’m even seeing it in my work here at LSC, with requests from multiple libraries to increase and refresh their crafting collections, with a focus on quilting and knitting. To see our selection of unique and modern cross-stitching materials, click here

 

I’m not the only one who uses cross-stitch for mental health.  According to hobbyist site The Spruce Crafts, the benefits of cross-stitch include calmness, increased focus, and stress reduction.  I can confirm that when I’m cross-stitching, I don’t have time to focus on worries; I’m too busy trying to figure out how I managed to count 5 stitches instead of 6, throwing off my entire pattern.  Sometimes I can fix it and no one will ever know, unless they happen to be a cross-stitcher working on the same pattern.  Most times it needs to be frogged, but that’s okay; as long as I have the floss, I can redo it as many times as needed to get it right.

 

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!

 

*pictures of cross-stitched items by the author

 

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Contributors

LSC Library Services Centre
19
March 23, 2020
show LSC's posts
Michael Clark
11
March 9, 2020
show Michael's posts
Rachel Seigel
14
February 24, 2020
show Rachel's posts
Karrie Vinters
5
February 10, 2020
show Karrie's posts
Jamie Quinn
1
January 6, 2020
show Jamie's posts
Angela Stuebing
2
December 16, 2019
show Angela 's posts
Stef Waring
10
December 9, 2019
show Stef's posts
Sara Pooley
3
May 13, 2019
show Sara's posts

Latest Posts

Show All Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

Everything Adult Fiction Adult Non Fiction Children’s Fiction Children’s Non Fiction Graphic Novels AV Multilingual Services Announcements Holidays Social Media Events