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Victoria Day Long Weekend is the unofficial start to summer in Canada, and that means it's nearly time for vacations, long sunny (hopefully) days, and lots of summer reading. And we want to know what your book recommendations are for this summer, for a future blog post! Send your name (how you want it presented), library (if you wanted it to be identified), and recommendations to socialmedia@lsc.on.ca.

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Ah Easter, that most transitory of holidays.  It zig-zags its way through early spring like the bunny that is its most prominent symbol.  Brightly-coloured eggs, cheerful bunnies, and little yellow fluffball chicks all remind us of a fresh new beginning, as winter fades and the new season begins.  And frankly it can’t come soon enough, even if Easter is late this year.

Easter’s date is determined by a lunisolar calendar rather than a strictly solar one, meaning that it falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon of spring.  Depending on the cycles of the moon, that means Easter can be any Sunday between March 22nd and April 25th.

 

What’s the significance of the moon?  Like Christmas, Easter was originally a pagan celebration named for a Germanic goddess called Ēostre or Ostara.  Feasts were held in her honour during the Old English month that corresponds to April, welcoming in spring.  Germanic traditions have remained attached to the celebration as it moved through the years, such as decorating eggs and the Osterhase (Easter hare) bringing treats to well-behaved children.  Other celebrations, like sword dancing and “heathen pastries” (as Jacob Grimm called them), have not, at least here in North America.

 

Easter is also an important modern religious holiday.  In Christianity, Easter Sunday is celebrated as the Day of the Resurrection, and for centuries it was the most important observance within that faith.  For books on the Christian exploration of Easter, check out The Story of Easter by Helen Dardik, The Berenstain Bears: Easter Sunday by Mike and Jan Berenstain, and God Gave Us Easter by Tawn Bergeren.

 

In the Jewish traditions, Easter and Passover fall within the same general timeframe, though they aren’t related.  Passover by Grace Jones offers a factual breakdown meant for young readers, and Around the Passover Table by Tracy Newman and Pippa’s Passover Plate by Vivian Kirkfield convey the meaning of the holiday through fictional stories.

 

Of course we can’t forget the classics when it comes to Easter books.  Happy Easter, Little Critter by Mercer Mayer was published when I was already in my teens, but I still have fond memories of the series.  Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog also have their own books celebrating the holiday.  No Easter collection is complete, however, without It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schultz, a book surpassed (only slightly) by the TV special It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

 

That doesn’t mean there aren’t great new books coming out that celebrate Easter.  We’re Going on an Egg Hunt, illustrated by Laura Hughes, promotes deduction and hand-eye skills for our littlest readers, even as it thrills them with beautiful illustrations.  Bill Cotter’s Don’t Push the Button: an Easter Surprise is an interactive story that introduces children to the concept of antici…pation with each turn of the page.  And for something with a Canadian flavor, look for Tiny the Toronto Easter Bunny by Eric James.  When the Easter bunny becomes stuck, Tiny must deliver treats to Toronto, but discovers than an elephant trying to fill a bunny’s shoes is a little harder than it seems.

 

In Australia, given that rabbits are an invasive species, there’s been a push to make the Easter bunny an Easter bilby, one of the few native Australian animals that probably doesn’t want to destroy humans.  Probably.  Those interested in learning more about the bilby can check out Bilby: Secrets of an Australian Marsupial by Edel Wignell.

 

Back to rabbits, many people get a little caught up in the bunny craze around Easter and start thinking they should get one for their kids as a pet.  However, rabbits – like all creatures – should be bought or adopted as a family decision, not as an impulse purchase.  Rabbits can live a decade or more and need social interaction, exercise, and a healthy diet to stay as happy as possible.  Capstone’s Caring for Rabbits can help children understand how to take care of their new pet, and for adults there’s Skyhorse’s Raising Happy Rabbits.  For bunnies and their humans who might need to learn how to relax a little, there’s the delightful, mindful Yoga Bunny by Brian Russo.

 

For those who don’t want the actual responsibility of owning a rabbit, many places open their petting zoos around Easter, where you can not only interact with rabbits, but sheep, goats, ponies, and even llamas or alpacas.  Many cities and communities offer Easter egg hunts, and for those of us without children, there’s the traditional Tuesday hunt for half-price chocolate.  Whether taking the kids out or getting together with the family for a feast (lamb is traditional), Easter is a season for new beginnings and new plans.

 

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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Who among us wouldn't prefer to be walking the cobbles of Dublin, letting a day slip by in the fields of Cork, or getting in a pedantic argument about the occurances of snakes on the Emerald Isle? As much or more a sign of spring than waiting for groundhogs to make wild pronouncements about weather patterns, St. Patrick's Day is that time of year when we can all embrace a little Irish in ourselves. So, we went around the office and asked everyone, what are some of your favourite Irish authors, stories, and fictions?

 

Lesley H - Of course, the quintessential modern classic of Irish literature is Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt’s memoir following his family’s forced emigration from America back to Ireland. The book was an instant hit twenty three years ago, and was followed by a film adapation and two sequels: 'Tis and Teacher Man

 

 

Lee-Ann B. - The trinity of Great Irish authors are, of course, James Joyces, WB Yeats, and Jonathan Swift. If you are looking for the classics, these are the authors to look at first.

 

Linda F - I’d suggest Days Without End by Sebastian Barry.  It seems weird for this Irish author to be writing about the American West, but the book is wonderfully written, just so full of vigor and life despite the horrors it depicts (maybe sustained by the humanity of the narrator).  A short, muscular, intense book that seems very American in spite of its Irish author.

 

Carrie P - Dublin Murder Squad is a fantastic series, each focusing on a different detective in the Dublin police homicide division. And, written by an American living in Dublin. Brooklyn is an arresting period piece that was also adapated into a film. And anything by the master of wit, Oscar Wilde.

 

Karrie V - My family is very Irish, so I have grown up watching Irish movies. My favourite movie of all time is Darby O’Gill and the Little People, where Sean Connery sings! Some others that are good include Philomena, Quiet Man, Far and Away, HungerSecret of KellsMy Left FootWind That Shakes the Barley, In the Name of the Father, and Commitments.

 

Rachel S - I read Maeve Binchy for years- one of my favourites being Circle of Friends. And of course, the author of our favourite vampire Dracula - Bram Stoker

 

Nancy B - Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb, in which Eve Dallas' Irish vacation is disturbed by a murder.

 

Kirk O - For a historical fiction book about Ireland, I love Trinity by Leon Uris. Uris always has strong characters around pivotal historic events and this book delivers that as well.  From the Irish famine to the uprising in 1916, this tells the story of Conor Larkin and his family.  It was so good I have actually read it three times over the years, making a trinity myself.  And if anyone is planning a visit, as I did in 2018, and loves Guinness as I do, the tour of the St. James’s Gate Brewery was a highlight. A few pints overlooking Dublin is a great way to spend an hour. Perhaps reading Pint-Sized Ireland: In Search of the Perfect Guinness by Evan McHugh, an Australian travelling Ireland in search of a perfect pint.  

 

Michael C - I'm going to go way off the beaten path here and recommending Grabbers, a comedy horror film in which an idyllic remote Irish island is invaded by enormous bloodsucking tentacled aliens. I'm also going to recommend the works of director/playwrite Martin McDonagh; specifically the mobster dramedy In Bruges. Also his brother John Michael McDonagh's film Calvary .

 

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.

 

Sláinte mhaith!

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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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