Sunday, December 10, 2017

This week at the library...

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

Le Petit Cinema presents...
A 2016 British romantic drama about Bella Brown, a quirky girl with a unique past who works in a library while trying to write a children’s book. She hates plants, but as a condition of the lease on her house, she must maintain the garden. Her landlord becomes aware of her neglect and gives her one month to fix the landscaping or face eviction. Along the way, she develops relationships with her curmudgeonly neighbor, his cook/housekeeper, and an inventor who frequents the library.
102 minutes / PG

Northwest Branch, 6:30 p.m.

Join us for a bilingual storytime with stories, songs, and rhymes in English and Spanish.

Vengan para una hora de cuentos bilingüe con cuentos, canciones, y rimas en inglés y español.

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

The club has read and will discuss Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen. This book club is for enrolled teens only; to be added to the waiting list, please email

Central Library, 10:00 a.m.

Preschoolers (under age 5), please come for stories, songs, a craft... and a very special guest (ho! ho! ho!).

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

Bring your favorite stuffed toy and enjoy stories, songs, a short movie, refreshments, and a special visit from Santa Claus.

Բերեք ձեր սիրած փափուկ խաղալիքը և վայելեք պատմություններ, երգեր, կարՃամետրաժ ֆիլմ, հյուրասիրւթյուն և հատուկ այցելություն ձմեռ պապիկի կողմից:

Northwest Branch, 4:00 p.m.

Sign up for the book club exclusively for 4th and 5th grade students! Call 818-238-5640 to be added to the list. We meet once each month during the school year to read and talk about some great books.

Central Library, 10:15 a.m.

A program for preschoolers and their families. Join us for a fun introduction to movement, coordination, rhythm, and dance! We'll be dancing using shaker eggs and scarves, and listening to music.

To see all our holiday activities for children, here is the Holiday Happenings Brochure.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

What we're reading: Sharon Bolton

I am in the awkward position of needing to write a review of this book, but being unable to figure out how to do so without giving away spoilers. You can't summarize even the first dozen pages without giving away at least one big one, and to prevent readers from encountering this book with no expectations or set-up would be a crime not quite as devastating as the ones in the book, but nonetheless a dirty trick! If you decide to read it, don't even scan the flap--just jump right in. I didn't even link the book to our catalog as I usually do, because then you might read something that gave too much away!

The book is Sharon Bolton's latest mystery, Dead Woman Walking, and it is masterful. I'm only going to say a few things about it, and you can take it from there:

  • A girl is murdered.
  • There is a hot air balloon ride that doesn't end well.
  • Various people are on the run from various other people so as not to die.
  • It's all tremendously exciting!

The book has an amazing set-up, uses great flashback technique, features wonderful characters and almost tactile descriptions, and has the best twist ever, as well as a completely unexpected ending. I'm not quite sure the ending is completely believable (it was both unlikely and also rather tidy), but everything else? Wow. Good one, Sharon!

When it's checked in, it's currently living on the New Books shelf at Buena Vista Branch. But we can order it to the other branches for you. Don't miss it.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

What we're reading: A mesmerizing fantasy series

I was poking around for something to read last weekend, and discovered a book called Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire, sitting unread on my Kindle. I don't even remember buying it, but I'm so glad it landed there, regardless of how; what an amazing, perfect little story it is! I know many people have great love for Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, and while that book had a certain offbeat charm, this is the book that I thought it would be, and wished it had been. Other than the wonderful photographs in that book, I didn't love it; but Every Heart A Doorway took my breath away, telling the story that everyone wants to hear.

There are, throughout fiction, and particularly in the fairy tale tradition, so many stories of children who disappear, some never to return, while others go away for awhile and come back but are never quite the same. Taking their cue from the old chestnut "Rip Van Winkle" are such series as the Chronicles of Narnia, Cornelia Funke's books, and others that perpetuate stories of strange worlds accessed by odd little doors and windows, burrows and mirrors that lead somewhere.... But finally, in Every Heart A Doorway, we have the bringing together of a group of "the returned" to Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, a boarding school run by a schoolmistress who went away, herself, to another world when young and therefore can empathize with their plight, stranded back in this one. Bewildered parents try to get their blessedly restored children to behave as they used to, but the children spend all their time longing to go back to the worlds where they finally felt they belonged, and the desperate parents send them to Eleanor, hoping for a miracle. But they may not get the one they're wishing for....

This story was magical. Furthermore, the writing, the descriptions, the characters, and the mystery were all both lyrical and inspired. And although the description sounds old-fashioned, the telling of it is anything but: The message I liked the best is that there is no one way to be a girl, and there is no one way to love.

I can't believe that I hadn't previously heard of this author. She has apparently won multiple Hugo Awards, and has written a slew of books, and I came upon her by sheer accident, only to be completely amazed.

The first thing I did as soon as I finished this book (which didn't take long--that's the only fault I have to find with these, is that they are more novellas than novels, because they are so short) is to immediately read the next book, Down Among the Sticks and Bones. That book turned out to be a prequel, since it details what happened to two of the characters (twin girls) from the first book, immediately before that book started.

It was so, so good. Jack and Jill's background and their sojourn in the world of the moors dovetailed so nicely into the first story and was such a satisfying explanation of their behavior in that book. And even though both books are short (each under 200 pages!), they are (in my opinion, anyway) gems of perfection. There is a third book, Beneath the Sugar Sky, returning us to the boarding school, coming out in January, and I can hardly contain my impatience!

You will find these two (and the book to come) in the Science Fiction section of the library. (We also own the first book on audio.) Definitely travel over to that section to check these out!

In the meantime, I'm going to try reading the first book of one of McGuire's other series, Incryptids, called Discount Armageddon. I'll report back. It looks more like a zany, Piers Anthony- or Terry Pratchett-esque tongue-in-cheek comedy about non-humans in New York City--very different from these. But after reading these, I'm definitely interested in finding more by this author!

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

What we're reading: Mysteries by an Irish author

I picked up a book off the "new books" shelves at the library last week, called Let the Dead Speak, and it turned out to be "Maeve Kerrigan #7," by Jane Casey. While I was able to enjoy it as a stand-alone, I felt that if I had read the series in order I might have enjoyed it more, being able to understand those insider jokes and casual references to the protagonist's previous life that one makes, as an author, when one has written a whole series about them. So I decided to pick up #1, The Burning, and read it. And I was all set to say, I have discovered another female Irish mystery writer to love (the marvelous Tana French being the other one), and give it a glowing review (no pun intended).

But before I did, I clicked on Jane Casey's name in Goodreads to see if she had written other books besides the Maeve Kerrigan series, and discovered that not only has she, but that they are young adult novels, and I have read one! And really disliked it. I gave her first Jess Tennant book, How to Fall, a 2-star rating out of a possible 5, and only under the duress of fairness, because she's so good at dialogue and setting.

This doesn't diminish in any way how much I enjoyed these two books, makes me wonder why she is so adept when writing about adults and so clichéd and contrived when writing about people, let's face it, less than a decade younger. This isn't the first time I have noticed this phenomenon—authors who write well for adults seem to be struck with so many contradictory motivations, feelings, and agendas when writing for YA that they just can't pull it off. Mystery writer Elizabeth George comes to mind (I love her Lynley/Havers series to pieces, but can't stand her YA mysteries). Some even do an adequate job at YA, but their adult books (I'm thinking of Vicious, by V. E. Schwab) are exponentially more brilliant, more clever, more everything. It seems to be a built-in hobble or tether that keeps good or even great adult authors from doing well at YA.

Yes, I know there will be those to dispute this analysis—Elizabeth George's YA books are fairly popular, as are Victoria Schwab's—but I defy you, as an adult, to read one YA title and then read one adult title and not make a disappointed comparison concerning the former.

Anyway, back to Jane Casey's first Maeve Kerrigan! I really like the detective and the team within which she is set, and the mystery was satisfying. She writes dynamic and believable characters, her dialogue is first-rate, and the psychological motivations of a couple of her characters are fascinating. Maeve's situation is made difficult by the usual "woman in a man's world" scenario confronted by female police officers, but not so much as to distract from the story, only enough to have you root for her as something of an underdog in her department.

In The Burning, Kerrigan is an ambitious detective constable, hoping to make a name for herself. She is on a team tasked with solving the brutal and violent murders committed by "The Burning Man," so christened because after he batters his victims senseless, he sets them on fire. He has done away with four young women in this way, but just as Kerrigan is getting caught up in the fifth case, her boss decides to sequester it from the others. While the city at large believes Rachel Haworth to be another victim of the Burning Man, the facts diverge enough from the serial killer's modus operandi that both Maeve and her boss think it might be a copycat killer, seeking to hide a murder by blaming it on the guy in the news. The path Kerrigan takes to establish this will keep you guessing until the end.

In book #7, Let the Dead Speak, rather than suffering from a surfeit of bodies, one is missing. Teenager Chloe Emery comes home to discover her house, which she shares with her mother, covered in blood, and retreats, terrified, to the neighbors' house to call the police. But when Maeve Kerrigan and the homicide team arrive on the scene, it's to discover that there's no body in the house, and Chloe's mother Kate is unaccounted for. The detectives soon turn their attention to the neighbors, the ultra-religious Norrises with whom Chloe has sought refuge, as well as looking into a young man down the street who was accused in his youth of stabbing a schoolmate. The longer a body fails to materialize, the more confusing all the lies and accusations become, and soon Maeve wonders whether Kate Emery is, in fact, the intended victim of this mess.

I really liked this book, too, although there is a stretch in the middle, while they're getting exactly nowhere on the murder mystery, that became a bit tedious. But the plot was both interesting and unexpected throughout.

I will go on to read the second Maeve Kerrigan book, The Reckoning, and will probably persist throughout the series. But...I'm not sure I'll ever return to the Jess Tennant books for teens.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

This week at the library...

Buena Vista Branch, 10:00 a.m.

For children under age 3. Come for stories, songs, a craft... and a very special guest
(ho! ho! ho!).

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

This month, the club has read and will discuss Les fous de Bassanby, by Anne Hébert. For more information about this club, please call Isabelle at 818-238-5620.

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.


Join us for our adult coloring club! We provide the colored pencils, crayons, and coloring pages, or you can bring your own! Relax, be creative, and HAVE FUN!

Northwest Branch, 10:00 a.m.


For preschoolers under age 5. Come for stories, songs, a craft... and a very special guest (ho! ho! ho!)

Central Library, 4:00 p.m.

Family Films presents...
The story of Gru, Lucy, their adorable daughters—Margo, Edith and Agnes—and the Minions continues in Despicable Me 3. After he is fired from the Anti-Villain League for failing to take down Balthazar Bratt, Gru finds himself in the midst of a major identity crisis. But when a mysterious stranger shows up to inform Gru that he has a long-lost twin brother—a brother who desperately wishes to follow in his twin's despicable footsteps—one former super-villain will rediscover just how good it feels to be bad.

90 minutes / PG

A second screening will be at the Buena Vista Branch Library on Tuesday, December 19 at 4:00 p.m.

Buena Vista Branch, 3:30 p.m.

Crafty Kids presents...
A drop-in craft program for kids in grades 1-8. Stop by the Children's Room at the Buena Vista Branch to create your holiday art. We'll provide all the supplies, just bring your holiday cheer!

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

The club has read and will discuss The Truth Commission, by Susan Juby. Teen book clubs are for registered members only; to be added to a club or a waiting list, please email

Buena Vista Branch, 1:00 p.m.

For preschoolers ages 3-5. Come for stories, songs, a craft... and a very special guest
(ho! ho! ho!)

Central Library, 2:00 p.m.

Friday Matinee presents...

Superfan James is obsessed with the clever, if quaintly goofy, kids' television show, Brigsby Bear. A bright, sensitive young adult still living at home, he has grown up with this fantasy series, and the program has grown with him as well — getting more complex over the years. But to say James's intensely protective parents have kept their son a bit sheltered is an understatement. One dramatic night, James's insular world is upended. Through the disorienting but sporadically hilarious transition to a new life that follows, Brigsby remains James' security blanket and, upon learning the series has been cancelled, he adopts the old adage that the show must go on. Family members and authority figures fret over James's fixation, but by becoming Brigsby Bear's new creator instead of just a viewer in the dark, he finally accesses all the meaningful connections his life has lacked. 97 minutes / PG-13.

Northwest Branch, 4:00 p.m.

Crafty Kids presents...
A craft program for kids in grades 1-8. Just in time for the holidays, you can make your own ornament. We'll provide all the supplies, but space is limited, so please call 818-238-5640 to sign up.

Central Library, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

You can be part of this great program. Call 818-238-5577 for more information.

Buena Vista Branch, 2:00 p.m.

Meet all of Santa's helpers and friends, including Jack Frost, The Princess of Winter, Twink the Elf, and even The Dancing Peppermint Sticks!

Here is a complete listing of all holiday events for kids in our Holiday Happenings brochure.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Reminder: Open Enrollment closes soon!

Enrollment for 2018 health care through the Affordable Care Act is now open. It is a shortened enrollment period; you must enroll by December 15, which means you only have two weeks left! So be sure to visit the health care website, check out your options, and either sign up or compare plans for your health coverage.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Special Author Event: Growing Up In Burbank...

This Thursday, November 30th, at 7:00 p.m. at our Buena Vista Branch Library, the team of Wes Clark and Mike McDaniel (who brought you last year’s local bestseller, Lost Burbank) will discuss their newly published book Growing Up in Burbank: Boomer Memories from The Akron to Zodys. It promises to be another great evening of stories about Burbank, and a chance to share your own memories with others. The book will be available for sale (a great Christmas present for both local and expatriate Burbankians you may know), and the authors will sign.

Wes Clark and Mike McDaniel are local historians who have a particular fondness for their home town and the experience of growing up here. Rather than dwelling on the political and economic, the history that interests them most is the cultural and social history of this town. Their focus in Lost Burbank was on the built environment, the architecture, and historic places that are no longer here. Its distinctive and unique structures connect people to a particular town, but perhaps the major connection for locals--and the one that always seems to inspire those with a passion for local history--is the experience of life as they knew it in the place where they grew up: the retail stores, the places of recreation and entertainment, the restaurants, school life and local rituals of youth, and the material culture of the town. Those were the things that made a lasting impression, that defined for a generation their notion of what constituted the “good life.” It was something they carried into adulthood, and hoped would be there for their children. These recollections occur, necessarily, not as a timeline but as a pastiche of places and mores, a miscellany of anecdotes and local lore. This is Clark’s and McDaniel’s stock in trade; it accounts for their large fan base that attends their events and visits their local websites (Burbankia and the Facebook page You Know You’re From Burbank If…). Those fans will not be disappointed with this new book. It delivers everything they have come to expect from these authors.

Parks and Recreation Board Member Carl Guerriero (far left) watches as several
boys cast their lines into the new casting pool at Buena Vista Park (later Johnny 
Carson Park)   December 14, 1952, Burbank in Focus Collection, BPL.

Ever on the job.  Burbank Parking Enforcement.
Burbankia Collection.
It is no easy task organizing this varied material into an accessible narrative, but Clark and McDaniel have done this in a creative way; there are chapters in the book that put Burbank in the context of the larger San Fernando Valley (and surrounding Southern California area), that discuss what life was like for students in the Burbank Unified School District during the “boomer” years, that survey the favorite restaurants and retail spots in town, that look at local leisure activities, that discuss first jobs, the car culture of Southern California, celebrity encounters in Media City, and local shenanigans. But certainly the most fun (and the most clever) chapter in Growing Up in Burbank is “Sometimes You Can Go Home Again” in which the authors imagine a trip back to Burbank by a long absent expatriate, and plan an itinerary that demonstrates just how many of the historic places and activities of their youth yet remain. No note of sad nostalgia and regret here for things gone by; this is a portrait of continuity, the things that remain, and it will leave you on an invigorating high. Heck, you might just take the tour yourself!

What could possibly be better than a single accordian?  Well, an
all accordian band!   Burbankia Collection.

And that’s what is special about what Wes and Mike do. Their passion comes from a love of place, and is reflected in the nature of the stories they collect, the humor with which they tell these stories, their enthusiasm for discovering new stories and coming across unknown archives and photos, and perhaps, above all, in the way they built this book. Most of the recollections here are personal: Wes and Mike are characters and actors, and so you have the sense of immediacy, of living the experience, as they tell their stories with a sly and funny self-effacement. But they also give you a sense that this is a communal project. There are short recollections from many other Burbankians in this book, indirect and attributed.

City-wide youth safety training at John Burroughs High School, sponsored by 
the Burbank Chamber of Commerce.  May 22, 1962,  Burbankia Collection.

A Police Athletic League swim party at the Pickwick
Recreation Center.  1950s, Burbankia Collection.
People have often remarked on the unusual sense of community that exists in Burbank. It is not something often found among towns in this area. We live surrounded largely by an undifferentiated and expansive suburbia. “Communities” these days, if they exist, are groups of people with particular interests and enthusiasms who get together in trans-municipal social groups or on-line. They exist in cyberspace but not in any particular place. If it is true what they say about Burbank, and I think it is, there may be many reasons for it…civic institutions and civic traditions, the long-lived major industries that have existed in this town, and other reasons. But local history, the stories we tell ourselves about our shared life together, the stories that embody what we value and believe and hope for, are an essential part of the creation of any sense of community. And so I think of Wes and Mike as community heroes, and people in Burbank should know just how lucky they are that there are a couple of guys out there collecting their history and sharing it with them and with a new generation. This is a rarity these days. Other towns' history is lost, and along with it their sense of community. So count your blessings, come hear the stories of others who grew up in Burbank, and add your own memories to what promises to be an immodest celebration of the Burbank community on Thursday night!

Grand Opening!

A day long anticipated by Burbank residents and library staff alike is finally here:
The Friends of the Burbank Public Library's new bookstore at the Central Library is ready to open!

There has been a Friends bookstore at Buena Vista since that branch opened (15 years ago on December 7th!), but there has never been space for a bookstore at the Central Library. Changes in office and storage allocations over the past couple of years have made it possible, however, for the Friends of the Library to pursue that idea.

The bookstore's grand opening will be Saturday, December 2, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Regular hours after that will be Monday through Saturday, from noon to 6:00 p.m.

The new bookstore is located in the back corner of the ground floor on the Olive Ave. side of the library, within the audio visual section. The Friends look forward to your patronage!