Sunday, February 26, 2017

This week at the library...

MONDAY
Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Opera Talk presents...
SALOME
A multimedia presentation and discussion of the opera Salome, led by our own host, Larry Verdugo, from LA Opera’s Community Engagement Program.

Adapted from the scandalous play by Oscar Wilde, Salome is a seductively beautiful tapestry of the subconscious. The princess Salome becomes infatuated by her stepfather’s prisoner, John the Baptist, and she determines to have him...whatever the cost.\





TUESDAY
Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

8+9 BOOK CLUB
The club has read and will discuss Jackaby, by WIlliam Ritter. This book club is for member teens only. To be put on the waiting list to join, please email melliott@burbankca.gov.


THURSDAY
Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

ESTABLISHING A WEB PRESENCE


Topics will include:
  1. Simple options using social media, and how to get the most out of them.
  2. Setting up a free blog using tumblr, wordpress, etc.
  3. The various free tools out there for building a brochure-style website (wix.com, weebly.com, wordpress.com), and how to get the most out of them.
  4. Basic terminology (responsive, database, content management).
  5. How to know when you need something more advanced, and how to think about your requirements and cost, as well as the options that are out there.
Speaker Rain Breaw Michaels has built more than 100 websites since 1998. In addition, she has taught CSS, HTML, web accessibility, and Drupal in workshops and colleges.


CHILDREN'S PROGRAMMING THIS WEEK:



TODDLER STORYTIME
A story and song program for children ages one and two, accompanied by an adult.

Tuesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Fridays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 11:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Registration is required to attend Toddler Storytime
at Buena Vista Branch.

PRESCHOOL STORYTIME
Stories and songs for children age three and up,
accompanied by an adult.

Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch
Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 1:00 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

BABY STORYTIME
Songs, stories, and rhymes for children under 12 months. Winter Session runs from January 19 to March 16, 2017.
Baby Storytime is CANCELLED for this week. Sorry for any inconvenience.

PUPPY TALES READING PRACTICE
This is a read-aloud program for children in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade.

Sign-ups are required. Parents may sign up their child at the Buena Vista Branch Children's Library or by calling 818-238-5630.

Thursday @ 4:30 p.m., Buena Vista Branch


SATURDAY
Buena Vista Branch, 2:00 p.m.

ANIMAL BOOK PARTY!
Learn about our ANIMAL BOOKS
Meet REAL animals from the WILDLIFE LEARNING CENTER
Animal Crafts & Activities
Refreshments

For kids in Grades K-5. Call 818-238-5610 to reserve a spot.







Friday, February 24, 2017

What We're Reading: New Gay Fiction



Desert Boys, by Chris McCormick

Desert Boys is the winner of this year’s Stonewall Book Award for literature. The Stonewall Book Awards are administered by the GLBT Round Table of the American Library Association, and recognize important contributions to GLBT literature each year. Burbank Public Library adds the winners to the collection each year in the fiction, nonfiction, and young adult/children’s categories.

This year’s award winner has a local connection, as this is a book based upon Chris McCormick’s experience of growing up in the nearby Antelope Valley. The structure of Desert Boys is interesting: In format, this work of fiction falls somewhere between a novel and a collection of short stories. Some of the chapters have been previously published as short stories, and leaving them stand in this compilation in their integrity as separate pieces seems to have been a deliberate choice. You are reminded of this when one story gives you again a detail that you have already learned from a previous story. This gives you the sense that each of these are separate forays into the past, yet the juxtaposition of stories here results in a whole that is something more than the sum of its parts.

This book might be more properly described as a fictionalized memoir. The component nature of the work, the sequence of contained recollections, seems appropriate to that genre. This is the way we remember our pasts, not as a line with a narrative progression but as a series of patchworks of the events and experiences that have emotive meaning for us, the things we lived through that we revisit and reconstruct as stories in order to make sense of those experiences.

Several of the stories employ an innovative conceit; a favorite is “How to Revise a Play,” in which the actual revision of a play is part of a larger act of revision, occurring at the very moment, that frames the entire story. The prose in this book is simple, but the observation is sharp, and the narrative is subtle and resonant. Characters are deftly drawn, and the descriptions of the landscapes are polished, spare and beautiful. The author leaves us with a vivid sense of place that feels familiar to those of us raised in Southern California.

The different stories transcend their apparent quotidian nature and take on allegorical dimension, for at the heart of this book is the age-old question we all eventually face in our youth about the places where we grew up: “Do I stay or do I go?” The epigraph to this book is from Jackson Browne's song "The Fairest of the Seasons," Do I stay or do I go? And do I have to do just one? It's perfect. The desire to do both provides the impossible and poignant tension that binds this book together.

It is a question that gets posed for LGBT youth in a way that can be different from the rest of their peers. In Desert Boys, it is prompted by the story of the narrator's relationship with one of his childhood friends. When you are young, whether LGBT or heterosexual, you are a member of a pack of the same gender, boys or girls. It is so often the experience of LGBT youth that their first love is one of those friends, a reshuffling and a confusion that comes with growing up that almost invariably leaves you not holding the hand for which you had hoped. The object of your youthful affection is not gay. You have to move on--from that person, from that group of your youth, and often from the place you call home--in order to make a life for yourself.  It is a transition that can be geographical or metaphorical, but it always seems that it is a requisite journey. That question--do I stay or do I go?--is the one that suffuses all of these stories; it is the one always at the center of LGBT lives; and it is a theme that makes this collection powerful and moving reading for all generations of LGBT readers.



Monday, February 20, 2017

This week at the library...

MONDAY
All locations are CLOSED for Presidents' Day.


TUESDAY
Central Library, 12:00 noon

BROWN BAG BOOK CLUB
The club has read and will discuss The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, by Phaedra Patrick. Bring your lunch and join the discussion. Questions? Call Naomi at 818 238-5620.










Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

SCENE OF THE CRIME MYSTERY BOOK CLUB
The club has read and will discuss Summer of the Big Bachi (Mas Arai, #1), by Naomi Hirahara. Questions? Call Naomi at 818 238-5620.













WEDNESDAY
Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

MEETING, FRIENDS OF THE BURBANK PUBLIC LIBRARY


THURSDAY
Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

Family Night presents...
PRISMATIC MAGIC LASERMANIA
High-energy laser light show with rock and pop music.







CHILDREN'S PROGRAMMING THIS WEEK:




TODDLER STORYTIME
A story and song program for children ages one and two, accompanied by an adult.


Tuesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Fridays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 11:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Registration is required to attend Toddler Storytime
at Buena Vista Branch.

PRESCHOOL STORYTIME
Stories and songs for children age three and up,
accompanied by an adult.

Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch
Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 1:00 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

SENSORY STORYTIME
Who: Any child who has difficulty sitting through a traditional storytime.
What: A small inclusive program of stories, songs, and activities that provides freedom to children with special needs, within a structured space.
Pre-registration is required:  Limited to 10 children. (A small group is what makes Sensory Storytime engaging for the children participating.) Please call 818-238-5630.
This Wednesday @ 12:00 noon, Buena Vista Branch

BABY STORYTIME
Songs, stories, and rhymes for children under 12 months. Winter Session runs from January 19 to March 16, 2017.
This Thursday @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch


Saturday, February 18, 2017

CLOSED FOR PRESIDENTS' DAY


This coming Monday, February 20, all branches of Burbank Public Library will be CLOSED in celebration of Presidents' Day. The library will reopen for normal hours on Tuesday. Have a great long weekend, everyone.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

What we're reading: Experimental teen fiction

I recently read the young adult novel Every Day, by David Levithan, because I was so intrigued by the premise of the book: A person called "A" wakes up every day in a new body. The character is genderless, because one day the body might be a guy, the next day a girl. The body is always age-appropriate, though--this has been happening as long as "A" can remember, but when "A" was five years old, the daily jump was into other five-year-olds, while now that "A" is a teenager, all the bodies are correspondingly the same age. There are also other parameters than age, such as distance/ proximity, that create some interesting challenges.

It's a strange existence, to say the least, and some conversation goes into talking about how "A" gradually figures out what's happening--at first, it seemed to the young person like "A" stayed the same, while all the other personnel changed daily; parents would say to "A" (only those parents thought, of course, that they were talking to their own child, not realizing that "A" was in control of the body), "Oh, tomorrow we will do such and such," and "A" would cry and say "But you won't be here tomorrow!" It took "A" a little time and some growing up before the realization struck that all those people would be "there" tomorrow, and only "A" would not.

The book opens when "A" is 16, and after a long life of waking up in new bodies, suddenly something has changed. "A" woke up this morning in the body of Justin, a rather hulking specimen of teenage boy, and when "Justin" gets to school, his girlfriend, Rhiannon, is there waiting. Justin (the real Justin) isn't very nice to Rhiannon--"A" can both pick up old memories from Justin's mind, and also sense this from her tentative manner around him. "A" decides, at first somewhat arbitrarily (being in a giddy mood today and not wanting to be as careful as usual), that "Justin" is going to give Rhiannon a good day. So they cut school, and go to the beach, and have what turns out to be a dream day for both of them. "A" wishes, more strongly than has ever happened before, to stay in this body and in this relationship with another person for whom "A" believes "A" could come to care. But, inevitably, the next morning comes and "A" wakes up as someone else.

Instead of going passively into that good night, though, "A" decides rebelliously that this is the moment to be a little selfish, to pursue the relationship that beckons, so "A" uses the next body to seek out Rhiannon, and the next, until finally "A" decides to disclose that all these people who have been running into Rhiannon and initiating some kind of contact are the same person inside, even if they look completely different on the outside. Rhiannon's reaction leads to the rest of the story.

I really enjoyed the multiple directions this book explored. I liked that it persisted with the lack of traditional gender roles--sometimes "A" was a girl with a boyfriend, sometimes a boy with a girlfriend, but also a boy with a boyfriend and a girl with a girlfriend. The descriptions of being inside uncomfortable "hosts"--a drug addict, a clinically depressed person--were powerful and interesting, and made the reader almost able to feel those things in first person. The idea of loving someone for their insides and not their outsides, or completely regardless of their outsides, was a challenging one, not just for Rhiannon but for the reader. And the ethics that "A" must confront each day--do I mess with this person's life so that it goes off on a tangent the person never intended? or do I continue to be careful and quiet and follow the inclinations of the host? are addressed when "A" encounters someone who seems to be like "A" but is taking a different, supremely selfish path.

There is a companion book, called Another Day, that is the exact same story, but from Rhiannon's viewpoint, that sounds intriguing; and Levithan will release an actual sequel, called Someday, that continues with "A"'s existence, "someday" in 2018.



It is gratifying to know just how innovative young adult literature can be; reading Every Day reminded me about another book, called Maybe I Will, by Laurie Gray, whose protagonist is named Sandy. But is it short for Sandra or Sandford? Those were the two names the parents considered before their child was born, but we the readers have no idea for which name Sandy is the nickname, because Gray manages to write the entire book without revealing the gender of the protagonist! I read most of it before I consciously realized this, which tells you how well written it is; just managing to get through the above review of David Levithan's book without using a gender pronoun felt so awkward to me that I honestly don't know how either of them pulled it off.

Maybe I Will is not speculative fiction like Every Day; rather, it is a painfully real book about a regular teenager, a sophomore in high school who cares about grades, about family, about friends, about theater. And then this teenager is brutally assaulted, and must find a way through the feelings and emotions generated by this violation, must choose between continuing a downward spiral or working towards recovery.

Although this isn't a book that I would say I loved, I did admire it greatly, and would echo other reviewers who have called this an "important" book, a ground-breaking book, a book that both parents and teens would benefit from reading. The gender issue really threw me for a loop, because I had made one assumption throughout the book and then the ending made me see that perhaps my assumption should have been different--or there shouldn't have been one! I'd like to go back and read the book with the opposite assumption--or with none. Reading it without knowing or caring about the gender subtly alters your view of the violation, as you realize that it isn't about sex, it's about power, and it can happen to anyone. I predict this book will take its place with Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, with Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, and with other books that feature teens who must choose how to deal with pain.

Monday, February 13, 2017

This week at the library...

MONDAY
Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Documentary:
25,000 MILES TO GLORY

25,000 miles to Glory is a sports wanderlust by two guys who want to visit every NFL stadium in the iconic vehicle that has inspired countless road trips, a split-window VW Bus named “Hail Mary.” The film is a celebration of freedom, friendship, football, and America.
90 minutes / not rated



TUESDAY
Buena Vista Branch, 4:00 p.m.

Family Films presents...
TROLLS
Enter a colorful, wondrous world populated by hilariously unforgettable characters and discover the story of the overly optimistic Trolls, with a constant song on their lips, and the comically pessimistic Bergens, who are only happy when they have trolls in their stomach. Featuring original music from Justin Timberlake, the film stars the voice talents of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Russell Brand, James Corden, Kunal Nayyar, Gwen Stefani, and many more. A fresh, broad comedy filled with music, heart, and hair-raising adventures. 92 minutes / RATED PG


Buena Vista Branch, 6:30 p.m.

Twilight Cinema presents...
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

The Girl on the Train is based on Paula Hawkins' bestselling thriller. Rachel (Emily Blunt), devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasizing about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day. Everything changes when she sees something shocking happen there, and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds.
112 minutes / rated R





Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

6+7 BOOK CLUB
The club has read and will discuss The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson.

This book club is for registered teens only. To be added to the club, please email melliott@burbankca.gov.







WEDNESDAY
Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Sound of Strings Concert Series presents...
JAY LEACH
From commercial jingles to video games, TV to movies, The Voice to American Idol, Taylor Hicks to Taylor Swift, Jay is a studio musician with a resume spanning decades of professional work. He has led master guitar workshops and has been a guest lecturer at more than a dozen universities.



THURSDAY
Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

GENRE-X BOOK CLUB
Genre-X is a book club for Millennials and Gen-Xers to hang out, drink coffee, and read short, interesting books. The club meets thie third Thursday of each month, upstairs at the Central Library. (Look for the signs!) For this meeting, the club has read and will discuss Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.
Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

FOR TEENS
Featuring TEENS sharing staged readings from their favorite books! Applaud for the BOOKS YOU LOVE or learn about some new reads, while enjoying coffeehouse treats. Teens who would like to read, please email melliott@burbankca.gov immediately with your name, contact info, and the book from which you are taking your selection. All other teens, you're welcome as audience! For teens in grades 6-12 ONLY.


FRIDAY
Central Library, 2:00 p.m.

Friday Matinee presents...
JASON BOURNE
Matt Damon returns to his most iconic role in Jason Bourne. The CIA's most lethal operative is once again drawn out of the shadows.




SATURDAY
Central Library, 10:00 a.m.

LEGO CLUB FOR KIDS!
Stop in between 10 am and noon to build and create. Thousands of Legos are available for you to use. For children ages 2-14 and their families. Children under 9 must be accompanied by an adult.



LAST DAY TO SUBMIT A PHOTO to the Friends of the Burbank Public Library Photography Contest. Photos must be turned in at the Reference Desk inside Burbank Central Library before 6:00 p.m. closing. Rules and entry forms are available at each library, or you may download here.



CHILDREN'S PROGRAMMING THIS WEEK:




TODDLER STORYTIME
A story and song program for children ages one and two, accompanied by an adult.


Tuesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Fridays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 11:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Registration is required to attend Toddler Storytime
at Buena Vista Branch.

RHYTHM & READING
A fun introduction to the rhythm of music, dance, and communication.
This Tuesday @ 1:00 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

PRESCHOOL STORYTIME
Stories and songs for children age three and up,
accompanied by an adult.

Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch
Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 1:00 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

BABY STORYTIME
Songs, stories, and rhymes for children under 12 months. Winter Session runs from January 19 to March 16, 2017.
This Thursday @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch

PUPPY TALES READING PRACTICE
This is a read-aloud program for children in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade.

Sign-ups are required. Parents may sign up their child at the Buena Vista Branch Children's Library or by calling 818-238-5630.

Thursday @ 4:30 p.m., Buena Vista Branch




Friday, February 10, 2017

What we're reading: The American Revolution


Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain
Who Saved It, by Larrie D. Ferreiro

The American Revolution remains, as it ever has been, a popular subject with historians. It probably always will be. Every nation develops a myth of national origin that defines national identity and values, and so is ever a point of historical reference, and sometimes revision, to the generation at hand. We critically assess the degree to which we have shaped--and perhaps even imagined--events at our birth for our contemporary usage and understandings. Not too long ago, books on the American Revolution centered on its American heroes. Their character, values, and actions, were all components of the story of American exceptionalism, a persistent theme in our sense of national identity. Recently, those characters have suffered some in historical treatments, but the most important change, it seems, that has taken place in Revolutionary War historiography is that the American Revolution is no longer approached as sui generis, an event independent of its contemporary cultural, social, political, and even geographical context. For example, recently Alan Taylor’s book, American Revolutions (previously reviewed in this blog) took a broad look at the social and regional revolutions that were taking place on the continent during the American Revolution; and a forthcoming book this spring--Scars of Independence, by Holger Hoock--will characterize the American Revolution as a civil war.


Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, famous for the plays The Barber of Seville
and The Marriage of Figaro, was heavily involved in arranging arms shipments
to the 
Americans. Portrait by Marc Nattier, 1755.
Brothers at Arms is another book that takes an expansive view. It explores the place of the American Revolution in the context of international diplomacy as principal European powers reviewed their strategic aims in Europe, on the North American continent, and in South America. Ferreiro shows how the actions those countries took concerning war in America were shaped by recent European history and by each country’s assessment of its national interest. Some may disagree with Ferreiro’s precis of colonial developments leading up to the revolution, but the major area of his research, particularly the details of decisions that were made at the French and Spanish courts, has resulted in a book that is rather astonishing in detail and convincing in its argument. Ferreiro looks in turn at the roles of French and Spanish merchants, ministers, soldiers, and sailors in support of the American Revolution. The details about how the French and Spanish armed the Americans from early in the war are particularly impressive. One could hardly have imagined that such information, largely transactions of a clandestine nature, would have been recoverable at this distance from events. We get a clear understanding of the diplomacy and strategic objectives of French and Spanish foreign ministers, as well as an explanation of how those objectives were modified by events on the battlefield in America, and by events in Europe, the Caribbean, and around the world as France and Spain declared war on Britain and the American Revolution became a global conflict. Ferreiro methodically makes the case for how Spanish and French support were critical to the fortunes of the faltering American fight.



John Trumball's 1822 painting of the surrender of General Burgoyne at
Saratoga. The American victory at Saratoga prompted France to enter the war. 



The heart of this book is Ferreiro’s explanation of how the diplomatic and military actions all converged, the way the decisions of different powers inter-related across a global landscape, with events in one remote part of the world affecting the tactical and strategic map in America. Perhaps the best example of this is the wonderful account of how everything came together in terms of international collaboration with the Americans in what proved to be the decisive battle of the Revolution, the siege of Yorktown and the surrender of Cornwallis.



French Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes
maneuvered France and Spain into war against Britain, turning
the American Revolution into a global war between the European
powers. Portrait by Antoine-Francois Callet.



Jose Monino y Redondo, Conde de
Floridablanca, the Spanish Foreign
Minister. By entering the conflict,
he hoped to regain Gibraltar from
the British. Portrait by
Francisco Goya.
Along the journey to the penultimate moment at Yorktown, Ferreiro guides you to an understanding of military tactics and warfare of the period--for example, the critical strategic importance of naval superiority--as well as an understanding of late 18th-century armaments and military technology. We learn about the place and manufacture of different muskets and cannons used in the war and their relative virtues, and in more than one place Ferreiro explains the extraordinary advantage that the simple technological innovation of cladding the hulls of battleships in copper gave the British in naval actions (it made ships much faster and also reduced the time a ship was out of action for renovations and repair). You get a sense here too of how the critical convergences, in an age of difficult communication, were coordinated. Often the military engagements recounted in this book have an air of happenstance and luck, of fortunate timing. Fleets might have sailed forth to confront each other, but often they could not even locate each other for an engagement in a vast ocean. And distance and space were not the only challenges to a successful engagement with the enemy. Naval expeditions frequently had to plan around the weather, which limited maneuvers and scuttled ships.

Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette.
Portrait by Joseph-Desire Court, 1791
My favorite passage in the book, perhaps because it is surprising but also because the wisdom seems timeless, involves the person we immediately think of as symbolic of French assistance in the American Revolution, Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. The aristocratic Lafayette had sailed from France to join the American Revolution as a private citizen, not as a representative of the French state, several years before France officially joined the conflict. He was very young, and was motivated by an ambition not uncommon to men of that age, “the love of glory.” In 18th-century France, this meant something more than mere fame-seeking. In Diderot and d’Alembert’s celebrated Encyclop├ędie, the phrase was defined as the natural calling to high honor and reputation, a devotion to a noble cause and not to personal gain.

When French military resources, both naval and ground troops, finally assembled in the colonies, it looked like things were propitious for a collaborative and direct American and French attack on British troops, but there was disagreement over what the target should be. For many of the Americans and for Lafayette, who strongly identified with their ambitions, the desire was to attack the British army lodged in New York. It was a desire that had less to do with cool calculations about the military odds of success and more to do with the ignominious history of the early defeat of the Continental Army there. The youthful Lafayette wrote a long letter to the leader of French troops in America (a veteran of many military campaigns on the European continent), the Comte de Rochambeau, pressing him to agree to an attack on New York. Rochambeau finally had enough of Lafayette’s importuning, and in a restrained but pointed letter he replied, “My dear marquis, allow an old father to reply to you as a dear son….you know me well enough to believe that I have no need to be spurred, and that at my age when a decision is reached….all the incitements possible cannot make me change without a positive order from my general [Washington]. It is always a good to think the French invincible, but I am going to tell you a secret learned from 40 years’ experience. There are no easier men to defeat than those who have lost confidence in their leaders, and they lose it at once when they have been endangered through personal and selfish ambition.”


Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau.
Portrait by Charles Wilson Peale, 1780.
The title of this book, Brothers at Arms, with its suggestion of some emotional fraternity, may be a bit of a misnomer, as the relationship described so well and the case made here so comprehensively is one of an association that, whatever the fraternity might have occasionally been on the battlefield with allied nations, was entered into for closely calculated reasons of self-interest and national gain. However vital the relationship was to the outcome of the fight for American independence, the author indulgences in no romantic illusions about the motives of the counties that were a party to it. This is a rigorous and cold-eyed study.