Aurora Public Library Blog

Welcome to Aurora Public Library’s Blog. A place where our library staff share their thoughts, insider knowledge and overall love of all things book and community.

Feel free to comment on posts, re-blog and enjoy. To ensure a civil and focused discussion, comments will be held for a brief period before being published.



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Animal Books



Post by Justine C

When you think of great animal literature, you probably think of Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows. It’s very likely you’ve also heard of Marley & Me and A Dog’s Purpose, but there are so many more stories featuring animals (fiction and non) that you may not have had the pleasure of reading yet.

It’s not just a dog’s world anymore as Americans are turning to a larger variety of animals for companionship, from tropical fish to owls! 


I’ve devised a list of a few lesser known titles featuring animals that might pique your interest. I’m hoping that you’ll be so eager to check them out, you’ll run straight to your closest branch of the Aurora Public Library!

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl
by Stacey O’Brien

Wesley the Owl


It was the title of this book that caught my eye, as the only book I’ve ever read featuring an owl was Hoot back in the fifth grade. Owls are beautiful and mysterious creatures that we rarely interact with due to their nocturnal nature and tendency not to live in areas highly populated by people. It’s even rarer to encounter a book like this about them, especially as pets or companion animals. Biologist Stacey O’Brien recounts in this semi-autobiographical tale her two-decade adventure with a barn owl named Wesley, whom she rescued when he was a newborn injured owlet. While I don’t recommend you go out and try to adopt an owl (as I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to own owls in Aurora!), you can have the next best thing by reading this touching story of an owl and his human. 


Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of AnimalIntelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process
by Irene Pepperberg
Alex and Me

Another book featuring a beloved bird, Alex & Me tells the story of an African Gray parrot and the special bond he shares with psychologist Irene Pepperberg. If you’ve heard of the famous African Gray parrot Einstein, you know how intelligent and fun this particular breed of bird can be and will love reading about Alex and Irene’s shenanigans as they proved that some animals have the ability to communicate and understand complex ideas. 

A Street Cat Named Bob
by James Bowen

Cat Bob


Cats are one of the most popular pets in the United States. Due to their small stature and independent nature, cat owners tend to own multiple cats in the household which is why statistically they are more popular than dogs, with 88.3 million cats as pets versus 74.8 million dogs. Whether you’re a dog lover or a cat lover, it goes without saying that there aren’t enough books out there featuring felines, which is why the next title on our list is A Street Cat Named Bob​. London-based author James Bowen writes about his special bond with a stray cat he saves off the street--and how Bob in turn saved him. In the UK alone this book has sold over 1 million copies and has even been turned into a feature-length film, which we also have for you to check out here at the library! And wouldn’t you like to know the real Bob played himself in the movie?Talk about a smart cat! 

If you have a child or young adult in your life who would love to read about Bob but without the more graphic backstory involving the author’s difficult life, you can check out My Name is Bob, which tells the story from Bob’s perspective in this beautifully illustrated book for children! 

Maxi’s Secrets (Or What You Can Learn from a Dog)
by Lynn Plourde

Maxi


Yes, this one is about a dog. But I would be remiss to exclude all literature featuring pooches. They’re popular and beloved for a reason, and it can be even harder to find books about them when you’re trying to find something new to read because of how many classics are out there. This 2016 book, unlike the others on our list, is suitable for younger ages, isn’t based on a true story, and features a female companion animal for a change. It isn’t your typical “a dog and his boy” tale either, although it is about a dog and her boy. The catch is, Maxi is deaf. Timminy is determined to help his special needs dog, but as dogs often do, Maxi ends up helping him navigate the difficulties of fifth grade and learn that life isn’t all that bad. 

Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom
by Jennifer S. Holland

Friends


Unlikely Friendships is a bit different from the others on our list as it doesn’t feature just one animal and its bond with a human, but rather several animals and their bonds with other species. This in-depth look into interspecies animal friendship is sure to tug at the heartstrings and features beautiful full color candid photographs of the odd pairs. From cats and dogs to calves and leopards, all the notable odd couples of the animal kingdom are explored expertly by National Geographic writer Jennifer S. Holland. 
Posted by behrhart@auroragov.org  On May 18, 2018 at 11:19 AM
  

pen-blog.png

Post by Chris G. 

The history of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction is fairly interesting. The award itself is named after the international association of writers, PEN (which is an acronym for "Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Editors, and Novelists), and the prolific American author William Faulkner.
Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949 "for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel." In 1960, he used his prize money to establish the William Faulkner Foundation, a charitable organization intended to support young writers. Among other things, the Faulkner Foundation gave out an annual literary prize called the William Faulkner Foundation Award, the winners of which include names like John Knowles, Thomas Pynchon, Cormac McCarthy, and Robert Coover. After 10 years, the Faulkner Foundation was dissolved in 1970. The PEN/Faulkner Award was named to honor Faulkner's philanthropy, as well as to continue in the Faulkner Foundation Award's tradition of recognizing works of literary excellence.
The PEN/Faulkner Award was founded in 1980 by Mary Lee Settle, who herself had won the National Book Award in 1978 for her novel "Blood Tie". This resulted from some controversy surrounding the 1979 National Book Award winner, "Going After Cacciato" by Tim O'Brien. Many in the publishing industry believed that year's award should have gone to John Irving for "The World According to Garp", which led to a rift among the panel of judges and ultimately changes to the rules of how the National Book Awards were judged. In protest of these rule changes, PEN voted to boycott the awards, citing them as "too commercial." The following year, the PEN/Faulkner Award was established. Settle's vision was that the "awards would be judged by writers, not by industry insiders, and no favoritism would be granted to bestselling authors."
Now in its 38th year, the PEN/Faulkner Award is among the most prestigious literary honors an author can receive, and continues to fulfill Settle's mission "to create a community of writers, honor excellence in American fiction, and encourage a love of reading."
The 2018 PEN/Faulkner Award winner was announced on Saturday, May 5th. All of this year's nominees, the winner as well as many winners of years past are available to be borrowed from the Aurora Public Library. You can find those titles and the formats in which they are available below.  

  This Year's Nominees


 "In the Distance" by Hernan Diaz

   
 "The Dark Dark" by Samantha Hunt Also available as an eBook.

   
 "The Tower of the Antilles" by Achy Obejas

   
 "Improvement" by Joan Silber


 "Sing, Unburied, Sing" by Jesmyn Ward Also available as an audiobook, eBook, and eAudiobook.


Past Winners

2017

 "Behold the Dreamers" by Imbolo Mbue Also available as an eBook.
2016

 "Delicious Foods" by James Hannaham
   2014

 "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves" by Karen Joy Fowler
2012

 "The Buddha in the Attic" by Julie Otsuka
2010

 "War Dances" by Sherman Alexie Available as an eAudiobook through RBDigital. 
2009

 "Netherland" by Joseph O'Neill Also available in Large Print and as an audiobook.
2007

  "Everyman" by Philip Roth Also available as an audiobook and eAudiobook.
   2006

  "The March" by E.L. Doctorow
   2005

 "War Trash" by Ha Jin
2004

 "The Early Stories, 1953-1975" by John Updike
   2002

 "Bel Canto" by Ann Patchett Also available as an eBook.
2001

  "The Human Stain" by Philip Roth Also available in Large Print.
   2000

  "Waiting" by Ha Jin Also available in Large Print and as an eBook.
   1999

 "The Hours" by Michael Cunningham
   1997

  "Women in their Beds" by Gina Berriault
1996

 "Independence Day" by Richard Ford Available as an eAudiobook through RBDigital.
1995

 "Snow Falling on Cedars" by David Guterson Available as an audiobook, eBook, and eAudiobook.
   1993

 "Postcards" by E. Annie Proulx

And the 2018 winner is...

 "Improvement" by Joan Silber 

 



Sources: The Nobel Prize in Literature 1949 Notes on People; New York Writer Getting PEN/Faulkner Award Novelist Mary Lee Settle; Founded PEN/Faulkner Award PEN/Faulkner PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction PEN International William Faulkner Foundation
Posted by zsmith@auroragov.org  On May 17, 2018 at 2:10 PM
  

Blog pic

Post by Steven K 

If you’re intrigued by anything you read below, join us at APL Central on Saturday, May 26th at 3:00pm for a journey into the world of Arrakis, the setting of Frank Herbert’s award-winning science fiction novel, Dune.


2018 has been an interesting year for me. So far, I’ve witnessed a half-orphaned teenager dismantle a planetary trade empire and start a holy war. I helped another teenager free the solar system from a brutal socially-stratified imperial regime. When I finished that, I traversed a glacier on an icy alien planet with an exiled politician who could change his (her? their?) biological sex. And when I got bored, I watched in awe as two star-crossed lovers stole a magic gem from an evil god. Oh, and I’ve spent 20 hours a week working at Aurora Public Library, which is often just as exciting.

I’ve obviously only done one of those things since the start of the year. (Mars is beautiful in February, by the way.)  Still, I have experienced all of those adventures secondhand from the comfort of my own couch. Truly, books are gateways to other worlds. If Worldbuildersyou read, you can live thousands of different lives in a single lifetime. You can live vicariously through other characters’ lives—you know, get a feel for what it’s like to rule a fledgling empire or brush shoulders with your fellow wizards at a school of magic. You can travel on the cheap to exotic locales, to the past and the future, to universes with different natural laws and wildly different living things. Reading grants you all these freedoms and more, all for the cost of a few hours (or days) of your time and a few bucks (or for free, if you use the library!).  

Yes, books are marvelous gateways, but even novice readers will tell you that some of these gateways are better than others.

 

Say what you want about genre, or historicity, or style or form—I won’t argue with you there. Personally, I prefer science fiction and fantasy, but wonders can be found throughout the literary landscape. Regardless of category, the best books are those that feel real and ring true. There are many ways to accomplish these goals, but I’m particularly fond of one strategy: worldbuilding.

All writers worldbuild, whether they’re writing something realistic or fantastic, modern or historical, mysterious or romantic. Simply put, worldbuilding is what writers do to give their settings depth, richness, and complexity. The goal: to make you, the reader, feelWOrldbuilders like you could climb inside those worlds and really live there, instead of feeling like they’re cheap amusement park rides or half-hearted high school productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s an exercise in immersion, an effort to make you momentarily forget about the real world and transport your mind elsewhere.

 

So, how exactly does a writer achieve this effect? I would argue that effective worldbuilding happens on two distinct levels: the small-scale and the large-scale. On the small-scale, worlds are built from careful, detailed descriptions of places, people, things, and actions. Cumulatively, all of these descriptions conjure up images in our mind’s eye, essentially transmuting black and white pages into rich canvases full of light and color and texture. It’s as close to magic as mere mortals can get. Take, for example, the opening passage to the final book of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy:

In a valley shaded with rhododendrons, close to the snow line, where a stream milky with meltwater splashed and where doves and linnets flew among the immense pines, lay a cave, half-hidden by the crag above and the stiff heavy leaves that clustered below.

WorldbuildersThe woods were full of sound: the stream between the rocks, the wind among the needles of the pine branches, the chitter of insects and the cries of small arboreal mammals, as well as the birdsong; and from time to time a stronger gust of wind would make one of the branches of a cedar or a fir move against another and groan like a cello.


It was a place of brilliant sunlight, never undappled. Shafts of lemon-gold brilliance lanced down to the forest floor between bars and pools of brown-green shade; and the light was never still, never constant, because drifting mist would often float among the treetops, filtering all the sunlight to a pearly sheen and brushing every pine cone with moisture that glistened when the mist lifted. Sometimes the wetness in the clouds condensed into tiny drops half mist and half rain, which floated downward rather than fell, making a soft rustling patter among the millions of needles. (The Amber Spyglass, 2000, p. 1)

The passage continues for several more pages, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. What I do want is to draw attention to its vivid imagery, both visual and aural. It’s absolutely arresting. Every time I read it I feel like I’m in that forested valley, a valley that’s alive and breathing, and it almost aches when I’m snapped back into the reality of the concrete jungle, which somehow seems dead in comparison despite its endless racket. Pullman is a gifted small-scale worldbuilder; you’ll find passages like this throughout his work.

Large-scale worldbuilding is harder to define—so I’ll let another master of the craft explain it for me. In his landmark essay “On Fairy-Stories,” J. R. R. Tolkien—creator of our beloved Middle-earth—puts it like this:

What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful “sub-creator.” He makes a Secondary World which your mind 

Worldbuilderscan enter. Inside it, what he relates is “true”: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. (p. 351)

For Tolkien, large-scale worldbuilding is an act of “sub-creation.” Though he’d never have put it this way (on account of his staunch Roman Catholic beliefs), it’s as if the “story-maker” is the god of its own little universe—and as such, it must ensure that universe is whole and balanced, that everything in it “accords with the laws of that world.” In this regard, writers working with realistic fiction have a pretty good template to work with, so long as they’re keen observers of society and the natural world. But for writers of speculative fiction—especially science fiction and fantasy—this is where the fun begins.

Imagine that you are the sub-creator god of your own secondary world. Think of the power and freedom! You’re not bound by the limitations of our universe, though your world still needs that Tolkienian “inner consistency of reality.” What would you create? What novelties or magics or technologies would you introduce into your world? What environments would you construct, what beings would you populate them with, and by what processes would you have them interact? What do your world’s inhabitants eat, Worldbuilderswhere do they live, what do they value, what do they fear? Where have they been, historically, and what’s just over the horizon? In the end, the accomplished worldbuilder needs to be part scientist, part historian, part engineer, and part anthropologist, just to name a few other roles aside from “writer.” I know it’s a lot—but it’s not easy playing god.

Maybe you’d worldbuild like Tolkien: set your story in an environment similar to continental Europe, with a few notable exceptions (*cough* Mordor); design separate species/races of sentient life with different lifestyles and mortalities—elves, dwarves, humans, hobbits, ents, orcs, etc.; incorporate a mysterious “soft” system of magic available only to certain powerful beings; make the primary source of conflict a perpetual struggle between the forces of good and evil, where the good seeks harmony, freedom, and beauty and the evil seeks control, domination, and destruction; and so on.

Or maybe that’s too old school for your taste and you want to go the way of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising saga: set your world in a future version of our very own solar system, in which humans have colonized the planets and their moons with advanced technology; make your society rigidly hierarchical—where some people are born to rule, some to pilot starships, some to entertain,WB and others to toil endlessly to support everyone else—and reinforce that hierarchy with genetic engineering; sow the seeds of rebellion and interplanetary war by having your ruling class brutally enforce their Romanesque social order, whether by ordering executions for petty offenses or reducing entire moons to ash for perceived acts of treason.

Maybe you just want to make some maps or draw landscapes from a world that’s been plaguing your dreams.

 

Whatever it may be, if anything about worldbuilding interests you, join us for Worldbuilders! Our next meeting will be on Saturday, May 26th at 3:00pm in the small community room at APL Central. You can register hereto guarantee a spot. We’ll be talking about Frank Herbert’s legendary science fiction novel, Dune, but feel free to bring some of your original work to share, too.

I hope to see you there!

References:

Pullman, Philip. The Amber Spyglass. New York: Yearling, 2000.

Tolkien, J. R. R. “On Fairy-Stories.” Tales from the Perilous Realm. Ed. Christopher Tolkien. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008. 315-400.

Posted by behrhart@auroragov.org  On May 17, 2018 at 12:44 PM
  

Baseball diamond title photo
Post by Zach S.

With opening day over and the warm days of spring setting in, it’s time to get ready for a season filled with all things baseball! Whether you’re a lifetime fan who can name batting averages from memory or simply enjoy the foot long hot dogs at a game, we can all enjoy these fun baseball crafts, recipes and movies together.

We’ll start things off with my personal favorite – a baseball piñata! While it is a little more involved, it will certainly be the hit of your party. This craft comes from Easy Crafts For Kids.

Materials:Baseball pinata
• Bowl
• Water
• Newspaper
• White Paint
• Red Marker
• Balloon
• Pin
• Glue
• Scissors
• Candy (wrapped)

Step 1:
Blow up a balloon. Make it about the size of a softball.
Cut out strips of newspaper. You want these strips to be about an inch width and a few inches long.
Mix your paper mache mixture - 3/4 glue 1/4 water.

Step 2:
Dip a piece of newspaper in the glue mixture, coating it completely. Take off the excess with your fingers.
Cover your balloon in moistened pieces of newspaper.
Make sure to leave a small area around the balloon end. This will allow you to pop the balloon and fill it with candy.

Step 3:
Once the balloon is covered, place it in the sink to dry.
Once it is partially dry add another layer of paper. This time use white paper so it is easier to paint the ball afterwards.
This can take up to 24 hours depending on your region and temperatures.

Step 4:
Once dry fill it with candy and cover the hole up with some white paper (covered in your glue mixture). Allow to dry.
Paint the balloon white. Allow to dry.

Step 5:
Draw on stitching with a red marker. This will be one large oval around the baseball - adding V marks around it.

************************************

I think it’s time for a snack to refuel after that project. How about baseball rice-krispie treats? This recipe comes to us from Domestically Speaking.

Rice krispie baseballs
1. Make a batch of classic rice krispie treats but instead of putting them in a pan, put them in a cookie sheet with sides. This will make the rice krispie treats thinner for cutting. 

2. Let them set up for about 30 minutes before using a round cookie cutter.

3. Melt some white chocolate in a glass pie pan.

4. Dip one side into the white chocolate.

5. Use a spoon to add some more white chocolate to the dipped tops and then smooth them with an off-set spatula.

6. Once they set up (about 30 minutes) use a red gel cake decorating tube to make the baseball stitching.
 
************************************
 
Now that we’re refueled and full of sugar, let’s get one more craft in before we’re done. Fingerprint baseballs! This craft comes from Crafty Morning and is a great one for the younger kids.
Fingerprint baseball
Materials:

Fingerprint baseball• White paper
• Red washable paint
• Scissors
• Red Marker

1. Start by drawing a circle onto a piece of paper and having the kids cut it out.

2. Take a red marker and draw two curved lines.

3. Have the kids dip their pointer finger in the red washable paint and make laces on the baseball. Let it dry and you’re done!
 



************************************
Top your busy day off with a baseball movie night! Check out this list of baseball themed movies from 3 Boys and a Dog. Stop into your Aurora Public Library to check out some of the movies below on DVD.


 "The Perfect Game"
DVD @ APL
 DVD cover  "Million Dollar Arm"   DVD cover
 "The Sandlot"
DVD @ APL
 DVD cover "A Mile in His Shoes"
 DVD cover
 "Rookie of the Year"
DVD @ APL
 DVD cover "Season of Miracles"
DVD @ APL
 DVD cover
"The Final Season"  DVD cover "Angels in the Outfield"
DVD @ APL
 DVD cover
"Everyone's Hero"

 DVD cover



Hopefully these activities help you get your baseball season off to a great start! For any baseball books, movies, or other resources, stop into your Aurora Public Library branch and chat with us!

Posted by zsmith@auroragov.org  On Apr 11, 2018 at 8:42 AM
  

Title image

Post by Laura R.

I grew up in the mountains of Northwest Colorado, in a log house in the middle of about seven acres of woods. I ran around barefoot in my favorite purple-flower dress every summer, on the trails beaten down by our horses. It was seemingly quiet at our house—so different from the Denver street I live on now—but my mom would often tell me to sit on the back porch and close my eyes and listen. She’d tell me to try to pick out as many different sounds as I could: the wind swishing through the pines, the creaks of their trunks as if they were talking to each other, the birdsong, squirrels chittering, branches falling, twigs cracking.
When my family went camping, I’d go on expeditions with my older sister, my mom, and my aunt. My sister and I splashed in creeks, picked wild flowers, and made mud piles. Sometimes I went walking alone. I’d look for special plants or creatures, like mushrooms or rose hips or bluebells or lizards. It was always a scavenger hunt. Each snail shell, each pine cone, each green rock or piece of mica felt like a discovery, a magical token that could protect or empower me.

Around that time, I started going to the library, and I see now how the magic of the forest was similar to the magic I found in the troves of books there. The silence, the sense that I was an adventurer about to discover something fascinating and beautiful, the time I spent alone dreaming—it was the same. I became obsessed with magical creatures, which I probably learned about from books. I loved stories about unicorns, fairies, magic, secrets. Of course I was sure there were fairies in the brambles behind our house. I felt them and their magic in the cool air in the evening, in the way the aspen leaves quivered, in the sarvis berries, in the rain. I felt it shoot up my spine when the wind started up before a storm and the clouds got dark and purple. Fairies just made sense.

My mother and aunt were the ones who taught me how to make fairy houses. We had a special place about a mile’s walk from our most frequented campsite. We called it Circle-of-Trees. I’d learned in books that one sign that fairies have visited are fairy rings—perfect circles of toadstools or moss. Well, we’d found a fairy circle made of lodgepole pine, a magic grove. We made fairy houses here as gifts to our tiny friends. First we gathered everything we needed: straight twigs of similar sizes, small pebbles for the walkway, pieces of bark for the door and roof, moss for the garden, flower petals for decoration. I remember my mother’s hand guiding mine as I stacked the twigs in a criss-cross pattern, building the walls. It was slow work and it took patience, but I knew it was worth it. It was for them.

I’m all grown up now. I still look to the natural world for the quiet and the green smell and the breeze and the stillness. I still believe in fairies. I work at a library, and I make sure to remind myself often how magical these places were for me as a child. I hope with abandon that some of the children that come here feel that magic too when they crack a book.

If you’re craving more magic in your life, come visit Aurora Public Library on April 12th to build your very own garden fairy house. And if you or a child you know is interested in fairies, check out some of the following books from APL, including the new story Backyard Fairies by Phoebe Wahl, which sparked this blog post.
Backyard Fairies book cover
Backyard Fairies by Phoebe Wahl
Fairy Houses All Year: A Four-Season Handbook by Liza Gardner Walsh
Fairies: An Introduction Into the History and Mystery of Their Magical Realm by Ralph Harvey
Fairies by Virginia Loh-Hagan.
The Book of Fairies selected and illustrated by Michael Hague
Forest Fairy Crafts by Lenka Vodicka-Paredes

Posted by zsmith@auroragov.org  On Apr 09, 2018 at 4:11 PM
  
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