Beyond Emancipation Day

This year’s One Book, One Community selection was announced this morning at a special event at The Jazz Room in Waterloo.  The selection for this year is….drum roll please…

Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady

In addition to this fantastic choice, our staff have created a list of Featured Titles that explore similar themes and stories…excellent fodder for thoughtful discussion.

Check out the full list of Featured Titles – One Book, One Community.



Swept away by La La Land

I am watching La La Land because I simply can’t stop myself.  This movie is just perfection.  It’s like the writer created something that was a magical blend of old movie splendor and modern fun.  I watched musicals whenever I had a chance when I was a kid and spent hours researching my favourite stars.  I knew more about dancers, singers and producers than I did about my schoolwork – why didn’t they want to know about Fred Astaire’s relationship with his choreographer and doppleganger Hermes Pan on any test I wrote?  I just don’t know what was wrong with my teachers…

Directed and written by Damien Chazelle (he also wrote and directed the multiple award-winning movie Whiplash from 2014), with outstanding lyrics by the Broadway darlings Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, La La Land features a romance that will capture your heart.  It begins with a marvelous 150-person dance routine that takes place during a traffic jam on a freeway in Los Angeles and their voices swell to music that includes notes made by car horns.  It’s so clever and the footwork, camera angles, and vibrant costumes work together to make that first number – “Another Day of Sun”- so compelling that I said, as we walked out of the theatre, that there would be no dancing on top of our car.  It’s that kind of movie – you feel swept away by the music and the emotion. Almost as if you might dance on top of your Honda here in Waterloo in the theatre parking lot.

Emma Stone plays the part of an aspiring actress, named Mia, working as a barista on the Warner Brothers backlot when she meets musician Ryan Gosling, playing the part of Sebastian, who is trying to pull together enough cash to open a very specific kind of jazz bar.  It’s boy-meets-girl-with-a-misunderstanding-thrown-in so that their eventual spark means even more.  Their next meeting is just the last word in meet cutes because it happens while poor Mia is in the middle of a horrible conversation with a man at a party and Sebastian is playing in an ’80s cover band.  They are a very well-turned-out cover band (maybe bands in L.A. always look that good?) and play songs that were splendid at that time and they certainly worked for Mia in 2016.  Their romance is charming and the chemistry between the two lead actors is a perfect match for all of the singing and dancing required for this movie, although I have never been sure when singing and dancing might not be required.

Awards and love have poured down on everyone involved with this film and I agree that the acclaim is well deserved.  I have always believed the idea that singing a song makes any activity more fun – Mary Poppins told us this with her spoonful of sugar theory and I never disagree with Mary Poppins.  I think that deciding whether or not La La Land ushers in a new generation of movie musicals deserves some time in your DVD player.  We also have the soundtrack here on the shelves at WPL and it really is going to make your life so much better – you could listen to it and relive your favourite scenes.  It will make everyday chores and driving around town go by much faster because you will be singing while you do it. Just remember that there can be no dancing on the top of cars.

-Penny M.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover and the Downton Abbey connection

Recently one of WPL’s Book Clubs discussed this title. While I had heard of the book before, I had never actually made any attempt to read it. The premise: a married aristocratic woman in 1920s England has an affair with the gamekeeper working on her husband’s estate.  The novel highlights the domination of intellectuals over the working class (mental over physical).  First published in 1928 the book was considered salacious and was widely banned.  Of course, it made the book all the more appealing to young adults first exploring their own sexuality.

As a devoted Downton Abbey fan I couldn’t help but notice some similarities.  The setting for each is an estate in the English countryside. Time period is 1920’s. Main characters include the upper class family who live on the estate and the estate workers and villagers who live nearby.

While reading the book I couldn’t help but recall that in the Downtown Abbey series Lady Mary and Lady Edith each had dalliances without the benefit of matrimony and Lady Sybil married the chauffeur.  Seems that things that are forbidden hold special appeal.

If you are missing Downton Abbey and they wonderful story of life in 1920s England, then Lady Chatterley’s Lover might be just the book for you.

– – Christine B.

Hidden Figures


Unsung heroes (and heroines!). Marginalized outsiders able to accomplish great things. These are the kind of stories I love — especially when the stories happen to be true.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly is just such a story. It’s a true account of black, female mathematicians who made enormous contributions to American aeronautics and the space program. At a time when blacks and women were mostly shut out of top-level jobs, the story of black women performing such jobs makes for truly inspiring reading.

Although there were many black women working at the national aeronautics laboratory in Hampton, Virginia, author Margot Lee Shetterly chooses to focus on four of them. In addition to their undoubted brain power, you will admire these women for the strength and courage they displayed in the face of much on-the-job racial discrimination.

Shetterly has done a first-class research job in tracking down this story. Her writing style is rather scholarly and I must admit that I think a more lively and engaging style would help draw readers into the story more readily.

I am eagerly awaiting watching the movie, starring Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer.  The library has ordered multiple copies and I have placed a hold (it’s a long, long list — obviously lots of other interested people out there). Hidden Figures was nominated for a best picture Oscar, though it didn’t win. That is, unless poor Warren Beatty made a SECOND mistake up there in February!

-Penny D.

Let’s Get Moving!

The spring weather is here (sort of) so it’s time to replace winter boots with running shoes. To help you track your way to better health and fitness, WPL has 25 pedometer kits to lend.

Each kit includes:

– a pedometer that can be easily attached to clothing
– Region of Waterloo Cycling and Walking Trails Map

The loan period for pedometer kits is 3 weeks and they can be renewed twice if there are no holds.  Improve your health.  Walk the beautiful trails in our area and track your steps.

Looking for some good reads to inspire you to get walking this year? Take a look at our new featured titles list: Walk. Run. Cycle. Breathe. Repeat.

pedometer sheet 2017

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is the latest book by author Lisa See. It’s focus is on family, the mother-daughter bond and different cultures set within the tea industry.

The story focuses on the Akha, one of the fifty-five cultural minorities from deep in the heart of the tea growing region of China. Their reclusive, rural way of life are vividly described, as are their beliefs which combine a focus on nature, superstition and strict, and sometimes harsh, rules.

The book has two story lines with the main story focusing on Li-yan, a young woman who was raised within a small Akha village. When she becomes pregnant outside of marriage, a strict taboo in her culture, she makes the heartbreaking decision to keep her pregnancy a secret and give her baby girl up for adoption to give both a better life. Li-yan’s life is peppered with struggle and success as she makes her way from living with the Akha to having success in the lucrative tea business and living a much more modern life than she could have ever dreamed. While she is a flawed character, you see a strength in Li-yan and you quickly became invested into her struggle, joy, sorrow and determination.

downloadThe secondary story follows the life of Haley, the baby Li-yan had given up, who was adopted by a California couple as a baby. Via letters and emails from Haley and Constance, Haley’s adoptive mother, See addresses issues some Chinese adoptees and adoptive parents face, namely their struggle to be seen as a family unit despite their physical differences, rude comments made by strangers etc. I liked that See focused on these issues and I found the discussion between Chinese adoptive kids quite interesting and eye-opening as they talk about their conflicting feelings about being given up for adoption — going from unwanted to highly treasured.

This is a well-written, absorbing read that is rich in culture but the true focus, the life of one woman’s strength, desire for redemption and determination to find her daughter, is what made this book for me. See illustrates the undeniable bond between mothers and daughters, both birth and adoptive, and would make an excellent book club pick.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is available at WPL as a book, audiobook on CD, eAudiobook and eBook.

I’d recommend it for readers who enjoyed Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s The Secret Daughter.

— Laurie P.

April Book Clubs

Join us for book club conversation at any meeting.

No need to sign up. No need to clean your house. The WPL Book Clubs have “open” memberships, so you can drop  in once in a while, or come faithfully every month.

For more information, contact Christine at or 519-886-1310 ext. 146.


Monday Evening Book Group

Monday, April 10 @ 7 p.m.  – Main Library, Auditorium

A Delicate Truth by John le Carre

A counter terrorist operation, code-named Wildlife, is being mounted on the British crown colony of Gibraltar. Its purpose: to capture and abduct a high-value jihadist arms buyer. Its authors: an ambitious Foreign Office minister, a private defense contractor who is also his bosom friend, and a shady American CIA operative of the evangelical far right. So delicate is the operation that even the minister’s private secretary, Toby Bell, is not cleared for it. Three years later, a disgraced Special Forces soldier delivers a message from the dead. Was Operation Wildlife the success it was cracked up to be–or a human tragedy that was ruthlessly covered up? Summoned by Sir Christopher “Kit” Probyn, retired British diplomat, to his decaying Cornish manor house and closely observed by Kit’s daughter, Emily, Toby must choose between his conscience and duty to his service. If the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing, how can he keep silent?


Thursday Afternoon Book Group

Thursday, April 20 at 1:30 p.m. – Main Library, Boardroom

In the Garden of Beasts by Eric Larson

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history. A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the surprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance–and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition. Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre and the expectedly charming–yet wholly sinister–Goebbels.