Marilla of Green Gables

Enthusiasts of Anne of Green Gables always worry –rightly so! – when a contemporary author takes on the task of writing a new story involving their favourite setting and characters. Is it possible to get it right or will the writer make a mess of it?

As someone who personally owns the full collection of Anne books, this was certainly my concern when I discovered that Sarah McCoy – an American author, no less! – had tackled Marilla’s story, bouncing off of this exchange between Marilla and Anne in chapter 37 of the original book:

“John Blythe was a nice boy. We used to be real good friends, he and I. People called him my beau.”

Anne looked up with swift interest.

“Oh, Marilla–and what happened?–why didn’t you–”

“We had a quarrel. I wouldn’t forgive him when he asked me to. I meant to, after awhile–but I was sulky and angry and I wanted to punish him first. He never came back–the Blythes were all mighty independent. But I always felt–rather sorry. I’ve always kind of wished I’d forgiven him when I had the chance.”

“So you’ve had a bit of romance in your life, too,” said Anne softly.

“Yes, I suppose you might call it that. You wouldn’t think so to look at me, would you? But you never can tell about people from their outsides. Everybody has forgot about me and John. I’d forgotten myself. But it all came back to me when I saw Gilbert last Sunday.”

McCoy’s story begins when Marilla is 13 years old and chronicles her life in Avonlea and at Green Gables. We experience her joys and sorrows and encounter familiar characters including Matthew Cuthbert, Rachel Lynde, the Barry family, and of course, John Blythe. We attend sewing circles, church picnics, Ladies’ meetings and a hanging, and visit a Nova Scotia orphanage on more than one occasion.

Just as Budge Wilson captured the essence and tone of Anne in Before Green Gables, Sarah McCoy has encapsulated Marilla’s story in this additional prequel, bringing in historical aspects such as the Underground Railroad and the rebellion of 1837. Marilla is smart, strong, capable and independent, but struggles with pride and difficulty communicating the deepest feelings of her heart to those she cares about most. She is family-oriented to a fault. Does this sound like the Marilla we know? It certainly makes me want to reread the series to remind myself!

McCoy herself reread the Anne books and conducted considerable research in writing this book, consulting primary and secondary resources, visiting the “Avonlea” area of PEI and interviewing L.M. Montgomery’s descendants, who gave her their stamp of approval.
Marilla of Green Gables is a great addition to the series and Christmas gift idea for your Anne fan. I only wish it had been written by a Canadian author!

— Susan B.

Ho-Ho-Holiday Magazines Are Here

There used to be a TV commercial featuring a mother celebrating the back-to-school season with the Andy Williams classic “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” playing in the background and that really bugged me. I understood why that mother felt so pleased about the return of her quiet time but I felt that advertising choice was a poor one. I prefer the regular routine of things – it’s comforting when things are in their correct place.

Holiday music should play in December (although Christmas CDs go out on the shelves a little earlier here at WPL so that customers can enjoy them) and should never be played in September to commemorate the sale of notebooks and pens. The malls and grocery stores stock up on gifts and wrapping paper and then, just as the holiday season starts to hit full steam, our collection of new Christmas magazines hit the shelves and this is beyond thrilling for me.

It’s the sheer diversity of the collection that makes me happy. We have baking magazines, ways to make your holiday more splendid with a crochet needle (also several magazines featuring knitting), we can encourage you to make something out of beads or you can just relax and look at Victorian homes decorated for the holidays. It’s all so beautiful and festive and each year I believe that I might actually do some of the things that the magazine editors suggest I do.

We keep a collection of these magazines in the library throughout the year so that customers can be inspired at any time but we purchase new ones every November so that customers can stay current on the trends in the holiday world – it’s exciting to see the latest news in cooking and gifting. I love it! It’s also handy to have these magazines available throughout the year as crafters certainly need a head start (especially on those beaded ornaments, oh my goodness, where does the patience come from?) if they are going to get things done on time and, if you plan to send anything by mail, then you need to add even more time to your planning.

Many magazine publishers like Canadian Living create special issues for the season so you can also have a look at the magazines on our regular shelves for inspiration as well. Don’t miss Martha Stewart living, Good Housekeeping or Marie Claire idées for show-stopping creativity (both Martha Stewart living and Good housekeeping are available through WPL’s RBdigital subscription too). You can start on your holiday baking, crafting and decorating from the comfort of your home using your device and your WPL card.

One customer favourite is from celebrity chef Ricardo Larrivée and the December 2018 issue features everything from deserts that are easy to take along if you have to travel over the holidays, to gift ideas for someone who enjoys food and cooking, and suggestions for ways to relax by embracing ‘imperfection’ in your holiday meal. The sweetest part of this issue is the article that features his daughter, Clémence, making her first holiday meal for the family. Her article is filled with bright young touches (and her Montreal apartment is a treat to see) and the recipes that she includes are a nice mix of old and new. Absolutely everything in this magazine looks delicious in each issue but the holiday mood and nostalgia from this article added to the appeal. I’ll be trying Clémence’s holiday dumplings (because they look delicious and fairly easy to make) and I probably won’t wait until the festive season begins to get started on those.

Come on into the library and peruse this glamorous selection of Christmas-themed magazines (we also have books and an endless supply of movies and CDs you can enjoy) and you too can believe that you might possibly try a recipe or craft that these clever editors suggest. Relish in some holiday fun through these glossy pages – consider it a gift that you give to yourself.

— Penny M.

Starlight

Full disclosure here….. I am a HUGE fan and admirer of Richard Wagamese!! He could write out my grocery list and I am sure that I could find poetic beauty throughout. So it was with very mixed feelings that I cracked open Starlight, Wagamese’s final offering. On the one hand I couldn’t wait to delve into it but on the other, I knew it was his last and I felt profound sadness at the loss of such a master writer.

Starlight is the story of six people whose lives are connected through vastly different circumstances. Emmy and her 8 year old daughter Winnie, on the run from two brutal and callous men, Cadotte and Armstrong, find themselves forced to do what it takes to survive. Having her child collaborate in the stealing of food and fuel breaks Emmy’s heart but desperation trumps morality when it comes to keeping her child safe. It is during a failed shoplifting attempt that Frank Starlight enters their lives.

Starlight, a man at peace with himself and the world around him, offers Emmy and Winnie a safe haven and an opportunity to rebuild their lives. Along with his hired hand, friend Eugene Roth, the woman and girl are exposed to the natural wonders of the world they inhabit. They learn how to be still in nature and to learn to listen and live in the wilderness.

While this transformation is happening, the two men from whom Emmy and Winnie broke free, are driven by a boundless depth of hatred, revenge and evil to avenge the damages inflicted upon them by the woman and girl during their escape.

The juxtaposition of pure love and pure evil are strikingly presented with Wagamese’s usual powerfully poetic prose. His artful descriptions of the landscape evoke such an intense sense of peace and tranquility while his portrayal of the violence and brutality of Cadotte and Armstrong induce visceral feelings of panic and fear.

I am in awe of this master writer and his ability to take me past the written word and into the moment itself. It is a transcendent experience all the more beautiful and mournful because he has penned his last prose.

— Nancy C.

The End of World Comes Close to Home

It took a long time for me to write about Moon of the Crusted Snow simply because I knew that nothing I could write would do the novel any justice. It was brilliant.

I knew Moon of the Crusted Snow would be on my favourite novels list even before I finished reading it. When I finished the novel, I immediately flipped back to page one and read it all over again. I just didn’t want it to end.

Winter is approaching in the remote Anishinaabe reservation in Northern Ontario. One day, people wake up to find the power has shut off. The internet is down. The phone lines do not work. A short time later, the water does not turn on. The community is completely cut off from the rest of the country. Most people in the community assume it’s a temporary problem – that workers will arrive shortly to fix the problem. But no one ever comes.

As the temperature drops and resources dwindle, they discover that the major cities have also gone dark. The power isn’t coming back on. The grid has collapsed. There are no reasons, no explanations and no answers. The modern world has ended.

Fear slowly takes hold of the community. How will they stay warm? How can they stay fed? How long can life continue? It evokes all sorts of questions – how long can anyone survive when everything you once had is gone?

It’s no surprise that author Waubgeshig Rice was the recipient of the Anishinabek Nation’s Debwewin Citation for Excellence in First Nation Storytelling. As I was reading, I could feel the cold in my bones as the winter conditions are described. I could feel the fear in the mothers and fathers when children start succumbing to the elements. I loved that he wrote parts of dialogue in the Ojibwe language and intertwined pieces of First Nations history throughout the story.

My only regret is that Moon of the Crusted Snow is too short. At just over 200 pages, there could be so much more to discover. After I finished reading, my mind kept going back to the people of Anishinaabe and what their community would look like five, ten, twenty years down the road without modern conveniences. I hope that Waubgeshig Rice will seriously consider doing a sequel.

Nothing I can say about this novel will accurately paint a picture of Waubgeshig Rice’s brilliant storytelling. Please pick up this book and discover his story for yourself.

— Lesley L.

The Book of Books

Did you watch the PBS series The Great American Read? It was wonderful. It was a booklover’s delight from beginning to end. The network began promoting it about 6 months before it aired so there was lots of time to get excited about it.

I know that library customers and staff enjoyed the series because I have been a part of some spirited conversations about it. Some of the people I follow online were so passionate about the books that they wished were included that their posts got quite heated. We watched some of it ‘live’ at our house and watched some if it taped but the good news is that all of the episodes are available online and the series’ creators have published a fabulous illustrated book as a companion that we have been flipping through with happiness at our house.

The Book of Books has a page or two dedicated to each of the novels that were featured in the PBS series. Within the entry for each book they include a summary of the book, some text dedicated to the author and interesting tidbits about the publishing history or how the book might have influenced other writing. It’s a meaty little coffee table book with great bonuses like a section of read-alikes and summaries of trends in the reading world. This is a book written for fans of books and authors with each page including something fascinating. On one page they included a photograph of a letter opener that was specially made for Charles Dickens (his book, Great Expectations, was #29 on the final list) out of the paw of his favourite cat “Bob”.

dogThey kicked off the series in May 2018 with a 2-hour special that began in the Library of Congress with host Meredith Vieira encouraging everyone to vote and share their feelings about their favourite books online, perhaps start a book club, maybe even read all 100 books (although she eventually admitted to Diana Gabaldon that she hadn’t read her fabulous series until she started working on this PBS show). I had a lot of fun following the voting and competition online throughout the summer. I loved seeing the shameless things bibliophiles would do to get people to vote for their book. The image above is a plea from someone to request that everyone vote for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (this book was recently defended by a last-minute stand-in at Waterloo Reads : the battle of the books, coincidentally).

The process for The Great American Read began with a national survey of about seven thousand people that narrowed the book choices down to the 100 that PBS used as their final list. The kick-off special featured people like Sarah Jessica Parker, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chelsea Clinton, John Green, and Venus Williams sharing their own favourite books and encouraging people to read their book (or any book really) on the list. George R. R. Martin’s pitch for The Great Gatsby almost made me cry. I think that the next time we have a student in the library who isn’t pleased to have been assigned that F. Scott Fitzgerald classic I’ll call up this video and have them watch Martin speak about how the language in the novel has always moved him.

askfmlThis contest and the show they produced put libraries and literacy front and centre and it really felt wonderful to hear people – young and old – say that libraries meant so much to them. I remember loving my little library branch in Hamilton so much and still think that it was the best thing ever that I was never reprimanded for checking out a favourite book more than once. The freedom of the library shelves is such a perfect thing. The Freeport Memorial Library in Freeport, NY created the coolest social media campaign that I’ve seen in a long time with one of their library staffers taking photographs of coworkers, library visitors, and authors in poses that were inspired by their favourite books, adding quotes from the book, and then manipulating them. You really have to check out these inspirational moments on their twitter feed at @ASKFML They are amazing – this is one that they did for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Although the program was called The Great American Read, the final list of 100 books had only fifty-one books set in the U.S.A. and only sixty-four of the authors were American. Flipping through the gorgeous book that they created is a lovely trip through literature – for kids, adults and teens. You will start thinking about other books you might have wanted to include, you might consider re-reading favourites or picking one up that you haven’t read yet. I think that you will end up with a list – keep your pencil and paper handy.

The team at PBS did not limit their choices to literary classics. They included popular authors like Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook was voted #51), Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code made it to #33), and Stephenie Meyer’s Twlight series came in at respectable #73 beating out James Patterson who only made it to #81 for the Alex Cross series (although I’m quite sure he isn’t worried about his popularity). They have details about the original voting process and how the 100 books were determined on the website but we talked about the final list at our house often and I think they did a pretty good job of including a diverse section of books, authors and genres. I was disappointed to note that Madeleine L’Engle was not included in their choices but I think everyone has a pet author that likely didn’t make the cut and, in her introduction, the author notes that some of her favourites were missing from the final list as well. Culling a list to one hundred must have been painful for that team.

The final episode of the show had Meredith Viera and nominated authors, librarians, celebrities and readers on stage talking about the five semi-finalists and counting down from 100 the list of books that had been featured in the previous shows with a little bit of extra time spent on the ‘big five’. I cheered aloud when I learned that there is a convention for fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, was thrilled to hear that actor Wil Wheaton feels his wife fills the role of Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings in his life and felt that inviting a Harry Potter superfan onto the stage to talk about the series was spot on – fans have always been loyal to J.K. Rowling and the voting showed this.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird received special attention as they were able to invite the cast and playwright for the Broadway adaptation to discuss the themes of the book and how they are using them to inform their performances. The final book in the top five was Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice which had an accompanying video filled with people holding copies of the novel, some dressed in period costume, and one enthusiastic fan wearing a shirt that read “I ❤ Mr. Darcy”.  I’m going to look into getting one for myself, to wear here at the library, on casual day.

So, which book took away the big prize? I don’t mind typing it here in this post (spoiler alert!) because it was on so many websites the next day that it was impossible to miss – you can go to their website for the final reveal, if you like – but I’m pretty sure that many of you will have a strong guess of which of those top five would make it to number one. The book with the most votes was Harper Lee’s classic novel from 1960. It led the voting from the first day they opened the polls and never dropped below first place. It was a clear winner in the eyes of people who were participating in the PBS contest and is always a favourite book here at WPL.

I don’t know if I could choose. I always find it very difficult to choose one favourite book. We receive boxes and boxes of new ones here at the library each week and I find something wonderful in those shipments almost every week. I have several that I return to almost every year – some by John Irving (his interview in the PBS series was fabulous!). I have re-read The Stand (#24) more times than I can count and Charlotte’s Web (#7) never fails to cheer me, especially when I hear the recorded book in E.B. White’s own voice.

I think the most enjoyable part of this series was learning how books and libraries impacted individual people. Hearing Margaret Atwood read aloud from Anne of Green Gables (#11) and knowing that she was having difficulty with the emotion behind the words that she was saying as she quoted Marilla felt so special. Only a television show about books could bring this kind of magic alive. I encourage you to pick up this wonderful book, go online and click on a few inspiring snippets of video from PBS, and start a conversation about a book that meant something to you – if you need someone to talk to about that book we’ll be here, at the library.

— Penny M.

Stepping Out of My Reading Comfort Zone

I have to come clean right off the bat and admit that I almost didn’t keep The Saturday Night Ghost Club on my reading pile. Looking at the blurb, it didn’t seem to be the kind of subject matter that would normally catch my attention. I am thrilled to say that I stepped out of my comfort zone and into a gorgeously written coming of age story set against the backdrop of a derelict city called Cataract, a.k.a. Niagara Falls.

The narrator, Jake Breaker, is a neurosurgeon whose career has offered him the opportunity to delve deeply into people’s brains, knowing full well that the slightest error could cause irreparable damage to the patient. The technical details that are interwoven into Jake’s adult narrative are interesting and told with a simplicity that allows those of us uneducated in the anatomy of the brain to understand the concepts and to visualize what it must be like to be at the either end of the scalpel.

The 12 year old Jake takes us on a poignant journey of self-discovery through his membership in the Saturday Night Ghost Club, a group formed by his eccentric Uncle Calvin. With fellow club members, new kid-in-town Billy Yellowbird and his sister Rose and Calvin’s equally quirky friend Lex, who owns a video store that only sells Betamax, Jake begins a journey that ostensibly is meant to satisfy his curiosity about some of the town’s macabre urban myths but ends up stirring up the pot in a variety of life-changing ways. The summer of Jake’s twelfth year ends up being the one that introduces him to love and to the heartbreaking sadness that loss of love can bring.

At times hilarious and yet devastatingly sad, the story told from the perspective of a nerdy outsider feels poignantly real and emotionally charged. While the reader knows from the beginning that Jake has matured into a successful surgeon, one can’t help but be caught up in the dramatic pre-teen angst that culminates in the adventures of the Saturday Night Ghost Club.

Craig Davidson is establishing himself as one of Canada’s most successful and hard-working authors. Cataract City, published in 2013 was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and The Saturday Night Ghost Club is a shortlisted finalist for the 2018 Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize.

— Nancy C.

Unforgettable Ontario

I’m having a bit of a problem. But a good one, a fun one.

Shortly I will be entertaining a visitor from England for a few days. So where to take him, what sites to show him?

Help has arrived in the shape of a great new library book, Unforgettable Ontario: 100 Destinations by Noel Hudson. He previously wrote Unforgettable Canada: 100 Destinations in case you are looking for destinations farther afield.

I guess I’m a bit of a blase Ontarian. I tend to take my home province for granted. But flipping through this book, and looking at the gorgeous photos, it’s like, wow, there are a lot of amazing places to visit in Ontario, so much to see and do.

Unforgettable Ontario, with destinations arranged by region, is a wonderfully eclectic mix of big city/small town/rural destinations; well-known and lesser known sites; indoor stuff and outdoor stuff, as well as festivals galore.

A couple of selections grabbed my attention. For instance, the Bonnechere Caves in eastern Ontario look mighty intriguing. Or for a cheesy option, the nearby Oxford County cheese trail (with artisanal cheese producers listed) looks like a fun day trip. Apparently Oxford County has a long tradition of cheese-making. I did not know that. Or here’s something I’m all shook up about: the world’s largest Elvis festival held annually in Collingwood. Oh, yeah!

So borrowing heavily from this book I’ve come up with a tentative itinerary for my English visitor. I think we will head east, first to Prince Edward County to visit Sandbanks Provincial Park and maybe sample a few (?) local wines. Then on to Kingston and area to visit Fort Henry and do a Thousand Islands boat cruise. Problem solved.

-Penny D.

We Promise You…It’s Great!

Really, everyone likes to read a crime story, preferably one that is completely solved at the end with the killer safely locked away. A classic thriller that lets you feel like all of the loose ends are tied up when you turn the last page and perhaps breathe a sigh of relief that you don’t live in that town. This is the kind of reading pleasure that comes from the 2018 One Book, One Community (OBOC) title, Broken Promise.

Customers are responding to the enjoyment of getting to know new characters, rooting for a small police department under strain as they sort through the clues and then rushing to the end of the book as the author, Linwood Barclay, throws in some surprising plot twists. Some of our customers have enjoyed Broken Promise as their book club choice, some have picked it up so that they can keep up with personal OBOC reading and others have been inspired to try it out because of the posters that they see in the library.

Every season of OBOC brings us fresh book chat from customers. It’s great to hear which character is a favourite after they have finished reading the book, even one that features a grisly murder. This year we’ve heard approval for the main character, David Harwood, who moves back to his hometown in an attempt to get his life back on track for himself and his son. Maybe he is getting the sympathy vote – living with his parents, an unemployed widower, ferrying casseroles around his old home town. We’ve also seen a strong showing of support for Detective Barry Duckworth who is charged with solving the murder at the centre of the novel and several peculiar crimes that pop up as the story moves along.

Did you know that Linwood Barclay published a standalone title related to this series in October of last year? It’s called Parting Shot and gives us all a chance to return to the beleaguered town of Promise Falls. Local vigilantes are taking things into their own hands by running a website to promote the punishment of alleged criminals who have escaped the law. Oh, poor, overworked Detective Duckworth. Maybe he should just give in and eat one of those doughnuts that he is trying so hard to avoid?

Customers have also been enjoying a hearty discussion of the characters that they ‘love to hate’ in this novel. Former investigative reporter David finds himself piecing together the bits and pieces of this case at the request of his well-meaning mother. She is keen for David to get to the bottom of this as his cousin, Marla, is one of the police department’s strongest suspects, and he quickly finds out that there are many targets for his investigation. It is almost impossible to not want to reach into the book and shake some of the people you find involved in the horror surrounding this crime. They seem like they are straight out of a really good 80’s soap opera. Maybe we could start creating a dream cast? Jessica Lange would be fantastic as Marla’s mother, the busy hospital administrator, so obsessed by details. And the psychiatrist, Dr. Sturgess? We should choose someone with a face that makes you wonder if you should fear or trust him. A horrible man.

When you reach the last pages of the book your loathing for the killer will reach new heights. All of the loose ends are tied up, at least as far as the suspicion around David’s cousin Marla is concerned, and you could find yourself setting this book aside and moving on to another if it weren’t for Detective Duckworth and all of the little things that are nagging at him. This is very bad news for town residents but great news for readers and OBOC fans because there are two more books for us to read after this because the crimes continue.

Far From True begins with the murder of four Promise Falls residents at a local drive-in and soon the police link that crime back to those of the previous novel which proves their nasty serial killer theory. The twenty-three has the whole town at risk of being poisoned on May 23rd (Memorial Day weekend) if Duckworth doesn’t get to the bottom of the killer’s latest plot. So much good reading in there. In both of these novels Linwood Barclay continues with his style of multiple storylines and a gallows humour in the dialogue between his law enforcement officers. Something has to balance all of that darkness.

This story of a cozy town that seems safe but is hiding multiple secrets has been resonating with customers. All of these readers will have a chance to come together in September for free author events across the Region.

The event in Waterloo will take place on September 26 at 7:00pm at Knox Church across from the Main Library.

Broken Promise is a fast-paced thriller with more than one character you can cheer for and several you will despise – a safe bet for any customer who wants a good summer read.

— Penny M.

From Horror to Hope

Two books written  about the experiences of North American Indigenous women had the power to shake my assumption, based on a lot of previous reading on the subject, that I understood the kind of pain and suffering that First Nations women and girls have endured since colonialism ripped their worlds asunder.

NotYourPrincess#NotYourPrincess, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale, is a stunningly beautiful compilation of short stories and poetry, written as “…a love letter to all young indigenous women trying to find their way, but also to dispel those stereotypes so we can collectively move forward to a brighter future for all”.

Broken down into four sections, the selections take us from horror to hope, from brokenness to healing. The written words are accompanied by rich and powerful artwork and photography and compel the reader to stop and breathe in the message being relayed. The emotional intensity jumps off the page and takes your breath away, not just as an empathetic response but as a celebratory ‘high five’ for the healing that is happening and the strides that are being made.  A mere 109 pages in length, this book doesn’t ask for a huge commitment from the reader but it gives back value a hundred times over.

calling down the skyRosanna Deerchild, a celebrated author and broadcaster, has written Calling Down the Sky, a powerful poetry collection that gives voice to the generational effects of her mother’s experience as a residential school survivor. You can sense the struggle her mother feels when her daughter prods her to share her story. She is overflowing with the emotional impact  of her experience and yet overwhelmed by the telling of it.

One of my first thoughts reading Deerchild’s poems was how she used such small words and yet the message they delivered was like a punch to the gut. I could almost visualize her mother reverting back to the language of a child as she remembered the cruelty and horror inflicted on her and her fellow ‘inmates’. No flowery language required; her voice is as trenchant  as the cruelty bestowed upon them.

Both are stunning and important works of art.

— Nancy C.