Fun at Foster's blog
This coming Monday, May 5, Dr. Cheryl Lambing will be giving a free talk at E.P. Foster Library.
“Fit to a T” is a bone health and osteoporosis education program for men and women of all ages. Learn about your “T-score” and what it means for your overall health and wellness.
The event is open to the public, and begins at 5 p.m. in the Topping Room. We hope to see you there!
While it may be tempting to dismiss science fiction writing as somehow less relevant than other fiction due to its often speculative nature—dealing as it does with undiscovered worlds, unknown cultures, or fantastical technologies—the fact of the matter is that some of the best social commentary can be found in your library’s sci-fi section. Going beyond the reality that we know gives us a chance to imagine how we would think and act in scenarios that would test us in ways we are unlikely to encounter normally, and the results of those tests tell us a lot about who we really are, both individually and as a society.
|In The Martian (2014), Andy Weir tells the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut who is part of a manned mission to Mars that is forced to terminate its stay early due to hazardous conditions on the red planet. In the course of their evacuation during a severe dust storm, Watney’s suit is compromised, causing him to be left behind when all available information points to his already being dead. He recovers from his ordeal to find that the rest of the crew has left the planet and that he has no way of contacting them or Earth to request a rescue—perhaps a moot point since any rescue attempt would arrive too late to save him from starvation in any case. What unfolds is a story of survival, of Watney versus the Martian elements armed with only those supplies left behind by the crew and a wry sense of humor that keeps him going in the face of certain death. Written as a series of journal entries, this fast-paced novel manages to communicate the urgency driving Watney’s predicament in a way that demonstrates his intellect and competence while maintaining a high level of suspense.|
|Our next novel is also set on Mars, but not the desolate, unexplored Mars of the near future. Instead, Moving Mars (1993) shows us a planet long ago colonized by Earth and currently struggling to determine its destiny. Casseia Majumdar is a young Martian woman whose development is central to the story, as is the larger evolution of the Martian colony as a political entity. In the years since the planet was first colonized, Mars has become home to second- and third-generation Martians who wish to advocate for autonomy from an Earth that is increasingly hostile to Martian interests. This political drama is exacerbated by certain technological breakthroughs that threaten to fundamentally change the relationship between the two planets. Author Greg Bear creates a world rich with backstory and character development, and slowly—perhaps too slowly for some readers—brings the narrative to a boil. Winner of the 1994 Nebula Award, Moving Mars is epic in scale and a good selection for fans of hard science fiction.|
|The second read-alike for this month is The Dog Stars (2012), by Peter Heller. Like The Martian, The Dog Stars is a story about isolation and survival; however, Heller’s novel takes place not on Mars but on a plague-ravaged Earth. Set after not one but two superbugs wipe out the bulk of the population, the story is told by Hig, a former contractor and pilot living in an abandoned airport with his dog and a fellow survivor named Bangley. With Hig providing airborne surveillance and Bangley bringing tactical knowledge and firepower, the two have carved out a reasonably secure niche while remaining emotionally distanced from each other. When a traumatic event causes Hig to question his commitment to their day-by-day existence, he heads off in search of something he cannot name—meaning, redemption, or perhaps just something new. Heller uses his apocalypse to empty out the world so that he can examine the ways in which we might fill it again, and the result is an uplifting, if bittersweet, tale.|
The Martian, Moving Mars, and The Dog Stars are all available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library. In addition, The Martian and The Dog Stars can be borrowed as eBooks through OverDrive. You can also access NoveList Plus from our eLibrary’s Reading Suggestions section. If the book you are interested in is not currently on the shelf at your branch, you can always request that a copy be sent to the branch of your choice in person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.
Launched by Ronald Martin.
I’m sure many readers can relate to the joys and struggles of raising a teenage daughter, but imagine how challenging that would be if you were Darth Vader and your daughter was Princess Leia. Yes, Jeffrey Brown is back, with his take on life as a dad in the Star Wars universe in Vader’s Little Princess. Readers will recognize familiar scenes, characters, and even dialogue as Vader struggles to raise his daughter from her precocious youth to her rebellious teen years.
Throughout the book, readers will sympathize with Vader (yes, you read that right) as he makes sure his little princess brushes her teeth, does her chores, and dresses properly (no slave-girl outfits allowed). He may be one of the most powerful Sith lords in the universe, but he’s also just a dad. Granted, most dads don’t have to deal with their daughters crashing their Imperial shuttle or blowing up the Death Star, but they can relate to a dad whose daughter is dating, talking on the phone (or in this case, a hologram) with her friends, and rebelling against her elders.
These one-page vignettes are funny, endearing, and very familiar to anyone who is raising, or has raised, a teenage girl, and you don’t need to be a Star Wars fan to appreciate that.
Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess
Join us at E.P. Foster Library on Sunday, April 27, for “The Sweetest Sounds: The Music of Richard Rodgers,” a guest lecture by OLLI presenter Bruce Collins.
The lecture will include original cast recordings of some of Rodgers’ classics, together with the stories behind their creations.
The event is from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Topping Room. We look forward to seeing you there!
Of the two “end of the world” comedies released last year, This Is the End is set in L.A. and features the current Hollywood comedy brat pack, while The World’s End is set in a small British garden town and features a slightly more mature—but no less manic—guy group.
The World’s End is the latest film from director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nicholas Frost, who produced such bizarre classics as Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007). These films often also feature a kind of stock company of fellow actors, and as a staunch Anglophile I thought it would be interesting to see what other films from the group’s members are in the Ventura County Library collections (as are both The World’s End and This Is the End).
One of the most amusing Pegg/Frost comedies is Paul (2011), which is about two aging British fanboys who attend a science fiction convention in L.A. and end up having a bizarre close encounter of their own on a road trip to find Area 51.
Pegg, also a screenwriter, is a regular in the recent Star Trek and Mission Impossible films, and does a lot of animation voice work, as does Frost.
Probably the most well-known other guy is the Hobbit himself, Martin Freeman. He has the lead in The Good Night (2007), a film about a relationship-impaired musician who can only be with his dream love in dreams. The ironic conclusion gives new meaning to all those song lyrics about dreaming forever.
Freeman is also Watson in the recent Sherlock TV series, and stars in the new FX series Fargo, which premieres April 15.
One of the more prolific members of this group is Irish actor/writer/director Paddy Considine, best known for The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).
Surprisingly, considering his comic turns in the Pegg/Frost films, Considine has been involved with some of the most serious (and seriously depressing) recent films. Pu-239 (2006) is an HBO drama about a worker caught in a deadly accident in a Russian nuclear plant who steals a stash of weapons-grade plutonium in a botched attempt to sell it to provide for his wife and child when he is written off by the plant managers.
In director Jim Sherman’s In America (2002), Considine is the father of a poor Irish family who emigrates to America, ending up in an impoverished apartment in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. The film won three Academy Awards and features amazing performances by the two young actresses who portray the family’s daughters.
Considine is also in a remake of French director Claude Chabrol’s Hitchcockian thriller, The Cry of the Owl (2009), based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. Considine also wrote and directed Tyrannosaur (2011), which unfortunately is not in the Ventura collections. Perhaps that’s just as well, as reviews have cited it as—though excellently done—one of the most disturbing films about male rage ever made.
It’s interesting how a mainstream feature such as the well-publicized The World’s End can lead you to explore your friendly local library’s film vaults to discover a variety of lesser-known but interesting, off-beat (and free!) film discoveries.
European Cookies for Every Occasion, by Krisztina Maksai, is a wonderful and challenging cookie cookbook. The photography is outstanding and the recipes are precise with limited ingredients. With patience and determination this book will bring you to another level of cookie baking. With some practice your cookies will be miniature masterpieces, reeking of elegance and panache!
I took on the Blueberry Surprise recipe. I love blueberries, as noted in an earlier entry, and chocolate is another favorite of mine, so Blueberry Surprise it was! The recipe was relatively easy, rolling the blueberries up into cookie dough was quite fun. I learned a great way to melt chocolate in a microwave oven from this recipe: just do it in ten-second increments, ten seconds then stir. In about 20 seconds I had creamy, melted chocolate to top the cookies off with.
The results of my effort were quite tasty, I must admit. My Blueberry Surprise cookies were a bit rough-hewn and a little bit of the surprise was exposed; however, they were yummy! So, check this book out and astound your family and friends with your cookie-baking skills.
Check out the book at Foster Library, or put it on hold—we will send it to you.
If there are any cookbooks in Foster Library’s collection that you would like me to try out, please leave the title on our Facebook page and I’ll get cooking!
Susan Mikula, Children’s Services Manager, will be presenting Read Me A Story & More, an early literacy educational workshop for parents and/or caregivers of children ages 0-5 on April 30 at 6 p.m. in the E.P. Foster Library Topping Room.
Modeling reading to parents and caregivers during a weekly storytime is just the beginning to help children develop early literacy skills. This early literacy education workshop will give parents and caregivers more tools to become totally engaged with their children.
Susan will share research, developed methods, and the basic supplies needed to take this information home and actually be able to share it with your child. In this workshop, you will learn the value of reading to your child, including the six early literacy skills and five practices. Not only will you learn why it is important to read to your child but how to select materials that include dialogic reading.
This workshop will take parents and caregivers beyond books with activities incorporating art and creativity, discovering the world, language development, exploring concepts, playtime, and oral storytelling. Susan will demonstrate how to transform your child’s favorite book into a flannel board story. Each participant will receive a free bag filled with information, activities, flannel figures, a flannel board, and a free book.
The Read Me A Story & More workshop is limited to ten participants per session. Sign up for this session by calling Star Soto at (805) 648-2716.
Typically when a book is adapted for the screen the general tone and thematic content remain the same, even if specific events or characters are shuffled around. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a rare exception to this rule. Originally a children’s book written in 1970 by Roald Dahl, it was adapted to film by Wes Anderson nearly forty years later—and anyone who is familiar with Anderson’s other works will be unsurprised with how his version turned out.
|Roald Dahl’s story is fairly straightforward: Mr. Fox makes his living by stealing chickens and other delicacies from three local farmers who despise him as a result. The farmers begin to hunt Mr. Fox, who must use his fantastic wit to protect his family and the other inhabitants of the forest. Bearing in mind that this is a book for children, there are still a couple of pretty strong themes present which merit some discussion. For instance, while Dahl’s farmers are presented as disgusting, vindictive men clearly destined to be the antagonists of any narrative, the fact remains that Mr. Fox is, at the end of the day, a thief. Concerns over whether glorifying such a lifestyle is appropriate for a young audience tend to be dismissed on the grounds that stealing is not, in fact, all that bad if it is a.) done to feed one’s family and b.) the victims are bad people. But Fantastic Mr. Fox is also a book about obsession, specifically on the part of the farmers, whose actions not only drive the plot but solidify their position as corrupt—or at least corruptible—characters. From a child’s perspective, it’s easy to see that they are villains, and to believe that villains deserve to be bested by heroes as clever and capable as Mr. Fox.|
|It should be mentioned right off the bat that Wes Anderson’s version of Fantastic Mr. Fox expands the narrative substantially, taking a children’s book of under a hundred pages and turning it into a fairly intricate and frantically-paced comedy. A simple example of this expansion is the portrayal of Mr. Fox—voiced by George Clooney—as a far more complex character, one who struggles to support his family while wrestling with an overblown sense of pride. Anderson interprets the book’s title ironically; Mr. Fox is less fantastic than flawed, leaving room for a significant transformation that simply wasn’t present in Dahl’s version. The supporting characters are fleshed out as well; Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) is no longer one-dimensionally unwavering in her devotion to her husband, and the four fox children are replaced by one brooding son and a curiously-enlightened nephew. Overall, the plot is the same: Mr. Fox makes his living stealing from three farmers who make it their mission to eradicate him and his family from their property. However, the addition of several new scenes and a more fleshed-out cast allows for the exploration of a few additional themes, such as coming to terms with one’s nature and intrinsic value while trying to develop a place in the world relative to those around you—be they friend or foe.|
Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library as part of the second-floor juvenile fiction collection. Wes Anderson’s film version is available at several branches of the Ventura County Library; if the book or DVD is not on the shelf at your local branch, you can request for it to be delivered to the branch of your choosing in person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.
Released into the wild by Ronald Martin.
This event will feature a talk by Dr. Christy Teranishi Martinez, who will examine happiness and well-being from Eastern and Western perspectives.
The talk begins at 6 p.m. We hope to see you there!
In 1986, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger designated each April as “The Month of the Military Child” to celebrate the contributions and inspiration of military children. There are approximately two million military children ranging in age from newborn to 18 years old; 1.3 million military children are school-aged. April is a time to acknowledge the strength and resilience of children who grow up in a unique and often changing environment and to reinforce that the health and well-being of military children contributes to the strength of our Armed Forces as a whole.
As the daughter of a lifetime Army veteran, I know how challenging, as well as rewarding, it can be to grow up as an “Army Brat.” We only saw our extended family in between deployments, if we had enough time. The longest time I ever lived in any one place was three-and-a-half years. I attended three different high schools in three years. This was “normal” for us. I look at the photos from my childhood and I see loving parents who did their best to create a home, no matter where we lived. As long as we were together, we were home.
Military children have a unique heritage and may not always understand civilian life. When asked about our “hometown” we may choose a location where we particularly enjoyed living, the place we lived the longest, or one of our parents’ hometowns. Today’s military children have different dilemmas to deal with than when I was growing up. My mom was a WAC, but she left the service when she married my dad. Today, many military children may have both parents in the service.
Ventura County is home to two military bases, Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station and Port Hueneme Navy Base. There are many families who make use of our libraries, including E.P. Foster. We have a number of materials available that focus on military children and their families.
Resident Photographer Aleta A. Rodriguez