Sunday, 27 July 2008

Sunday July 27, 2008 Fun with Finnish Festivals

I don’t know if it’s the long winter, the strong coffee, hard work or cleansing saunas, but the Finns sure know how to have fun! There’s something about Finnish people and festivals that makes me smile. You’ve probably heard of the fabled Wife Carrying Contests, and have seen the painted chairs. You may have participated in the St. Uhro’s Day parade down Bay Street, but have you heard of Sleepyhead Day? How about nimipaiva?

If you were in Naantali, Finland today, you would be in the midst of Sleepyhead Day celebrations. I found this description of Sleepyhead Day in an article called “Crossing the Finnish line” by Tina Lund Anderson in Europe magazine, Jul/Aug95, using the EbscoHost online database in the Library’s Virtual Collection:

“Sleepyhead Day" is held on July 27 in both Hanko and Naantali, two well-known spa towns. In Hanko, festivities start at 6:30 in the morning with a rousing parade through the streets to the Spa Park, where the Sleeper of the Year--often a public official--is awakened with lots of water over the head. The tradition, traced back to the Christian remembrance of the Eresos martyrs, who slept in a cave, took its present form in the 17th century, during the heyday of spas, when it was common to gather early in the morning to drink the healthy waters. Sleepyhead Day abides in private homes, too, where the Unikeko, or family sleepyhead, gets thrown into the nearest body of water for an eye-opener.

I wonder if the sleepyhead gets to warm up in the sauna after his or her rude awakening?!

The Lonely Planet’s Guide to Finland describes Naantali as one of Finland’s most idyllic port towns. Naantali grew around the Catholic Convent of the Order of Saint Birgitta, founded in 1443. The Convent Church is still standing and offers a program of organ music over the summer. Naantali is also home to the Naantali Music Festival (, held over two weeks from the beginning of June, which features a huge variety of classical music. Naantali is also the official summer home to Finland’s President. The estate, called Kultaranta, is on Luonnonmaa island, and includes a fanciful stone castle.

Moominworld, or Muumimaailma, is also located in Naantali. This fun-filled theme park is based on characters from the wildly popular children’s books of Tove Marika Jansson. You can find some of her books in our Children’s collection and Finnish Language collection. You can visit Moominworld online at – look for the “in English” link if you can’t read Finnish!

Another fun Finnish festival is called nimipaiva – or “name day”. Thanks to my Finnish Friend Tuula, I discovered my nimipaiva was just last week! Wikipedia tells us that name days are a tradition of attaching personal names to each day of the year, and celebrating the association of particular days with those for whom that day is named. It is common in many parts of Europe. The tradition originates from the Christian church calendar and the tradition to name children after saints, although in many countries there is no longer a connection to the church. In Finland people traditionally don’t celebrate their actual birthday, but rather their nimipaiva, and then share the party with others who share their name. I’m going to celebrate both from now on! Find your nimipaiva by using the search tool at

Embrace your inner Finn, mark these special festivals on your calendar, and throw a sleepyhead in the lake today!

Joanna Aegard, Head of Virtual Library Services

Monday, 21 July 2008

Laughter is the Best Medicine!

As you may (or may not) know the Children’s TD Summer Reading Club theme this summer is Laugh Out Loud (LOL) and I want to bring laughter to all of you. With a summer that’s been less than summery we certainly need all the giggles we can get.

Humourous books are written for all ages and all reasons so I’m grouping them into the broad categories of Kids, Teens, and Growed-ups. However, it’s worth sampling selections from all three areas rather than limiting yourself to just one area.


A lot of kids’ books rely on humour to keep us interested and the laughs come from both the text and illustrations. We even have joke and riddle books to tickle your funny bone! Some of them are gross-out funny and others are just a gentle giggle, but we’re sure to have something here for any taste.

There are some great picture books that give a laugh sometimes unexpectedly. One of my favourites is Rotten Island by William Steig (you may know him as the author of Shrek). You wouldn’t expect that a book entitled Rotten Island would be funny, but seeing the monsters terrified of a flower takes the reader by surprise.

Some much loved children’s books have words in them or in their titles that we aren’t necessarily comfortable with kids reading. I usually take this as an opportunity to talk about language and how context can make an acceptable word unacceptable and vice versa. Jon Scieszka (the first National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature in the United States) uses the word “stupid” in the title of his collection of stories The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. Here it’s his silly take on fairy tales. For a little Canadian content check out Good Families Don’t by Robert Munsch and learn why we shouldn’t ignore things we think are gross.

There are also some great chapter books including the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey (the illustrations and laughs are a great bridge to “big kid” reading), I am not Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, and Frindle by Andrew Clements.


Teen books sometimes use humour to address awkward issues and defuse tense situations. Many of the teen “chick lit” books feature moments that make the characters want to bury their heads in the sand, but we get a laugh out of it. The titles can bring on a smile too: Scrambled Eggs at Midnight and Sleeping Freshman Never Lie both got me giggling and no wonder, they’re meant to be funny books.

“Eddie’s father was killed by dragons. No, actually that’s a lie. He was killed when his submarine exploded. No, actually that’s a lie as well. The absolute truth is that he was killed by aliens and his death was covered up by the government because it didn’t want to frighten anyone. Sorry – but that’s not true either.” So begins Running with the Reservoir Pups by Colin Bateman. Right away you want to know what’s really going on with Eddie’s dad and you can be fairly certain it isn’t anything serious or he wouldn’t be telling such wild lies. A couple other books to check out are Alice I Think by Susan Juby and Gilda Joyce Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison, and of course anything by Gordon Korman.


Yes, in keeping with the theme of laughter and silliness I’m not using a proper word for those who are no longer teens. Even if you’re all growed up you can still enjoy a laugh and probably need it more!

We Canadians like to think of ourselves as a funny people so I thought I’d take the opportunity to highlight some of our homegrown talent. Did you know we had all of these books to brighten your day?

Why I Hate Canadians by Will Ferguson

Black and White and Read All Over by Arthur Black

Rick Mercer Report: The Book by Rick Mercer

Your Call is Important to Us: The Truth About Bullshit by Laura Penny

Dear Sad Goat: A Roundup of Truly Canadian Tales and Letters compiled by Bill Richardson

Baby is a Four Letter Word: Surviving the First Two Years of Parenthood by Dorianne Sager

Vinyl Café Diaries by Stuart McLean

When I started the adult list I wasn’t sure how much I would find. Visions of quick summer reads danced in my head and then I found far more than I expected. My summer “to read” list has grown exponentially putting this column together, and I hope yours has too!

Ruth Hamlin-Douglas is the Children's and Youth Services Librarian at the Brodie Library.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Sunday July 6th, 2008 Ice Cream

I scream, you scream, we all scream, for ice cream?! Without a doubt summer is the perfect time to enjoy this sweet frozen treat especially since July is designated National Ice Cream month, as proclaimed in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. He also set the third Sunday in the month as National Ice Cream Day.

Who invented ice cream?

History isn't perfectly clear but it is known that the ancient Greeks served sold snow cones mixed with honey and fruit ( Another source credits Marco Polo, who is said to have brought with him from the China the recipes for water ices in 1295 (World Book Encyclopedia). According to The Oxford English Dictionary, ice cream as we know it today traces its word origin as far back as 1744 with a recipe
appearing in the 1751 edition of The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse.

When was the first ice cream cone created?

Again, it's not that clear. There is a recipe in an 1888 British cookbook for "cornet with cream". In the U.S., the story is that at the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in 1904 a Syrian pastry maker, Ernst Hamwi, came to the rescue of an ice cream vendor who had run out of dishes by making a crisp pastry cone in which to serve the ice cream. (

What are the most popular ice cream flavours?

The International Ice Cream Association uses data provided by the NPD Group's National Eating Trends Service and based on ice cream consumption figures, the top five individual flavors in terms of share of segment in the United States are: vanilla (30%), chocolate (10%), butter pecan (4%), strawberry (3.7%) and chocolate chip mint (3.2%). (

How do you make sure that every bit of your ice cream tastes great?

The International Ice Cream Association offers these suggestions:

1. Be sure your freezer temperature is set between -5F and 0F.

2. Store ice cream in the main part of the freezer. Never store ice cream in the freezer door, where ice cream can be subject to more fluctuating temperatures since the door is repeatedly open and shut.

3. Never allow ice cream to soften and re-freeze. As ice cream's small ice crystals melt and re-freeze, they can eventually turn into large, unpalatable lumps.

4. Keep the ice cream container lid tightly closed when storing in the freezer. It is a good idea to put a covering of heavy duty plastic wrap or aluminum foil around the mouth of the container first, then put the lid over that to ensure a tight seal.

5. Don't store ice cream alongside uncovered foods: odours can penetrate ice cream and affect its flavour.


What causes an "ice cream headache"?

"When something cold touches the roof of your mouth on a hot day, it triggers a cold headache. The cause is a dilation of blood vessels in the head. The dilation may be caused by a nerve center located above the roof of your mouth - when this nerve center gets cold, it seems to over-react and tries to heat your brain. Therefore, the easy way to avoid brain freeze would be to keep cold things away from the roof of your mouth!" (

How long does it take to eat an ice cream cone?

It takes the average person just about 50 licks to polish off a single scoop ice cream cone. (

If you decide to try your hand at creating your own frozen delights, be sure to check out some of the titles that are available at the library. Here is a tasty selection to get you started:

I have to credit the original writer, Bev Fisher, for the inspiration for this column. And here are some words of wisdom from Thornton Wilder for you to ponder: "My advice to you is not to inquire why or whether, but just to enjoy your ice cream while it is on your plate - that's my philosophy." Mine too. And make it two scoops of chocolate, please!

Sylvia Renaud, Head of Reference Services