Sunday, 28 August 2011

Sunday, August 28th A Traditional and Scientific Look at Fasting

In Anishnaabeg culture, fall is traditionally a time of a special fast. In other cultures and spiritual traditions, too, fasting is used as a means of making people spiritually strong. The following is a brief overview of some of the information the Thunder Bay Public Library has available related to fasting.

According to Basil Johnston, an Ojibway Elder and writer, fasting was a means of overcoming fear while earning a vision. In his book Ojibway Heritage, he discusses how the vision would become a person’s life path, through which “a man found purpose and meaning to his life and to his being.”

Contemporary Ojibway writer, Richard Wagamese, also describes his four-day fast as an important milestone in his sobering empowerment journey in One Native Life. In 2008, this book was selected by the Globe & Mail as one of 100 Books of the Year. I recommend it to everybody.

As I mentioned, fasting is common in other spiritual traditions. Ramadan is one example. In Islamic tradition, fasting is one of the Five Pillars. The pillars are fundamental actions to live one’s life by to be a good Muslim. Fasting is thought to teach humility and thankfulness. If you would like to learn more, check out A Brief Guide to Islam: History, Faith and Politics: The Complete Introduction by Paul Grieve.

Another tradition that includes periodic fasts is Ayurveda, a branch of Hinduism. According to Dr. Vinod Verma’s book, Ayurveda: a Way of Life, fasting is recommended for inner cleansing and for learning self-control. The Ayurvedic variation recommends using a semi-fast, meaning the body isn’t completely without at least some juice.

Although the fasting practices of Islam, Ayurveda and the Ojibway differ in some details, it is interesting to see the similarities for the reasons for fasting. Fundamentally the goal of spiritual empowerment through physical restraint is very much the same. In Ojibway, Muslim and Ayurvedic tradition the fast was to make you spiritually strong, thankful for nourishment usually received, and to make your will strong against materialism. Interestingly, the three traditions have the fall as an important time of ceremony.

For more scientific writing relating to fasting, I recommend the following titles.

In Healthy at 100: the Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest-lived Peoples, author John Robbins takes the reader on a journey to places like Okinawa and Abkhasia where people are noted to live to be well over 100 years old, even up to around 130 years old! One of the most telling differences between North Americans and the cultures of the longest lived, the author says, is the amount of calories consumed in a day. North Americans eat far too much, apparently.

Another author, David Stipp corroborates the correlation of caloric restriction and longevity. In his book The Youth Pill: Scientists at the Brink of an Anti-Aging Revolution, Stipp states that “one group of scientists estimated that if everyone reduced calorie intake by 30 percent at around age thirty, life expectancy would climb by nearly seven years.”

If you are interested in researching this topic more, the Thunder Bay Public Library’s Virtual Collection provides access to a number of health databases. Log on to read academic articles on fasting from the Health and Wellness Resource Center or the Health Reference Center Academic. You will need your library card number and PIN.

Chris Waite

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sunday, August 21, Paddle-to-the-Sea

Some books have a strong impact on a child’s imagination. Of those, there are a few that continue to resonate throughout one’s life. Those are the ones which one remembers most fondly, and which surprise us as adults when we see them again. Suddenly we are awash in memories of how excited we were during the reading, and how much it meant to us at that time. One such classic book, and the classic film inspired by the book, is Paddle-to-the-Sea.

I discovered the book at the Brodie Library as a child and remember poring over the luminous and dramatic illustrations and also recall watching the movie at St.Peter’s school. I travelled with the little canoe on its journey as if I were the one paddling from Nipigon and heading for the open sea. I worried when the carved man and his canoe were scooped up by the fishing net, and I felt sad when Paddle was almost lost among the garbage left in the water by an industrial site. I celebrated with him when he navigated the Soo locks and when he finally reached the Atlantic Ocean. I am far from alone in this – ask any group of adults who may have encountered the book by Holling C. Holling or the National Film Board film by Bill Mason and I guarantee the memory will be vivid and bring a smile to their face. It is that type of a story.

The book and film tell the story about a carving of a man in a canoe which was made by an Aboriginal boy who sets it down on a frozen stream in the Nipigon area to await the thaw which launches the canoe on its long voyage from Lake Superior to the sea.

The book was a Caldecott Award winner in 1942 and has never been out-of-print since it was first published in 1941.
Source: Children’s Literature Review Vol. 50

The film was shot by Bill Mason who meticulously reproduced the trek made by Paddle-to-the-Sea in the book. It was originally intended for the educational market, but eventually was blown to 35mm size and shown in theatres. This led to an Oscar nomination for best short subject in 1968.

Bill Mason was known as the “patron saint of canoeing” and in addition to Paddle-to-the-Sea, he made many instructional films which were the introduction to technique and the canoeing experience for thousands of Canadians.
Source: Fire in the Bones, Bill Mason and the Canadian Canoeing Tradition by James Raffan

Holling C. Holling both wrote and illustrated the book Paddle-to-the-Sea and virtually invented the technique of blending non-fiction and fiction writing for children. “The action part of my stories is fabricated he said, but I have always tried to make the atmosphere surrounding them authentic”.
Source: Horn Book magazine Vol. XVII, no 5, September, 1941

From his time spent living with native people of various nations, the author learned a lot about their way of life and way of looking at the environment. One key thing he learned played a big role in Paddle-to-the-Sea. He learned the method of teaching about geographic features by drawing sketches to outline them in a familiar, natural form. Thus, the Great Lakes drainage system became bowls atop a hill, and Lake Superior became a wolf’s head. I have always since seen our lake as a wolf’s head without remembering where I first encountered that image until I reread Paddle-to-the-Sea.
Source: “The Teachings of Paddle-to-the-Sea” in Learning, Vol. 5, January, 1977

There is a Paddle-to-the-Sea Park in Nipigon, Ontario. It consists of twelve playground stations which lead children, through play, from the waterfall which represents Lake Superior through all the other key sites mentioned in the book and now reproduced throughout the town.

Both the wonderful book and the NFB film can be found and borrowed from your Thunder Bay Public Library. Why not revisit these classics or introduce another generation to this compelling adventure which begins right here – in “Nipigon of all places” (as the tv commercial used to say).

Angela Meady, Head of Children’s & Youth Services

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Sunday August 14, 2011 Play Away with Playaways

I’ve never been shy about sharing my love of audiobooks and I have a particular love of Playaways. Playaways are portable audiobooks; all you need is a battery and a set of headphones. In my opinion, the best thing is that there’s no disc to be scratched, so you’re guaranteed to get to listen to the whole story.

What can you do with a Playaway? You can listen to a book while weeding the garden, doing the dishes, taking a walk or run, or just relaxing. Any time you would use a portable CD player, radio, or MP3 player you can use one of these devices. Some of the things that make it great are that you never need to change a disc, you don’t have to download material on to it, and when you press pause it saves your place. A word to the wise, when you are putting it aside for longer than a few minutes, turn it off or it will drain the battery.

When I searched our catalogue for Playaways today there were 413 results. We keep buying new ones, so you can anticipate seeing this collection grow. There are a wide selection of titles for all ages including both fiction and non-fiction books. Some titles to check out include:

Dewey: The small-town library cat who touched the world by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

Thanks to the above book Dewey has become one of the world’s most famous cats. Found in a book drop on a cold winter night he became the beloved companion to the staff at the public library in Spencer, Iowa. This book is the true biography of a very special cat.

Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag

This sequel to Deeper than the Dead features the murder of a single mother and the subsequent investigation in to her death. It’s set in 1986 so expect pre-DNA testing investigating by Detective Tony Mendez.

Book of Days by James L. Rubart

Protagonist Cameron Vauxs is losing memories he must find the book of days to save his mind. The book contains all the past and future days of every soul on earth. Complicating matters is another seeking the book who will stop at nothing to win.

The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger

Based on the real lives of Lady Duff Gordon and her maid, this book tells the story of the pair’s experiences in Egypt. It’s a fictionalized account of the maid’s expanded freedoms and her first experience of romance. Unfortunately, she is reminded of her place and that she is truly the mistress of nothing.

Room by Emma Donoghue

One room makes up five year old Jack’s entire world. He spends his days in the room and nights locked in the wardrobe. His world is his mother’s prison and she devises an escape plan that will change his world completely.

Meditations to Relieve Stress by Belleruth Naparstek

Four guided meditations are included to help you relieve stress. The first addresses anxiety, the second focuses on peace, love, and protection, the third is a guided walking mediation, and the fourth features affirmations.

The Uninvited by Tim Wynne-Jones

The action centres around Mimi who has just completed her freshman year of college. She journeys to her father’s cottage and finds a stranger there. The plot thickens as he believes Mimi is leaving sinister tokens around the property.

The above are only a few of the many Playaways we have available at Your Library. More and more bestsellers, children’s, young adult, non-fiction titles are becoming available on this format and being added to our collection. I hope you find them as enjoyable as I have.

Ruth Hamlin-Douglas, Adult Services Librarian

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Sunday August 7th, 2011 Novels from the Land of Spices

Everyone has a bucket list of things they’d like to do before they pass away. While some of the items on my list have been dropped and others added, there are a few constants; like a hot air balloon journey, a ride in a gondola in Venice and a trip to India. I first became fascinated by the land of spices when I was about eight, reading the novels of Rudyard Kipling. Trekking through the jungle in search of tigers, feeding the monkeys of Jaipur or standing in the foothills of the Himalayas stirred my imagination as a child and still fills me with a sense of longing. As a mortgage and the lack of a lottery win seem to stand between reality and an intriguing adventure, I can still smell the scent following a monsoon rain in the pages of a library book.

Many readers must share my obsession, as bestseller lists are frequently graced with books about the sub-continent. From older classics by Vikram Seth, Jhumpa Lahiri or Rohinton Mistry to the latest novel by Monica Ali, the stacks are full of stories of the far away and exotic. As the August nights begin to cool, it’s a perfect time to pick up a book or two that will whisk you away.

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

The novel opens in a small Indian village when Kavita, a young mother gives birth to a girl. Wanting only a son, the father plans to kill the baby but the new mother sneaks away to bring the baby to a Mumbai orphanage. In San Francisco, Somer and her husband, Krishnan, find that they are unable to have children and decide to adopt a child from India. While the child, Asha, goes on to a new life in America, Kavita grows melancholy with the loss of the child, and Somer has difficulty attaching to a child that seems so foreign. As Asha grows, finding herself and discovering India become her obsession.

Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee

India is unlike any other country, as it stands on the cusp between the ancient and the modern and between eastern and western cultures. Mukherjee introduces us to 19 year old Anjali Bose, who wishes to be called “Angie”. Angie is desperate to get away from her small village and an arranged marriage, so with the help of her high school teacher, she escapes to Bangalore, the dot-com and call-centre capital of India. The world of the city is not as kind or as exciting as Angie believes, making her examine everything she thought was true and find a blend within herself of the old and new.

Tell it to the Trees by Anita Rau Badami

Mixing the story of a tight Indian family and a tense murder mystery in a small town in northern British Columbia may look like an unlikely setting, but Badami weaves together the story elements with ease. When the dead body of Anu, their tenant, is found frozen in the Dharma family’s backyard, a tale of long-held secrets begin to unravel and the wheels are set in motion for another tragedy.

Dahanu Road by Anosh Irani

A dark secret lies at the bottom of this novel, when a landowner’s son falls in love with the daughter of a tribal worker on his family’s estate. Zairos had lead a life of careless luxury until an unexpected suicide and a confession by his grandfather revealed a history of violence and hatred about the land he was to inherit exposing the truth about his family’s past.

The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar

When Frank and Ellie lose their child to sudden illness, their perfect life is shattered; an unexpected job offer to India gives them the opportunity to start again. Consumed by memories of his lost son, Frank begins a friendship with a bright and curious boy named Ramesh that eventually leads to stark repercussions.

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Sometimes who we really are is only revealed in a time of stress, so when nine strangers are trapped in a passport office following an earthquake, with little food or drinking water, the characters are pushed to the breaking point. In order to maintain their sanity, each shares a personal tale of “one amazing thing” from their lives which they have never shared. The stories cover the gamut of personal experiences and illustrate the strength of the human spirit.

Lori Kauzlarick, Public Services Assistant