Sunday, 31 August 2014

Sunday August 31st, 2014 Trends in Picture Books

Bucking the e-book trend is the quality and variety of picture books for children still being produced.  You can look at a picture book on an iPad or Kobo and the images will change with a swipe of the finger but somehow this is still so far from the satisfying experience of a child holding a book in his or her hand or a parent sharing a book on their lap that it is not comparable as a reading experience.

I thought it would be interesting to explore the world of picture books at this point in time and share the trends and themes which are influencing this unique format.  At the Library, picture books are second only to DVDs as the children’s  format of choice. Classics from Robert Munsch and Dr. Seuss circulate just as well as those from hot, new artists and authors like Melanie Watt (Scaredy Squirrel) and Mo Willems (The Pigeon Wants A...).

Celebrity Authors and “Sparkly Books”
This trend is continuing from the 1990s when the absence of staff at box stores who could knowledgably recommend good titles encouraged the publication of books with easily recognized “names” from television or film. Then came a spate of sparkly, gimmicky books with what the industry calls “special effects’ – books which have mirrors, sound effects and glow-in-the-dark pages. Some are good; many are mediocre or worse than that.
Good Example:  Jamie Lee Curtis Is There Really a Human Race?

Reissues in Board Book Format
As more parents recognized the need to read to babies a mini-trend began of reissuing successful picture books as board books. Avoid the ones which try to cram a 25 page story into a 4” X 4” format. They may work from a marketing angle but won’t keep your toddler’s attention.
Good Example: Me Hungry by Jeremy Tankard

Digital Art and Mixed Media
It is getting difficult to recognize which illustrations have been digitally manipulated and which are rendered in watercolour, oil or pastel techniques. More and more we are seeing mixed media creations in increasingly complex and sophisticated variations.
Good Example:  Bright and Early Thursday Evening by Audrey and Don Wood

Combining Fiction with Facts or Creating Non-fiction Picture Books to Teach
Once the lines were clear but now it is common to see picture books about slavery, ballerinas, authors, science or current events. Many have cross-over appeal to older children or adults.
Good Example: Loon by Susan Vande Griek

Genre-Specific Books
Like it or not, there is a very strong trend (and market) for princess or “girly girl” books out there. Correspondingly, there is an insatiable desire for train, big wheels and truck “action” books for little guys.
Good Examples:Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Dusky Rinker or Pinkalicious by
Victoria Kann

Browsing for a good picture book can be a lot of fun. Also, Library staff are knowledgeable about children’s books and always enjoy helping in person or sharing recommendations on the Good Books section on the kids pages of our website

Angela Meady

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Sunday August 24th, 2014 "The war that ended peace: The road to 1914"

Margaret MacMillan (2013) The war that ended peace: The road to 1914, Allen Lane  

Thunder Bay Public Library is leading a partnership project to commemorate World War I and its impact on Thunder Bay. The project partners include the Military Museum, City Archives, Sports Hall of Fame, Aviation Heritage Centre and Lakehead University. Over the next five years we will work together to remember the many different impacts of World War I on Thunder Bay communities. This is also a People’s Project and we encourage local citizens to get involved through our events, displays and publications and by contributing your family histories, photographs, letters, diaries and other memorabilia. Every family has a World War I story; we want to hear yours.

In The War That Ended Peace Margaret MacMillan explores the people and events which led to World War I. Europe had enjoyed a century of almost unbroken peace and in 1900 it was strong, united and confidently striding towards a prosperous future. So what went wrong? In the background and beneath the surface there were a number of simmering tensions. Many of the people in positions of power were either too weak or too strong. Family rivalries among crowned heads of state became influenced by the rush to build empires and feelings of ethnic superiority. Nationalism was on the rise and countries organised themselves into competing power blocs. It was a recipe for disaster. While no single reason for war can be identified, MacLean makes it clear that this toxic brew of shifting alliances had one inevitable outcome – war on a scale that the world had never witnessed before.  

One of MacLean’s themes is that it was the ego of men – from generals and MPs, to civil servants and financiers – that lay at the root of the problem. The front jacket features Kaiser Wilhelm II, Germany’s mercurial leader, and a young Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, who went on to plan the disastrous Dardenelles campaign.  The back jacket captures Archduke Ferdinand of Prussia and his wife, Sophie, minutes before their assassination. Just weeks later, the whole of Europe was thrown into chaos and war. The other key players include Emperor Franz Joseph, who struggled to keep his Austria-Hungarian empire together; Tsar Nicholas II, who was swept away by a Revolution that was triggered by the War; and King Edward VII, who entered into a confrontational arms race with Germany. There are few innocents in this story.

Not everyone subscribes to the ‘Great Man’ view of history but few can deny that it was the ‘great and the good’ who pushed Europe into war in 1914. MacLean reminds us that the voices for peace and calm were ignored. Alfred Noble and Bertha von Suttner, for example, gave loud and frequent warnings about the impending doom. MacLean uses the analogy of a country walk by the Great Powers. This gentle stroll began on a sunlit plain but reached forks at which decisions had to be made; to go this way or that; to choose peace or war. MacLean tries to explain why they chose war, even though it was ultimately in nobody’s interest to do so. Ultimately she focuses on Austro-Hungary’s determination to destroy Serbia, Germany’s support for this reckless act and Russia’s eagerness to mobilise. Once the trains started to roll it became impossible to stop them. France and Britain didn’t want war but did little to stop it. Canada played no direct role but became a staunch ally when war was declared.

As we look back at the events of 1914-18 with the hindsight of history we learn that Europe reached a point where peace failed and war triumphed. The lessons for today are obvious.

John Pateman

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Sunday August 17th, 2014 Art @ Your Library

 The Waverley Resource Library has a new look! This summer, local artists from Definitely Superior Art Gallery and their youth mentorship art collective Die Active designed and painted a mural on the outside of Waverley. The mural, painted by 20 youth artists and 6 mentors, features a crane, a hare, a sturgeon, plant life, patterns and geometric shapes. Check out the Thunder Bay Public Library or Definitely Superior Art Gallery on Facebook for pictures of the mural or visit us today and see it for yourself. 

You don’t have to be an artist to pick up a paint brush and start painting. Discover your inner artist with a little help from these books.

The Artist’s Handbook by Ray Smith covers everything from traditional drawing and painting, to digital printing and photography. For artists of all skill levels, this book will provide you with all the information you need to know on tools, materials and techniques. 

Master your painting technique with the The Brushstroke Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Decorative Painting Brushstrokes by Maureen McNaughton. With more than 50 ways to paint, discover how a stroke of a brush can create a work of art.

The Complete Painting and Drawing Handbook is another guide that will assist you with developing your artistic skills, step-by-step. This book will also show you how to work with oil, watercolour, and acrylic paint. For more detailed information on using different types of paint, you could also try: The Oil Painter’s Bible: An Essential Reference for the Practicing Artist by Marylin Scott; Watercolour Tips and Techniques by Arnold Lowrey, []; or Acrylic Secrets: 300 Tips and Techniques for Painting the Easy Way by Gill Barron.

You have everything you need but can’t decide what to paint. The Library has books on how to paint just about everything: portraits, landscapes, cats, wildlife, flowers, fantasy creatures, and much more.

If you don’t want to paint, enjoy the artwork of famous artists such as Canadian artists from the Group of Seven. Founded in 1920, the Group of Seven are well known for their paintings of Canada’s landscapes. For more information and examples of their work, check out In the Footsteps of the Group of Seven by Jim and Sue Waddington, and The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson by David P. Silcox.

Delve deeper into the history of art and discover the work of influential artists throughout the ages and from around the world. The Art Book is a great introduction to many famous artists and 100 Great Artists: A Visual Journey from Fra Angelica to Andy Warhol by Charlotte Gerlings will provide you with more interesting facts and examples of famous masterpieces.

For more artistic inspiration, the Thunder Bay Public Library also has two photo voice projects on display at the Waverley Resource Library. The See Us, Hear Us project features work from community youth and was made possible through the collaborative efforts of First Nations schools and the Dilico Children’s Foundation. In partnership with Our Kids Count, the photo voice project Broken Pieces, Mended Hearts features pictures and narratives of young parents in our community.

Lindsey Long