Sunday, 20 August 2017

Sunday August 20, 2017 Good to Great

Thunder Bay Public Library is undergoing a transformation into a Community Hub and you may have noticed some of these changes, including self check outs at all branches, hub:north at Waverley, and Northern Nature Trading at Mary J. L. Black Library. This transformation has required changes to the strategy, structures, systems and organizational culture at TBPL. The model we have followed in making these changes is based on a series of books by Jim Collins.

Built to Last:  Successful Habits of Visionary Companies(1994) identified the successful habits of visionary organizations.  Drawing upon a six year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Collins took eighteen truly exceptional and long lasting organizations and studied each in direct comparison to one of its top competitors. He examined the organizations from their very beginnings to the present day and asked ‘What makes the truly exceptional companies different from the comparison companies and what were the common practices these enduringly great companies followed throughout their history?’

The lesson we learned from Built to Last is that TBPL needs a clear ideology, which we call the Community Led Library. We need to make sure that everything we do at TBPL is consistent with this approach. We also need some of what Collins callsBig Hairy Audacious Goals’ which are a commitment to challenging and often risky goals and projects which will stimulate progress at the library. If you use Waverley library you will have noticed that we have been experimenting with the space on the lower level to boost performance.
Good to Great: why some companies make the leap and others don’t (2001) was based on the premise that ‘Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great governments, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life. The vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good – and that is their main problem.’

If we extend this argument to libraries we can say that we don’t have great libraries, principally because we have good libraries. TBPL is a very good library with over 3.3 million interactions with the community every year. But we also have to ‘Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith)’, as Collins puts it. The brutal facts are that only 29% of residents are library members, yet we never lose faith that we can increase this to 40%, 50%, 60% and beyond.  
Great By Choice: uncertainty, chaos and luck – why some thrive despite them all (2011) recognized that ‘Uncertainty is permanent, chaotic times are normal, change is accelerating, and instability will likely characterise the rest of our lives’. Organisations which continue to be great (10x better than their competitors), even during turbulent times, display three core behaviours: fanatic discipline; empirical creativity; productive paranoia. Some of Collins’s findings were counter intuitive. For example, the best leaders are not more risk taking, more visionary or more creative than their competitors; they are more disciplined, more empirical and more paranoid. Innovation by itself is not the trump card in a chaotic and uncertain world; more important is the ability to scale innovation, to blend creativity with discipline. Following the belief that leading in a ‘fast world’ always requires ‘fast decisions’ and ‘fast action’ is a good way to get killed. The great organisations change less in reaction to a radically changing world than their competitors.
TBPL is certainly facing many political, economic, social and technological challenges as it continues on its journey towards becoming a Community Hub. But our path from good to great is being guided by solid research and best practice, including the inspiring work being carried out by Edmonton Public Library.       
John Pateman

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Sunday August 6, 2017 Boating

We’re about halfway through the summer right now. But don’t be sad - we’ve still got a lot of nice weather left. And if the weather continues to be as hot as it has been these last few weeks, this is the perfect time to be out on a boat. If you need some help brushing up on your boating skills, or learning how to maintain a pleasure craft, be sure to stop at the Thunder Bay Public Library (TBPL). We have many resources to help you out!

If you’ve never captained a boat before, we’ve got lots of books to help you out. Both Boating and Sailing by Frank Sargeant and Cruising Under Sail and Power by Tony Meisel are great general overviews of how to boat with either your typical fiberglass boat or a sailboat. Another excellent option is Powerboat Handling Illustrated: How to Make Your Boat Do Exactly What You Want To Do by Robert Sweet. Sweet’s book has tons of illustrations and photos, making it really easy to understand - you’ll be handling your boat like a pro in no time with Sweet’s help!

To operate a pleasure craft in Canada, you need a Pleasure Craft Operator Card. To help you study for the test, which you can take online through an accredited course provider such as BOATsmart, we’ve got the BOATsmart! Pleasure Craft Operator Card Study Guide. If you were planning on using another program, or otherwise need to brush up on boating safety, we have many other books to help you out, such as The Safe Boater Manual: the Canadian Coast Guard Accredited Manual for Pleasure Craft Operators by Andrew Stevenson, or Transport Canada’s Safe Boating Guide.

If you need some help with boat maintenance, you should try the Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual: How to Maintain, Repair, and Improve Your Boat’s Essential Systems by Nigel Calder. Calder’s book is a maintenance bible, going into a lot of depth on a wide variety of boat systems. While we also have a couple of older editions of the book, be sure to check out the 2015 edition, which has been heavily updated from older versions. Another option is Boat Mechanical Systems Handbook: How to Design, Install, and Recognize Proper Systems in Boats by Dave Gerr. Gerr will teach you everything you need to know about designing, installing mechanical systems, or retrofitting an existing boat. His book is geared more towards owners of larger craft, but you’ll still find this book valuable if you’re using a smaller craft.

If you need to repair your boat’s engine, you should also check out the Small Engine Repair Reference Center, which is a database available on My Giant Search. This database has detailed instructions on how to repair a wide variety of small engines; it includes all terrain vehicles, generators and other outdoor power equipment along with personal watercraft and boat motors. You can access it with your library card and PIN from home, or come into one of our branches for some help.

Once your boat is on the water, if you’d like to go fishing, TBPL can help you out with that as well. We are a TackleShare Loaner Site for the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, which means that children and youth ages 16 and under can sign out a rod, reel, and tackle from the Brodie or Waverley Resource Libraries. TackleShare loans go out for a week and are of course free!

So whether you’re learning about boating, needing to fix your boat, or wanting to take your kids out fishing, the Thunder Bay Public Library can help get you out on the lake!

Shauna Kosoris

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Sunday July 30th, 2017 Art at your Library

When you think about where to find interesting works of art in Thunder Bay, the options might include the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Definitely Superior, and many local galleries and shops. But do you ever think of visiting a branch of the Thunder Bay Public Library for browsable art collections? If not, you should. The Library’s collections are not limited to books that you can borrow, use, or download but also include photos, paintings, and one of a kind pieces that you won’t find anywhere else.

The largest work of art is actually the architectural masterpiece that is the Brodie Resource Library. It is one of only 111 Carnegie libraries built in Ontario. Construction began in 1910 and the doors opened to the public in 1912 under the direction of Miss Mary J. L. Black (rumoured to have been a friend to members of the Group of Seven). Located at 216 Brodie Street South, the Brodie Resource Library maintains many of its original features, most notably the interior columns and the stained glass fanlights with portraits of prominent authors and poets. During the Library’s early years it offered a variety of art prints and paintings available for borrowing so that patrons could enjoy works of art without having to make the financial investment. A full length feature about the Brodie Resource Library was published in June 2017 in the Walleye and is definitely worth a look.

The Story-Teller by John Ferris is in tribute to the late Dr. Richard Lyons, an Ojibway elder whose “life and directly related to the role of our public libraries, places where knowledge, culture and tradition are passed on.” According to Ferris, through the eagle and eagle feathers, the painting is meant to represent “the strength and vitality of creation and tradition expressed in ritual storytelling, which soars above us all in the life and language we share.” This painting was presented to the Thunder Bay Public Library on October 15, 2007. It now hangs above the fireplace on the main floor of the Brodie Resource Library.

Dozens of photos, prints, and other works of art are on display around the building. A self guided art tour brochure can be picked up from staff to provide further information.

Another notable piece can be found at the Mary J. L. Black Branch Library - a mosaic mural by Fort William artist, Ruby Owen. It depicts a man transforming into a Thunderbird and it based upon an earlier painting by Norval Morriseau. Owen created this mural between 1964-1965 and it reportedly contains 27,000 individual tiles. Installed in the lobby on November 18, 1965, the mural hung there for 45 years until 2010 when it was carefully removed for restoration, cleaning, and moving to its new location at 901 Edward Street South. When the new Mary J. L. Black Branch library opened in 2011, the mural once again greeted everyone coming into the building. Works by Norval Morriseau, Roy Thomas, and  other local/regional artists also adorn the walls around the branch.

For further resources and ways to access art at your library, check out the local history section of our website or attend an upcoming program for children, youth, or adults (such as Afternoon Artist in September). There is a full slate of programming scheduled for the 2017 Fall season that is guaranteed to have something for everyone. And as always, if you have an idea or have skills to share we want to hear from you!

Jesse Roberts

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Sunday July 23, 2017 What to read in-between episodes of Game of Thrones

After nearly a year, the new season of Game of Thrones has finally started and for many the intrigue and machinations that occur on screen are only matched by the arguments and theorizing of the fans who follow each scene or word of dialogue looking for clues on what is going to happen next.  Will Jon or Dany ascend the Iron Throne?  Will the remaining Starks ever be re-united? Will the Night King and his army of the dead destroy all of Westeros?

The days between episodes are a great time to discover more about the world of the “Song of Ice and Fire”.  For those who haven’t read the series by George R.R. Martin, reading the novels behind the television series fleshes out the characters and their actions, and lets the reader delve into the history behind the events that are unfolding this season. These novels are a work of true high fantasy, and Martin is a master at world building, so that the characters and the settings are rich and complex. The novels are long so starting now should ensure you are caught up by the beginning of the final season rumoured to start in 2019.

Martin has written a companion book, “The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and The Game of Thrones”, which is heavily illustrated and full of family trees, maps and drawings which are included in this historical compendium written by a “maester” and expands upon several side stories and characters that are featured in the main book.  There is also an exploration of the physical geography of the world beyond Westeros and Essos into realms that are both fascinating and terrifying.

The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is also by Martin and concerns the adventures of Dunk and Egg, also known as Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire, Prince Aegon, who is hiding his ancestry. The book is a set of three novellas and is lighter in tone and scope.  The events in this book take place about a hundred years prior the beginning of the deeds of the first tv season. This makes a great starting point for someone who is not quite ready to take on an epic read.

Considering the horrific nature of much of the action in the series, it is a surprise to know that Martin, who is a history fan, based a lot of Game of Thrones on the period known as the War of the Roses, which saw the struggle for the throne of England waged between two rival houses, the Yorks and the Lancasters. If you are interested in this period, there are a number fictional and factual historic accounts of what happened during the decades long conflict. A few of the most recent include historical novelist Phillipa Gregory focus on the women behind the kings and the kingmakers during the period in her series of Plantagenet and Tudor novels. The first book in the series is “The Lady of the Rivers”. Author Conn Iggulden has recreated court life with its dark secrets and darker deeds beginning in 1437 with the accession of frail and sickly king, Henry IV. “Stormbird” is the first in the Iggulden’s War of the Roses series.

For a solid factual account of the period Tom Penn, has written the “Winter King: Henry VII and the dawn of Tudor England” and Phillipa Gregory displays all research she has done in the book “The Women of the Cousin’s War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King’s Mother.”

Lori Kauzlarick

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Sunday July 16, 2017 Book Bundles

Our resourceful staff have been putting together something fun for you:  Book Bundles!  Book Bundles are groups of three or four books (or maybe even DVDs or CDs) on a similar theme.  Book Bundles can save you time, and help you discover a new author or artist.  Some of my favorites are described below.

Books, books, books

This bundle includes Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore by Robin Sloan, The little Paris bookshop by Nina George, and The bookseller by Mark Pryor. Interestingly all three books involve mysteries.

In Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore, the bookstore itself is integral in the mystery. Selected bookstore patrons are invited to join in an elaborate quest to solve a puzzle. A new bookstore clerk finds himself pulled into the drama.

The little Paris bookshop tells the story of Monsieur Perdu, a bookseller with a gift of providing the just the right books to meet the needs of his customers. Monsieur Perdu’s shop is on a barge floating on the River Sein. He calls himself a “literary apothecary” as he prescribes books like medicine. Sadly, however, he is unable to heal his own broken heart with books. One day, accompanied by lovelorn chef, and best-selling author with writer’s block, he pulls up anchor and embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

The bookseller begins with the abduction on an elderly bookstall owner, Max.  One of the “bouquinistes” who sets up shop next to the River Sein, Max is lucky to have as a friend the head of security at the US Embassy. His friend launches an investigation and discovers Max is a Holocaust survivor, and Nazi hunter. Could his history be related to his disappearance?

Seniors behaving badly

This is a fun bundle, and reminds readers of all ages to have fun and follow their hearts. It includes The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson , The little old lady strikes again by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg and Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper.

The 100 year old man climbs out the window of his retirement home because he doesn’t really want to go to his 100th birthday party. He goes on a bit of a Forrest Gump type journey, where dumb luck serves him well. His disappearance is reported to the local police, who demonstrate ageism and ignorance as they fumble along three steps behind him.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James tells the story of a woman fulfilling her lifelong dream of seeing the ocean. This quirky book focuses on Etta, a retired Saskatchewan school teacher.  She leaves a note for her husband Otto asking him not to follow her, and sets off on foot one morning.  As with many literary journeys, hers is both physical and spiritual.  Etta reflects on her life as she walks, revealing how she happened into a job at a dusty one room school house, fell in love with a boy who was sent off to war, and ended up marrying another.

The little old lady in Ingelman-Sundberg’s book leads a jolly group of friends on a trip to Vegas. They use their age to their advantage as they plot a money-making scheme. Like Robin Hood, they live by the motto “take from the rich and give to the poor”, and in this story outsmart a group of young criminals in the process.

The 27 club

This CD bundle highlights some artists who died young -- at age 27.  It includes Kurt Cobain’s Montage of heck, the soundtrack from the documentary about his life. Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black was her second and last album. Janis Joplin’s Greatest hits rounds out this bundle. This CD features live versions of Down On Me and Ball and Chain.

You will find Book Bundles at all four Library Branches. Children’s book bundles are also available, and are especially handy for busy families.

Joanna Aegard

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Sunday July 9th, 2017 Decolonisation

Thunder Bay Public Library (TBPL) was an active participant in the Confederation of Canadian Library Associations (CFLA) Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC). John Pateman, the TBPL Chief Librarian, was one of the Team Leaders on this Committee, which was made up of representatives from all types of libraries and library organisations across Canada.

The TRC produced a report, which was adopted by CFLA and TBPL, which put forward ten recommendations in response to the 94 Calls for Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. TBPL is now going to put these ideas into action via a number of short term initiatives and, in the medium and long term, through its next Strategic Plan 2018-23; in doing so we will be working with a wide range of stakeholders, and particularly the Indigenous community in Thunder Bay. So, what does this all mean in practice?

TBPL will ensure that collections and programming will be fully accessible to all Canadians.   We will ‘decolonize Access and Classification by addressing the structural biases in existing schemes of knowledge organization and information retrieval arising from colonialism by committing to integrate Indigenous epistemologies into cataloguing practice and knowledge management’.  In other words we will review our use of subject heading and the Dewey Decimal Scheme and move towards a more user-friendly, inclusive and intuitive approach to how we arrange and present our collections.
TBPL will also  ‘decolonise Libraries and Space by recognizing and supporting Indigenous cultures, languages and knowledges through culturally appropriate space planning, interior design, signage, art installations, territorial acknowledgements of geographic-specific traditional territories and public programming in collaboration with local Indigenous stakeholders’.  We will work with our Aboriginal Liaison staff member and the Aboriginal Advisory Group to make these changes. Our ambition is to create Indigenous Knowledge Centres in our branch libraries.

In addition, TBPL will be responding to the recommendations from the Seven Youth Inquest into the deaths of seven Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay. Thirty-one of these recommendations were directed at the City of Thunder Bay and its partners. We particularly want to work with the City at putting in place programs that improve the physical, social and cultural infrastructure. We want everyone who uses TBPL to feel included, engaged, safe and have opportunities to succeed. We will work with  Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School and Matawa Learning Centre and other community organisations to achieve these objectives.

TBPL is a free information, cultural and recreation resource which is open to everyone who lives, works and studies in Thunder Bay. We have over three million interactions with the community every year. We are in the process of transforming our libraries into Community Hubs which can deliver a range of local and provincial services in partnership with a number of organisations. In the fall of 2017 we will be starting a program of Community Conversations to get as many people engaged in this process as possible. Libraries will be hosting Open Houses where you can Meet the Team and join a local Community Action Panel. TBPL is your library service and we need to hear your voice.

John Pateman

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Sunday July 2, 2017 Vinyl Records

The vinyl record made a comeback about ten years ago and continues to grow in popularity. New artists often prefer to release their newest work in this format and there is a thriving scene in reissuing classic titles. Now, your public lirary is launching the reintroduction of vinyl into our library collections with a celebration of the music of 1967, the year of the breakthrough Beatles album Sgt. Pepper and the year that rock albums truly came of age. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of this watershed year we have gathered fifty albums of 1967 and installed a listening station with two turntables at the Waverley Library. This allows one to deep dive into the music of that intensivly creative era and to enjoy the unique pleasures of the vinyl experience.

The music of 1967 displayed a tremendous variety as bands eager to test new ideas, dramatically altered the form of popular music and drew on wide influences of blues, folk, eastern music, jazz, classical and the avante-garde to expand the musical vocabulary. The experimentation showed towards music was paralleled in the stories of social and cultural movements around the world and also in the blossoming of creativity in album cover art. These facts adds even more resonance to the experience of listening to this music whether it is to relive an idealistic time which you have gone through before, or whether you are discovering this music for the first time.

Seemingly all at once, many important figures in the field were creating landmark albums every month, and defining how music would develop over the coming years. There was an overwhelming number of major artists who were releasing their classic works, or debuting their music for the first time in 1967. Heavyweights such as the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Cream, the Kinks, Aretha Franklin and the Who were in their prime but also appearing for the first time were such artists as Leonard Cohen, the Doors, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, Procol Harem, the Velvet Underground, Traffic, Van Morrison, the Moody Blues and many others. Just seeing that short list of names should tell you why it was such a defining year for music.

We want everyone to enjoy to enjoy this opportunity to have a hands-on relationshp with this music. Starting this upcoming week, you can find some of the records to try out at the listening station (bring your own earphones or buy one at the desk) and staff will be happy to help those who are unfamiliar with  the technology. The collection of fifty abums allows us to provide a wide range of music from the big names and classic titles to lesser-known albums, and some interesting oddities.

Some albums are in new remastered heavy vinyl and some are actually fifty year old originals. The whole installation involves quite a bit of experimentation as we endeavour to find out what works best for library users. We hope that you will try out the listening stations and share what you think about this new aural experience @ Your Library.

Angela Meady

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Sunday June 25, 2017 Summer Fun at Your Library!

Summer conjures up images of lazy days reading on the beach, in a hammock, or on the back deck. You might also be up for an adventure!  If you need some inspiration for what to read, or for a new adventure, come to your Library.  

The Adult Summer Reading Game is a unique way you can celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.  All you have to do is pick up a bingo card at any Library location, and choose your challenges.  To complete one row on the bingo card, for example, you’ll be required to borrow and read a work by a Canadian Indigenous author, borrow an audiobook, read or listen to a Stuart McLean title, and bring a friend to the Library.  After completing a row, drop off your card at any Library location to be entered in a draw.  You could win a prize from one of our generous sponsors:  Towneplace Suites Marriott, The Community Auditorium or Magnus Theatre.  There are four different bingo cards, and you can play as often as you like!  The game is on all summer -- be sure to have your cards in by August 30th.

For the children, the ever-popular TD Summer Reading Club is back again.  Sign up for weekly reading incentives, and a wrap-up celebration.  At the beginning of the summer children get a booklet to track their progress, then visit the library once a week to tell us about what they’ve been reading, and collect a sticker and prize. The TD Summer Reading Club runs at 2,000 public libraries across Canada, and is a unique way to keep kids reading throughout the summer.  The program is led by Toronto Public Library in partnership with Libraries and Archives Canada, with sponsorship by TD Bank.  Visit the website at for all sorts of fun activities and useful resources, including jokes, reading suggestions for all levels, reviews, colouring sheets and more. You can submit your own review or joke as well.

The Big Boreal Adventure is a fun way to explore our area, for both children and adults.  It’s a free, nature-based scavenger hunt, designed to get people outside, exploring the City.  Pick up a guidebook from one of our Library locations to get started.  The Adventure involves finding posts with  Guidebooks include a map indicating where all the posts are.  You may have seen these posts in City parks.  The guidebook includes interesting information about each location you’ll visit, and a space to do a rubbing from the stainless steel plate on each post.  Go to for more information.

We also have nature kits available to be signed out, to enhance your adventures!  Each kit includes a story book with a nature theme, a non-fiction nature book such as a bird identification guide, a magnifying glass, binoculars, a compass, a booklist of recommended titles, and a nature activity sheets for you to do.  Kits can be signed out for three weeks using your Library card. Ask at the staff desk for whichever Nature Kit is available for borrowing that day or place a hold from the catalogue -- look up “Big Boreal Adventure Kit”.

If you’re into history, The Big Boreal Adventure Goes Historical is for you!  Similar to the main adventure, there’s a guide book you can pick up at any Library location.  It includes maps for tours of five different areas of the City, with fascinating information about historical buildings and events.  Discover the story of the bell at Hillcrest Park, Connaught Square, and the Pagoda and many more!

Summer hours start today at your Library, and will be in effect until Labour Day.  We’ll be closed on Sundays, Mary Black and Waverley will be closed Saturdays, and all locations will close at 8 pm when usually open until 9 pm.  Visit our website for full hours:

See you at your Library soon!

Joanna Aegard

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Sunday June 18, 2017 Pride Month

Books let us explore new worlds and experiences, and are one the best ways to develop empathy and understanding. Every reader deserves both mirrors and windows: literature that reflects their life and literature that offers insight into the lives of others. TBPL is committed to making those mirrors and windows available to Thunder Bay’s LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning) community.

Over the last several years, the number of available books featuring LGBTQ experiences has grown, especially in fiction for young adult readers. As the collection specialist for Young Adult materials since 2011, it has been very gratifying and exciting to watch this evolution. It wasn’t that long ago the most well-known LGBTQ books for youth could be counted off on one hand: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman for young children; Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky for YA. Today, a wide breadth of experiences, orientations, and identities can be found in all sorts of different books. Of course, there are still many gaps in representation, but we are moving in the right direction.

If you are interested in finding some mirrors or windows in books featuring LGBTQ experiences, a great place to start is by checking out award winners and nominees like the Rainbow Book List of recommended books with “significant gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning content” for youth from birth to 18: Another resource is the Stonewall Book Awards, presented to adult and young adult books on the basis of “exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience”: The Stonewall Awards cover adult and youth picks. Finally, there are the Lambda Literary Awards, which “identify and celebrate the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender books of the year and affirm that LGBTQ stories are part of the literature of the world”:

For more personalized suggestions, visit the Browse section of our website for reading lists tailored to the materials available at TBPL. For young readers, try Worm Loves Worm by J J Austrian, a sweetly funny picture book about gender identity. Worm loves worm and they want to get married – but their friends have lots of questions. Which worm is the bride? Which is the groom? And does it matter? What makes a family is explored in Stella Brings the Family by Miriam Schiffer, a picture book about a child with two dads navigating the Mother’s Day holiday.

Tim Federle’s Nate Series for ages 9-12 foregrounds a young boy who is passionate about Broadway, musicals, and making his acting dreams come true. He is also gay. This middle grade chapter book is one of the very few titles for this age featuring a gay, lesbian, or bisexual protagonist. George by Alex Gino is one of several middle grade novels foregrounding transgender characters, and is the winner of a Stonewall Award. Graphic novel fans will enjoy Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill, an adorable romp that subverts the typical princess conventions and ends with the girls finding their happily ever after together.  

Readers can find more representation in Rick Riordan’s two new series for youth. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard has a gender-fluid transgender character appear in book two, and has won a Stonewall Book Award. His other series, The Trials of Apollo, features the god Apollo as a present-day bisexual teenager. There are too many great Young Adult books to suggest here, so please visit our website’s Browse section to peruse the complete book lists!

Finally, our collection of non-fiction is also growing. We have resources like Transgender Children and Youth: Cultivating Pride and Joy With Families in Transition by Elijah Nealy and Queers Were Here: Heroes and Icons of Gay Canada, edited by Robin Ganev and RJ Gilmour. This June, why not celebrate Pride Month by picking up one of the many recommended reads and expanding your perspective by reading through some windows.

Laura Prinselaar

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Sunday June 11th, 2017 Wonder Women

The release of Wonder Woman, the latest film adaptation based on the DC comic books, was a major step forward for female character driven films. Not only was it a critical darling, it was a box office success for a female centered film. Surprisingly, the character of Wonder Woman, introduced in 1941, has never achieved the level of fame as other DC characters, such as Superman or Batman. This new entry presents Wonder Woman, not as a romantic or comic foil, but as a bold and determined fighter trying to bring about an end to World War I. Strong female characters like Wonder Woman serve also to remind us of other beloved female literary and cinematic icons.

One of the most memorable female heroines in recent years is Lisbeth Salander, the mysterious computer hacker who fights to protect woman from violence in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005). What makes Salander such a brilliant creation is the writer’s refusal to create her into a clich├ęd avenging angel. Instead, the reader is treated to a nuanced depiction of a fully realized character that uses her intelligence and skill to seek and defend the truth. The progression of Salander’s story continues onto the The Girl Who Played With Fire (2006) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (2007). The series continued most recently with the addition of The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2015).  

Clarice Starling, the main character in The Silence of the Lambs is a similar example of a woman who completely commits herself to a professional calling in order to rescue a missing woman. Published in 1988 and accompanied by a film version in 1991, FBI agent Starling’s pursuit for justice was complicated by her gender in a male-dominated environment. One of the underlying themes in both the novel and film is the latent sexism and harassment that Starling endures while trying to competently determine the location of a missing woman at the hands of a sadistic serial killer.

The ongoing Alien franchise is another example of female led action films that have shown that when it comes to battling blood thirsty extraterrestrials, woman have proven to be the stronger sex. Ridley Scott’s 1979 Alien introduced audiences to Ellen Ripley, a space officer aboard the Nostromo, who fights to protect her crew from an alien life form that threatens to kill everyone on board. Ripley’s story continues into the sequel Aliens (1986) and Alien 3 (1992), all of which have left an indelible impact in the plethora of science fiction films. Most recently, the display of awesome feminine strength continues with Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist hoping to discover the origins of human life in Prometheus (2012), a prequel to Alien.

Strong female characters, however, do not have to be good or virtuous in order to demonstrate their strengths. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (2012) is a powerful example of how a female character challenges sexist thought and observation about women by employing a sinister deception to demonstrate her point. On the surface level, Gone Girl may seem like well-crafted pulp fiction about murder and deception, but a closer observation reveals a complex feminist commentary on gender roles. The discussion of gender roles can also be found in television, most notably in House of Cards. The anti-hero Claire Underwood in the hit show depicts a woman in power who resorts to questionable actions in order to prove her worth among her colleagues in order to obtain one of the highest positions in the world: the American presidency.`

Petar Vidjen

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Sunday June 4th, 2017 Video Game Novels

Years ago, I remember laughing at the thought of a novelization of my then-favourite video game, Starcraft. The book was Jeff Grubb’s Liberty’s Crusade, which novelized the first third of Starcraft.  I’ve played the game many times, and know the story like the back of my hand.  Why would I want to read about it, too?  Flash forward a few years and I ended up reading Liberty’s Crusade as part of a collection of the first three Starcraft novels.  Thanks to Grubb’s excellent writing, Liberty’s Crusade was actually a fantastic read!  I no longer snub my nose at video game novels (although I know they can be hit or miss, much like any other genre of book - it depends on whether or not you like the author’s writing style).  This is just as well, since nowadays video games are often part of vast transmedia empires, with many books and movies to enjoy along with the games.  And while we may not have Liberty’s Crusade, many others are available here at the Thunder Bay Public Library.

One book that I particularly enjoyed was Fable: the Balverine Order by Peter David.  The premise of the book is that two guys go on a quest to find the rare balverine.  I thought this was hilarious because within the Fable games, balverines are not remotely rare. But David is an excellent writer; he turns this premise into a fantastic read about proving to the world (and yourself) that the impossible truly is possible.

If you’re a fan of the Halo franchise, we have many books and graphic novels available both in our libraries and online on Hoopla. I thought Eric S. Nylund’s Halo: the Fall of Reach was interesting; it tells the story of how the Master Chief became a Spartan.  It has a bit of overlap with the game Halo: Reach, but the story differs; the book details more of the space battles rather than the ground ones that contributed to the planet’s fall.  I love how the books in the Halo franchise take place during different time periods. Books like Greg Bear’s Halo: Cryptum take place in the distant past before humanity existed; others, like Karen Traviss’s Kilo-Five books (Glasslands and The Thursday War) take place after the original Halo trilogy.

While I’m talking about Halo, I should also mention that Red vs. Blue is available to stream on Hoopla.  Red vs. Blue is a comedy series created using the Halo video games and has very little to do with the Halo story.  I find it quite hilarious and very much recommend it.

While many television series based off of video games have been popular, the movies have a long history of being rather bad.  But last year, Warcraft, the highest grossing video game adaptation to date, was released.  The movie is based off of the first game (made in 1994); you may be familiar with the franchise thanks to the very popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft.  The movie follows both the horde of invading orcs and the humans who are fighting against them.

I’ve mentioned a lot of books and movies for adults; we of course have things for kids, too.  We’ve got plenty of Pokemon books, graphic novels and movies, including the latest games adapted as graphic novels (Pokemon XY, and Pokemon Omega Ruby Alpha Sapphire - there are no adaptations of Pokemon Sun and Moon yet).  We’ve also got lots of Minecraft and Angry Birds books, which are also quite popular.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the books or movies I have mentioned here (and many more!) be sure to head to your local library!

Shauna Kosoris

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Sunday May 28th, 2017 Simplify Your Life

The simple life has been attractive for generations, but with an increasingly fast paced world it seems to be gaining ever broader appeal.  As people strive for work life balance they may find it elusive.  This can then lead to thorough evaluation of what kind of life they want to live.  Some of those who have gone down the path towards simplicity have chosen to share through writing. 

An n early book on this topic is Voluntary Simplicity:  Toward a Way of Life That is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich by Duane Elgin first published in 1981.  In the very first chapter Elgin notes that we all “know where our lives are unnecessarily complicated” and that’s important to note.  How I may simplify my life will differ somewhat from each other person who does so.  We each can make the changes to reduce unnecessary complications from our lives.  In the 1990s Elaine St. James wrote several books on simplicity not the least of which is Living the Simple Life:  A Guide to Scaling Down and Enjoying More.  As with other books on this topic there’s no one way to do things, but St. James offers methods to make any life simpler.  One such suggestion is never to touch a piece of mail more than once.

Many of these books include an environmental or ecological component.  This comes as no surprise given that there is an idealized back to the land aspect of what many people yearn for when thinking of simple living.  A great read for those looking for those with an environmental slant is Sweetness of a Simple Life:  Tips for Healthier, Happier and Kinder Living Gleaned from the Wisdom and Science of Nature by Diana Beresford-Kroeger practical advice with a deep respect for the natural world. 

Working in tandem with concerns for the environment is  following a path that is true to oneself are woven into many of the books on living a simpler life.  In Present over Perfect:  Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist we are invited to join the author on a journey towards her essential self.  The world frantic in the title gives an idea of the life Niequist was no longer satisfied with and she invites the reader to live a more present life. 

In Downshifting:  The Guide to Happier, Simpler Living authors Polly Ghazi and Judy Jones examine different options to create a more balanced life.  They make it clear that there is no one solution that fits for everyone, but rather a variety of ways to improve the quality of one’s days.  Real life examples are included and challenges are not glossed over.  Financial considerations have a major impact as does the amount of control the downshifter may have.  Downshifting due to corporate downsizing is not the same as making a choice to downshift when you see downsizing on the horizon.
Ruth Hamlin-Douglas

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Sunday May 21st, 2017 Sheila Burnford Collection

The large attendance at the recent showing of Homeward Bound, the Walt Disney movie based on The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, indicates that there are still many people in Thunder Bay who remember Sheila and her work. And some of this work was on display at Trinity Church hall, including foreign editions of The Incredible Journey in many different languages. The good news is that the Sheila Burnford Collection – including her personal papers, typewriter and other artifacts - is going to be held by Thunder Bay Public Library. This will make a unique resource available to the local, provincial, national and international community. It will also enable programming and activities around the collection.

While The Incredible Journey – the story of two dogs and  a cat who travel home through 200 miles of the NW Ontario landscape – is a Canadian Classic, some of Sheila Burnford’s other works are not so well known. There are plans to make a series of documentaries about Sheila – each based on one of her books – to raise their profile.

In The Fields of Noon Sheila Burnford turns to old and new animal friends in a sheaf of reminiscences. Her interests are far-ranging, although always grounded in nature.  Among the creatures who sit for portraits are Tom, a cat that came with the snows and left with the spring and would never submit to human bondage; Claud, the canary whose catered summers are delightfully recorded; and William, the aged dog who had brought up the children and who was then patiently attended by them.

Without Reserve is the true account of two not-exactly-ordinary housewives – Sheila Burnford and her artist friend Susan Ross – and their lives with the Cree and Ojibwa people on their remote northern reserves. Sheila and Susan recorded the wild rice harvesters, Lake Nipigon, the people of the Big Trout Band, spring days at Sandy Lake, Fort Severn, Casabonika and Yelling Falls, and Ohnemoos: the Indian Dog. This connection with First Nations will be explored as an important aspect of the Sheila Burnford Collection at TBPL.

In her next book, One Woman’s Arctic, Sheila Burnford travelled even further afield, and spent two idyllic summers close to the North Pole in the Inuit community of Pond Inlet. She not only appreciated the people and scenery but archaeology; at a nearby dig she participated in the first planned recovery from the permafrost of wooden masks and other artifacts. She explored two strange graves, old traders’ buildings, and blubber cauldrons from whaling days. Everything was recorded in a narrative prose style that enables you to imagine what it was like to experience these adventurers first hand.

Sheila Burnford turned prophet in Mr Noah and the Second Flood when she predicted the outcomes of global warming and climate change. This modern fable tells the story of the original Noah’s great-great-many-times-great grandson’s building another ark when pollution causes a second Deluge.

In her final work, Bel Ria, Sheila Burnford offers the spellbinding tale of a small dog caught up in the Second World War, and of the extraordinary life-transforming attachments he forms with the people he meets in the course of a perilous passage from occupied France to besieged England.

If you have any memories of Sheila Burnford and her family, or any artifacts (such as photos of the world premier of The Incredible Journey in Port Arthur) which you would like to share, please bring them into any branch of Thunder Bay Public Library. We want the Sheila Burnford Collection to become a community-led and driven project which engages with as many local people as possible. By working in partnership with Lakehead University the collection will be available to both academic researchers and those who love the work of Sheila Burnford, Thunder Bay’s very own world class author.

John Pateman

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Sunday May 14th, 2017 Moms at the Library

Whether you call her Mom, Mommy, Mother, Momma or any other of the variations of the title, today is devoted to saying thanks to our mothers and grandmothers, as well as the other women who have helped raise us. Along with traditional families, we live in the new world of single and blended or re-blended families, so the concept of Moms and motherhood has changed drastically. Along with regular moms, there are biological moms, adoptive moms, stepmoms, foster moms, and even moms who are Dads. Despite the television commercials full of fresh-faced toddlers bringing their Mom breakfast in bed, the coming of Mother’s Day can be a mixed bag of emotions. For those who have lost their Mother through death, as well as distance or estrangement, the day can be tinged with sadness, or pain. Scouring the shelves of the library for books about mothers and motherhood, it was easy to see that the image of the perfect mother is being replaced with a more realistic picture of someone who is doing their best to raise another human being. A number of humourists have taken a look at the subject with side splitting results, so this Mother’s Day, take your Mom to dinner, buy her flowers and give her a book that will bring tears to her eyes in a good way.

Mommy Shorts Guide to Remarkably Average Parenting by Ilana Wiles Wiles, the creator of the wildly successful Mommy Shorts blog, has written a book detailing the highlights and lowlights that she has encountered as she parents her daughters. In a series of essays full of occasional cringe-worthy honesty, Wiles shares stories of her mishaps, (accidently swearing, forgetting about a bake sale, wreaking a favourite outfit in the laundry) and the moments of wonder that come with having children.

Sippy cups are not for chardonnay: and other things I learned as a new Mom by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor From the moment the test turned blue, Wilder-Taylor found herself in a world of parenting “experts”, who happily doled out frequently conflicting advice and opinions on all aspects of her pregnancy and childrearing. The essays and anecdotes deal with everything from breastfeeding to playdates, in a delightful manner that mixes facts with farce.

If You Give a Mom a Martini…100 Ways to Find 10 Blissful Minutes for Yourself by Lyss Stern In a combination of hilarious tales and practical tips, Stern suggests ways that Mothers, whether new or experienced can actually find time for themselves during an average hectic day. The suggestions were culled from friends, neighbours and celebrities and range from the practical to the outlandish but each is guaranteed to raise a smile.

Mother, can you not? : And you thought your Mom was Nuts by Kate Siegel This book is aimed at the child in all of us who cringes when their Mom does or says something embarrassing in public, especially in front of our friends. Told with loving frankness, Siegel details a series of adventures with her own mother for whom the concept of borders and privacy are irrelevant. These are the kind of stories that full sitcoms and lead to either laughter or years of therapy.

Mommy Knows Worst: Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice by James Lileks For those of us born before the days of bike helmets, baby monitors and infant car seats, it is amazing that we lived to adulthood. Lileks has found a treasure trove of whimsical and frequently frightening advertisements, magazine articles and government issued pamphlets full of obsolete and dangerous ideas from everything from potty training to party ideas.

Lori Kauzlarick

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Sunday May 7th, 2017 Spring Cleaning


The snow and ice are (almost) all gone after the recent storm that hit Thunder Bay. Now it might finally be time to look ahead in anticipation of warmer days and do some planning. This might include a spring time deep clean of the entire house or maybe just getting things organized and de-cluttered. You might also be looking outside to your yard or garden and thinking of what you want to do with it all this year. Whatever pattern your spring cleaning follows, the Thunder Bay Public Library has services and resources to help get it all done.

The Good Housekeeping Simple Household Wisdom offers smart and stylish ways to find storage space, make the most of your yard, tidy up around the house, enjoy carefree entertaining and more. This book is a great read for anyone who is just moving out on their own for the first time. It is packed with 425 tips and methods for maintain a clean and clutter free home. It also gets into ideas on decorating, entertaining, DIY fixes around your home, and how to save money.

While The Cleaning Ninja may not take off as the next superhero character, it definitely grabs attention with its promise to turn your cleaning routine into an efficient process that can take as little as eight minutes. Given how long it sometimes takes to wrestle the vacuum cleaner out of the closet I maintain some reservations about the eight minute claim but there are definitely some great tips and reminders to help everyone prioritize the work and get through it with as little difficulty as possible.

5 Days To A Clutter-Free House argues that while most of us aren't hoarders we can all benefit from assessing and reducing the clutter in our homes--and then organizing what's left. Many things stop us from succeeding: the sheer scope of the project, the tendency to lose momentum if the job takes too long, and the fact that we're always acquiring new clutter. This book shows how with the right game plan and a healthy dose of adrenaline, anyone can de-clutter their home in just five days. The authors' enthusiasm and energy keep readers pushing forward to the goal, and their time-tested tips and habits help readers maintain their hard-won gains. The authors even show how to deal with common obstacles to achieving and keeping a clutter-free house, like filing, storage needs, health issues, space restrictions, the car, and even family sabotage!

How much time would you save if you didn’t have to spend it looking for mislaid car keys or that school permission slip you should have signed? How much simpler and less stressful could life be, if only you were a little more organized? In I Want To Be Organised, Harriet Griffey shows how a few simple steps can help turn the most chaotic amongst us into the serenely organized. The book is full of practical solutions, tips, and inspiration to help eliminate clutter, chaos, and stress and save both time and money in the process.

For all of your outdoor cleaning, planting, and growing this year don’t be discouraged by the list of necessary tools for every job. In partnership with Roots to Harvest we have recently opened Canada’s very first Garden Tool Lending Libraries at the Brodie and Waverley Resource Libraries. From helpful how-to books, to agriculture focused documentaries, you’ll not only find the tools you need but also some inspiration at your public library.

Jesse Roberts

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Sunday April 30th, 2017 The Incredible Journey

The best characters from books live on through the decades and new audiences continue to discover them and to love them. Sherlock Holmes, Anne of Green Gables, Jay Gatsby and Harry Potter each evoke a certain personality, an era and a setting which is enigmatic and unique and which invite the reader to imagine themselves actually there. Devoted readers often do travel to the physical settings where their favourite stories were set in an effort to deepen their experience or as an homage to the author. Who hasn’t imagined being able to peek in on Dr. Frankenstein in his experimental lab or to trace the footsteps of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

Sheila Burnford, who was born in Scotland but spent most of her life living in Thunder Bay (Port Arthur) and was the creator of several books, including The Incredible Journey. The book was published in 1961 and told the story of three house pets who undertook a 300 miles trek through the Canadian wilderness to return to their family home. The story became famous world-wide when Disney made the book into the film The Incredible Journey in 1963.

Part of the popularity of the book and subsequent film is following the young Labrador Retriever Luath, the capable Siamese cat Tao and the aging and partially blind bulldog Bodger as they face the varied challenges of their journey over streams, past dangerous animals, pushing through physical ordeals and lack of food as they pursue their single-minded goal of returning to their home. Readers who grew up in Thunder Bay should have no trouble imagining these perils as the story was based on the true-life pets of Sheila Burnford and the setting is none other than the natural environment of the Thunder Bay region.

There is a project underway to celebrate “our” Sheila Burnford and to gather together all of the historical information about her, her own life and many adventures, her writings, drawings and collaborations with artist Susan Ross and memorabilia about The Incredible Journey, both the book and the film which actually held its world premiere in Port Arthur. LU professor Ron Harpelle and local filmmaker Kelley Saxburg have been working on a documentary about the author’s forays into Canada’s far north and it has led them on their own “incredible journey” of documenting her life. All of their research and contact with the Burnford family itself has led to a wealth of documentation, including photographs, manuscripts, artwork, memorabilia and the like which is all being scanned, preserved and digitized. The Thunder Bay Public Library has partnered with them on the next stage of this project which is to preserve and  bring Sheila Burnford’s local connections and great achievements to a larger audience – the citizens of Thunder Bay, the researchers, the book lovers and the wider world. Eventually, this will lead to a Sheila Burnford Research Room at the Library but right now the partners would like to invite you to learn more about all of this and to that end we are hosting a special film screening of the original Incredible Journey. We will also have many fascinating objects and documents for you to view on site so that you can see and in some cases, remember Ms. Burnford and her time in Thunder Bay and her many travels.

If you knew her or Susan Ross, or have good memories of the premiere or of reading her books, or if you would like to know more we invite you to this free screening. We would love to meet you. We also invite you to bring any objects or photos or letters you might have to contribute to this ongoing project. Rather like the Antique Roadshow model, we will have people on site to accept your contributions and get their story or to scan the objects prior to the screening. You can be a part of this important and relevant local story as it is evolving! Help us to preserve and celebrate this legendary author who is part of our local history.

Screening: At Trinity United Church Hall
Saturday May 13th
Doors open at 1:00
Screening and opening remarks by Jonquil Burnford and dignitaries at 2p.m.

Angela Meady

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Sunday April 23, 2017 Fresh Air

Has the spring weather inspired you to get outside for some fresh air and exercise? Stop in to any Library location and pick up a Big Boreal Adventure Guidebook and start exploring!  The guidebook is in both English and French, and includes a map, instructions, and clues to find 24 posts all over the Thunder Bay area.  You may have seen these posts in parks and other areas.  On each post is stainless steel plate with an image on it.  You can use a crayon or blunt pencil to make a rubbing of the image in your guidebook.  The Adventures are divided by season, so you can keep exploring all year long.  Information is provided for each area so you can learn more about the history, geography and environment.  Find the Big Boreal Adventure online at for related activities and news of events.

You can also borrow a nature kit to take on your adventures!  Each kit includes a story book, nature book, magnifying glass, full sized binoculars, compass, booklist, and nature activity sheets.  Ask at the desk to borrow a nature kit.  They go out for three weeks, and are listed in our online catalogue under “Big Boreal Adventure Kit” where you may place a hold.

If you’re into history, the “Big Boreal Adventure Goes Historical” is for you!  You can pick up a free guidebook from any Library location, and take yourself on five walks, stopping to explore Thunder Bay’s history.  Like the original guidebook, the historical version is in both English and French.  Maps in the guidebook show you where to stop, and include photos and information.  Some of the interesting places you can explore are Connaught Square, Central School House, and the Barton and Fischer Company.

Want to add a bit more exercise to your walks?  Borrow a set of walking poles from your Library!  We have one set of walking poles at each location.  They go out for three weeks at a time, and may be placed on hold.  You can find them in our online catalouge under “walking poles”.  Borrow an eAudiobook from hoopla or OverDrive to listen to while you walk and you’ll be amazed how far you go!

Have you ever been curious about how many steps you have taken in a day?  You can borrow a pedometer from your Library and find out!  Pedometers are listed in the online catalogue under “pedometers”, and come with a guidebook.

In addition to all these wonderful things, your Library will soon be offering garden tools you can borrow!  We’re excited to be working with Roots to Harvest on this initiative. Cedar sheds have been set up at the Brodie and Waverley Libraries to house the tools. Keep an eye on our website, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for updates.

Oh, and we do still have books!  With four locations throughout the city, there is likely a Library to which you can walk. Bring a backpack or sturdy bag so you can easily carry home some treasures. Browse our displays, chat with staff, look up your favorite author or try something new.  Stay a while and enjoy a quiet place to read, use our free wifi, visit with friends, play with your children or read a newspaper.

Joanna Aegard

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Sunday April 16, 2017 Canadian Literature

Canadian literature has been and continues to play an integral part in developing Canadian identity. Through their work, canonical writers like Margaret Atwood, Hugh MacLennan, Alice Munro, and Thomas King have reflected on Canada’s history, people, traditions, and landscapes. With their prose, they have represented Canada’s dynamic nature in dramatic, comedic, and poetic ways, that have always been enlightening. As Canada’s 150th year of confederation quickly approaches, it seems fitting to honour some of the best works of Canadian literature that have contributed so greatly to its identity.
Hugh MacLennan’s Barometer Rising is a seminal piece of Canadian fiction, widely regarded as establishing the literary movement in Canada. Written in 1941, Barometer Rising tells the story of two lovers, Neil Macrae and Penny Wain, and their struggle to rekindle their relationship during the days leading up to the 1917 Halifax explosion. Their romance is complicated, however, by Penny’s father Col. Wain, who tries to hinder Neil’s attempts as a result of an incident that occurred in the colonel’s battalion. MacLennan’s melodrama is rich in the World War I detail, evoking the sense of life that was common during the days of the war. Barometer Rising is a monumental work by an important writer who bravely depicted the Canadian experience in literature when few were doing so.
Margaret Atwood is a similar writer who also explored Canadian history, but with a slight twist. As MacLennan’s romance dealt with fictional characters set during a historical Canadian period, Atwood’s Alias Grace tells the true story of a famed convict, Grace Marks, set in Upper Canada. Taking place in 1843, Atwood recreates the suspicions held against Marks regarding her involvement in the murders of her employer Thomas Kinnear and his housemaid Nancy Montgomery. Part fact and part fiction, Atwood’s award winning novel brilliantly conjures up Canada during the 19th century, a period of Canadian history rarely seen in popular fiction.
The works of Thomas King similarly bring to life the stories of people and places rarely seen in contemporary fiction. King’s Alberta-based novel Green Grass, Running Water is an audacious work of literature that combines a contemporary narrative with traditional native oral storytelling. Set in a First Nation’s Blackfoot reservation, King tells the story of a family trying to cope with the construction of a new dam on Native territory. At the same time, the narrative incorporates the retelling of the Creation story, linking the ethereal with the events on the reservation. King also explores similar themes in Medicine River with more emphasis on a character trying to reconnect with his community following a separation. King is a wonderful writer, using heart and humour to tell inherently dramatic stories.
No discussion on Canadian literature is complete without the inclusion of Alice Munro. Similar to the previous writers, Munro’s stories also closely focus on Canadian characters and settings. Known for championing the Southern Ontario gothic genre of Canadian literature, Munro writes about the lives of ordinary people in Southern Ontario as they are caught in moments that range from the mundane to the extraordinary. The Love of a Good Woman is a powerful example of such writing. Despite the brevity of some of the stories, Munro’s stories evoke life, death, love within a Canadian context that are always deeply felt by the reader. Munro’s most recent (and widely rumoured to be her last) collection, Dear Life, is a powerful reminder of Munro’s status as one of our greatest living writers.  

The works of these great Canadian writers and more can all be found at the Thunder Bay Public Library. Visit our online catalogue or consult the Reader’s Advisory to find more great titles. Be sure to stay tuned in the future as we celebrate more Canadian artists during this landmark year in Canada’s great history.

Petar Vidjen

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Sunday April 9th What Writers are Reading

In February 2014, the Thunder Bay Public Library’s blog, TBPL Off the Shelf (, started interviewing authors. Since that time, there have been forty interviews with authors, poets, an artist, a director, and a local magician. At the end of the interviews, the authors are asked if there is a particular book or writer that they think everyone should read. Many don’t recommend anything in particular; they echo local author Amy Jones when she said: “I don’t think there is one book out there that will speak to everyone, but as long as there is one book that speaks to YOU, that’s what matters.”  And Emma Hooper, the author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James, stresses that “everyone should READ something!” Even with this shared sentiment, some of the authors did suggest books that they believe are very much worth trying, so let’s take a look at these suggestions.

Alison Pick was here in Thunder Bay for the 2014 International Festival of Authors (IFOA) Lit on Tour, promoting her memoir Between Gods. She highly recommends reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which she calls a remarkable “page turner for 800 pages.”

Alexander MacLeod was here for the 2015 IFOA’s Lit on Tour, promoting his short story collection Light Lifting. He highly recommends JM Barrie’s Peter Pan because it is “pretty well perfect for the way it balances the raw imaginative power of the story itself with so many wise and self-reflexive side comments that insightfully foreground the art of telling the story.” He has read it many times, and has shared it with his children.

Karen Connelly was here for the 2016 IFOA’s Lit on Tour, promoting her new novel The Change Room. She highly recommends reading The Global Forest by Diana Beresford-Kroeger because we all need to wake up to the reality of what we are doing to our planet.

Elizabeth Bear is a prolific science fiction and fantasy writer, the author of the Jenny Casey trilogy (Hammered, Scardown, and Worldwired), and the Edda of Burdens (By the Mountain Bound, All the Windwracked Stars, and The Sea Thy Mistress), among many other books. She believes everyone has different tastes in literature, but did say she has been enjoying the work of a few newer and lesser known writers like Monica Byrne, Max Gladstone, and Aliette de Bodard.

Christopher “Merk” Merkley is a local artist who illustrated the graphic novels Nowadays and Victor’s Legacy. He highly recommends everyone read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Ready Player One is being made into a movie, so you’ll have to grab it soon if you want to read it before seeing it on the big screen!

Shane Peacock is a young adult author originally from Thunder Bay. He wrote the Young Sherlock Holmes series and is now working on a new series, The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim. He recommends that everyone read Shakespeare, even though he is difficult for young people. As a close second, he also recommends Charles Dickens, who was a huge influence on his own writing.

Michelle Krys is a local young adult author, who recently released Dead Girls Society, a story about a teenager with cystic fibrosis. Krys thinks everyone should read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. an “utterly brilliant and heartbreaking and beautiful” novel.

All of these authors, and the thirty-one other people we have interviewed so far, also share the particular books that inspired them to write, some of their favourite books, and what they were reading at the time of the interview. If you’d like to read more of what they have to say, be sure to check out our blog at, which also has book reviews by library staff.

Shauna Kosoris

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Sunday April 2, 2017 Getting Ready to Grow Again!

It’s that time of year when we start having warmer days and longer evenings.  Some days that might feel like an April Fool’s prank but the end of winter is in sight. As the earth thaws more green appears where not so long ago there was snow and ice.  In fact, the other day a library patron mentioned they had seen tulips starting to sprout already.

Keen gardeners will already have starter plants sprouting in their homes and greenhouses, but it’s not too late for you to prepare for the growing season. One of the newest ways in which your public library can help is with the Garden Tool Lending Library, coming soon to the Brodie and Waverley branches. Roots to Harvest and Thunder Bay Public Library staff have been working hard over the winter to bring you an all new collection at the library.  Soon you will be able to select and borrow from a vast variety of garden tools for one week periods with your library card.  We are also working to provide you the resources you need to succeed!  In addition to the Library's collection of books and online tools Roots to Harvest is developing pamphlets and workshops to help you grow the best garden you can.

While all of this great new work is underway, why not check out some of the recent additions in gardening, food production, and outdoor spaces. Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden is not your average gardening book. There really is something for everyone here – from planning for 52 weeks of fresh greens, planting with the plan for a stocked pantry year round, growing your own cocktail ingredients, giving seedlings a boost, and much more. Each chapter is presented by an expert in that field, with more topics covered than you can shake a stick at (or think to cram into just 243 pages). Topping it all off is a suggested list of additional resources and plant list.

Talk to anyone at Roots to Harvest or any avid gardener and you will learn the importance of bees within our environment. Victory Gardens for Bees: A DIY Guide to Saving the Bees investigates the growing problem of bee mortality and offers practical measures we can all take to help. Just as citizens banded together to produce Victory Gardens to offset the perilous food shortages of World Wars I and II, now a similarly vital level of collective effort is needed to make our gardens into lifesaving shelters for bees. Planning a bee-friendly space can provide a beautiful and bountiful selection of edible crops, native plants and fragrant ornamentals, as well as herbs that have medicinal properties for both pollinators and people. With the help of ten inspiring garden plans and planting guides, this book shows how bee-friendly plants can be used in creative combinations for plots and pots of all sizes, and are easily grown by novices and seasoned gardeners alike. Victory Gardens for Bees is also buzzing with DIY projects that will provide nesting sites and essential supplies for precious pollinators.

Big Ideas for Small Spaces: Creative Ideas and 30 Projects for Balconies, Roof Gardens, Windowsills and Terraces is a great option for anyone living in an apartment or condo. This book provides instructions and photographs show to make 30 easy projects for the garden using inexpensive or found materials. It suggests practical solutions to greening a small and otherwise barren area including outer walls, tiny patios, balconies, courtyards, terraces, windowsills and rooftops. Also includes instructions on the basics of gardening.

Not to be forgotten is the Home Improvement Reference Center database (accessible with your Library Card and PIN via the Library’s website). Here you will find support and ideas for DIY projects in and around your home and outdoor space. Get out there and get planting with the knowledge that the library is behind you every step of the way!

Ruth Hamlin-Douglas