Sunday, 26 March 2017

Sunday March 26, 2017 Thunder Bay WW1 Centennial Project

Thunder Bay had a very special visitor on 17 March, and I’m not talking about St Uhru. I’m referring to Tim Cook, a military historian at the Canadian War Museum, who gave a presentation at the Port Arthur Armory on ‘Vimy: the birth of a notion’. Tim also launched his latest book Vimy: the battle and the legend.

Why does Vimy matter? How did a four day battle at the midpoint of the Great War, a clash that had little strategic impact on the larger Allied war effort, become elevated to a national symbol of Canadian identity? Tim Cook, Canada’s foremost military historian, examines the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the way the memory of it has evolved over 100 years. The operation that began April 9, 1917, was the first time the four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together. More than 10,000 Canadian soldiers were killed or injured over four days – twice the casualty rate of the Dieppe Raid in August 1942. The Corps’ victory solidified its reputation among allies and opponents as an elite fighting force. The Canadians succeeded where others had previously failed because they learned the lessons of the Somme in 1916 and applied them to the assault on Vimy Ridge. This attack was meticulously planned and made good use of aerial photographs. The men went forward under a creeping barrage and the Allied artillery knocked out the enemy guns. Amidst a sea of failure, Vimy was a stand-out victory, but at great human cost.

So that’s the battle, but what about the legacy and the legend? In the war’s aftermath, Vimy was chosen as the site for the country’s strikingly beautiful monument to mark Canadian sacrifice and service. There were plans to have eight Canadian war memorials in France and Flanders and a competition was held which drew a large number of entries. When the design by Walter Allward was chosen – with its twin pylons and allegorical figure of Mother Canada grieving for her lost sons – it was clear that this could not be replicated at eight sites. So which site should be used for this main monument? Some argued for the site where the Battle of Second Ypres was fought in April 1915. This was the Canadian’s first battle, and when the Germans used poison gas for the first time. Others argued for the Hill 62 site which represented the June 1916 Battle of Mount Sorrel. Vimy was chosen, in part, because of the support for this site given by Prime Minister Mackenzie King.

Thunder Bay’s local battalion, the 52nd, did not fight at Vimy but there is a local connection to the memorial. Allward had the critical role as architect and sculptor, but the chief engineer, Brigadier Henry Thresby Hughes, oversaw the eight overseas memorial sites. Before the war, Hughes had worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway company and laid out the terminals at Fort William.
Over time, the legend of Vimy took on new meaning with some calling it the ‘birth of the nation’.

The remarkable story of Vimy is a layered skein of facts, myths, wishful thinking, and conflicting narratives. Tim Cook explores why the battle continues to resonate with Canadians a century later. On the 100th anniversary of the event, and as Canada celebrates 150 years as a country (which is another contentious debate) Vimy: the battle and the legend is a fitting tribute to those who fought the country’s defining battle. It is also a stirring account of Canadian identity and memory, told by a master storyteller. Released earlier in March, this book is currently on order and will be available soon at your public library.

TBPL continues to remember the role that Thunder Bay played in the Great War via the Thunder Bay World War One Centennial Project. More information can be found at 

John Pateman

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Sunday March 19, 2017 Tantalizing Titles


Everyone knows the phrase, “Never judge a book by its cover”, but how do you judge a book with a wild, silly or provocative title?  Most books choose titles that give a potential reader a hint or two about what the book is about and others pick generic titles which end up being used over and over again. While the library has over 30 books with the title “Gone” and at least 15 called “Vanished”, oddly there is only one entitled “Revenge of the Evil Librarian.” Like their unique titles, these books are not easy to classify. I have included some of the best recent fiction novels with unusual titles. The selection runs from black humour to experimentalism and most are challenging reads but each is worth exploring.

Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin
Told in two time periods, the first being 1492 the reader meets Moishe, a young Jewish boy living in the time of the Spanish Inquisition who partners with a wisecracking parrot named Aaron. The two go to sea and circumstances lead them to crew for Columbus. Moishe, eventually becomes a pirate and seeks revenge on the Spanish. The second part is set in present day with Aaron now living in a Florida having spent 500 years floating on the plank in the ocean before finding land and now he enjoys his days regaling the seniors with his stories.

The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
This debut thriller finds Ben Jones, a hard working trucker driving in a remote region of the Utah desert, where many of the residents are hiding from their pasts and Ben is their only real contact with the outside world. One day, he finds a beautiful woman named Claire playing cello in an abandoned lot and the two begin a relationship.  Claire’s attempt to hide is foiled when strangers arrive looking for her and expose the secrets of the other residents with deadly outcomes while Ben and Claire try to evade her pursuers.

Love, Sex and Other Foreign Policy Goals by Jesse Armstrong
In a book full of dry British humour, a group of activists decide to travel the Balkans during the hostilities of the 1990’s performing plays of peace despite having little to no knowledge of the native language, the area or the real danger that exists. Much of the action revolves around Andrew and his hapless romantic pursuit of Penny, the upper-class girl who wrote the play and the other romantic misadventures of the troope.

Revenge of the Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen
This novel, the sequel to “The Evil Librarian” reads like a particularly good episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with a mix of humour and horror. Teenagers Cyn and her boyfriend Ryan are at summer camp where a nasty demon and the supposedly dead former librarian of their school Mr. Gabriel are haunting the camp seeking revenge. Though aimed at young adults, the book makes for a hilarious romp for readers of any age.

 The Bob Watson by Greg Bardsley
Skipping out of work, especially meetings without getting caught, has made Bob Watson a legend at his firm. Unfortunately, when young employee Rick Blanco attempts the same, he is mistaken for the corrupt head of HR and is kidnapped by a couple of convicts and a granny called Mama who force him into a series of madcap adventures.

Lori Kauzlarick

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Sunday March 12, 2017 March Break at Your Library

March Break is here and it is going to be an amazing week at the Thunder Bay Public Library. Today also marks the beginning of Daylight Savings Time so make sure to reset your clocks so you don’t miss out on any of the programs happening across all four branches of TBPL this week. A full listing of everything going on can be found online at or by visiting your closest branch to speak with staff and check it all out.

In case you haven’t already planned out your week’s activities, here are some ideas to get you going:

On Monday afternoon there will be a new puppet show launched at the Brodie Library called Little Bunny Foo Foo. Join the Good Fairy as she flies through the forest making sure all the animals are safe. This event is open to all ages and will start at 2:30pm in the Story Hour Room (no registration required). If the children in your life are more into Pokemon than puppets, join the Pokemon Hunt at the Waverley Library. Create your own Pokeball and help us catch them before it’s too late. The hunt will be followed by other fun Pokemon activities. This event is for ages 5-10 and will start at 2:30pm in the Auditorium (pre-registration is required by phone, in person or online).

Calling all heroes to the Superhero Training Academy! Come practice your powers on Tuesday at the County Park Library. There will be fun activities, a super story and craft. Costumes encouraged. This event is for ages 3-6 and will start at 2:30pm (no registration required).  

The Grumpy Grampas are back and holding a Family Concert in the Brodie Fireside Reading Room on Wednesday at 2:30pm. Every time the Grumpy Grampas perform, they bring loads of energetic fun to the room so bring your singing voice and your dancing feet! This event is open to all ages and requires registration by way of a free ticket. There are still tickets available to be picked up at the Brodie Library, don’t miss out on this free afternoon of great music and laughter.

Thursday is going to be a jam packed day with morning story times at both Brodie and County Park Libraries. The afternoon will feature a Forces of Science family program at the Mary J. L. Black Library. Join Science North and discover the fun of physics! Bring the whole family and engage with our hands-on activities that explore inertia, momentum, actions and reactions. This event is open to all ages and will start at 2:30pm in the Community Program Room (no registration required). Over at Waverley Library on Thursday afternoon, the highly acclaimed magician Tyler Biloski will amaze the audience with March Break Magic. This event is open to all ages and requires registration by way of a free ticket. There are still tickets available to be picked up at the Waverley Library.

For the young people between the ages of 12-18, Youth Move will be happening during its regularly scheduled hours at both Brodie and Mary J. L. Black Libraries this week. Stop by, get in the loop and see what you’re missing. On Tuesday night we have one word for you at the Mary J. L. Black Library - DRAGONS! Do you love stories about magic, royal intrigue, and fantastical creatures and settings? Come celebrate series like Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas and Cinder by Marissa Meyer with crafts, activities, CAKE, and more! This event will start at 6:30pm in the Community Program Room (no registration required).

This is all just a sampling of what is happening at your library this week so come in, check it all out and join the fun for free.

Jesse Roberts

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Sunday March 5th, 2017 Canada Reads


Canada Reads, CBC Radio’s annual battle of the books, is currently in its 15th year. It’s always exciting when the five Canada Reads titles are revealed. Over the years this program has highlighted seasoned authors, launched new ones, and has given our country a lot to think about. 

This past week your Library hosted Sheila Watt-Cloutier, author of one of this year’s Canada Reads books, “The right to be cold”.  CBC’s Cathy Alex spoke with her about her personal experience with climate change. 

The Canada Reads website,, is a treasure-trove with its list of past nominees. Here are some of my favorites.

King Leary by Paul Quarrington won Canada Reads in 2008.  MacLean’s magazine noted it is “a dazzling display of fictional footwork....the author has not written just another hockey novel; he has turned hockey into a metaphor for magic.” I think that says it all. Quarrington artfully weaves the story of kid who grows from a delinquent sent to reform school into a hockey super star. You may find yourself trying to prefect the "St. Louis Whirligig" on this ice this winter after reading this book.

Lullabies for little criminals by Heather O’Neill won in 2007.  This is a disturbing, engaging story about a motherless young girl, Baby, coming of age on the streets of Montreal. She manages to struggle through, and helps her drug-addict father steer them both in a new direction. The absence of a mother in Baby’s life shapes it significantly as she searches for comfort, love and joy. This book made me think about what my son’s life would be like without me, and how, although I’m far from perfect, it’s good for him to have me, and for me to have him.

Angie Abdou’s The bone cage was in the running in 2011.  This book provides a glimpse in to the lives of athletes preparing for the Olympics.  Abdou follows a swimmer and a wrestler to the pool, the gym, and occasionally in to what most would consider normal life, away the laser-focus on their goals. 

2011’s winner, The best laid plans, was Terry Fallis’ debut novel.  An engineering professor agrees to run for Parliament, believing he’s a sure-loser.  Following a raucous turn of events he wins.  This warm, funny, Canadian tale would be a breath of fresh air in these frustrating political times.

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden won in 2014.  This is a big, epic story in every sense.  Our shared history is brought to life by way of Boyden's smooth and engaging style. It made me look at the bush, lakes, rivers and Sweet Water Sea around me with new, much more open, eyes.

Visit the Canada Reads display at Brodie Library this month and check out one of the past winners or nominees.

Joanna Aegard – If you have a comment about today's column, we would love to hear from you. Check out the blog at