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Where the Wild Things are

Where the Wild Things are

by Tomas - 0 Comment(s)

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to see it, Fairy Tales, Monsters and the Genetic Imagination, the current exhibition on at the Glenbow Museum, is well worth the price of admission.

According to Mark Scala, the curator of the exhibition: “Monsters are something that we have created in order to embody what we most fear, and so the whole point behind that fascination in our culture is that these are simply imaginary, simply inventions.” Monsters are examples of how we express fears, hopes and wishes.

A few personal highlights include Kiki Smith’s imagining of Little Red Riding Hood, depicted both as a print and a sculpture, emerging from the belly of the defeated wolf.

Patricia Piccinini’s lifelike sculptures feature fantastically imagined creatures -- perhaps the result of genetic manipulation -- engaged in mundane, day-to-day activities. In one an elderly mer-nursemaid is comforted by a small boy while it sleeps; in another, a weary looking creature nurses a baby while also taking on shopping tasks while the human parents are away.

Seeing this exhibition brought to mind a few complementary literary monsters. These monsters, and the stories they inhabit, reflect our feelings toward the unknown, both beyond and within us.

This Dark Endeavour - Kenneth Oppel

This Dark Endeavour, tells the story of a young Victor Frankenstein, whose later [in]famous exploits were told by Mary Shelley in one of the first books to address mankind’s dangerous emerging interest in genetic manipulation.

MonstrumologistNot for the faint of heart (or stomach), Richard Yancey’s Monstrumologist series follows the exploits of Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, as told through the journal of his young assistant Will Henry as they study and contend with a gruesome assortment of monsters (human and otherwise).

Half WorldDarkest Light

Half World and its sequel Darkest Light by Hiromi Goto apply the concept of Hungry Ghosts to the contemporary urban setting of Vancouver. Half World, the waystation between the physical realm and the realm of spirit, has become separated, and it falls to 13-year-old Melanie to enter the Half World and somehow restore the balance. Half World is a vast cityscape filled with grotesque characters whose monstrous forms are based on the sufferings they endured in the physical realm, such as the eel-armed Lilla, and the aptly named Mr. Glueskin.

A Monster Calls

In A Monster Calls, A young boy is visited nightly by a monster that is inextricably linked to the emotional trauma he experiences, and must eventually face.

Don't be afraid of the dark : Blackwood's guide to dangerous fairies, co-written by Guillermo del Toro and Christopher Golden, is a literary prequel (by 100 years) to del Toro's eerie film by the same name. Be sure also to check out del Toro's stunning modern fairytale Pan's Labrynth, in which a young girl trying to save the life of her ill mother has to contend with fantastic and real-life monsters in Fascist 1940s Spain.

GrokeWith a ghost-like, hill-shaped body, cold staring eyes, a wide row of shiny teeth, and a freezing touch that kills any plants she touches, the Groke is a mysterious character that haunts the otherwise pleasant adventures of the Finn-Family Moomin Troll. As the stories progress, the more we learn about this misunderstood creature; Eventually we come to discover she is the product of a profound lonelieness. In many ways, the Groke is similar to Gollum (currently starring in the feature film version of The Hobbit, as you may have heard), whose disfigured shape reflects his inner turmoil.

Dystopian Popularity Continued...

by Adrienne - 5 Comment(s)

So here we continue our dystopian saga, discussing why these current YA novels are so popular... from a Social Studies perspective. Try this analysis on one of your teachers to see what their reaction is!

Divergent by Veronica Roth, calls this into question; what are the most important human character traits to uphold in order to eradicate evil from human nature? Which would you choose: Intelligence, honesty, selflessness, amiability or bravery? Partially inspired by Roth's study of exposure therapy, Divergent questions the very definition of bravery. How do you define bravery? What do you think it means to be brave? Can one character trait exist in isolation or do they always act in multiple possible combinations? What is your utopia? Can utopia be universal? Or is one's person's heaven always another person's hell? What happens in a utopia when people are non-conforming? At what point/what causes a utopian ideology to become dystopian? Real life examples would be communism under Mao or Democracy under Bush.

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale has left both Matched and Wither trailing in its wake. All three deal with genetics, i.e. matching and slavery. Lack of choice is prevalent. Think Star Trek laced with a hint of The Giver by Lois Lowry. If you add undertones of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, a book which I first read when I was 16, you begin to get the picture.

It's rare that I read a YA novel that I immediately want to re-read just to absorb all the poetry of the prose; it's that beautiful! Plus there is so much symbolism embedded into the book that you can tell Ally Condie used to be a High School English teacher. YA novels are often all about action and suspense. Matched, moving along at an ever quickening clip, certainly leaves you breathlessly wanting more at the end. Poetry is however, central to the book. It highlights the power of art to have political influence and be a strong force to fight against the apathy prevalent in coercive societies. There's a reason books/music/art get burned/banned. Matched underscores the power of choice; why it's important to have and why it might be beneficial not to. Implicit is that choice, held either in our own hands or societies, carries with it the ability to make both mistakes and successes. We can cause ourselves and others, both joy and sorrow along the way. Ultimately Matched takes a stance that human dignity; requires it. Otherwise we can all become so en-thralled...

The Hunger Games deals with many themes including survival, loyalty, slavery, and class privilege. It is this book that originally inspired this blog. Going out to schools in Calgary to do presentations for the library I came across many Junior High Social and Language Arts teachers who were using The Hunger Games for a novel study. It's a great book with so many leads for humanities discussions. In this way it follows The Giver by Lois Lowry, a book which is often used in schools as well.Both of these books have been banned in various places but that just gives credence to the fact that they deal with serious issues!

What struck me most about the Hunger Games is how closely it mimics a reality TV show, such as Survivor. The book thus deftly comments on our cultures obsession with entertainment; our need for vicarious living and ever more potent adrenaline boosters. And I admit I was drawn in, fully entertained, gripped by all the action suspense, romance and yes... suffering. This is in combination with a strong female character we can wholly sympathize with. Vicarious living at its finest! We are supposedly far above the Romans in our taste for civilized entertainment. But are we? Movies are simulated; reality TV shows "volunteered" for, and the news? Reality relayed at 6 'O clock each evening full of... human suffering.

For some interesting thoughts on Dystopian Fiction check out the following INFOGRAPHICS:

The Dystopian Timeline to The Hunger Games

If You Liked “The Hunger Games”…

Here's why one fellow YYC teen thinks dystopian novels are so popular these days. Warning: this may be a downer.

Soooo... anyone up for writing the next UTOPIA? We could certainly use some positive societal visioning. Any budding writers out there? Check out this Cartoon version of Thoreau at Walden. We'd LOVE to hear your voices in TEENSCREATE!

Why are Dystopian Novels so popular? Because they deal with reality...

by Adrienne - 3 Comment(s)

Why are Dystopian Novels so popular? This current trend not just with teens, it is also popular with many adults. These YA novels have even your parents following them! Why? Because they deal with real life issues that we either face in the world every day, or that the WORLD at large deals with every day. The proof is in the pudding eh? So what issues DO the current faves and bests deal with?

Wither The main issue this book deals with is the possible unknown side-effects of genetic engineering and insufficiently tested cures. This applies today to more than just genetics research; we have many diseases with unknown cures and unknown causes... Do we know the full effects of a lifetime of eating Kraft diner, painting our nails with formaldehyde polish, or spraying DDT on our vegetables and consequent genetic defects? No... and on and on and on with 100 million products and experiments we conduct every day. Diseases like ALS are New and just popping up and others like AIDS and many cancers still have no known cures.

Wither also deals with objectifying women and young girls solely for their looks (very western), reproductive capacities (prevalent in various countries today) and reproductive slavery. Slavery is slavery even within the confines of comfy couches and pretty lipsticks... As well as taking a look at what love really Is and Is not.

Birthmarked also takes a hard look at reproductive slavery, as well as being a case study for third world vs. first world paradigms. Set in 2403 in a society where our world and time is labeled "the cool age", it is an imaginative rendering of post apocalyptic survival - global warming style. The book even dares to propose how various current energy solutions such as using geothermic energy could have negative effects on society; or certain members of society, whenever dictatorship reigns. Our current world deals with global warming; 1st world vs. 3rd world; class issues and divisions within society (some more stark and apparent than others and some more covert); alternative energies and dictatorships Every Day. Perhaps the resonance of these books is not in their outlandish imaginings, but rather in their expressions of current realities made more digestible through the form of story. Check out the movie trailer here.

The Graceling series is perhaps one of the most multi-layered dystopian series of the bunch, teetering into the verge of fantasy, but striking home so closely to reality that I often found the books very difficult to read (even though this consequently made them my favourites of the bunch.) Dealing with issues of literacy and class, ability vs. disability, dictatorships, sociopaths, murder, justice, memory and healing, they also insert things such as birth-control and GLBTQ as givens, positive aspects of this much troubled society.

Bitterblue is the story of both a girl and a society recovering from the effects of a regime of terror. How does one uncover truth? How are "war crimes" dealt with fairly when the entire society is both implicitly guilty and traumatized at the same time? Can a thief be loyal, just, trustworthy and lovable? Can one be treasonous, break the law and yet be loyal and just under the law at the same time? How can just 4% of the population (the statistical existence of sociopaths) cause so much damage?


For some interesting thoughts on Dystopian Fiction check out the following INFOGRAPHIC: Is It Dystopia?

Social Studies 101 coming up, in the form of case studies presented in really engaging YA novels!

Stay tuned next Sunday for Part 2 of this blog: Dystopian Popularity Continued...

The Hobbit

by Monique - 0 Comment(s)

How many of you are as excited about upcoming The Hobbit movie? December 14 can’t seem to come fast enough for me. Having said that, I will need to re-read the novel as it seems like it was such a long time ago since I originally read it. Don’t get me wrong, I do remember what the novel is about, but would love to refresh my memory of its details. I don’t know about any of you, but when it comes to the adaptation of books into movies, I tend to like the book better. The odd time, I have found myself enjoying the movie adaptation of a novel as well; The Lord of the Rings Trilogy being one of those rare occasions.

When I was initially talking to people about the movie, I was surprised to hear that the movie was going to be in two parts, but in doing some digging, I have learned that it will be actually in three parts. I find this news to be exciting. I have to question however, why a novel that is shorter than each The Lord of the Rings (LOR) have been done if they were done in two parts, right? The first part of the three part series will be called The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey is set to release on December 14 of this year. The second movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, will be released around December 13, 2013. The third movie, will have the same title as the novel, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, with news that it will be released on July 18, 2014. I am glad that Peter Jackson is directing The Hobbit, as it will be nice to see a continuation of his work on a book that is part of The Lord of the Ring series.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that you don’t need to read The Hobbit in order to get the idea of The Lord of the Rings and vice versa, but having read The Hobbit first, does help lay the ground work for The Lord of the Rings. I am also excited to see that a lot of the cast from LOR will be returning to play the characters that they had originally portrayed. Looking at some of the trailers online, I can't wait for the movie to come out in theatres!

Peer to Peer Study Group = Homework Help at The Library!

by Adrienne - 0 Comment(s)

Okay, so it's mid semester and you're overloaded with homework. Right, ... right? Yeah, I thought so. Plus this is putting a serious cramp on your social life right? Well we, at Central, have the perfect solution for you. On Mondays (including this Monday the 26th!) from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. we have created a special study space for teens to work in on the third floor. Teen volunteers (Honours' and IB students) will be on hand to help you with your homework! Plus you can stick around until 8pm to finish what you started. Awesome right? Upcoming dates are Nov 26, Dec 03, and Dec 10. Teens in Grades 10 to 12 can come get help with your homework from other students. Plus check out some of our previous blogs for awesome homework help databases and other cool after-school programs offered at the library. Need a tutor? Due tomorrow? = No Problem! Did I mention the social possibilities of homework?? Always a way to meet new people...

As a teen I was part of the Peer-Support team at my high school. It was great! Mind you it wasn't a study group, but I definitely made some lasting friendships through it, plus learning a thing or two about psychology. My point being, that Peer to Peer homework support is a great place to do your homework in silence, and get out of the house, increasing your social network at the same time. Killing the birds of homework, better grades, happy teachers and socializing in one fell swoop. How could your parents possibly argue with that? Come on down!

We are all forever haunted... in November

by Adrienne - 0 Comment(s)

This is the time of year when the fog rolls in and coats the land in a blanket of see-through mist. Things become strange and mysterious. Everything is dying. Christian's celebrate All Hallow's Eve and All Saint's Day. Hindus celebrate Diwali (The Festival of Lights). Pagans celebrate Samhain. Muslims celebrate Muharram. All three mark the beginning of a New Year, a new cycle, a new season. Everything goes to sleep, into the ground to await the rebirth of spring. In Greek and Roman mythology Persephone visits Hades. Her mother Demeter refuses to let the sun shine until her daughter returns in the spring. In the west, we celebrate Halloween and Remembrance Day. These are some of the many and varied ways we honour our dead. What better time for ghosts to roam across the field our consciousness? When more apt to recommend a few good ghost stories?

Now, I have a disclaimer to make, and that is that I don't normally DO ghosts, vampires, horror, or zombies ... or ANY of their ilk as a matter of fact. I have disclaimed this in previous Halloween blogs, so I think I deserve an A just for reading some ghost stories to recommend to you in the first place. I have been doing my best. I recently wrote a blog on Zombies, then I endeavoured to ACTUALLY read my first ghost story... not Casper but one bona fide as potentially scary - lightly scary mind you. I wasn't about to traumatize myself. It's been an interesting journey. I had rules. Never read the book at night. Always read the book with other people around. Don't read the book if you need to go into dark creepy corners or haunted woods afterwards... In the end I got so engrossed in the story that I actually ended up breaking all my own rules reading the book on Halloween night, alone, in the dark and... I was fine! I did however skip read ahead to the end when it got "scary" just to see if it was something I could handle, it was. Then, I finished reading all the details. So there you go. If you've never read ghost stories here's a recipe as to how. Similar to dipping your foot into the water to see how cold it is before you jump in. It IS after all my imagination that ends up being the enemy and not the inspirational book, DVD, CD, etc. in and of itself. I now have a theory. Books are much less likely to freak me out than movies or CD's, having I suppose, more control over my thoughts than on the sensory effects of sound and visuals... reading a book does NOT over-activate my negative imagination in the same way. My nerves are apparently more sensitive to visual and auditory stimulation's than that of the linguistical variety. So food for thought, test your own scare-o-meter!

You could start with some innocent fun morsels about friendly ghosts like Casper, Anya's Ghost and Slog's Dad or fake "ghosts" like in Ottoline Goes to School.

Move on to more "fake" ghosts, although beware what you wish for, sometimes "playing" can summon up your worst nightmares! The book I read? Classified as a light scare, All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn. I actually quite enjoyed this book. It is a light quick read set in a haunted inn and stars a pair of siblings on vacation. What impressed me most in the end was Downing Hahn's ability to integrate Shakespeare quotes and American history into a novel written for 10-14 year olds seamlessly probing deeper questions regarding history, class-ism, morality and right and wrong. Classically, "ghosts" stick around because they have something they want us humans to do; some inner conflict they need to resolve before they can be at peace. We all have "ghosts" that haunt us. What do they want to us to do? What does it take to make friends, put them at rest, and restore peace? How do we honour the unnamed dead once their histories are brought to light?

You can graduate on with a purportedly really scary read such as Wait t'ill Helen Comes by Downing Hahn or Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendra Blake; then indulge in savouring any of the following morsels which, I admit, have thoroughly intrigued me, but have received many reports about being downright frightening. I am tempted. I might be will just a wee bit obsessed with fairy-tales.... It remains a sad fact that many fairy tales are in-fact quite horrific when it comes right down to it, and VERY well suited to horror novels. In fact, I may have already read one or two without realizing it...

Try Sweetly (Hansel and Gretel) or Sisters Red (Red Riding Hood) by Jackson Pierce for starter fairy-scares.

The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff or The Replacement if you want something a little more terrifying.

Following this recipe for jumping into the waters of ghost and horror stories I, unlike you had no intentions of graduating, quite happy to remain forever a student ... or, considering the "fairy-scares ", so I thought!

In the end, aside from "enjoying " a good scare (note sarcasm), the ultimate value of these and stories like "All The Lovely Bad Ones" is that they help teach us how to be psychologically brave.

Good luck with graduating!

In Honour of Zombies, Ghosts, Ghouls... aka Bleak, Bizarre & Beautiful

by Adrienne - 3 Comment(s)

Inspired this past May (which was Zombie Awarenes Month), this post reviews a few graphic novels that fit the theme. Fairies and Ghouls beware! Halloween is fast approaching and Calgary just had it's own Zombie walk on Saturday October 13th! Do you have your costume ready? Or are you a die hard Zombie fan who will wash and recycle their Zombie gear creating environmentally friendly apocalypse wear for All Hallows Eve? For great Zombie books and movies year round check out Alex's great Zombie Awareness Blog from last May.

For now, here are some ghouly graphic novels to get your Halloween grease moving. Grimericks by Susan Pearson and Monster Museum by Marilyn Singer are both illustrated by the lovely Gris Grimly. Think Tony Diterlizzi (The Spiderwick Chronicles) meets Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas) - on paper. Take MaryLou Jones; the java drinking, peter pan collar, blue polka dotted dress, blonde bob, pilgrim shoe wearing skeleton as a Grimly Zombie example. Both books are filled with witty puns to boot! Singer gets straight to the point with a Zombie poem that teaches us how Zombies "dance" and a ghost poem delineating all the family "types". Pearson's

Recipe for a Grimerick goes:

1 limerick, lightly salted

dash grim

slosh of spook juice

1 cup giggles

3 ripe guffaws

Mix together with 1 funny bone.

Chill in dank cave.

Turn the lights down low.

Lock the doors.

Look under the bed.

Read with relish!

I hate to admit it, but I'm actually not actually into Zombies (I know, I know ... please don't bite me!), I AM however, very into juicy, messy, blotchy, splotchy drawings. How to Draw Zombies a Fantasy Underground book by Mike Butkus & Merrie Destefano, is chock full of them! There is much exquisite mark making here showcasing all the delicate intricacies of the artists hand and/or personality - if you believe in hand writing analysis. Each drawing/painting/digital rendering is broken down step by step so that you can see all the layered marks in isolation like Mr. Dress Up - Zombie style! Anyone up for creating a Zombie Mr. Dress Up art piece? We would love to see your submissions on our Teens Create page. Looking through this gem, I have to admit that Zombies are fine ground for digging in & sketching out all the gory details. Mr. Dress Up challenge aside, if you could draw a Zombie what/who would it be?

Here are photos of Calgary's May 2012 Zombie Walk, and here are the photos for the October zombie walk. Calgary's Zombie community is Awesome!

If that's not enough, these stellar Zombie comics and novels should keep you entranced for awhile:

Plus for former Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans... we currently have Diary of a Zombie Kid on order!

When dealing with ghosts what fits the bill of beautiful? Perhaps when the meaning of a mystery lies in belief being it's own reward? Or perhaps when illustrations tinge on being creepy but really are pretty brilliant comic illustrations. Slog's Dad illustrated by Dave McKean, (who also illustrated The Sandman by Neil Gaiman) is a master at this. Written by David Almond, this graphic novel defies easy categorization or interpretation, embedding itself heavily in enigma.

Always save the best 2 for last, right? Here they are. The winner has to be Zombie's Vs. Unicorns, a great new anthology compiled by Holly Black (Team Unicorn) & Justine Larbalestier (Team Zombie). The two duke it out with witty commentary before each short story and the reader is left to decided who wins, Zombies?? or Unicorns?? This book includes many stars of YA fiction such as Scott Westefeld ( who is Justine's husband, did you know?), Libba Bray & Meg Cabot. Westefeld may have actually been playing in this sandbox for a long time. Ever think of nanos as Zombies? Specials anyone? Kathleen Duey included a particularly haunting addition in which you could most likely classify the Unicorn AS a Zombie. Isn't any creature that has eternal life sort of technically you know - a zombie? I, I admit my Zombie love is growing, fed by Unicorns of course!

Finally, because Halloween should always end with something wholesome - like apples... candied - we will end with Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol. This book could be described as Casper... for 16 year olds, with just the slightest bit of Creepy!! thrown in. If you fell down a well, ... well would you befriend that ghost? Join Anya B as she navigates private school with her ghost. As their friendship develops she discovers that being friends with a shade may or may not be all it's cracked up to be; and that somethings are more important than others. This debut graphic novel written and illustrated by Brogol is Great. It has won numerous awards... for good reason! Long live....

Win a PS3 !!!

by Jilliane - 0 Comment(s)

New Central Library survey for youth

You may have heard that we are building a new library downtown--YAY! We are all very excited.

Win a Playstation 3

We are in the really early stages of planning this new library so the time is right for you to give us feedback and tell us what you want to see in this building. In fact, we have been working really hard lately to get input from Calarians big and small (and in-between). For more info on our new library and our public engagement efforts, check out our NCL webpage. You may have seen us out and about at teen nights, afterschool programs, the ALEX, CYOC and other places. And now we have a survey--just for youth. We want to know what YOUth want to see in this new library.

And yeah, if you fill it out you will be entered into a draw to win a PS3!

So. Please fill our our short survey to tell us what you think our new downtown library should be like! The survey ends on October 30th.

Why are there Adults in the Teen Section?

by Jackie - 1 Comment(s)

Look out! Those teen books you bring home from the library may not be patiently waiting for you to get around to reading them… someone in your house may be secretly scanning those pages when you’re not around. Who would want to read your teen books? The new research shows that it could be your parents!

Image of Adult reading Hunger Games

Adults are big consumers of teen fiction. The newest stats say that adults aged 30-44 years old are the predominant demographic buying up YA titles. But why????

There’s the obvious reason: tons of movies are based on teen fiction. If you loved the movie, why not read the book and see what’s lost in translation. (i.e. Twilight, Hunger Games, The Perks of Being a Wallflower).

Adult reading Twilight

Then there are the less obvious reasons:

  • Once you grow out of those teen years and become an adult, everything changes! Adults like to “escape” back to their teen years and reminisce about their own first crush, first kiss, and first colossal mistake. Drama is delivered in high doses, which makes for some really good book plots.

  • YA authors are championing some of the most creative writing in modern day publishing. According to this article, YA authors know that in order to get their books read, they have to compete with Facebook, smartphones, over-stuffed extra-curriculars schedules, and iPods – what they write has to suck readers in before the next distraction comes along. Those are high stakes.

So, if you find a parent reading your books, should you give them a scolding? Nah. Let them enjoy the book in peace. Besides, there are always thousands more YA titles to choose from!

WRESTLEMANIA Reading Challenge!

by Jilliane - 2 Comment(s)

If you could recommend a book to Stone Cold Steve Austin, what would it be? Do you think he would enjoy The Perks of Being a Wallflower? Catcher in the Rye? Or maybe he's actually a big softy and would love a sweet Sarah Dessen romance! ...or maybe not?

This Fall, 9 branches are asking you to convince your favourite wrestler to read a book of your choosing: Central, Country Hills, Forest Lawn, Fish Creek, Nose Hill, Saddletowne, Shawnessy, Southwood, and Thornhill.

If you're particularly persuasive, you could win a TRIP TO WRESTLEMANIA! That's right - next April you could be off to East Rutherford, New Jersey to see WRESTLEMANIA (A trip valued at $5000). And if you're not the lucky grand prize winner, there are still lots of other chances to win WWE swag. Sounds awesome, doesn't it?

Here's how to participate: Write an amazing, persuasive letter that will convince your favourite wrestler to read a book of your choosing and deliver it to a participating branch. Next, you need to commit to reading 5 books between October and April--you can do this at your branch. Then all you gotta do is sit back, read and wait to hear who the lucky winners are (probably you *wink wink*).

While you are waiting, you could come to the Library and MEET LANCE STORM LIVE!!!! That's right, Lance Storm is visiting The Calgary Public Library to tell us how awesome reading is and maybe flex his muscles a bit. You can see him live, for free at the Forest Lawn Library on October 16th and at the Saddletowne Library on October 25th, 4pm.

Contest submissions are due Nov 5. If you win, don't forget to send us a postcard from WRESTLEMANIA!

~blog by Anne

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