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July 2015 Staff Picks

Brenda’s Pick: Finding Vivian Maier (DVD) by John Maloof

vivian maier

The story of Vivian Meir is captivating, not only because of her photography but in the way she was discovered. She was a single woman working as a nanny in Chicago in the 1950’s to the ’90’s. No one ever really paid attention to her “hobby” which amounted to taking thousands of photographs with her Rolleiflex camera, mostly black and white. She never sought recognition. A young writer searching for photographs of Chicago bought a couple of unopened boxes at an auction and the quality so impressed him that he looked for more. The quest led him to an exploration of Vivian’s life which he pieces together in this film. Archiving her collections and printing the undeveloped film became an all-consuming obsession but the results are astounding…art for art’s sake.

 Brownie’s Pick: RB Digital (online magazine database)

Sometimes you want to read but are not quite ready for that commitment to a book.  That’s when I love magazines!  You can pick one up, flip through a hundred pages or so and it’s like being at a buffet…choosing a little bit of this, a lot of that.  That’s the fun part, but the best part really is that magazines are often portals into the newest ideas, trends, writers and artists.  Most author work doesn’t spring fully formed into a book–usually there are many years of exploratory works in magazines first.  The same applies to ideas, thoughts about our culture, political expression and even, yes, recipes!  Which brings me to RB Digital magazines.  The Library offers this digital database on our website. It’s very simple to use, and the reward?  Hundreds of magazines to browse–30 different categories, 4 languages!   There is everything there from Art, Architecture, Bicycling, Crafts, Gardening, Political Thought, Camping, Knitting, Business, Computers, Literary Reviews, Kids, Games, Weaving, Golf, Health, Fishing, DIY, Tattoos, Flying, Mechanics, Skiing, Cooking, Interior Design, Travel, Science…and that’s not all…found anything you like yet?  You can read whatever issue peaks your interest, right then and there on your computer by checking it out on your library card.  Check it out. The wide, wide world of magazines is waiting for you.

Deb’s Pick: Broken Circle Breakdown (DVD)


The Broken Circle Breakdown was Belgium’s submission for the 2014 foreign language film, Oscar category. One reviewer aptly described it as a “gut-wrenching indie drama… equal parts biography of a relationship and love letter to bluegrass music.”
In the story, Elise and Didier meet, become band mates and then marry, creating a rich life together before becoming parents of the light of their lives, Maybelle. The love inside this family is big but life has a way of testing big love and that is what the rest of the film is about. It’s explored in a very moving way.

Why the bluegrass music, you might ask? Well Didier’s band is the unbroken part of the film. Because of their bittersweet tunes, love is not lost, art survives and life carries on.

 Joanne’s Pick: The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year No Matter Where You Live by Niki Jabbour

year round gardener

Now is the time to think about winter gardening and “The year-round vegetable gardener” is a wonderfully helpful book by a Canadian in Nova Scotia, Niki Jabbour. This book has a wealth of information that can help any gardener produce a bounty of vegetables every month of the year. Some topics the author covers are: what varieties to plant each season, how to do succession planting, maximizing the use of space, companion planting and when and how to use garden appliances. All the vegetables listed have a planting calendar according to frost dates and a symbol to let you know if the plant is tolerant of cool, warm or cold temperatures. If you garden like I do and think about winter gardening in October, this is the book for you!

 Mark’s Pick: Constantine: Roman Emperor, Christian Victor by Paul Stephenson


Historian Paul Stephenson’s biography of the Roman Emperor Constantine, is a well-documented story of a pivotal but often misunderstood personality from ancient history. He revolutionized the Roman Empire by tolerating a persecuted faith and founding a new capital city. These pages not only tell the story of his fascinating life, they also, through beautiful images of ancient works of art and archaeological finds, reveal the world in which he lived. If you are interested in the history of western civilization, this book is well worth reading.

 Michelle’s Pick: Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids by Eline Snel

sitting still

Have you ever had a busy day with young children and wish you all could take a five minute break? Sitting Like a Frog facilitates relaxation and breathing while learning about kindness, being in tune with your feelings, thoughts, and worries. This book is divided up into ten chapters with an accompanying audio cd with mindfulness exercises. Each exercise consists of sitting on the floor cross legged like a frog while listening to the soothing voice. Sitting Like a Frog has been kid tested and approved. Ages 5+.

 Sandra’s Pick: The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

girl on the train

I don’t usually read thrillers, but when I saw this title appearing higher and higher on Maclean’s best seller list I thought, “Why not try it? I could use a distracting thrill.” I was not only distracted by this very well-written psychologically twisted story, it took over most of my weekend and when I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it–wondering just what really was going on and who played what role. Author Paula Hawkins delivered not just one excellent unreliable narrator, but in my opinion, three of them. All women involved in a complex and deeply human tale of lust, love, alcohol (too much of it!), family, home and possibly murder. Each and every character, from the husbands to the therapist to the police, were so believable I almost felt like I’d watched a movie when I finished reading. I could see the whole, heartbreaking, surprising, intriguing and, yes, thrilling, story play out in my mind. It’s not uplifting, but it’s a train ride, alright!

 Sarah’s Pick: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

all my puny sorrows

This novel is a heartbreaking glance at the unimaginable challenges of life for two sisters. Elfrieda, a glamorous, wealthy, happily married, world-renowned pianist, wants to die. Yolandi, divorced, broke, failing to find true love, desperately wants to keep her older sister alive. The author’s profoundly honest voice, although at times emotionally exhausting, invites the reader to reflect on life and what one may perceive to be a ‘rough life.’ The jarring moral question that drives the plot raises issues over the handling of mental illness in society and brings to light the power of the familial bond. A spunky, raw, original and lyrical story, All My Puny Sorrows is a must-read.

 Sarah’s Pick: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

paying guests

In South London after the First World War, in a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as Mrs Wray and her daughter Frances are obliged to take in lodgers. With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern, young couple, the routines of the house and the lives of its inhabitants will be shaken up in unexpected ways.

This lush piece of historical fiction is one of those books you start reading until, bit-by-bit, you dive in headfirst and there’s no hope in surfacing again until you’ve finished it. The novel begins with an exquisite description of life in post-WW I London for the lower middle class. The author grants enough detail for her reader to anticipate what may come next without allowing the story to lose its thrill, all while keeping her reader in her thrall. A combination of history, love and mystery, this novel begs to be read in large doses under the covers into the wee hours of the morning.

 Sonia’s Pick: SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

supermutant academy

“The kids of the SuperMutant Magic Academy want to be your friend.” Aw yeah! Friend request accepted. Like a good comics nerd, I’ve been following the SuperMutant graphic blog by Jillian Tamaki at since shortly after its inception in 2010. And now I have the opportunity to recommend it in its collected anthology form published this spring by Drawn and
Quarterly. Cue teenaged angst. Cue apathy. Cue grappling with BIG questions in the span of 6 panels, the length of most of the strips that make up this 274-page book. Whether or not you were a magical mutant in high school, you will relate to these kids. At turns tender, sarcastic, and weird, SuperMutant Magic Academy follows the high school lives of its recurring characters right up to the epic prom night ending. Jillian has proven herself a master of the teen graphic novel genre with her award-winning illustrations in “Skim” and “This One Summer.” It’s great to see the culmination of her solo blog project.