What’s Happening (virtually) at Cheshire Library in August

Baby, it’s hot outside, but we’ve got some cool online programs lined up for August. Crank up at A/C and join us!

Finding the Women in Your Family Tree

Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 2:00 – 3:00pm

Prior to the 20th century, many women didn’t have an identity of their own. They were tangled with their father or husband and in some places, were not allowed to own real estate in their own names or to sign legal documents. This presents a real challenge when researching your female ancestors. Professional Genealogist Donna Moughty will looks at strategies to search for and identify our female ancestors. Please register in advance, registered participants will receive a Zoom meeting link the day of the program.

Lunchtime Sing-along

  • Tuesday, August 4, 12:00 – 12:30pm
  • Thursday, August 13, 12:00 – 12:30pm

Start your afternoon on a good note with a family-friendly lunchtime sing-along! Listen in and sing along to storytime favorites with Miss Andrea, Miss Lauren, and Miss Ali! There are two options to view: either join us on Zoom (link in our Event Calendar) or watch us on Facebook Live https://www.facebook.com/cheshirelibrary/

Lawn Maintenance During Drought

Wednesday, August 5, 2020, 3:00 – 4:00pm

Presentation by Greg Bugbee, associate scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. He directs the soil testing laboratory and is responsible for answering public inquiries regarding soil fertility and turf management. Please register in advance, registered participants will receive a Zoom meeting link the day of the program.

Mad Science

  • Decomposers (Grades 3-6): Wednesday, August 5, 2:00 – 3:00pm
  • Flyers (Grades K-2):Tuesday, August 11, 2:00 – 3:00pm

 

Switch it up at CPL! Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

  • Wednesday, August 5, 3:00pm – 4:00pm
  • Wednesday, August 12, 3:00pm – 4:00pm

Social distancing got you down? Got a Nintendo Switch? Join us at CPL’s Smash Ultimate arena! Play against your friends and folks from all across Cheshire! For TEENS in grades 6-12. All skill levels welcome, no registration required. View the program description in our Event Calendar for details on how to join.

Digital Photo Organizing

Thursday, August 6, 2020, 3:00pm – 4:30pm

Are your digital images and videos scattered over various devices and in different locations? Do you struggle to find your most important images? Are you anxious about losing your photos because you don’t have a backup plan in place? This class provide tips on how to consolidate your images & videos into one manageable library so you can easily access, share and backup your most important memories. Please register in advance, registered participants will receive a Zoom meeting link the day of the program.

Christine’s Critters

Thursday, August 6, 2020, 3:00pm – 4:00pm

Learn about birds of prey and reptiles with a virtual visit from live animal ambassadors! All ages are welcome to attend. Please register in advance for this virtual program and you will receive a Zoom link to the meeting one hour prior to the program start time.

Virtual Cheshire Anime Club

  • Friday, August 7, 3:00 – 5:00pm
  • Friday, August 14, 3:00 – 5:00pm

Konnichiwa, minna-san! Can’t get enough Anime and Manga? Be an “Otaku” and join the Cheshire Anime Club! We’ll meet on Zoom and watch Anime movies together! For grades 7-12. The link to this Zoom Virtual Program will be posted on Cheshire Anime Club’s Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/13673851607/) OR you can register on our Event Calendar, and we will email you before start time with a link to join this Zoom Virtual program.

Food Explorers

Join Registered Dietitian, Katie, from Food Explorers will show young chefs how to make black bean brownies, and homemade granola bars! Best suited for kids in grades 2-8.  Please register through our Event Calendar to see what ingredients you will need for each program. Registered participants will receive a Zoom meeting link one hour prior to the start of the program.

Let’s Write a Sketch

Tuesday, August 11, 2020, 2:00 – 3:00pm

Many genealogists are paralyzed by the number of ancestors they have researched, they don’t know how to start writing any of their stories because it looks like too big a job. This talk is geared specifically to genealogy, and describes a format that is used in genealogy journals. Please register in advance, registered participants will receive a Zoom meeting link the day of the program.

Write Your Family Story

Thursday, August 13, 2020, 3:00 – 4:30pm

Ever wonder what it takes to produce a long-form family history book?  LLI genealogy instructor Janeen Bjork completed a 178-page heirloom-quality book for a 94-year old client, and will share the lessons she learned in the year spent reviewing, organizing and editing the family’s letters, diaries, documents and scrapbooks. Please register in advance, registered participants will receive a Zoom meeting link the day of the program.

Suffragettes in Corselettes: 19th Amendment Anniversary

Tuesday, August 25, 2020, 2:00 – 3:00pm

The 1910s saw an end to the hourglass figure with a tiny waist, and women were finally able to breathe and move more freely. Did the demise of tight-lacing help women gain the right to vote in 1920? Underwear matters. This program, presented by a mother/daughter duo is funny and frank as they honor our foremothers’ journeys. Please register in advance, registered participants will receive a Zoom meeting link the day of the program.

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Thursday, August 27, 2020, 3:30 – 4:30pm

From antioxidants, to iron, to fiber and more dark chocolate can do wonders to your health. To find out all about the health benefits of this wonderful food join Marisa, your Shoprite of Southington and Wallingford dietitian for this online presentation! Please register in advance, registered participants will receive a Zoom meeting link the day of the program.

Virtual Volunteering – 10 ways you can make a difference even while social distancing!

Let’s give the world as much kindness as we can right now. Virtual volunteering makes it possible for teens (and adults!) to make a difference in the world, even during the pandemic.

Our teen volunteers have the opportunity to meet up on Monday afternoons via Zoom to socialize while we’re volunteering, but it’s not required (visit our Event Calendar and look for the next “Virtual Monday Teen Volunteers” to sign up to receive the Zoom link).

So how can you make a difference in your community while in the midst of social distancing restrictions? Here are some suggestions for virtual volunteering (but you can certainly come up with your own ideas as well):

Virtual Volunteer Idea #1: Sew masks for those in need

Right now, there’s a need for reusable cloth medical masks for those in the at-risk population and for people in higher-risk jobs. You can easily make the masks by following along with tutorials and can organize donating these to the people who need them most.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #2: Become a virtual tutor

With more kids across the country shifting to online learning, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in helping anyone struggling with school. The simplest way for you to become a virtual volunteer tutor is by letting your teacher know you are available, or check out sites like TeensGive.org. If you’re really good at a subject, offer to tutor kids through Zoom or FaceTime.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #3: Play games with seniors over video

There are many vulnerable populations feeling isolated, and this is especially true for seniors who aren’t able to have visitors. Set up a virtual game night or hangout with the seniors in your life, or those living at a local nursing home. This helps foster a greater sense of belonging and helps mental health all around. You can read more on SeniorsLiving.org.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #4: Start a fundraiser

There are plenty of organizations that need funds right now. Start with something local. One example is to host a fundraiser to purchase gift cards for gasoline to the staff of your local hospital. Here are some great fundraising ideas for you to try out.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #5: Write, write write!

There are so many ways to connect with people even when we have to remain physically distant. Bringing back the lost art of writing is a good way to volunteer. Check out this list of virtual pen pal resources to find out how to connect with other kids around the world. Alternatively, say thank you to front line workers or send letters to soldiers far from home or to patients in the hospital. Nothing warms the heart like a handwritten note.

Write your local officials. We have Representatives, Senators, and a Governor whose jobs are to represent their constituents–that’s us. So, write your elected officials about what they can do to help during this time. Some ideas are getting appropriate N95 masks for healthcare professionals, securing more ventilators for hospitals, giving financial aid to people that have lost their jobs and businesses, or putting rent and mortgage payments on hold.You can send your letter to them online here.

Write a letter to the president of the United States. Why not just take it to the top? Your voice could be the key to getting legislation passed that will serve others and even our country as a whole. You can send him an email or a letter.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #6: Start a petition

You can take up a cause for your local town and drive a petition through Change.org. Think locally by focusing on your school or community. (https://www.change.org/start-a-petition)

Virtual Volunteer Idea #7: Share social media posts for important actions, fight cyberbullying. 

For those of you with social media profiles, sharing important information from health officials or other community organizations is a great way for you to help virtually. Sharing posts from American Red Cross about giving blood, phone numbers for helplines for kids, or accurate information on the coronavirus are all simple, but important ways to help. More kids than ever are depending on social media for social interaction, which makes cyberbullying even more likely. Help keep kids safe online by joining organizations like Tweenangels or Teenangels. Or just do your part to stop bullying rather than perpetuating it.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #8: Sign up to help transcribe historical documents or update Wikipedia pages

If you are into history, there are some interesting volunteer opportunities with the Smithsonian who can help transcribe historical documents and update relevant Wikipedia pages. You can use your love for learning and make an impact in these important organizations.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #9: Sew blankets or cage comforters 

There are so many kids and animals in need, and comfort items like blankets can make a big difference. Volunteering with an organization like BinkyPatrol or Project Linus is a great way to give back. Right now, they’re also looking for donations for cloth masks as well.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #10: Lend your eyesight for the blind or those of low vision

Pair up with an organization like BeMyEyes.  BeMyEyes is a completely virtual service,  done over a blind person’s smart phone using the camera, and allows sighted volunteers aged 17 or older to directly help a blind or low-vision person with daily tasks. You can sign up to get paired with a person in need. That person might need help with tasks like checking expiration dates, distinguishing colors, reading instructions, or navigating new surroundings.

Here are some more general ideas:

  • Clean out your closets. Use this free time to declutter your space. Pull out all clothes, toys, games, books, etc. that you no longer use. If they’re in good shape, gather them together and donate them to organizations like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Habitat for Humanity.
  • Share your talents. Do you sing? Play the guitar? Dance? Take amazing photos? Burp the alphabet? Jump online and offer some free lessons to other bored kids stuck at home. You can also put on a virtual concert to entertain your family, friends, and other people stuck in isolation and needing a break from Netflix.
  • Donate your skills. Are you artistic? Can you build a website? Edit videos? Write? There are many organizations and charities that could use your help to get their message out. Reach out to them and let them know what you can offer or post on Facebook community groups.

And here are some additional resources:

Are you a Cheshire teen who needs community service credits for school?  Send us descriptions, screenshots, or pics of whatever virtual volunteering you’ve done, and the amount of time you spent doing it, and we’ll award you community service hours for your service. Send it to kgile@cheshirelibrary.org – and thanks for making a difference!

Problematic Classics and Contemporary Solutions

 You ever go back to a book or a movie that you loved as a kid, and just as you’re getting into it again, suddenly you’re sideswiped by something that makes you cringe? I’m not talking about convoluted plots or lackluster acting. I’m talking about the moment you realize that this thing you loved so much is racist. Or contains any number of outdated and harmful perspectives towards people of different faith, ability, skin gender, sex, orientation, or level of income.
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Many of us have warm fuzzy feelings associated with classics that are deeply problematic. And listen: that is fine. Every reader has the right to read and enjoy the books of their choosing. And I’m certainly not advocating that we should ditch these items from our home collections or our public shelves. That would be censorship, and librarians aren’t cool with that.  However, once we as readers become aware that something is potentially harmful, we then have the responsibility to remove or mitigate that harm. That’s why we have big bold warnings on cigarette packaging, and why our normal lives ground to a halt a few months ago in the face of a deadly pandemic. So, how do we handle problematic books? To read, or not to read? There are strong arguments for both sides, and there’s no one right way.  It’s a challenge to provide an age-appropriate context to our kids when we adults are still trying to educate ourselves about our country’s history.
And  if we do want to include some of these books with outdated perspectives in our reading,  it might be helpful to choose additional books to read as a “counterbalance”, to better reflect the world in which our young readers currently live. To help with these decisions, here are some problematic classics and contemporary solutions.
One more note before we delve in: the idea of a Classic Book or any canon of literature, is a construct. We made it up. Classics were decided by people with loud voices: people with access to good education, good jobs, stable finances, and influential social circles. (And yes, this usually means white men, as well as folks who received the endorsement of white men.) Now, in 2020, we have the unprecedented ability to not only hear those voices that have been historically quiet, but also to amplify them to a level that they deserve. We get to determine for ourselves what books, movies, and other artifacts of culture are truly important enough to wear the label of “classic” and pass on to our children.
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The Classic: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Problem: Wilder’s unsympathetic portrayal of Native Americans. A character says at one point, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” I’m not sure if that’s before or after Pa participates in a minstrel show, but oh yeah, that’s in there, too.
The Solution: The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
The first book in the five-book series following Omakayas through her daily life as an Ojibwa girl near present-day Lake Superior in the 1840s. Voracious readers who love strong female leads, history, and slice-of-life stories will devour these books with enthusiasm.
Another Solution: Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
Park loved the Little House books as a child, and this story of a half-Chinese girl who settles with her family in the Dakota territory reflects the spirit of those pioneer tales while addressing their shortcomings.
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The Classic: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Problem: While the story of Atticus Finch fighting against injustice and racism is a much-loved classic for adults and kids alike, it filters the story of a black man through a white lens. Black characters, who are often portrayed with negative stereotypes, don’t get to tell their own story.
The Solution: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
A contemporary story of racism, violence, and injustice from the perspective of those who live it. Starr, a teenage girl with a strong family guiding her way, discovers her own power and her own voice. (Sound familiar?) With a story of police brutality and protests, it’s also a setting that will resonate with teens who are seeing it in their news feeds on a daily basis.
Another Solution: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
This Newbery Medal winner also centers on a young black female protagonist and explores racism and injustice, but like Mockingbird, it’s set in mid-1930s Jim Crow deep south.
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The Classic: If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss

The Problem: Stereotyped portrayals of African and Asian ethnicities, plus it includes the idea that a non-white person could be on display in a zoo. There are plenty of other subtle and not-so-subtle instances of racist caricatures in the Seuss lineup.
The Solution: Ada Twist, Scientist written by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Ada Twist is a curious little girl bound to become a scientist, and this book takes readers slyly through the scientific process, leading them along with a strong rhyming structure and a distinctive illustration style. It’s fun and funny, and when you’re done with Ada, there’s Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect.
Another Solution: Last Stop on Market Street written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson
This picture book revolves around a boy, a grandmother, and a bus ride. It’s simply told and simply illustrated, but this winner of the Newbery Award, Caldecott Honor, and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor has already become a new classic. And don’t make this your last stop: also check out de la Peña’s tear-jerker Love, and Robinson’s wordless reality-bender Another.
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The Classic: The Berenstain Bears series by Stan and Jan Berenstain

The Problem: The Berenstain Bears mirror a stereotypical homogeneous nuclear family: one boy, one girl, one stay-at-home mom who rules the house with an iron claw and dispenses moral proclamations while wearing a housedress, and a bumbling dad who needs more parenting than the kids. All the same species/color, I might add. Maybe some families looked like this, once upon a time in a land far away, but this is not what they look like now. Women have jobs, men contribute more to housework and parenting, and families are more diverse than ever with blended families, single parents, same-sex parents, and mixed-race  families. Speaking of race, children’s publishing has a huge problem with diversity, and a sobering report from 2018 showed that bears, rabbits, and other anthropomorphized critters were depicted in children’s books more than all non-white races combined. The beloved bears aren’t necessarily bad, but they’re not really relevant, either.
The Solution: Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Jabari is a little boy whose dad takes care of him and his sister, and Dad offers light but steady support as his son learns how to face his fears on his own. And keep your eye our for Jabari’s return in a second book slated for release this fall!
Another Solution: Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems
Okay, okay, so you want your beginning reader to sink their teeth into a massive series of books, and they’re a sucker for animals. Best friends Elephant and Piggie explore the nuances of patience, sharing, including friends of differing abilities, and generally being a good friend, but they’re more fun and way less heavy-handed than the bear family.

British Mysteries from Book to Screen

Today’s post comes to us from our Deputy Director Deb, who loves a good mystery!

Many devoted mystery readers began with Agatha Christie’s classic golden age mysteries featuring Miss Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot. I certainly did! These distinctly British offerings are a perfect gateway into the world of mysteries. And like so many other British mysteries, they have been made into marvelous television series, which you can watch using the library’s new streaming video service, Acorn TV. Or you can download the books in e-book or e-audio from the library’s website.

Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are both well represented on Acorn TV and in our e-book and e-audiobook collections. Consider reading or listening to Murder on the Orient Express, The ABC Murders or The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Check out Acorn TV and watch Marple, Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime, The Agatha Christie Hour and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Also try Christie’s classic locked-room mystery, And Then There Were None, considered to be the world’s best-selling mystery, available in e-book and e-audio and on Acorn.

The Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton features a middle-aged woman who sells her London PR firm and moves to the country (the Cotswolds, to be precise), where, in true amateur detective fashion, she encounters—and solves– murders galore! Try the first book in the series, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, available in both audio and ebook. Or read any of the others—like so many long-running mystery series, it isn’t necessary to read them in order. Then watch Agatha Raisin on Acorn, a top pick for fans of cozy British mysteries.

One of my favorite village cozy series, also by M.C. Beaton, features the unambitious and charming policeman Hamish Macbeth who patrols the village of Lochdubh in the Scottish Highlands. I have listened to all of them on audio. The reader, Graeme Malcolm, imbues the audiobooks with such charm and personality that I’m betting you, too, will be hooked! We have more than a dozen titles available on e-audio, including Death of an Honest Man and  Death of a Gossip. Then check out Hamish Macbeth on Acorn.

The Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood, featuring a glamorous private detective in 1920s Melbourne, is actually Australian, but close enough to fit in with our British theme. The supremely independent Miss Fisher has class, sass and the means to pull it all off! Try Cocaine Blues, the first in the series, or The Spotted Dog. The clothes alone make the series worth watching Miss Fisher on Acorn!

Ann Cleeves’ series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope is considerably darker than the other series in this post. DCI Stanhope is a solitary, obsessed, caustic, brilliant investigator near the end of her career working in northern England. Try listening to the first in the series, The Crow Trap, or read The Seagull. And be sure to watch Vera on Acorn TV.

Set in Ireland, the long-running Jack Taylor series by Ken Bruen has been thrilling readers (and now TV fans) for years. Taylor is a classic ex-cop turned seedy private eye prowling the underbelly of Galway. Try e-book or e-audio  Galway Girl or e-audio Purgatory and check out Jack Taylor on Acorn.

Groovin’ with Pete the Cat

Children’s books are notoriously hard to get published. Everyone has an idea for a children’s book, and almost all of them will never see a contract. More than 21,000 children’s titles are published every year in the US, by a number of publishers, which is only a dent in the number of actual submissions. Scholastic, the one who haunts school kids with that monthly flier, publishes just 600 books a year, from board books through High School. So when a children’s book is self-published, sells 7,000 copies in its first ten months and is then signed on by major publisher Harper Collins, you know there’s something really good there. And in this case, the really good is Pete the Cat .

If you haven’t read him, Pete the Cat is a groovy large-eyed, laid-back blue/black cat who lives with his mom and dad and his tuxedo-patterned brother Bob. He has a host of friends (Grumpy Toad, Gus the Platypus, Callie, Squirrel, etc) and he loves bananas and surfing. His stories are mostly easy-readers that play to the 2-7 year old crowd, but he is infinitely more interesting than that. Pete is the kind of story you want your child to like, because you want to read more of his stories.

Pete is the creation of James Dean, whose early illustrations wound up as musically or rhythmically-oriented stories by storyteller/musician Eric Litwin. Litwin wrote four of Pete’s adventures (Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons, Rockin in my School Shoes, I Love My White Shoes, and Pete the Cat Saves Christmas). I have to admit, these early volumes are my favorites, and I cannot help but read Pete stories as if he’s a surfer dude. Groovy, man. While Litwin and Dean split in 2011, Dean and his wife Kimberly have written more than 60 Pete adventures, with more on the way. Pete’s adventures range from curing hiccups (Mom knows best!) to sleepover friends who won’t sleep, to shopping in the grocery store and scuba diving.

The actual Pete the Cat

Being an artist was not Dean’s plan. His father was an artist, and he didn’t relish  reliving the struggle. While being an electrical engineer paid bills, art crept into his life more and more, until he began to pursue art full-time. When he adopted a tiny black kitten he named Pete, Pete’s antics crept into his artwork , and a legend was born.

Dean’s success is an author’s dream – self-published, picked up by a real publisher just two years later, a runaway success (more than 7 million copies sold), merchandise deals, and now a TV series on Amazon Prime, with voices by no one less than jazz singers Jason Mraz and Diana Krall (which totally fits, because Pete gives off that groovy chill of a cool jazz cat). They say self-publishing doesn’t pay, but Dean is one of those handful of lucky authors who won that lottery.

While I find some of the titles to be uneven and lacking the lyrical qualities of the bigger titles such as Groovy Buttons, Pete remains one of my current favorite preschool titles, stories you don’t mind reading over and over again, with subtle morals (family, keeping your cool, how to be a friend, sharing, learning, etc) that won’t make you roll your eyes with saccharine. Rock on, Pete!

Cheshire Library has more than thirty Pete titles!  Here are some of them:

Pete the Cat: Rockin in My School Shoes
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons 
Pete at the Beach
Pete’s Big Lunch
Pete the Cat: Scuba Cat
Pete the Cat: Snow Daze
A Pet for Pete
Pete the Cat and his Magic Sunglasses
Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcakes
Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues
Pete the Cat Goes Camping
Pete the Cat and the Perfect Pizza Party
Pete the Cat and the New Guy