Monthly Archive March, 2012

Down-to-Read with Daniela: Get Real: What kind of world are you buying? by Mara Rockliff
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Age Group:
Mature Youth

Non-Fiction, Social Awareness, Social Commentary, Self Help

Did you know that the average American kid is exposed to advertising messages more than 3000 times a day?

Did you know that when you pay for a chocolate bar, the cocoa farmer doesn’t even get four cents?

Did you know that in a single day, McDonald’s serves up enough waste to fill the Empire State Building?

Truths like these – and more – are exposed in Rockliff’s fascinating, disturbing and mind boggling book on modern society exposed.

My Thoughts:
What a great book and such an important read! Get Real is the kind of book that will really make you re-evaluate your consumer choices. It is bold and informative, without being preachy.

Borrow Get Real: What kind of world are you buying? from your local Vaughan library today!

On the Trail: Oak Ridges trail guidebook
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Oak Ridges Trail Guidebook1 photoOak Ridges trail guidebook: a hiking trail along the Oak Ridges moraine

Spring is in the air. Time to get outside and investigate as birds return, shoots begin to appear and nature, once again, turns green.

Inside this guidebook, you will you find trail descriptions with scale maps for the 280 km of trail maintained by the Oak Ridges Trail Association (ORTA), a history of the Moraine and it’s inhabitants, a trail user’s guide as well as trail safety recommendations.

The hikes also reveal some hidden history.  Along 16th Sideroad between Jane and Keele you will see an entry point for one such area. Starting at Pine Farms (point of interest 11) on ORTA Map 2 is a trail that leads to a site which was once the country property of Henry Pellatt, original owner of Casa Loma in Toronto. As you walk the trail you will see a historic brick barn (point of interest 15) once owned by Pellatt as well as the vista across Mary Lake (point of interest 14), a kettle lake, formed when the glaciers retreated.

Check out the ORTA website for scheduled group hikes.

Riveting Raybourn
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I admit I’m easily swayed by a British period piece; as per usual it was the cover of Deanna Raybourn’s “Silent in the Grave” that caught my eye.  But don’t let just a pretty dress sway your opinion, this book is an engaging Victorian mystery with a wee bit of Romance thrown in for good measure.


The book begins with the death of Lady Julia Grey’s husband (someone she admits she did not truly know or love) and later involves her enlisting the help of the mysterious and alluring private investigator Nicholas Brisbane.  As per the usual clichés of this genre, there is a growing attraction between the two, but solving the mystery takes the stage front and centre.

Although I had a pretty strong suspicion of “who done it,” the plot driven action (and lush descriptions of Victorian England) kept me glued until the end.  Even better, if you *do* get hooked, Silent in the Grave is the first in a series! 

The Vault: Lord of the Dance
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 Lord of the Dance  1997 big poster photo

“Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he”

 Indeed! Spring is most certainly in the air. The weather is warming up (not that is hasn’t been fairly decent all winter), the robins are back and singing away, even the Canadian geese are flying overhead in their large V’s. All the signs of an early spring are there if you just take a moment and look out a window.  In celebration of the changing of the seasons and to ring in a little Irish Luck to keep it that way,  why not kick up your heels with a viewing of The Lord of the Dance?

This fast-paced high energy performance was filmed in Dublin back in 1996 and features Michael Flatley, the choreographer of the world-renowned Riverdance show, along with his cast of professional Irish dancers. The dance routines are spectacular, the costumes a little gaudy, and the music is highly addictive. You will find yourself humming the refrains of certain songs well on into the week after just one viewing. 

Just to make one thing clear. Lord of the Dance is not Riverdance. The two often-times get confused as one and the same and this is not the case. Whereas Riverdance was the first production to launch Irish Step Dancing into international recognition and interest, it features a wide variety of musical and dance styles from all over. In essence Riverdance is a show about the beauty and wonders of dance. Lord of the Dance is a dance show that tells a story. What story? Why, Irish folk legends of course! Through the use of heart-pounding instrumentals, haunting vocals, and mind-boggling footwork Michael Flatley took the long-line of step-dancers from one production and based an entire show around it. Myths and legends coincide with romance and power plays as the dancers weave across the stage in order to bring to life the old tales and tellings of the Emerald Isle.

The best part about Lord of the Dance has to be the music. Take a listen and tell me if I’m wrong. Can’t stop smiling can you? Thought so. Also,  if you would like to see the updated version of the show, take a look at the 2011 version of The Lord of the Dance. Personally I have to say that the original edition is the better one. The set is more enjoyable and Flatley is a little less “look at me” and a bit  more “look at the dancing”!

Oh! Now that reminds me. I also discovered this little Irish gem tucked away in the shelves not too long ago.

jean butlers irish dance master class 5897 500 photo Jean Butler’s Irish Dance Masterclass is well worth a look if, like me, you have a love of Irish step dancing and are looking for a fun way to shape up for the upcoming summer months. You do not have to be an expert dancer  in order to enjoy this toe-tapping work out routine. Just make sure that you have a large enough space that is free of anything that can be launched across the room via an accidental energetic high kick.  Broken picture frames are costly to replace as I have unfortunately discovered.

So go outside. Go for a long walk. Breathe in the spring air and if no one’s looking dance for the joy of it! Yes, Michael Flatley tends to leap about like a mad gazelle but since he made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the fastest tap dancer in the world why shouldn’t he?

Down-to-Read with Daniela: Stolen by Lucy Christopher
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Realistic Fiction, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Survivalism

Age Group:
Young Adult

Meet Gemma: an average teen with a not so average story. Torn from the only family she knows, and abducted by a mysterious and troubled young man, Gemma is thrust into a fight for survival.

After being drugged, Gemma wakes up to find herself in the middle of a desert wasteland with only her abductor, Ty.

Ty tries to befriend Gemma. But Gemma is stubborn and determined to get home. Despite her best efforts, she soon finds herself falling in love with her kidnapper. But can Ty and Gemma survive in their fantasy world?

My Thoughts:
Written as a letter from Gemma to Ty, Stolen explores the boundaries of the human need to survive vs. the need for love and acceptance. Gemma is a plausible victim. Vulnerable and on the cusp of womanhood, she maintains her strength but is still malleable to Ty’s persuasions.

Stolen delicately treads the fine line between the crime done to Gemma and the innocence of Ty and Gemma’s growing relationship. Christopher never authorizes the kidnapping, but she does show readers the shades of gray that exist in our world.

Borrow Stolen from your local Vaughan Library today!

Super Suppers.
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If you feel you’re in a rut as far as planning and cooking meals goes. Vaughan Public Libraries offers some glossy new cookbooks, both in paper and in digital format that can shake up your suppers. Here are some recommendations that specialize in uncomplicated family meals. Bon Appetit!

Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner. By Giada de Laurentiis.

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This book is currently on order, so it has to be requested. It promises to contain Giada’s trademark simple yet original and delicous meals. While you are waiting for that book to arrive try out these previous titles by Giada:

Giada’s Family Dinners

Giada’s Kitchen: New Italian Favorites.

Giada at home: Family recipes from Italy and California.


Kitchen Simple: Essential Recipes for Everyday Cooking. James Peterson

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Cook!:275 Recipes Celebrate Food from Field to Table. Mary Sue Waisman

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300 Low Carb Slow Cooker Recipes. Dana Carpender.

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Family Vegetarian Cooking: 225 Recipes Everyone Will Love. Good Housekeeping.

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My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy’s Undiscovered South.  Rosetta Costantino with Janet Fletcher

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The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science
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This book conveys a lot of cutting-edge neurology not just in an accessible way but in an engaging and inspiring way.  One is eager to discover whether Cheryl, whose damaged balance system makes it impossible for her to stand or walk, can regain her balance.  Like the subjects of many of the book’s other case studies, she surprises; she learns to dance. We meet people recovering from strokes, overcoming serious learning disabilities, and functioning with only part of a brain. 

These personal narratives illustrate that the brain has remarkable powers to change its own structure.  The author, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, discusses how this brain plasticity can help one stop worries, obsessions and compulsions.

The book will appeal to anyone interested in the science of the brain, or in personal stories of overcoming adversity, or in improving one’s own brain functioning. Fans of Oliver Sacks will be delighted.  There is no gap in this book between riveting stories, clear science explanation, and strategies that can be applied in own’s life.

Official website for the book.

The Vault: Casablanca
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Rick: Why did you come back? To tell me why you ran out on me at the railway station?
Rick: Well, you can tell me now. I’m reasonably sober.

A moment if you will. Turn up the volume of your speakers, turn down the ringers on your phones, lean back in your chairs, close your office doors, and Click Play.

As time goes by….

This year was a big year for old movies. The Artist brought home prestigieous Oscar gold and got the cinema community talking about the old silver screen classics once again. However, in the vast history of film-making there is one film that stands out bigger and brighter than all the rest. It is the Film of Films, a jewel in the Cinema crown. Like a fine wine it has aged beautifully. Even at the ripe old age of 70.

That film, ladies and gentlemen, is none other than Casablanca.

The most quoted film of all time, the winner of only 3 Academy Awards, released during the middle of the Second World War, with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at the helm, Casablanca is timeless story about …a straightforward tale about love, betrayal, redemption….with an All-Star cast that delivers excellence with every line uttered….a once in a century achievement…

What can be written that has not already been said repeatedly over the decades? What insights can we discover that have not already been discussed? You may never have seen this film before but you most certainly have heard of it. Do any of these lines ring any bells?

 “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

“Play it Sam.”

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

 ”I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.”

 ”Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Still uncertain? Recognize this man?

Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine photo Humphrey Bogart. There never was a man who could fill out a white tuxedo jacket quite like he could. He is the one responsible for those iconic lines. After all, he was the one who said them and was nominated for an Oscar for it too. Having made his mark earlier on in Hollywood as a “gangster”, Casablanca was his first real shot at the Romantic Title and he pulled it off beautifully. Yet it was not a solo effort. Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman was chosen from an impressive line of famous leading ladies for the role of Ilsa and she holds her own against the backdrop of war-driven Morocco.  In all respect, Bergman’s Ilsa was to Bogart’s Rick what Ginger Rogers was to Fred Astaire. Working together Bogart and Bergman set fire to the Big Screen and the smouldering chemistry between the two still burns with an intensity that is felt by each passing generation of film-goers.

You can read up on the life and times, triumphs and tragedies of these two acting heavy-weights. The two biographies listed below are the finest on the literary market. I have read them and it was hard to put them down.

esq humphrey bogart book 061311 lg photo Tough Without A Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife Of Humphrey Bogart

ingrid ingrid bergman a personal biography photo Ingrid: Ingrid Bergman: A Personal Biography

 Casablanca is the Golden Age of Hollywood at its finest. Who knew that a simple film released during the onset of the war would leave such an impact on future film-making? It truly deserves its title as  The Film of Films.

There are times when Hollywood tends to forget its illustrious past and the films that sets the Golden standard.  However as Bogart once said, we’ll always have Paris.

The power of conversation
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by Alex Pham,
Student writer from Emily Carr Secondary School

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Michelle (right) with Mr. and Ms. Kim (left and middle) at the Pierre Berton Resource Library.

One of the greatest challenges for new Canadians can be learning the English language which, in Vaughan, is used every single day for everything between shopping for items to simple conversations.   Learning to speak English requires time, practice and help and our volunteer Michelle makes learning English an attainable goal for our English learners.

Michelle, who lives inWoodbridge,  is a retired high school teacher with a love of learning and helping others.  When asked what she gets out of these volunteer sessions she spoke about how rewarding volunteering is.  She loves learning about other languages, people and cultures. 

To help new Canadians learn the English language, the Pierre Berton Resource Library, with Michelle’s help, has developed a highly effective ESL (English as a second language) program.  This special program helps teach the English language though the power of conversation.  Learning to speak English through the simple conversations such as talking about cares or family trips can have a big difference in helping new Canadians learn the English language.  The program works in small groups of 2 or 3 people plus Michelle.  The program works by having discussions about common topics.  This allows students to better relate what they are learning to something that they might do in their daily lives.  It also helps to improve their pronunciation, grammar and flow while speaking.  Despite the fact that each of the workshops are only an hour long, Michelle is helping  the participants get a better understanding of  the English language.

With Michelle’s help, the participants in the ESL program have made significant improvements in their English speaking skills.  In as little as a year, participants like Mr. and Ms. Kim have shown major improvement in their vocabulary and pronunciation.  As a result, they have become more confident when speaking and it has helped changed their lives.  It has become easier for them to communicate in their everyday lives such as talking to a salesperson at a store or ordering food in a restaurant.  Through the ESL program and with the generous help from Michelle, learning the English language has become a less daunting task for new Canadians in our neighborhood and has made their lives here in Canada a little easier.

Michelle we thank you for your amazing help for the ESL program, your hard work and dedication to the program has helped changed many lives for the better.

Leaving the Tights and Cape at Home: Comics With a Difference
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With my Maple Leafs falling faster than a speeding bullet, it’s time to shine the spotlight on the library’s very own homegrown underachievers –graphic novels for grown ups. 

Thankfully the days when libraries would debate whether to even add graphic novels to their collections is long gone.  With each passing year, awareness from the general public does seem to be growing (there is even a course now at the University of Toronto called The Graphic Novel) but there still to be a lot of work for us to do before the community at large starts borrowing them as often as we’d like.

 I certainly can’t claim to know all there is to know about graphic novels, not by a long shot but I do belong to a book club in my free time which reads exclusively this sort of book (the lazy man’s book club!). It has exposed me to lot of great titles which I will shine a light on here. Before I get started though I will mention right off the bat that as much as I like them; the books I’m considering here don’t include much in the way of super hero comics from Marvel or DC such as X-Men, Daredevil, Thor, Spider-Man and Batman etc because they do just fine on their own. Nor am I considering the various Manga series the library collects (such as Naruto, Bleach, Fruits Basket etc) because they too are heavily borrowed and quite frankly I simply do not get their appeal so I’ll leave them for the more ardent defender of that art form.

 So if I take away the manga and most super hero graphic novels, what is left?

 I just finished reading the 10 part series Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan, which was very addictive. With its pacing – cliffhangers, timely plot revelations, cast of international characters and settings I found it reminiscent of the TV show Lost.  One day we may see this series on the screen. Y Last Man4 photo

 Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is as good a memoir as you can find in any medium.  Named Time magazine’s best non fiction book of 2006 and it was nominated for aNational Book Circle award.

 Essex County (nominated by Canada Reads as one of the best books of the last decade) by Jeff LeMire is a series of melancholy tales set in southernOntario. It’s beautifully rendered in black in white, and as the book’s publishers put it, it is a “tender meditation on family, memory, grief, secrets, and reconciliation”

 Chester Brown’s ground breaking work Louis Riel (2003) was another book my group read. This one set the bar quite high for any graphic novel biographies that followed it.  Sometimes mentioned in the same discussion as Brown is his close friend and fellow graphic novelist Seth (The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists, and Wimbledon Green)

 Art Spieglman’s Maus may be the best known of all graphic novels – proving that tragedy, war and genocide are subjects that could be dealt with in comic form. His recounting of his father’s experience inAuschwitz opened a lot of people’s eyes as to what was possible in a graphic novel.

 A homework topic that we regularly get asked for help with is the subject of the media and its influences on society (or something to that effect) and a great resource is the non fiction graphic work The Influencing Machine  by NPR’s Brooke Gladstone.

  Pekar3 photoRounding out the titles my group read are the locally set Scott Pilgrim series, the pioneering works Love and Rockets by the Hernandez brothers and one of my favourites: American Splendor by Harvey Pekar.  

 Conspicuous by his absence is Alan Moore (author of  WatchmenV For Vendetta, Swamp Thing, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen etc etc) but hopefully the book club rectifies that soon.

 Some other well reviewed graphic novels that I like are:                               

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth – Chris Ware  

tomine12 photoShortcomings – Adrian Tomine                       

Palestine – Joe Sacco 

Whiteout – Greg Rucka

Epileptic – Daniel B.

Walking Dead – Robert Kirkman   


ghostworld 130x150 photoAnd pretty much anything by Daniel Clowes

I hope this give you some ideas of the variety, depth and scope that our occasionally neglected graphic novel collection has to offer.