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Books Meet Art: Quick Hits

Need some book-related artistic entertainment/inspiration? Here are three blogs that are definitely worth a glance, and maybe even a follow.

a sample from Corpus Libris

Even if you don’t know Chip Kidd‘s name, you definitely know his work. Kidd is a prolific and prominent book cover designer. Among his many well-known designs are Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, Naked by David Sedaris, and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. His blog is varied and interesting, with highlights of his work mixed in with observations (often humorous) about publishing and design in general.

A fun blog that I found linked from Kidd’s is Corpus Libris, where readers submit photos of themselves replacing parts of their bodies with the images from book covers. Equal parts creative and hilarious, perhaps you’ll be inspired to contribute with a book you find in our collection?

Another Kidd link referral, artist Thomas Allen does amazing photographs using books in creative ways, particularly with his cutouts from pulp novel covers, where the characters come bursting (literally) to life out of the pages of their books.

a Thomas Allen design

On another note, several months ago on this blog, I mentioned filmmaker and Sunnyvale native Bernie Su’s web video project The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Since that post, Bernie gave a talk here at Sunnyvale Library, wrapped up the series, and announced a follow-up project in one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever. The series has become wildly popular, as this article from WIRED describes. If you haven’t taken a look, I highly recommend it (be warned, the 100+ episodes are highly addicting).

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Super Bowl or Super Brawl At Your Library

The Super Bowl is done, and like all 49ers fans, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. So for now, let’s do like all the other teams that didn’t even make the game and talk about the commercials.

Between getting choked up by a Clydesdale and grossed out by GoDaddy, the best ad for $4 million of not-our-money was the only one that took place in a library (naturally). Oreo’s spot begins with two men arguing, quietly, over which is better: an Oreo’s creme filling inside or its chocolatey cookie outside. Soon everyone in the library gets involved, quietly, in an all-out brawl for sandwich supremacy. Eventually, fire and police crews respond, quietly, to quell the chaos. The ad is laugh-out-loud amusing, but it also perpetuates two (ok, one) stereotypes about libraries we’d like to dispel.

Stereotype #1: Quiet study is the only activity that happens in the library.

First, you should know that the library can still be a place for quiet reading and reflection. We have designated areas of the library expressly for this purpose. However, as times and the needs of our community change, so does the library. Public libraries in general are evolving from silent crypts of knowledge to vibrant, lively, and yes, at times loud, centers for exploration and collaboration. Sunnyvale Library is no exception. Last week on this blog, Becky wrote about some of the unexpected things that librarians do instead of shushing people all day. While we do and always will promote reading and study here, one of our goals at the library is to create programs that help people lead active, enriched lives, both physically and mentally. Take a look at our recent and upcoming events to see that we are working hard to offer something for you to get up, get engaged, and doing something on your own or with others. We’ve had wonderful success with our recent Fresh Start Series, as hundreds of you have come out to learn about organization, investing, EBay, and more. There are programs still to come on healthy food and estate planning in this series. Also still to come this month, you can visit the library to learn about getting out in your garden to grow blueberries, raise money for your organization, pick up the basics of computers or ebooks, or get crafty and make a valentine for your special someone. We recently got you listening to chamber music and dancing to Bollywood beats, and you still have time to tap your toes when we continue our Sunday Music Series with barbershop harmonies later this month. And of course we have some great literature programs planned as well, including our monthly book group which will kick off Silicon Valley Reads month with a discussion of The Long Walk: The Story of War and the Life That Follows by Brian Castner (who will speak here at Sunnyvale Library on Sunday, March 3 at 3 p.m.).

Stereotype #2: Oreos are great library eats.

While we can all appreciate the pick-me-up that a sweet snack provides during a long session of reading or studying, eating inside the library is problematic for several reasons. Crumbs on the floor, especially under tables and next to bookshelves where it is harder to clean, eventually attract vermin and other nasties. It’s gross and no joke. Food debris and beverage spills on books and other materials can cause permanent damage, especially if not reported immediately (usually out of embarassment). Have you ever unluckily picked up a book or DVD that had obviously been through a soda spill? Double gross. Eating, especially in a quiet area, is often disruptive to others. Very few of us are true eating ninjas, stealthy and silent. Some of us are unabashed lip-smackers, and well, we just won’t go there. Finally, take another look at the mess that can happen when Oreos and libraries mix:

So get up, and get engaged here at your library! But leave your Oreos outside or else they might disappear, because for the record, this librarian is most definitely on Team Creme.

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Transmedia Storytelling

Transmedia storytelling, like the name suggests, describes a method of using multiple media (books, videos, web, etc.) to tell a story.  Unlike the traditional method of simply adapting, say, a book into a movie, this type of writing weaves the story among the various media so that each complements, or even relies upon, the others.  Transmedia is not new, but it is growing in popularity, and here are a couple of transmedia stories that I’ve enjoyed and am currently tracking.

Skeleton Creek

Skeleton CreekPatrick Carman is a bestselling young adult and children’s author (The Land of Elyon series, The 39 Clues: The Black Circle) and has done groundbreaking work in transmedia storytelling through a number of books, including the four-title Skeleton Creek series.  In the first Skeleton Creek book, the story begins with journal entries by Ryan, a teenager who is homebound after a mysterious accident left him with a broken leg.  He receives an email from his friend Sarah, who tells him that she has video footage from the night he was hurt, but something strange was captured on the tape.  Readers, along with Ryan, are directed to go to Sarah’s website to watch the video.  After watching, the story continues back in the book with Ryan’s reactions and further interactions with Sarah.  As the two delve deep into the mystery of an unexplained death that no one seems willing to talk about, the story passes back and forth between Ryan’s text and Sarah’s videos, truly bringing the small town of Skeleton Creek and its mystery alive before your eyes.

To me, there is much to love about transmedia storytelling as it relates to children’s and teen literature.  Young people that may otherwise be “reluctant readers” can get swept up in the mysterious, engaging, and downright creepy videos, but are quickly drawn back to the written word.  Before long, they’ve devoured an entire novel and are hungry for more.  Parents who struggle with the overwhelming access to electronic screens in their kids’ lives can embrace this kind of technology that encourages and enhances quality writing.  Patrick Carman has utilized the book/video model in other stories, including the Dark Eden series (also for teens and super-creepy), and Trackers,  about a group of tech-savvy “spy kids” (for middle graders, and includes interactive puzzles along with the videos on the companion website).

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Depending on your Jane Austen persuasions, the world has either too many or too few adaptations of Pride and Prejudice.  But for those who ever wondered what Elizabeth Bennet would look and sound like as a 24-year-old graduate student with a video blog, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is just right.  The Diaries is a series of web videos, released twice weekly, that gives all of the elements of the classic story a modern twist: Lizzie’s unending dramas with her marriage-obsessed mother, boy-crazy little sister Lydia, and best friend (and video producer) Charlotte, all while supporting her shy but sweet sister Jane in a budding relationship with new-to-town medical student Bing Lee.  Oh, and of course his standoffish friend Darcy came along too.  Where transmedia comes into play is that every character in the show has a social media presence.  They converse with each other on Twitter and other sites and viewers are free to follow along and even jump into the conversations.  Austen-ites that ever wished they had a friend like Elizabeth Bennet, here’s your chance.

Another great reason to highlight this show is that co-creator Bernie Su is a Sunnyvale native.  We’re planning to have Bernie visit the library this winter to talk about videomaking and all things LBD, so stay tuned for that.  In the meantime, if all this Lizzie talk has given you the urge to read (or re-read) the novel, remember that Pride and Prejudice is available in the public domain, so you can download a complete and completely free and legal digital copy anytime through either the Project Gutenberg ebook collection, or our OverDrive collection (public domain books on OverDrive do not count toward your checkout limit).

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D-Day Stories and Beyond

Although they occurred 70 years ago, the events and stories surrounding World War II maintain wide popular interest. Today, on the 68th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, we highlight one war story that has inspired many others.

Stephen E. Ambrose’s 1992 book Band of Brothers, E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne: From Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, tells the story of the men of “Easy Company” as they fought through Europe. The book was adapted into a highly popular television miniseries that aired on HBO in 2001 and was executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who had recently collaborated on Saving Private Ryan, another outstanding film that features D-Day prominently.

Episodes of Band of Brothers frequently appear on television these days, but if you’re interested in watching the entire series, the Library owns both DVD and Blu-Ray editions. Both sets include several outstanding special features and historical background information. Another interesting way to watch the series is to see how many of the fine ensemble cast you can recognize from other movies and television programs. You can’t miss those in prominent roles like Ron Livingston (“Office Space“) or Donnie Wahlberg (TV’s “Blue Bloods“), but you’ll also catch  glimpses of David Schwimmer (“Friends“) and the truly eagle-eyed will spot Jimmy Fallon (“Saturday Night Live”, “Late Night”) in a brief cameo.

The success of Band of Brothers inspired many of the surviving members of Easy Company to tell their individual stories. Here is a list of related titles you can find in our collection (descriptions taken from the TV series’ Wikipedia article):

Finally, if you enjoy Band of Brothers or any of the related stories, you won’t want to miss the critically acclaimed companion miniseries The Pacific, which also aired on HBO in 2010 (while related production-wise, the two series are separate and can be seen independent of each other). This series focuses on the actions of three U.S. Marines, Eugene Sledge, Robert Leckie, and Medal of Honor recipient John Basilone. In addition to owning the series both on DVD and Blu-Ray, the Library collection also includes a number of related books, including:

Check out some of these stories and take time to remember those who carried forward on D-Day and beyond, and the ones that never returned.

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Next Year Now?

As is always the case in the springtime Bay Area, hockey and basketball seasons are over (earlier than usual for the Sharks, about as expected for the Warriors), and the calendar turns over to baseball.  Last season was a disappointment for fans of both the Giants and Athletics, but this is the time when “wait ’til next year” becomes “next year is now.”

To get you in the pastime mood, there are some notable recent additions to our baseball collection.  Finding them is easy, simply search for ‘baseball’ in the library catalog, or browse the shelves starting at call number 796.357.  To get you started, here are a couple titles of note:

  • Stan Musial: An American Life by George VecseyA Band of Misfits: Tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants by Andrew Baggarly
    The title says it all.  Forget 2011 and relive the 2010 championship season through the eyes of a Giants beat writer.
  • A Moment in Time: An American Story of Baseball, Heartbreak, and Grace by Ralph Branca with David Ritz
    On the topic of reminiscing, Giants fans might like to look all the way back to “the Shot Heard Round the World” from the perspective of the man who threw the fateful pitch, Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca.
  • The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH by Shawn Green with Gordon McAlpine
    I know, I know, another former Dodger author?  Non-Giants fans might be willing to give this exploration of the junction between sports and philosophy a go.
  • Nobody’s Perfect: Two Men, One Call, and a Game for Baseball History by Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce with Daniel Paisner
    Just last month, former A’s pitcher and current White Sox Philip Humber threw the 21st perfect game (when the pitcher doesn’t allow a single batter to reach base the entire game) in Major League history.  This is the inside story of one of the more famous imperfect games, when an umpire’s blown call cost a young pitcher his shot at history.
  • Stan Musial: An American Life by George Vecsey
    The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter
    by Ian O’Connor

    Two well-written biographies about a current, and a future, Hall of Famer.
  • Moneyball
    Relive some A’s glory days with the Oscar-nominated film (on Blu-Ray and DVD) starring Brad Pitt as A’s General Manager Billy Beane, or read the modern classic that inspired the film, by Michael Lewis.
  • Calico Joe by John Grisham
    Grisham gets out of the courtroom and onto the ballfield for this story about a promising career cut tragically short and the redemption found in the aftermath.  For another tale of on-field tragedy, try the acclaimed debut novel The Art of Fielding by Chad Horbach.
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