Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

Could it be that fans of spooky fiction are tiring of vampires and zombies? Probably not, but I have been struck by the number of recent young adult novels based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. One  example of this is Bethany Griffith’s 2014 novel, The Fall, which reimagines Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ through the eyes of Roderick Usher’s sickly twin sister Madeline. This isn’t Griffin’s first expansion of Poe’s work. Prior to The Fall, Griffin turned to Poe’s short story ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ to create two dystopian novels, Masque of the Red Death and Dance of the Red Death. Other authors have also jumped on the Poe train. ‘Annabel Lee’, Poe’s spooky poem describing the death of a beautiful woman in “a kingdom by the sea”, is the basis for two recent novels, Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey and Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday.House of Usher

Of course, filmmakers have been turning to Poe for inspiration long before this mini-trend in young adult novels and there have been quite a few film adaptations of his short stories and narrative poetry. To describe most of these movies as “loosely based” on his work is an understatement. (Certainly, the version of ‘Murders in Rue Morgue’ I watched in my high school English class didn’t have much to do with the short story.) Of the many Poe-inspired movies, Roger Corman’s film adaptations with Vincent Price are the ones a lot of people remember and they are a lot of fun to watch. If you would like a taste of the Corman/Price movies, the library has a DVD double feature of Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum  that is available for checkout .

Oddly enbart as ravenough, one of the most faithful film adaptations of Poe’s work is the version of ‘The Raven’ from the first Treehouse of Horror episode of the Simpsons. In this episode, the poem is read by James Earl Jones with Homer as the narrator and Bart as the Raven. While quite funny, the text of the poem is not changed and Homer’s descent into madness closely follows the narrative of the poem (or, at least, close enough that the episode is used by some high school teachers to introduce the poem to their students.) The second season of the Simpsons (which contains the inaugural Treehouse of Horror episode) is available at the library, but, if you can’t wait, the Raven segment can be easily found online.

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Corben draws Poe

‘The Raven’ has also been adapted in comics form by cartoonist Richard Corben, who is known for creating unsettling images using a combination of pen & ink and airbrush. Since the 1970s, Corben has drawn quite a few adaptations of Poe’s works. Many of these have been collected in two volumes owned by the library (in both print and electronic formats) – Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits of the Dead and Creepy Presents Richard Corben (although I wouldn’t recommend them to those with a low tolerance for gore and nudity.)

On a less gruesome note,  musicians have likewise turned to Poe for inspiration. Sarah Jarosz’s  adaptation of the aforementioned ‘Anabel Lee’ (from the 2011 album Follow Me Down) is a great example of this. Playing clawhammer banjo (and changing the spelling of the title character’s name), she recasts the poem to resemble an Appalachian murder ballad in the spirit of ‘Knoxville Girl’ or ‘The Banks of the Ohio.’

In the end, of course, the best way to experience Edgar Allan Poe is to read his original work. Collections of Poe’s stories and poetry are available at all Denton Public Library locations. In addition, Denton Public Library cardholders can download electronic versions of Poe’s work using the library’s Overdrive and Hoopla services.

Stacy
South Branch Library

Flat Stanley in Denton

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My granddaughter from Mississippi sent me a letter about a language arts project she has in school about Flat Stanley.  She sent a drawing of the character to me and asked for information about our community and to give a description of Flat Stanley’s adventures in Denton.  Here is my response:

Dear Clara,

I love my city and I’m happy to share information with your class at school.  The city of Denton was founded in 1866 and is the county seat of Denton County, Texas.  We currently have a population of over 115,000 people.  We are located at the northern point of what is called “The Golden Triangle” with the city of Dallas at the south-east point and the city of Fort Worth at the south-west point.  We have two universities in town.  The University of North Texas was established in 1890 and Texas Woman’s University followed in 1901.  We hold the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo each Fall and The Arts & Jazz Festival in the Spring.  We have two nicknames; Little D and Redbud capital of Texas.

I’ll let Flat Stanley tell you of our adventures together in his letter enclosed.

Sending you all my love,

Grandma

Dear Clara,

I arrived at grandma’s house.  She had heard of my story in the library, but had never seen a flat boy.  She rushed me to Denton Regional Medical Center.  We arrived at the emergency room.  The doctors performed a CT of my entire body.  “Yes,” they said, “he is flat.”  “Maybe he will grow out of it.”  Grandma took it in stride and said “I know a way to fatten him up.”

Grandma took me to her favorite bakery in Denton.  The bakery has the most delicious foods.  There were cookies, brownies, pies, pastries, muffins, croissants, and bread galore.  Grandma bought enough to last all week.  I’m still flat.

Grandma took me to visit the Denton County Courthouse to see if there was any record of a flat boy in the county before.  No such record.

We then went to the Denton Public Library to read all my books and to do research on new technologies that might help restore me to my original boyhood.  Grandma took me to the maker space, The Forge, at the North Branch Library.  She thought maybe the 3D printer might work.  This 3D printer only makes plastic.  Maybe someday in the future we can make me a 3D boy again.  Grandma is posting my story on the library blog.  Now the citizens of Denton can help.

I have enclosed some pictures of grandma’s and my adventure this week.  I hope to see you again soon.

Best Regards,   Flat Stanley

What do you like best about our community?  How would you try to fix Flat Stanley?  Or would you accept him as he is?  Where would you send Flat Stanley next?  Come read books about Flat Stanley with your children and go on an adventure.

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http://library.cityofdenton.com/search~S4?/sFlat+Stanley%27s+worldwide+adventures+%3B/sflat+stanleys+worldwide+adventures/-3%2C-1%2C0%2CB/exact&FF=sflat+stanleys+worldwide+adventures&1%2C24%2C#anchor_5

May Beth Everett
Library Assistant II – North Branch Library

Holiday Help

The holidays are officially upon us.  If you are still looking for some gift giving ideas or activities to keep the family entertained, the Denton Public Library can help.

There is still plenty of time to make gifts and avoid the stress of last minute Christmas shopping.  Everyone loves home cooked dishes or baked goods.  Mix in a little love and you have a delicious gift that everyone will enjoy.  Have your children or grandchildren help with the cooking to make it a family activity.

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Use your artistic or crafting skills to make something unique and special.

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If you are a great planner and have already completed your holiday shopping, you might be interested in some family activities to keep everyone busy or entertained during the holiday break.

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We can also help you survive the holiday season with a smile.  We’ve got some holiday humor and advice to help you cope with any holiday stress or frustration you might encounter.

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If you find yourself in a crunch, remember that you can access the library’s digital resources even if the library is closed.  We provide a broad range of ebooks and eaudiobooks with Overdrive.  Hoopla has ebooks, eaudiobooks, music, streaming T.V. shows and movies.

Happy holidays!

Jennifer Bekker
North Branch Library

Giving back this holiday season

Thanksgiving is tomorrow which means the season of giving is officially kicking off.  In addition to buying gifts for family and friends, local charities and non-profits also benefit from the spirit of generosity this time of year.  Here are some great community organizations around Denton that could benefit from your donated time or resources this holiday season:

Denton County Friends of the Family – This is a great organization that helps victims of relationship violence and sexual assault.  Listed on their website are many different ways to volunteer your time as well as a link to donate if you’d rather make a monetary donation.

Our Daily Bread – A community soup kitchen in Denton.  On the website’s “How You Can Help” page, you’ll see a link for monetary donations as well as a list of pantry items accepted.  Volunteer opportunities are also listed on the page.

The Salvation Army – You’ll recognize them as the familiar sound of the bells ringing outside stores at Christmas time or the Angel tree in the mall.  Check out their website to see the many ways in which you can help them out this season.

United Way of Denton County – The United Way has many volunteer opportunities for people wanting to work with children, the homeless, veterans, and more.  Those interested can fill out a short survey on their website and a United Way representative will get in contact with them.

These are just four of the organizations in Denton that work to make our lives healthier and happier but there are many more.  What are some of your favorites?  Click here to view the United Way’s handy community resources guide to see what other organizations you could help serve today.

For inspiring stories by those who chose to give back, check out these titles from Denton Public Library:

 

  

 

– Sarah Ward, Teen Services Librarian-South Branch

 

Wordless Books

When you think picture books, you probably think of rhyming words, colorful illustrations with text to match, or reading never-ending books to your children at bedtime.

But what about wordless picture books? A few of my favorite picture books have no words.  Why are these my favorite?

Wordless picture books are a great way to involve children in reading books.  They have the ability to control the story and take it anywhere their imagination leads them, just by looking at pictures. Creating stories to match the illustrations is an important early literacy element. Reading isn’t just about the words, the journey is just as important as the words themselves.  Children will learn sequencing – knowing the story has a start, a middle, and an end.  Children can use critical thinking skills to develop the story – why is this happening, what might happen next.  Children will increase their vocabulary by describing what they see in pictures, rather than just reading the text.

Have a struggling reader?  Wordless picture books allow children to read a book and make up their own story—and then feel a sense of accomplishment that they just completed a book.

The illustrations are the main reason I love wordless books. Some of the most powerful storylines are in the illustrations.   I don’t feel a sense of urgency to turn the page.  You can study the artwork, see the emotions played out in the details of the images, and feel what the character is feeling.

Check  out some of my favorite wordless picture books.

Rebecca Ivey
South Branch

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Jet Packs and Flying Cars

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When I was a child dinosaurs roamed the earth. There were no VCRs, DVDs, or any streaming services like Netflix. We had first run movies, reruns, and the library. If you missed a show, or a film, or an issue of a magazine, or a comic book, you were out of luck. You were completely in the moment as far as information went, except when you went to the library. It was the only source of history that my generation knew. If you wanted to find out about something that intrigued you, there was no Google – you had to dig around at the library. I remember checking out insane quantities of books on certain subjects – World War Two (my grandfather was a fighter pilot), Bigfoot (Strange Stories and Amazing Facts), and space exploration, were a few of my go-to topics. A librarian once refused to check out the enormous stack of books on aviation I had strained to place on the counter. It seems there was a limit to how many books you could check out on any single subject. I argued with her about the fine distinction between books about aviation and stories about pilots. She was not convinced, and I was only allowed to take five books.

So, you kids today, count your blessings. Our library doesn’t limit you. You can check out 75 items per library card. And, we have electronic sources like Hoopla which allow you to watch TV shows and films ON YOUR PHONE. Will wonders never cease? My great grandmother used to say that she’d lived a hundred lives. When she was a girl, there were still horse drawn carriages in the streets, but in her lifetime she saw men walking on the moon. That fighter pilot grandfather I mentioned, before he died we were communicating by email. Wonders.

Take a look around and appreciate our rocket ship of an existence. Amidst all of the trips, traps, and foibles of technology, our culture is constantly moving beyond our wildest imaginings. We may not have our flying cars and jetpacks, but we have access to the sum total of human knowledge, and it fits into our phones. Your public library is still here, and we’re ready and willing to help you navigate beyond the edges of the map. 

William James Smith

South Branch Library

 

 

 

 

Weird Science

I have very little background in science.  I am, however, curious about the world.  Most of my questions arise as I’m doing simple, everyday tasks.  I wonder how air neutralizers work as I spray air freshener in a musty room.  I question why hair turns gray as we age when I look in the mirror.  I’m curious how batteries were invented—and why are the batteries at my house always dead?

Several years ago, I stumbled across the book Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach.  Mary Roach is a science writer who is very upfront about the fact that she is not a scientist.  I loved how she addresses questions about how things work, why things are developed, and  how they are studied.  Her explanations are clear easy to understand.  She is willing to ask those “dumb” questions that we all have, like “What happens if an astronaut is sick while wearing a spacesuit?”  I find her books insightful and hilarious.

One of my favorite aspects of her research is that she is hands-on.  She backs everything up with plenty of research from science journals and scholarly articles. Ms. Roach actually goes to visit labs, training grounds, and other areas that are off-limits to most people.  Her interviews with scientists, researchers, businesses, and politicians are candid and she is willing to ask the uncomfortable questions.  She asked Jim Lovell, the Apollo 13 astronaut, if the dandruff and dead skin cells that shed, but have nowhere to go during space flight made it feel like a “snow globe” inside the space capsule.

She observes and often participates in testing and experiments.  In her latest book, Grunt: the Curious Science of Humans at War, she describes smelling the World War II nonlethal malodorant “Who me?” in great detail, giving detailed accounts of not only the physical outcome, but also her thoughts and emotions as she smelled the stink bomb.

If you have a curious mind, like to laugh, and don’t mind a few squeamish descriptions here and there, give Mary Roach’s books a try.

Jennifer Bekker
North Branch Library
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