Fantasy Vacation

Learning new things is interesting and satisfying in a way that goes beyond cocktail conversation. Traveling is one of the best ways to learn about geography, culture, language, food, climate and history of an unfamiliar region. However, flying, motoring, sailing, and train trips are tedious, expensive, uncomfortable and at times, dangerous.

I recently returned from a trip to Australia via Bill Bryson’s audiobook, In a Sunburned Country. I have to say, my opinion (what little I had) about Australia was dramatically altered through my safe, cozy, pleasant, and interesting virtual trip with Mr. Bryson. I was sad when the book ended, one mark of a good read/listen.

Bryson uses big words for adults, a challenge I accept. I looked up what antipodean means – opposite of, such as the other side of the world – and it makes perfect sense when thinking of Australia. To me, Australia was all outback, with a scattering of cities along the coast. It is that, but to be fair, it’s very much more. Texans like to talk about how big our state is, but we don’t compare to Australia, which is an island, a continent, and a country. A big country. Texas: 268,597 square miles, Australia: 2.97 MILLION square miles.

There are many interesting places to visit in Australia and they have a very diverse landscape; it just takes a long, long time to get from one place to another. Did you know there is a rainforest in Australia? Well, I didn’t. Bryson visits Daintree Rainforest near the NE coast of Queensland. This popular tourist site has a skywalk rigged up where people can walk above the forest canopy in order to preserve the forest bed. Daring, yet safe. Especially if you’re just reading about it.

He does make it into the Outback, and illustrates the drama about the region by recounting stories from early explorers who died, got lost, or were forever broken by their experiences. There is a running joke about drinking urine in these circumstances, but fortunately for Bryson, there seems to be enough stopover places to otherwise slake a traveler’s thirst.

Australia has a plethora of things that can kill you: the climate, birds, insects, jellyfish and sharks, to name a few. Rabbits played a disastrous role in the development of modern-day Australia, which continues to feel the impact of this little furry import. Despite this, the country seems to have a pull on people, and Australians are portrayed as positive, friendly and resilient people. An exception to this is the way indigenous people have been and are treated by the European immigrants. It’s likely a semi-familiar story for folks in the U.S.

Aboriginal people were treated like animals when white Europeans first immigrated and colonized Australia, and it was legal, and encouraged, to shoot native people. The story is horrifying. When Bryson visits the site where, for the first time, white people were punished for killing natives, he doesn’t find a marker, or any commemoration of the event. When he asked a park ranger about the omission, he’s told in effect, “If we marked all the sites where atrocities were committed, the landscape would be littered with monuments.” Bryson refers to Aborigines as “shadow people,” who largely exist on the fringes of the mainstream culture. Bryson explores Aboriginal history, which is very intriguing, and notes the startling lack of information available in their native Australia.

So now I have been to Australia. I didn’t perspire, spend money, or risk my life. Except maybe when changing CD discs while driving. I highly recommend the trip to others. Luckily, Mr. Bryson has been to a LOT of places, and I’m ready to go traveling again.

Available on OverDrive

Terri Gibbs

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


Spanish Treasures

There is nothing like sitting down and getting comfortable in your favorite chair to view a good movie, while making sure the popcorn in easy reach.  But what movies should I watch?  Like everyone else I like to view the most currently film on DVD.  But sometimes there is a long wait to view those titles of films from the library.  This is the perfect opportune time to explore other DVDs.  I did just that in the World Language section at North Branch Library.  As I was browsing the collection when a jacket cover caught my eye. Under the Same Moon/La Misma Luna. The jacket cover was in English so why was it in the Spanish section?  The movie is in Spanish with English subtitles.

The movie is about a mother (Kate de Castillo) living and working in the United States trying to earn enough money to bring her son (Adrian Alonso) and mother/grandmother to America.  However, during the course of events, the  mother/grandmother dies and the son (Adrian Alonso), now on his own, makes his way to America, illegally.  The boy is very resourceful and meets a man (Eugenio Derbez) who helps him get to the city where his mother (Kate de Castillo) is working.  The man (Eugenio Derbez) tries his best to help the boy find his mother.  Will they succeed?  Will the boy find his mother?  You will have to see the movie to find out.


While watching Under the Same Moon/La Misma Luna, I truly enjoyed Eugenio Derbez performance.  I found another movie which he stars in. Instructions not included is a story about a playboy Valentin Bravo (Eugenio Derbez) who finds out he is now a Dad when his fling leaves a baby at his doorstep. While crossing the border illegally to America to find the baby’s mother, be begins to bond with his child. Unable to find the mother Valentin Bravo decides to raise the baby on his own and gets a job as a stunt man. This film made me laugh and cry.  The love Valentin has for his child is so touching.  Eugenio Derbez gives an excellent performance. I truly recommend this movie.

These are only two movies titles to view. There are many more treasures waiting for your viewing pleasure.  Let me know about the treasures you viewed.

Carmen Grant

In The Weeds, 11.9. 16: Swing, Ken Lasater, Swing!

From the 1930’s to the early ’60s, Honky Tonk music in Texas, to a large degree, resembled Western Swing in its harmonies, rhythm and instrumentation. A man and an instrument collided in the mid-’30s to create a sound that would influence Country and Western Music for decades to come. The man was Bob Dunn and the instrument was an early prototype of the “steel guitar”. That is to say, he wanted to incorporate an electrified Hawaiian guitar into the Western music he was playing. Leon McAuliffe of  Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys made this concept famous with the “Steel Guitar Rag” in 1936. Suddenly, there were hundreds of innovators and imitators of this style and one of the folks who came along in the aftermath of that musical Big Bang was Ken Lasater.

Bob Dunn was making his name with Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies in the 1930s when Ken first heard him.

First page tease from biography in “Lake Cities Legacy” which we have at the Emily Fowler Library:


Ken worked with many bands over the years and finally settled in Lake Dallas. The work linked above is from 1986 and likely one of the dozens of Texas Sesquicentennial commemorative publications available at that time. Here are a couple links that go into more detail:

Written by Chuck Voellinger, Special Collections Librarian, Emily Fowler Library

Don’t Buy ‘Em … Make ‘Em!

I hate greeting cards.  I know – that makes me sound cruel, hating something that is meant to bring joy or comfort or nice thoughts.  It’s like hating rainbows or puppies.  But the fact remains.  Here are some reasons why.

First off, if someone sends me a card I do not yell or throw it or cry.  I smile because receiving a greeting card is a nice sentiment.  It lets you know someone is thinking of you.  But then what?  What do you do with the card!?  Do you keep this card – and for how long?  Do you display it – and where?  And once you are done displaying it, do you keep it?  I don’t have the answers.  I have kept some cards that included long letters or something special.  But most cards I just end up recycling, like, immediately after the reading and smiling take place.

Second, WHY ARE GREETING CARDS SO EXPENSIVE?  Even the simple flat ones, with no special embellishments, shiny things, flaps that open, popups, sound effects, glitter or other extras cost several dollars at the local grocery or department store.  I am sorry, but I do not want to pay several dollars for a piece of paper.  It is convenient, yes, but I still don’t want to (and I’m not that sorry).

Buying and sending cards makes us feel that we have accomplished something.  And we have.  We accomplished a vicious greeting card cycle of going to the store, spending too much money on a glossy piece of paper, affixing a stamp to an envelope with the glossy paper inside (more money), putting it in the mail, giving the postman something else to carry and placing a burden on someone else – the burden of what to do with the card (see second paragraph).  Does anyone save ALL their cards?  Most likely not.  So the card ends up being recycled or thrown away only to have more greeting cards made in its place.

So how do we end this?  (Because it obviously must stop.)

My answer: Make your own cards!

I enjoy making things, but have just recently learned how much fun it can be to make cards.  And you don’t have to be that crafty to do it!  Plus, each card is a tiny work of art that the recipient won’t want to throw away.  You can even use recycled materials to make the cards.  Not sure where to begin?  This is where the library comes in!

We are offering free card-making classes, two sessions of which have already passed.  But it’s not too late!  Awesome crafter and Stampin’ Up demonstrator Sheri Yielding ( has a card-making workshop coming up at the Emily Fowler Central Library on Thursday, November 17 at 6:30 p.m.  She has already taught workshops in September and October, bringing with her tons of cool card-making gear and a great big smile.  You can register for this workshop at  Below are some examples of cards made with her supplies.


In December, local crafter Hanci Tollefson will be holding a free holiday card-making workshop.  Available will be supplies to make one-of-a-kind cards for those you love!  Look out for our new events flier online and in our libraries near the end of November for more information about this class!

So with just some cardstock, stamps and other simple embellishments you too can make lovely little cards again and again.

And here are some books the library has available to inspire the card maker in you:

the-complete-photo-guide-to-cardmaking     paper-craft  cardmakers-hand-lettering-workbook     card-to-canvas  the-big-book-of-holiday-paper-crafts

Dawn Terrizzi
Emily Fowler Central Library

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





Chessboards, Fretboards, and How to Milk a Cow

My father is a wise man. He once told me that when you milk a cow, you need to have a stool and a milk pail. And while having the right tools is essential, it’s even more important to understand the basics. He said if you put your stool under the bull instead of the cow, you’ll never get any milk. In fact, there’s a high likelihood you’ll get kicked in the face instead. Like I said, my father is a wise man.

When I first learned to play guitar, I played with friends who already knew the basics. They taught me things like how to string the guitar, how to tune it, and how to play a few simple chords. Later, I learned music theory on my own from books that I checked out (you guessed it) from the library. Knowing the difference between Lydian and Mixolydian modes is important, but if you can’t tune your guitar, you’ll never be able to play On the Road Again.

So when I started playing chess, I knew I needed some expert help. I had played chess a few times, but badly. In fact, until I started assisting with chess programs at the North Branch Library, I didn’t know how woefully ignorant I was. I didn’t know that the white pieces always started the game. I didn’t know how to do the castling move. It turns out that sometimes I was even setting up the chess board backwards! In other words, I was trying to get milk from a bull with a guitar that was out of tune. How’s that for mixed metaphors?

Luckily for me (and for you), there is the Monday night Chess Club at the North Branch Library. Every Monday evening from 6:00-9:00, you can learn to play chess with folks who really know what they’re doing. Under the expert and affable leadership of Ben Kemna, the Chess Club welcomes all ages and all skill levels. And it’s free. What a deal!

The library also hosts special chess events from time to time, like a recent “simul” with Women’s International Master Dr. Alexey Root. She played a group of 10 people simultaneously, rotating new players in as she won games. She offered a copy of her new book Prepare With Chess Strategy to anyone who could beat her, but after 20 games, no one did. Though I didn’t learn any new moves from this frenetic exhibition, I discovered that chess really can be exciting to watch.

My advice: give chess a chance. Once you’ve learned the basics and beyond from the friendly folks at the Monday night Chess Club, check out some books from the library and see how far you can take it. Below are just a few titles that can help you go from making a fool out of yourself (like me) to making all the right moves:
prepare-with-chess chess-for-children













Kerol Harrod