Libraries: Displays

I realised that I don’t often talk about being a library assistant, even though it takes up most of my life… and I love it.

So here are some displays I’ve done of the last six months. I am primarily part of the Children’s Team, so they’re all related to that.

My first solo display took me three months to create. It was at roughly the same time as I was knitting my blanket. Two massive projects at the same time – I don’t know how I had the energy.

This is my A-Z of Children’s Literature. Obviously it’s not definitive and it was driven my kids books that I enjoy more than anything. It took a hell of a lot of cutting and sticking. My colleague once commented that “working here must be like being at playgroup for [me] because all [I] ever do is cut things out and stick ’em down.” Which is true. Although I never went to playgroup so I guess I’m just regressing again!

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I’ve left the picture full size because there’s so much content.

Since then I’ve done a couple of simpler displays:

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A very basic one for the Carnegie shortlist. There was a lot of blue in the covers and branding, so it was easy to tie that in to the background. with nicking the pics and info off the Carnegie site, arranging it all neatly on Publisher, printing and cutting out very, very neatly.

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Dorothy Rackham donated a selection of books containing illustrations by her brother, Arthur Rackham, to the library several years ago. They’re usually stored in the archives, but to celebrate National Bookstart Week, we got them out for people to view. Reference only, of course! I decided that you can’t really imitate Rackham so the best thing to do was to print off some of his pictures. The background is blue simply because there was a lovely bit of circular blue paper which was the exact right size for the circular display dish. Again, about an hour choosing pictures and making sure the text was right.

And finally…

This year’s Summer Reading Challenge theme is Creepy House. For more info go to: http://www.creepy-house.org.uk

I volunteered to build the displays. As I’m going on holiday on Tuesday, I was given three straight days (which amounted to two days after you’d taken out all my other responsibilities) and three young volunteers to complete six displays. One each for the five branch libraries and then a special one for Central. I was encouraged to use as much of the promotional material that we already had.

Being fairly ambitious, I decided that I was going to build a creepy dolls house out of cardboard. It started off like this…

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Then I covered it in 75m of masking tape (it could have done with more), painted it up, and stuck in some of the characters and furniture from the log book picture:

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Up on the wall with the banner and some bats:

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C’est fini!

I am very tired. Emotionally exhausted. But even I think it’s pretty good. ๐Ÿ™‚

The branch library displays are pretty much exactly the same as this except instead of a 3D house, they have an enlarged photocopy of the house from the log book. Building six of these would have actually driven me crazy!

I am very glad that I am spending the next week on holiday. I must not find any ecuses to cut stuff out. Please don’t let me!

Review: The Farm

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I started The Farm by Emily McKay nearly six months ago when my colleague and I started our teen book groups. She managed to get some pre-release copies of the book to give out at the first meeting. Neither of us had read it, but I was only a few chapters in before I realised that it probably wasn’t the best choice for our first book. Maybe a little bit too controversial in content (as was reflected in some parents comments).

However, as an adult, I enjoyed the book. In my review of Codename: Verity by Elizabeth Wein I talked about how I dislike narrative switching, and McKay is guilty of doing this as well. It was less annoying than in other examples however, as one of the voices was an autistic girl. The combination of her voice and her sister’s worked quite well, and the odd third person chapter actually fitted quite well into the flow of the narrative. And she didn’t use the technique to give away everything either – instead, they were used as clues, which was quite effective.

What I disliked the most was that the small twist near the end of the book was given away in the cover blurb. I hate hate hate this. My first experience of it was with Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Reading that novel, I could see all the clues and they were very clever. I was very disappointed not to have been able to completely enjoy it because I already knew what it all meant. Don’t read the blurb on either book if you ever some to read it.

On the whole, it was a good, teen vampire-dystopia romp. The characters were realistic, even in their subborn annoyingness (but isn’t that realistic for teens?). It hit on some quite heavy topics – i.e. teens getting pregnant on purpose because ‘Ticks’ don’t like progesterone and attempted rape – but it contributed to the plot rather than distancing the reader.

The vampires were scary throughout, even the ones that were on the side of the protagonists were portrayed as animals who were incredibly dangerous and their control only a thin disguise for their animalistic insides. To be honest, it could have survived – and possibly been better – if it hadn’t had any humanoid vamps at all, but at least they were included in a way I can respect (meaning – they didn’t freaking sparkle).

It felt like it moved really slowly for something that was chronologically moving quite fast, but I will probably read the sequel, as I’m kind of interested in what happens. But not so much that I’d mind if I never got round to it.

Review: Summer Stampede 2013

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Mother: Do you fancy seeing Mumford and Sons? It’s at a mini-festival thing.

Me: Umm, sure… how much?

Mother: ยฃ65.

Me: No.

Mother: It can be your Easter present.

Me: Um, ok then.

Easter presents are not a thing in our family, by the way. She just really wanted someone to go with her. Mumford and Sons were the only band I’d really listened to on the list. The rest were names I’d heard of or been recommended at some point, but never actually got round to doing anything about it. So after that massive investment, I kinda figured I should. And well, there was nothing that I hated.

Have I ever told you that I’m not good with crowds? Well, I’m not good with crowds. I’m not generally claustrophobic, but people piss me off. I can’t bear them touching me, the heat of it all, being under the control of the masses around me, unable to escape… I can come close to panic attacks walking through Primark on a Saturday.

Why is this relevant? Because it turned out that this event was for 50,000 people! I’ve never been to a 50,000 people event before. I know my limits and I stick to them. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out this little fact until I was already in the Olympic Park. Aye, the Olympic Park! That should have given the game away really. I didn’t realise until we were crossing a bridge and the crowd extended forwards to the arena and all the way back to Westfield, and the astroturf was already half covered by the time we got there.

Combined with the intense heat, lack of shade and the fact that I was unsure of the outfit I had chosen all indicatated that this was going to be an absolute disaster. How glad was I to be wrong.

After what seemed like an hour of walking around the park to get to the site (which seemed to be a very large carpark they’d covered in astroturf and thereupon erected a very large stage) we found ourselves a clearing in the masses. Another mistake: we didn’t take a blanket to sit on. Astroturf is not comfortable! We were very far away from the stage. When the performers came on they were little more than ants in the distance, but honestly, I couldn’t have handled being closer. The people around us seemed content to sit and listen rather than standing and squishing, which was good. For most of the show, we forgot that we were in such a large crowd, until the camera panned round on the audience, and we were like, WOAW! Our biggest success was remembering to put sun screen on though. Only got a teeny-tiny bit burnt and it’s all healed now.

The first act (who started the moment we arrived) was Bear’s Den. Heard of them? I hadn’t. They were very good though. Will definitely be purchasing their album when I’ve got some spare cash.

Next up were Haim (pronounced Hay-im and not Hay-mm apparently). I’ve heard of them before, even seen them on music television, and some of my mates are absolutely in love with them. Their music was good, but their banter was absolutely pants. I get that chat is required occasionally on stage, if something goes wrong or you’ve got to tune you’re guitar, but anything over that and I get annoyed – just play your music, love.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes were probably my least favourite of the night. I can’t remember a single song of theirs because they talked and mucked about so much. Oh I remember! They played Truth! “That’s it, I think. Oh wait, we’ve got five more minutes. Will we play another song? Maybe Truth? No… that just doesn’t feel like the right song…” I’m surprised they ever got round to playing it. Grrr.

Ben Howard was fantastic. We checked out some tracks in preparation, and I immediately fell in love with ‘Keep Your Head Up’. His music is beautiful and he spent his set actually playing it. Appreciated!

Vampire Weekend make me want to dance… but I’d been up for a long time, and sitting in that field in the sun for nearly five hours by the time they came on. They’re music is so chipper and fun. I love it. ๐Ÿ™‚

And the headliners… Mumford and Sons. The sun was setting and it was cooler, so we actually got up to dance for them. It was wonderful. They did a lovely bit in the encore where they made the whole audience be quiet so they would all play around one microphone. The effect was quite acoustic and intimate, even though we were watching it on a screen with 50,000 other people.

To finish, all the bands (excluding Bear’s Den who were allegedly in the pub) came on stage for a rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s Break the Chain. A really beautiful end to the evening. Really raised the energy and spirits for the long, long walk back to the train station.

I don’t think I’ll be hurrying out to any more large events anytime soon, but it was a fantastic day. I got fresh doughnuts too! Bonus. ๐Ÿ™‚

Review: Carnegie Challenge – Codename: Verity

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My fourth Carnegie challenge installment is Codename: Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

I am in two minds about this book.

On one hand, the perspective annoyed me. One character writing as though she were another character, but herself inbetween, and then halfway through switching to that second character. This sort of stuff has always annoyed me. I understand why it’s done. At the end, when I found out it was a collection of written accounts (like how Frankenstein is the recollection of a story written into a letter, but actually a fictional book), that kind of aleviated the frustration a little bit.

I started to become annoyed with this sort of thing back at Uni when we had to read Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses and Melvin Burgess’ Doing It. It feels like they’re doing it for the sole reason of letting you know the whole story, which I think would be less jarring if they just wrote it in 3rd person. If they could do it without doing it so cheaply as putting the character name at the top of each chapter to remind you who whose head your inside- if each character was so well portrayed that you didn’t have to be told who was talking, then maybe. I had an argument with my lecturer about this. I appreciate that I’m in a minority, but it’s something I feel very passionately about for some reason.

Wein created two very well voiced character though, who were so individual that you didn’t need to be told who was talking. She earnt my relucatant forgiveness by the end of the book. I would have been happy had it ended with the end of the first voice though (and there would have been less tears).

It pretty much destroyed me emotionally. I cried for hours afterwards. Probably second only to The Hunger Games in the list of literature which has made me cry. Joint with The Book Theif, I think. And I wasn’t expecting it either. There was just one sentence and suddenly I was sobbing my wee heart out like nobody’s business.

When I’m judging a book, it certainly gets bonus points for making me cry. I feel that it shows how well developed the characters and plot were that I could become so involved and dependent upon them. So I have to conclude that it was incredibly well written, which makes me feel undermined because I got so frequently annoyed at the techniques Wein used.

I would recommend it. The characters were entertaining, if a little too brave and bright to be realistic (even when they’re saying they’re not). The german interrogator was a fantastic asset to the plot, even though we only saw him through the eyes of other characters. If anything, I actually felt like he was the most real character in the whole novel.

Wein has a disclaimer at the end which, to paraphrase, says that she doesn’t intend her novels to be historically accurate, as long as they are historically plausible. Probably liked this sentence as much, if not more, than the rest of the book. This is to say, a lot!

Recipes: Meringues

Some 40 years or so ago, my grandad bought my granny a Kenwood Chef. It languished in a cupboard by the Aga, until I discovered it’s existence and requisitioned it. I requisition a lot of things off my granny.

In conjunction, I’ve always wanted to make meringues, but never had the muscles to do it by hand. The Kenwood solved the problem. My mother followed the recipe in the book that came with the mixer, which said that it needed four hours to cook! No photos, sorry. I simply refused to believe that it would take that long to make them, so I hunted down a recipe off the net.

With just over an hour of cooking time, I used this recipe: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/10002/meringues

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The Kenwood doing his job.

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After I have unartistically dolloped them onto the baking parchment.

I’ve always thought baking parchment and greaseproof paper are the same thing. They’re not! Greaseproof paper tends to cook, go brittle and inevitably stick to things. Baking parchment is lovely.

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The finished product.

I found that they were a little more fragile that I expected, but I’m comparing them to shop-bought meringues. I don’t recall ever eating homemade ones before. They were however, delicious!

Me, looking very pleased with myself, after adding the cream and strawberries.

My neighbours were very pleased with me that night as well! The one problem with learning how to make meringues (and how easy they are) is that I have to do a lot of running to make up for my increased sugar intake!

And now I can make my own Eton Mess (which is my very favourite dessert).

Review: Man of Steel and World War Z

Man of Steel

I enjoyed the atmosphere of this. It was very grey, but in a nice indie serious way. Just enough staring to not be annoying. Henry Cavill was a great cast for Kal-El, physically and in terms of his emotional representation. Before seeing this, I was told about a scene in a graphic novel where they show that it’s not just the glasses that change – he hunches and walks differently, etc. I did not feel that they toned him down enough at the end considering how much more real they made this film compared to others, but a scene such as that would have been too comedic for the tone of the film. Junior Clark’s also cast well.

Russell Crowe was incredible. He had his Gladiator voice on, which – let’s admit it – is his best voice. And Kevin Costner. My mum is disappointed because he now only seems to play dads, but what dad is more awesome than Jonathan Kent?

I love Amy Adams. Her name is alliterative and her face and wasit just drive me crazy. Actually fairly neutral about her in this film though. I felt that the romance between her and Clark/ Superman moved unrealistically fast and this disappointed me, because I thought the rest of the film moved at a really good pace.

The one thing that REALLY did my head in would be too much of a spoiler for me to tell you about. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about! A great pillar of DC destroyed.

[Edit: I’m told this isn’t such a big deal. Apologies! Still shocked me though.]

World War Z

Um, possibly the most tense two and a half hours of my life! Really enjoyed it. The jumpy bits and the zombies weren’t scary enough to give me nightmares, but it was well made enough that I was on the edge of my seat for the entire films.

My favourite character was not Gerry, but Second, who barely said five words in the entire film, but she was really strong. She kept going even when she was damaged. I don’t know how to explain it other than I felt a real connection with her, despite her lack of words and hair.

It did feel like a computer game though. Like the film was split into levels. Certainly, a game spin-off was easily imaginably, especially considering the hordes of zombies were of a similar quality to the grapics used in the games these days (which is to say – good).

I enjoyed it. I disagree with most of the reviews which say that it’s boring. It had it’s limits, but it was certainly not boring! I may have to read the book now…

Review: Shakespeare Triple Bill

The Taming of the Shrew (touring production – The Globe)

We did two Shakespeare’s in one day. Oh my! I hear you cry. It was actually quite excellent.ย For The Taming of the Shrew we were groundlings and stood in the stalls. I was nervous about this, as I’m quite small and do not enjoy standing for long periods, but it was actually great! I’ve sat in a few different areas of the Globe and we had the best view and the cheapest tickets! The only thing that could have made it better was if we’d arrived a bit earlier so that I could have stood at the front (ah, short person problems). In the interval, everyone just sat down, which I’m sure is a terrible safety hazard, but it had a bit of a festival vibe which was lovely.

The play itself was great. It’s not one I’d ever seen before, and I only knew the basics of the story (most of which I’d learnt from Ten Things I Hate About You). It was an all girl troupe, and there were only seven of them playing all the parts. That’s actually a method I enjoy, when done well. It was lovely to note how they did the costumes. It was so well timed, that an actress would disappear back stage and return moments later as a completely different character. This was achieved by, for instance – her wearing shorts as one character, and then pulling a dress on over the top for the next one, or wearing leggings and pulling on a boiler suit. It must have been terribly warm and uncomfortable for them in some scenes when they’d effectively be wearing three layers of clothing, but it was very effective.

I thought the play was a peculiar choice for a female troupe, as though it is a comedy, it is essentially the tale of spousal abuse in which the perpetrator never gets his comeuppance. I am told the last scene has been interpreted in several different ways (i.e. sarcasm to show Kate still has a backbone) but I felt that this one was played straight – Kate was broken by the end of it. But perhaps I am misreading it, and their depiction of Kate and Petrucio’s relationship is supposed to bring out this horrified reaction in me. Afterall, their portrayal is more representative of reality, where the abuser rarely does suffer punishment, and I suppose following a feminist interpretation, it represents the domination of the patriarchy. I think I’m thinking about this too much.

Summary: Hilarious, but thought provoking.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

We were seated for our second performance. A much more expensive view but quite a restricted view (an extra pillar in front of us). I appreciate that every seat in The Globe has a restricted view, and I love the theatre, but after our wholly unrestricted first performance, it was disappointing to be paying ยฃ30 more just to be sitting down.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is certainly among my favourite of the bard’s work. I’ve seen it once before, performed by Headlong Theatre at the Citz in Glasgow. I can safely say I’d never laughed so much at a play in my life. However, it seems I’d either entirely forgotten the last half of the play, or they hadn’t performed it. We arrived at the interval, and I was sure that was where the play ended. But my memory has never been great.

The cast were superb – particularly Bottom’s comedic tone and Oberon and Puck’s physical deterity. I do love when a show is as much about the physical aspects of the show as it is about the script. Because Shakespeare is so popular, troupe run the risk of relying on the script rather than themselves, but fortunately, none of the shows I’ve seen have done this.

Summary: Sensationally hilarious but poor view.

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

This is another of the Bard’s work that I had never seen before. I believe at some point the Kenneth Branagh film was on tv, but I wasn’t particularly interested at the time and the five minute I watched did nothing to dissuade me of that notion. This version, however, I was excited about purely because it is Joss Whedon and I have a lifelong love of his work. One of these days, he will probably do something terrible and I will still rave about it.

We laughed ourselves silly all the way through. Again, there was a lot of physical humour to accompany the terribly witty dialogue. This was enhanced by the fact that the majority of the cast were people I recognised from Whedon’s other work. It was lovely to see a lot of them back together again and in such different roles. We’re not sure whether the film would have been as enjoyable had it not been this particular cast, as the humour was emphasized because these we were viewing it through the history of each actor, and not just that particular story. Cheering as Phil Coulson came on screen, laughing when Phil Coulson gets drunk, though it is not Phil Coulson, but Leonato.

The only thing that bugged me was Alexis Denisof/ Benedick’s American accent… but I have a feeling this may well be his real accent and I was just confused because I’ve always thought of him as British. I’m such a shallow critic.

Having talked to a colleague who’s rather enamoured with Shakespeare, it emerged this the concept for this film, where each character is drunk or stoned or both through most of the film, actually makes it more coherent that productions which are played straight. The plot is so ridiculous at points, but if the characters are inebriated then it actually kinda makes sense that they would act the way they do.

As far as the filming is concerned, it felt like a reality show, but was shot in black and white. The latter sought to create an intimate feel while the black and white served to detach the viewer. It was a slightly disconcerting technique. Whedon has been quoted as saying that he had wanted to shoot it on his phone – I’m glad he didn’t – unless it was a very, very advanced phone where you couldn’t tell it was a phone.

Summary: Disconcerting film style, but filled with nostalgia for the actors and the physical acting that always enhances Shakespeare’s words.