Category Archives: Today in History

Guess who’s 112 years old today…

Curious George book coverH.A. Rey, the creator of the Curious George books!

We’re having a special storytime to celebrate, for children ages 3-6 and their caregivers.  Crafts and games will be included.  Pre-registration is required.  Call us at 985-2173 x-5 or email us!

Also born today…

…was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince.

On June 29th, 1534…

…Jacques Cartier made the European discovery of Prince Edward Island.

Other than a few guidebooks, the major PEI-related items in our collection are, of course, the Anne of Green Gables books and movies.

If you’ve never read the first book in the series, SAD!  It’s fantastically funny (but not without its tearful moments) and NOT just for girls!  (I swear.)

The publisher’s description is:

“Matthew had taken the scrawny little hand awkwardly in his; then and there he decided what to do. He could not tell this child with the glowing eyes that there had been a mistake. . . .”

When eleven-year-old Anne Shirley arrives at Green Gables with nothing but a carpetbag and an overactive imagination, she knows that she has found her home. But first she must convince the Cuthberts to let her stay, even though she isn’t the boy they’d hoped for. The loquacious Anne quickly finds her way into their hearts, as she has with generations of readers, and her charming, ingenious adventures in Avonlea, filled with colorful characters and tender escapades, linger forever in our memories.

As always, if you would like to place a hold, please call the library at 985-2173 or visit our website.

On June 28th, 1932…

…actor Pat Morita was born.

For your viewing pleasure:

On June 27th, 1880…

…author, activist and lecturer Helen Keller was born.  She was the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, and the story of how she and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, broke through the communication barrier was made famous in William Gibson’s play The Miracle Worker.

In addition to at least five (five!) biographies in the children’s room, three biographies in the adult biography section (not counting her autobiography and her biography of Anne Sullivan) and The Miracle Worker in our drama section, we also have Georgina Kleege’s Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller in our adult nonfiction stacks.

The publisher’s description is:

As a young blind girl, Georgina Kleege repeatedly heard the refrain, “Why can’t you be more like Helen Keller?” Kleege’s resentment culminates in her book Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller, an ingenious examination of the life of this renowned international figure using 21st-century sensibilities. Kleege’s absorption with Keller originated as an angry response to the ideal of a secular saint, which no real blind or deaf person could ever emulate. However, her investigation into the genuine person revealed that a much more complex set of characters and circumstances shaped Keller’s life.

Blind Rage employs an adroit form of creative nonfiction to review the critical junctures in Keller’s life. The simple facts about Helen Keller are well-known: how Anne Sullivan taught her deaf-blind pupil to communicate and learn; her impressive career as a Radcliffe graduate and author; her countless public appearances in various venues, from cinema to vaudeville, to campaigns for the American Foundation for the Blind. But Kleege delves below the surface to question the perfection of this image. Through the device of her letters, she challenges Keller to reveal her actual emotions, the real nature of her long relationship with Sullivan, with Sullivan’s husband, and her brief engagement to Peter Fagan. Kleege’s imaginative dramatization, distinguished by her depiction of Keller’s command of abstract sensations, gradually shifts in perspective from anger to admiration. Blind Rage criticizes the Helen Keller myth for prolonging an unrealistic model for blind people, yet it appreciates the individual who found a practical way to live despite the restrictions of her myth.

As always, if you would like to place a hold, please call the library at 985-2173 or visit our website.

On June 26th, 1892…

…novelist and missionary Pearl S. Buck was born.  Her best-known book is The Good Earth (which we have — in print format, audio format, as well as a copy of the 1937 film in our DVD collection).  Less known is the fact that it’s the first book in a trilogy.  The second book is Sons (descriptions are from the publishers):

Second in the trilogy that began with The Good Earth, Buck’s classic and starkly real tale of sons rising against their honored fathers tells of the bitter struggle to the death between the old and the new in China. Revolutions sweep the vast nation, leaving destruction and death in their wake, yet also promising emancipation to China’s oppressed millions who are groping for a way to survive in a modern age.

And the third is A House Divided:

A House Divided, the third volume of the trilogy that began with The Good Earth and Sons, is a powerful portrayal of China in the midst of revolution. Wang Yuan is caught between the opposing ideas of different generations. After 6 years abroad, Yuan returns to China in the middle of a peasant uprising. His cousin is a captain in the revolutionary army, his sister has scandalized the family by her premarital pregnancy, and his warlord father continues to cling to his traditional ideals. It is through Yuan’s efforts that a kind of peace is restored to the family.

Also, Anchee Min’s most recent book, Pearl of China, is about her.

As always, if you would like to place a hold, please call the library at 985-2173 or visit our website.

On June 25th, 1963…

…singer-songwriter George Michael was born:

Okay, okay: ALSO.  On June 25th, 1903, author George Orwell was born.  (George Orwell was his pen name, actually — a fact I was unaware of — he was born Eric Arthur Blair.  The things I learn writing these posts!)  His most widely known books are perennial picks for high school required reading:  Animal Farm and Nineteen-Eighty Four.

As you’re probably familiar enough with those titles (though I will mention that we have the movie 1984 with John Hurt in our DVD section — which came out in, you guessed it, 1984), I’m going to feature two of his slightly lesser-known titles.

In our biography section, we have Homage to Catalonia (description from Amazon):

“I wonder what is the appropriate first action when you come from a country at war and set foot on peaceful soil. Mine was to rush to the tobacco-kiosk and buy as many cigars and cigarettes as I could stuff into my pockets.” Most war correspondents observe wars and then tell stories about the battles, the soldiers and the civilians. George Orwell–novelist, journalist, sometime socialist–actually traded his press pass for a uniform and fought against Franco’s Fascists in the Spanish Civil War during 1936 and 1937. He put his politics and his formidable conscience to the toughest tests during those days in the trenches in the Catalan section of Spain. Then, after nearly getting killed, he went back to England and wrote a gripping account of his experiences, as well as a complex analysis of the political machinations that led to the defeat of the socialist Republicans and the victory of the Fascists.

And in our fiction section, we have Down and Out in Paris in London (description also from Amazon — and as the description says, while it’s technically a novel, a good part of it is autobiographical):

What was a nice Eton boy like Eric Blair doing in scummy slums instead of being upwardly mobile at Oxford or Cambridge? Living Down and Out in Paris and London, repudiating respectable imperialist society, and reinventing himself as George Orwell. His 1933 debut book (ostensibly a novel, but overwhelmingly autobiographical) was rejected by that elitist publisher T.S. Eliot, perhaps because its close-up portrait of lowlife was too pungent for comfort.

In Paris, Orwell lived in verminous rooms and washed dishes at the overpriced “Hotel X,” in a remarkably filthy, 110-degree kitchen. He met “eccentric people–people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life and given up trying to be normal or decent.” Though Orwell’s tone is that of an outraged reformer, it’s surprising how entertaining many of his adventures are: gnawing poverty only enlivens the imagination, and the wild characters he met often swindled each other and themselves. The wackiest tale involves a miser who ate cats, wore newspapers for underwear, invested 6,000 francs in cocaine, and hid it in a face-powder tin when the cops raided. They had to free him, because the apparently controlled substance turned out to be face powder instead of cocaine.

In London, Orwell studied begging with a crippled expert named Bozo, a great storyteller and philosopher. Orwell devotes a chapter to the fine points of London guttersnipe slang. Years later, he would put his lexical bent to work by inventing Newspeak, and draw on his down-and-out experience to evoke the plight of the Proles in 1984. Though marred by hints of unexamined anti-Semitism, Orwell’s debut remains, as The Nation put it, “the most lucid portrait of poverty in the English language.”

As always, if you would like to place a hold, please call the library at 985-2173 or visit our website.