On your next visit to Gold Park, check out the books in the “free little library” recently installed along the walking loop. The Orange County Public Library donated books to get the library started, taken from books donated to the library by the community, including members of the Friends. Anyone can take a book to read or leave a book to share at the little library.
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On the first Thursday of each month from 6:00-7:00, fourth through sixth grade students are invited to the What Are You Reading? Book Club.
Unlike other books clubs, this one doesn’t require reading any particular book. Kids are asked to bring a book they’ve read recently that they would like to recommend to others. It’s an opportunity to socialize with other readers, eat pizza, and get some ideas about what to read next. The club has attracted a regular following, but more readers are always welcome!
The conversation is lively, the activities are fun, and the kids have a great time. If you have a fourth through sixth grader and would like to participate, all you have to do is sign up (so they know how much pizza to buy) at the children’s desk or by calling 919-245-2532. The next meeting is August 4.
Crowd favorite Fish the Magish returned to the main library this afternoon to perform for a packed house of children and families.
Part comedian, part teacher, and part magician, Fish has been a perennial favorite the the Summer Learning program.
Looking for more indoor fun during hot summer vacation days? Check out these events (unless otherwise noted, all events are at the main branch on Margaret in Hillsborough). More events and full details can be found on the library website.
Tomorrow: July 13th: 4:00. Explore the world of Ozobot Robots in this fun hands-on program. Rising 4th-6thgraders. (Call to register: 919-245-2532)
Saturday, July 15th: Computer Class: Online Shopping: at the Cybrary: 10:00-11:30: This class covers important security and privacy issues that you should be aware of when making purchases online. It includes helpful tips for evaluating website security and keeping your identity safe. In this class, you will also learn the basics of Internet shopping, including online stores, auctions, and classifieds. *If you do not have prior experience using the Internet, it is suggested that you attend the Internet Basics class first.
Saturday, July 15th: Storytime at the Carrboro Branch: 10:30: Children and their caregivers are invited to participate in a 30-minute interactive program with books, songs, and movement to nurture pre-reading skills. Afterward, stick around for a 30-minute stay-and-play with toys and games.
Saturday, July 15th: Saturday Storytime: 10:30 – 11:00 a.m. Children, walkers to age 5 and their caregivers, are invited to participate in a 30-minute interactive program with books, songs, and movement to nurture pre-reading skills. (30-minute Stay and Play follows this storytime.)
Saturday, July 15th: Saturday Storytime: 1:00. Every third Saturday of the month, come and join the Dungeons & Dragons group for some awesome fantasy storytelling and action-packed game play! Anyone aged 16 and up is welcome to join the game or watch and learn about D&D.
Sunday: July 16th: 2:00: Be our guest on Sunday, July 16th at 2pm for a showing of the newest Beauty and the Beast film! Popcorn will be provided.
Monday: July 17th: 11:00 – 11:20 a.m.: Baby Lapsit Storytime: Babies and their caregivers are invited to participate in a 20-minute lapsit program that incorporates age-appropriate books, rhymes, music and movement. Main Library.
Monday: July 17th: 4:00: Set sail with us on a thrilling action-packed adventure about a crew of quirky pirates marooned on a desert island. Throughout the story, volunteers from the audience will help us explore the incredible science behind clouds, combustion, air pressure, scientific variables and more! Do not miss this refreshing nautical tale with a twist! All ages welcome.
Tuesday: July 18th: 10:00: Children from walkers to age 3 and their caregivers are invited to participate in a 25-minute interactive program that incorporates age-appropriate books, rhymes, music, and movement. (30-minute Stay and Play follows this storytime.)
Tuesday: July 18th: 4:00: In this weekly program, we combine books that will spark your imagination along with a variety of STEAM-based activities to foster creativity, critical thinking and problem solving skills. If you like to learn new things, make new friends, and have a fun time at the library, this is the program for you! Grades K-3
Wednesday: July 19th: Preschool Storytime: 10:00 – 10:30 a.m.: Children ages 3-5 and their caregivers are invited to participate in a 30-minute interactive program with books, songs, and movement to nurture pre-reading skills. (30-minute Stay and Play follows this storytime.)
Wednesday: July 19th: 6:00: Documentary Film Screening: The Oscar-nominated documentary “13th” by filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the relationship of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution to mass incarceration in the US with respect to racial inequality. Run time:100 minutes. Light refreshment will be provided. This film may not be suitable for children under 13 years old.
Thursday: July 20th: 4:00: Scratch Club: Familiar with Scratch? Working on a project? Need some new ideas? Come to our Scratch Club to learn more about Scratch while working on your own project. Rising Grades 4-6 Call 919-245-2532 to register.
Free, fun, and fabulous. Come see what our libraries have to offer you!
Did you know you can win prizes for your reading this summer? Summer Learning isn’t just for kids. Adults, too, can track their reading and community involvement at the Main Branch in Hillsborough, and maybe get an extra reward beyond the joy of service and enrichment.
The display and tickets can be found on the second floor, just across from the Teen section. Come down and let us know what you’ve been up to this summer.
Book Harvest recently gave thousands of books to a thrilled cohort of elementary-school students at a Books on Break event. The Friends of the Orange County Public Library was pleased to contribute to this annual event. Each student at New Hope Elementary School was invited to select ten books, which will help preserve the learning they accomplished during the school year. Teachers organized a book-distribution area that had the feel of a bookstore, with sections featuring Dr. Seuss, princess, and superhero books. “The students loved the variety of books available and were really eager to get started reading,” said Coby Austin, director of programs and policy at Family Success Alliance, an initiative of the Orange County Health Department.
Book Harvest is a Durham nonprofit organization that “provides books to children who need them and engages families and communities to promote children’s lifelong literacy and academic success.” Book Harvest has given away over 600,000 books, mostly in Durham County. The donated books help students avoid what is known as the “summer slide,” or the loss of valuable education during vacation. Studies have shown that students tend to lose reading skills during the summer months when they do not have access to resources like books.
One year ago, the Friends sponsored a smaller Books on Break distribution at New Hope Elementary as a pilot of this program in Orange County. Family Success Alliance teamed up with Book Harvest in selecting the school and organizing the event. The Friends provided a grant for books to be given to two grades, and students and their families raised additional funds.
This year, two members of the Friends Board of Directors, Harry Kavros and Steve Smith, volunteered to raise enough money to fund a book distribution for students in kindergarten through second grade. They met with town leaders and received valuable guidance from Hillsborough mayor Tom Stevens and Orange County School Board president Steven Halkiotis. Thanks to the generosity of local citizens, businesses, and nonprofits, over $8,000 was raised, comfortably surpassing the original goal of $6,000. The Friends of the Orange County Public Library again provided a significant grant. Students and their families raised funds so that third- through fifth-grade students would also receive ten books.
Support for the students does not end with giving them books. Family Success Alliance navigators will team up with dozens of families from New Hope Elementary over the summer. “They’ll be partnering with the parents to reinforce support for reading and other ways to prevent the summer slide,” explains Coby Austin.
Rachel Stine, education partnerships manager at Book Harvest, said that Books on Break at New Hope Elementary was a superb example of collaboration, adding, “We are grateful to community members, Family Success Alliance, and the Friends of the Orange County Public Library for partnering with New Hope Elementary and Book Harvest to make Books on Break 2017 a great success!”
On June 5, our First Monday Classic at the Orange County Public Library is Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier. Its credentials as a classic are pretty impressive. Published in 1938, the book has never been out of print, and remains popular with tens of millions of readers.
I don’t love every book we read for First Monday Classics. Some I respect, and understand why they deserve to be counted as a classic, but the passage of time and changing cultural values have made a once great book less enjoyable. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic, but the barely comprehensible dialect, the stereotypes it relies on for humor, and Twain’s inability to edit himself when it comes to shoe-horning Tom Sawyer into the book has turned the book into something of a slog for modern readers.
I don’t think anyone would describe Rebecca as a slog. De Maurier knows how to set up a hook, ending each chapter with just the right bit of information that will make you want to read a little further. Her writing style is sensual, full of colors, scents, and textures, vivid details that make her settings come alive. The book engages you on a physical level. At the same time, we are also taken into the imagination of the unnamed narrator. Many chapters are filled not with things that are happening, but with the narrator imagining things that will happen, both her hopes and her worries. While this robs the book of some immediacy, I appreciated the reflection that people really do spend so much time worrying about things that haven’t happened. Her daydreaming makes the character seem real.
That said, wow, I hated this book. This is the point of this essay I should probably label “Spoilers Ahead,” but, seriously, we’re talking about a book almost 80 years old. A book that endures that long doesn’t have to rely on hidden plot twists to stay relevant. My objections to the book are many.
First, the characters are thin to the point of parody. As the male protagonist, Maxim has zero traits that identify him other than the fact he’s rich, handsome, and brooding. The narrator marries him apparently without asking one single question about his past. We’re told he’s smart and kind, but I have difficulty pinning down a single moment where these traits are on display. The narrator, his new wife, is such a blank slate she’s not even given a name. We’re in her head constantly but we’re never shown any reason at all that Maxim might have fallen in love with her. She’s so young and naïve that his attraction for her seems to be that she’s young and naïve, which is creepy on his part and foolish on her part.
Second, the morality of this book is loathsome. The big plot twist is that Maxim killed his first wife, Rebecca, then sank her boat with her body inside in the bay. When the boat is eventually found, the narrator’s reaction to learning her husband is a murderer isn’t to fear for her own safety or to think about how to report him to the police, but to instantly and whole-heartedly conspire to make sure he goes unpunished for the crime. His motives for the murder? Rebecca was cheating on him, told him she was pregnant with another man’s child, and reminded him of how much gossip he’d have to endure if they divorced. Seriously, his choices were an ugly divorce or to murder a pregnant woman, and for some reason we’re asked to empathize that he went with murder.
Third, the utter passivity of these characters is frustrating. Maxim doesn’t get away with murder because he’s clever. He escapes mostly by luck. He shoots Rebecca, but luckily the bullet misses any bones, so when her body is discovered there’s no evidence of a bullet wound. There is a witness to him dragging Rebecca’s body onto the boat, but luckily it’s a deranged old man who is unable to explain what he saw. There’s a man with proof that Rebecca didn’t commit suicide, but luckily he’s intent on blackmail, which means he doesn’t use his information at the inquest where it actually could have mattered. At the end, it’s discovered well after the fact that Rebecca had cancer and likely manipulated Maxim into murdering her as a form of suicide, which seems to remove the last trace of his moral culpability. He didn’t really kill her by shooting her and hiding the body. It was suicide after all! The terrible moral logic is cringe inducing.
Finally, the most disturbing truth of all: Maxim gets away with the murder mostly because he’s rich and powerful. Law enforcement is deferential to him at every step. He escapes suspicion of murder as the evidence accumulates primarily because his high status makes him immune from any important person really thinking him capable of the murder. And if Maxim escapes justice by doing absolutely nothing, the book’s unnamed narrator does even less. Maybe it’s slipping my memory, but I don’t think the police even question her.
As I head to book club next week, I’m actually pretty excited by the possibility that other people will have loved this book. A lot of the best discussions come from books that illicit mixed reactions. Also, I’m always eager to hear from champions of a book that I’ve disliked, wanting to get their take on why so many readers might love a book I regard as deeply flawed. If you’ve read this book and have an opinion pro or con, feel free to join us next Monday at 6:30. It should be a fun discussion.
On May 1, First Monday Classics will be tackling The Stranger by Albert Camus. While researching the book, I saw multiple references to the fact that it’s often assigned reading in high school, which was surprising to me. I first read the book in my early twenties, after I’d graduated from college. I remember being shocked by the book’s blatant and unrepentant atheism. I’d grown up in the Bible belt. Perhaps this book was assigned reading elsewhere in high school, but it seemed to me to be the sort of book that would have wound up getting removed from the library if it had been assigned reading while I was attending school in Mississippi.
Note that I wasn’t shocked by the atheism itself. I’d been raised a fundamentalist, but in my teens I’d become an atheist, and a somewhat loud, militant, and obnoxious member of that tribe. Confronting others with the absence of God was one of my favorite hobbies. What shocked me was the nakedness of Camus’ treatment of the subject, the fact that someone had put so many of my thoughts and feelings onto paper twenty years before I’d been born. Reading the book in my early twenties, I felt tremendous empathy for Meursault, and felt a little less alone in the universe.
The irony of this reaction isn’t lost on me, since the whole argument of the book is that we are ultimately alone in the universe, and Meursault responds to this truth by shedding all traces of empathy. He kills a man and is incapable of feeling remorse. He’s not even able to understand his own motivations for the murder, defending the fact he fired five bullets into a man as simply a thing that happened because the sun had been shining too hot and bright. He has no logical explanation for his action, because he’s incapable of believing that things happen for a reason. Things happen as they happen, and to try to say that not killing the man was a better course of action than killing him is absurd to Meursault. He’s living in an uncaring universe where his death is certain, his victims death was certain, and the details of how a life plays out is ultimately meaningless because eternity will inevitably wash away all memory of our actions. Life is only a short absurdity, and the best we can hope for is to enjoy the few sensual pleasures available to us while we’re here.
When I was twenty three, Meursault’s feelings resonated with me. Yes, of course, life was pointless and absurd, but have what fun you can with it. Now that I’m fifty three, rereading the book proved uncomfortable. I find Meursault’s lack of empathy to be a devastating character flaw. He has the courage to accept the absence of God, but lacks the imagination to see that this doesn’t render life pointless. If we’re all trapped in a universe devoid of any higher meaning, it doesn’t follow that we must withdraw into ourselves and live like selfish, emotionless strangers. Quite the opposite. If there is no God to watch over us, then the full responsibility for the safety and happiness of our fellow man falls on our shoulders. The band Typhoon has a lyric in the song “Morton’s Fork” that sums up my feelings perfectly: We’re all alone in this together.
While I’ve lost respect for Meursault, I still have a great deal of respect for the Stranger. To qualify as a classic, a novel must struggle with a great theme. Camus faces a godless universe within these pages, and does so with skill and beauty. The writing is spare and precise, and despite the focus on the indifference of the universe, you can’t help but be moved by the wonder of small details like the way the sky changes color during the course of a day as Meursault watches from the tiny window of his prison cell. It’s a carefully crafted, thought provoking novel that still rewards the reader’s time and attention.