Early Lit Bits: Games and Activities

February 22nd, 2015

Use Your Cents!

Introduce your child to three-dimensional art using low or no-cost supplies from local recycling centers. This “secret garden” made with materials from Learning From Scratch is constructed of mesh, formica samples, wire and yarn. The materials cost a only few pennies. Working with craft materials provides children with important sensory experience and helps them develop fine motor skills.

 

This article originally appeared in our Early Lit Bits eNewsletter. Read the most recent issue online or sign up to receive this monthly update highlighting early literacy tips and resources for parents and caregivers.

 


Posted by:

Rediscover Laura Ingalls Wilder

February 21st, 2015

February 7, 2015 marked the 148th birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder. For adults longing to rediscover the Laura Ingalls Wilder they fell in love with as a child, a couple of recently published books might be just the key!

Ppioneerioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Wilder was recently released in November and is already into it’s third printing. This wildly popular book, written for an adult audience, presents Wilder’s unedited and unpublished draft of her autobiography, which eventually served as the foundation for her popular Little House on the Prairie series.

The book explores the history of the frontier that the Ingalls family traveled and the culture and life of the communities they lived in. The book features over 100 images, eight fully researched maps and hundreds of annotations based on census data and records, newspapers of the period and other primary documents.

 

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen is a fun, fictional read. pioneergirlPhD graduate Lee Lien explores the tenuous connection between her ancestors and the famous pioneer author after she discovers a family heirloom that her mother may have received from Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her discoveries send her on a trail of clues that lead to fateful encounters along the way.

 

If reading a book doesn’t really fit into your schedule right now, HarperCollins has recently released a great list of 10 Life Lessons from Laura Ingalls Wilder.


Posted by:

“The Trip” Goes On…

February 20th, 2015

The Trip to Italy,” like its predecessor “The Trip,” is a hilarious, meandering, essentially plotless movie that nevertheless captivates simply by the skill of its lead players. Starring two British actors (Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan) who are nowhere near as famous here as they are in the UK, the second movie simply takes the format of the first and transplants it to Italy.

For those who haven’t seen the first movie, here’s the set-up: Steve calls Rob at the last minute to accompany him on a trip to the north of England for a series of restaurant reviews he’s been hired to write. Rob agrees to go along. They are friends, but there is also enough tension in their relationship — Steve is sometimes annoyed by Rob’s endless impersonations of famous people, which seem to be a cover for a superficial personality — to give the story a thin, but substantial enough, basis to develop from.  And so the second movie simply moves our characters (if that’s the right word; they almost seem to be playing themselves) from England to Italy. Again, Steve has been hired to write, and Rob agrees to go along. Who could refuse free Italian cuisine and the most beautiful coastal cities of Italy?

That may sound boring, but the reason it’s great watching is simply that the verbal repartee between the two actors is very funny. Coogan plays (more or less) the straight man to Brydon’s goofball, as the latter veers from one famous person’s voice to another (Hugh Grant, Michael Caine, Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen). This is interwoven with discussions of a more personal nature, especially when women are involved, and questions of family and marriage arise. Finally, these are complemented by their continuing obsession with English Romantic poets — Wordsworth when they were in England, Shelley and Lord Byron while in Italy — and those poets’ haunts. A great sequel, well worth the time, especially in the depths of a Michigan winter.

(This film is not rated; it has some strong language and one brief violent scene.)

 


Posted by:

Oscars Preview Day 4

February 20th, 2015

Our last day of Oscar previews include two of the three biopics nominated for Best Picture this year, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything (Selma is the third, reviewed here).

The Imitation Game

The Imitation GameImiation Game Cover was a critical and commercial success with nominations in 8 categories of the 87th Academy Awards.

This biopic film portrays a part of the life of Alan Turing, the mathematician who along with a select cryptography team (that eventually became literally thousands of people) were able to decrypt the Nazi Enigma Machine.  The Enigma Machine gave the Nazis a decided advantage over the Allies during the first half of WWII. Although Turing was known to be difficult to work with, the film chooses to look at Turing through a psycho/social lens showing his challenges as though he had challenges like folks who we today have identified as being on the autism spectrum.

In the 1950s, Turing is convicted of indecency (homosexuality); in lieu of a jail sentence, he undergoes chemical castration so he can continue his work. Film female team member during the Enigma years, Clark, visits him in his home and witnesses his physical and mental deterioration. She reminds him that his work saved lives. She uses the phrase Christopher used of Turing and Turing once used of her: “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”

I personally enjoyed the film, firstly because I respect Cumberbatch as an actor and also respect folks who have remarkable skills and talents that set them apart from the masses — even though they may have had to struggle against tremendous odds to become “successful.”  I also appreciate when a film attempts to create the context or social norms of a particular era in the life of a particular person, Turing, in this case. Whether “true” in facts of his life or details of his time as his work influenced the war’s ending years, the film is creditable to the WWII perspective of the Allies.  The film was great on the “big screen”; I will definitely watch the DVD too. I hope the DVD includes additional footage of the subject (Turing) as well as impressions of the actors or makers of the film.  I would definitely recommend this movie!

— Laura from KDL’s Plainfield Township Branch

The Theory of Everything

The Theory of EverythingBased on the autobiography of Stephen Hawking’s first wife Jane Hawking, The Theory of Everything tells the story of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and Jane — their relationship together and how that changed over time.

Truth be told, it is hard for biopics to work. Occasionally, the movie’s perspective can be too broad or the actresses/actors are not up for playing a part that has physical as well as emotional peaks and valleys. Thankfully, The Theory of Everything falls into neither of those traps. The movie covers Jane and Stephen’s meet-cute and subsequent courtship, which is endearing, and shows Stephen as more than a man of science. As the audience member though, it is hard not to see the relationship evolve and unfold without having part of your mind on the future and the awful reality that awaits Stephen. When the bombshell finally comes, the resolve that is shown by both characters makes the movie come alive.

Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking throughout and not enough can be said about his performance. He gives real emotion and depth to the character despite what seems, at times, an uneven screenplay. His counterpart, Felicity Jones, also gives a fantastic performance as Stephen’s loving wife, gracefully displaying the emotional and physical requirement Stephen’s care requires.

— Aaron from KDL’s Service Center

 


Posted by:

Spring 2015 KDL Kaleidoscope

February 19th, 2015

The Spring 2015 issue of the KDL Kaleidoscope program guide is now available online, and printed copies will be available soon at your local branch library. You’ll find all you need to know about spring programs and get some great information on library resources and staff recommendations.

It’s sure to be an exciting season at KDL, and you don’t want to miss a thing. Check out the KDL Kaleidoscope today!

 


Posted by:

Oscars Preview Day 3

February 19th, 2015

Today we will look at two of the more controversial movies in the Best Picture category. David (our classic movie connoisseur) looks at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s biopic Selma, and Sara (YouTube sensation!) discusses the emotional gravity of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper.

Selma

SelmaSelma Cover is the first major motion picture made about Dr. King and the work he did. Given that, and the fact of King’s status in the history of this country, one should pay attention. But when it comes to the Oscars, there is more to this than King’s status as a leader against racism. The movie itself is a moving and honest portrayal of both a time — the 1960s — a movement — civil rights — and a man. The virtues (and the flaws) of these various elements are shown, though it’s always clear which side history is on, especially from the perspective of 50 years on.  Some have complained that some of the details, historically speaking, are wrong; as a non-historian, I can’t make judgments on that, other than to point out it is a movie and not a documentary. One can always hope that a movie of this kind will send audiences to their history books. Finally, the acting is wonderful, the irony being that three of the major roles are played by British actors. But never fear: they convince us.

— David from KDL’s Plainfield Township Branch

American Sniper

American SniperAmerican Sniper Cover, an Oscar Nominee in six categories, is breaking every record! In just its first three weeks of nation-wide release, it eclipsed Saving Private Ryan to become the biggest war-themed film of all time and topped $250 million in sales by the close of Super Bowl weekend! This unprecedented feat explains why it is in the running for the Oscar’s Best Motion Picture of the Year award. Clint Eastwood has already won 2015 Best Director for Sniper from the National Board of Review, and star Bradley Cooper was named the 2015 Critic’s Choice Award for Best Actor in an Action Movie. Cooper is also an Oscar nominee for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

We librarians love to see a book-to-movie well received by the public, especially when the book, American Sniper: the Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, is powerful enough to capture the attention of even the most reluctant reader. The seamless portrayal of the book’s storyline makes the film an obvious contender for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as for the Achievement in Film Editing award. Eastwood and Cooper went to extremes to conceptualize and properly portray the life and experience of Chris Kyle, his men and his family in this film. Viewers are given a glimpse into the turmoil and conflict American soldiers struggle with, as devotion to family and dedication to greater service often pull them to extremes, mentally and emotionally.

As powerful as the visuals are, it may be the Achievement in Sound Editing and Achievement in Sound Mixing awards that truly give credence to the absolute impact of this film. Many theaters showing Sniper have literally been packed to capacity — not one open seat. Yet, you will not hear a sound from the audience. From the start, viewers feel they are part of the action, caught up in the conflict and intensity unfolding before them, and the audio serves to amplify the emotion of each moment. Viewers are left stunned at the conclusion, trickling out of the theater deep in thought, conscientious of the sacrifices made by our veterans, and hopefully, more aware of the struggles many are facing today.

Whether or not American Sniper is proclaimed a winner in any of the six Oscar categories remains to be seen, but it has definitely been proclaimed a winner by the American public!

— Sara from KDL’s Nelson Township / Sand Lake Branch


Posted by:

New Juvenile Booklists

February 18th, 2015

Not quite ready for The Hunger Games yet? Check out some of these titles from our Not Quite Ready for The Hunger Games booklist instead!

Raider's Ransom: Flood and Fire                The Sky Inside                The Line

 

Looking for a few nonfiction titles? Check out a booklist inspired by KDL Lab: Inspire, Create, Hack, Tinker, Make: Activities for All Ages. Get creating!

The Kid's Book of Simple Everyday Science             Gross Science Projects               Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors

 

Check out more great booklists for children of all ages over at KDL Recommends for Kids!


Posted by:

Oscars Preview Day 2

February 18th, 2015

Yesterday Julia and Jennifer gave their pitch for Boyhood and Birdman, respectively.  Today Marlys discusses the marvelous The Grand Budapest Hotel directed by the unique Wes Anderson and I give some love to the drum madness that is Whiplash.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Grand Budapest Hotel CoverA luxurious, if decaying hotel located in the mountains of Eastern Europe. A cast of quirky but endearing characters. A stolen painting. A frame-up for murder and an improbable jailbreak. Add magnificent scenery and an all-star cast (Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton & Owen Wilson – among others), and you have SOME of the reasons why The Grand Budapest Hotel garnered nine –count ‘em – Oscar nominations.

The story is told in flashbacks by The Author (Tom Wilkinson / Jude Law). It recounts the career of the illustrious M. Gustave H., concierge extraordinaire, and the lobby boy Zero (zero education, zero experience, zero family) whom he takes under his wing & trains as his protégé. When M. Gustave is framed for the murder of one of the hotel’s wealthy guests, Zero (along with several fellow prisoners) undertakes to rescue him and assist in clearing his name. There are villains and heroes, car chases and alpine ski chases, young love and old rivalries… pretty much everything a good movie needs.

The Grand Budapest Hotel was written & directed by Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, Fantastic Mr. Fox) If you liked those films, or others like them, you’ll LOVE this one.

— Marlys from the Wyoming Branch

Whiplash

Whiplash If I tried tell you in ten seconds what Whiplash is about, chances are you would shrug your shoulders with indifference and wonder how that could possibly be interesting. But somehow Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons make it more than interesting; they make it exhilarating and exhausting.

Whiplash (in more than ten seconds, to make it interesting) is about a drummer, Andrewy Neyman, who is enrolled in a very prestigious music school and gets mentored by an infamous drumming professor played by J.K. Simmons (pretty much a lock for Best Supporting Actor). The teaching style used by Simmons’ character can loosely be described as “old school” (putting it nicely). Not averse to playing mind games with his students or throwing cymbals at them, he believes that pushing his students is the best way to get them to achieve their true potential. He even mentions that the two most dangerous words in the English language are “good job.” In a world where every child gets a participation award, Whiplash wants to challenge what makes someone great and what is the best way to get there.

— Aaron at the KDL Service Center

 


Posted by:

Early Childhood Essentials: Register Now

February 17th, 2015

ece3Parents and caregivers of children are invited to participate in free Early Childhood Essentials classes at KDL this spring. If you have young children or work in child care and need professional development hours, this series is for you. All of the presenters are certified and vetted through program sponsor Great Start to Quality. The classes are for adults, and child care is not provided.

Registration is required and participation is limited. Sign up today by clicking on the links below or calling our Patron Services Department at 616-784-2007. If you register and then are unable to attend, please call and let us know, as many sessions have waiting lists.

 

Schedule:

Toddler Math
Thursday, March 12, 6:30 PM, Plainfield Twp. Branch
Monday, April 20, 6:30 PM, Kentwood (Richard L. Root) Branch

Mini Day of Learning: Little Reader Readiness Part 1
Saturday, March 14, 9:00 AM, First Reformed Church, 3060 Wilson Ave. SW in Grandville

Mini Day of Learning: Little Reader Readiness Part 2
Saturday, March 14, 10:45 AM, First Reformed Church, 3060 Wilson Ave. SW in Grandville

How Children Learn to Read
Monday, March 16, 6:30 PM, Kentwood (Richard L. Root) Branch
Tuesday, March 17, 6:30 PM, Walker Branch
Saturday, April 25, 10:00 AM, Cascade Twp. Branch

Reading Fun for Little Ones
Monday, March 16, 6:30 PM, Krause Memorial (Rockford) Branch
Thursday, March 19, 6:30 PM, Byron Twp. Branch
Saturday, March 21, 12:00 PM, Caledonia Twp. Branch
Tuesday, April 14, 6:30 PM, Walker Branch

Sensory Play for Toddlers
Monday, March 30, 6:30 PM, Krause Memorial (Rockford) Branch
Thursday, April 9, 6:30 PM, Plainfield Branch
Monday, April 27, 6:30 PM, Wyoming Branch
Saturday, May 2, 10:00 AM, Cascade Twp. Branch
Thursday, May 14, 6:30 PM, Byron Twp. Branch
Tuesday, May 19, 6:30 PM, Walker Branch

It’s Not So Easy Being Two
Thursday, April 16, 6:30 PM, Byron Twp. Branch
Saturday, April 18, 10:00 AM, East Grand Rapids Branch

 


Posted by:

2015 Oscar Preview

February 17th, 2015

Here at Kent District Library we are passionate about movies… like, really passionate. We love absolutely everything about movies, from their plot twists to great acting and unforgettable romances. Librarians are also (if you didn’t know) very competitive and want our favorite movies to be recognized and win awards. Even though we might not be able to convince the Academy (who decides on the Oscar winners) who should win the Best Picture award, we want to convince you. So over the next few days employees from KDL will give their take on why their favorite Best Picture nomination deserves to win the Oscar. If you have anything to add or maybe just disagree, please let us know in the comments section!

Today Julia reflects on the authenticity of Boyhood, and Jennifer marvels at the acting and sheer madness of Birdman.

Boyhood

Unprecedented in scale, Boyhood was an ambitious project that began filming in 2002 and wrapped in 2014 — 12 years later. The film depicts a boy growing up in Texas, his single mother, his sister and his sporadically involved father. Watching Boyhood, we watch real people grow and change on the screen, without CGI or prosthetics. Shooting across a span of over a decade was a risk upon which the success of the film relied: Boyhood needed the authenticity of a cast that grew both physically and cognitively to create a story that truly reflected what it is to grow up. That risk paid off. Boyhood is an epic that reflects back a piece of our own humanity in the passage of time.

— Julia from the KDL Service Center

Birdman

BirdmanBirdman Cover is the kind of movie that you need to talk about after you leave the theater. You’re confused and inspired and overwhelmed by what you’ve just seen, and you just need to sit down and dissect it all with a friend. That’s why Birdman deserves to win best picture, because it rattles you to your core, and if you’re paying attention you’ll have enough fodder for hours of conversation and reflection afterward.

Michael Keaton stars in this story of a washed-up action movie actor named Riggan (not unlike Michael Keaton’s real career), who’s trying to redeem his career by writing, directing and starring in his own Broadway play based on an adaptation of a story by Raymond Carver. Riggan is broke and overworked, and his alter ego, Birdman, haunts him with what might have been had he sold out and made another Hollywood action movie. Is he an artist or is he a celebrity? What will his legacy be?

Not only does this film deliver the most top-notch acting performances I’ve seen all year from not just Michael Keaton but Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts, but it’s filmed in a way you’ve never seen. The camera follows the actors over their shoulders through the old winding corridors of the theater and you feel like you’re actually there. The film’s director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, takes his time with long, single camera shots and perfectly choreographed entrances and exits from the extras and the main characters, certainly no easy way to film. This style of camera work, with the scenes melding into one another and the sights and sounds all around you, makes the viewer really internalize the stressful atmosphere in a Broadway theater a few nights before the play opens, and the intense strain our main character, Riggan, is under. I won’t give away the ending, but I’ll just say it involves a loaded gun onstage on opening night and a profound ending that will make you wonder, “What the heck just happened?”

— Jennifer from KDL’s Caledonia Twp. Branch

 


Posted by: