Chemistry appears to be the coldest, most sterile field of science, breaking down all the values that we as humans hold most dear. When we look close enough, these basic drives of ours, love, money, entertainment, courage, are just the combinations of different elements. Thanks chemistry, for sucking the fun out of the party.
But Sam Kean’s new book, The Disappearing Spoon, manages to take the history of the periodic table of elements, that impenetrable fortress from your high school chemistry class, and relate some of the most amazing, unbelievable, hilarious stories that have ever existed.
Almost episodic in nature, the crux of each story is often how a particular element was discovered, and then how humankind has chosen to put it to use. Sometimes it is for public welfare (copper is used on doorknobs and stair railings because most bacteria that land on it die with in a matter of hours), other times for warfare (high demand for the metals used to construct cell phones have contributed to five million deaths in war-torn central Africa since the mid-90’s).
This interview airs beginning March 9.
Ashley Belyea brought her talent, charm, and skill to the hearts of the beleaguered children and young women in Bosnia. Her program, Nas Svijet created dance workshops and opportunities never before experienced. Debby Klein talks to Ashley about her involvement and the future of this inspiring program on CRRL Presents, a Central Rappahannock Regional Library production.
When the Brothers Grimm wrote their fairy tales in Germany in the early 1800s, they were scary. Many of them were so scary, in fact, that they were considered unsuitable for small children. As time passed, the stories have been altered to give them wider audience appeal. In A Tale Dark and Grimm, Adam Gidwitz has brought the scary back to Grimm. This is not a fairy-tale book meant for small children. The author gives fair warning periodically throughout the story that the tale is going to get gory and it does!!!
One day Sally the duck is thrilled to get a pair of purple socks in the mail in Sally and the Purple Socks by Lisze Bechtold. They are lovely and so soft, but a bit small. However, there is something special about these socks: they will grow to the "size ordered." Once she airs them out, they fit just right.
Sally wears them all day - dancing, cleaning, and relaxing. After a while she notices something curious - the socks have grown to be too big.
But Sally is resourceful, and the purple socks become a soft purple scarf and cap....and so on. With each page, the socks grow larger and larger, and Sally deftly adapts to their new size and makes them into something totally new.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is celebrating its 75th anniversary by hosting the only East Coast exhibition of "Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris."
The exhibition opened February 19, and will continue through May 15.
Before (or after) you head down to Richmond, take a little Picasso home with you from the library:
The Cubist Epoch (videorecording)
Modern Painting, from 1800 to the Present by Gaetan Picon
Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier by Fernande
Newbery Medal-winning author Meindert DeJong (pronounced De-Young) immigrated to the United States with his family as a young boy. The family came to America so that his older brothers would not be drafted to fight in World War I. The DeJong family had a difficult time in their new country. The family was poor, and the children were sent to a private, religious school where the children were bullied for being immigrants. Meindert DeJong never forgot the experience of being a lonely child, and he wove that perspective into many of his books.
If you’re determined to avoid any books guaranteed to trigger tears, then forget The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I, however, am a sucker for an exceptional dog story and accustomed to the accompanying waterworks. From White Fang through Marley and Me to A Dog Year, the unconditional love, loyalty and goodness of (wo)man’s best friend keep me coming back for more.
George Mason, future patriot, spent part of his childhood in Stafford County. His father died by drowning when he was very young, so he sometimes stayed with relatives including his uncle, John Mercer who lived at Marlborough Point. His uncle was a lawyer and landowner. He had a large library for the time—more than 1,500 books—and 11-year-old George enjoyed the library, including law commentaries his uncle had written.
Last week I had the pleasure of witnessing an innovative use for a web cam—book discussion! Spotsylvania school librarians at Chancellor, Freedom, Post Oak, Spotsylvania and Thornburg Middle Schools combined forces, and their own excitement, to virtually bring students together in a way that otherwise would require buses and permission slips. The event, “Cookies and Conversation,” allowed students to discuss books with participants at other schools while eating cookies in the comfort of their home library.
For the past month I have enthusiastically embraced each commute and school pick-up queue because it gives me the opportunity to listen to Lisa See’s amazing novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, narrated by the talented Jodi Long. See’s saga transports the listener to 19th-century rural China, tracing the relationship between Lily, from a peasant family, and Snow Flower, from a wealthier family in a neighboring village.
Upon preparation for binding Lily’s feet at the age of six, a matchmaker takes notice of their exquisite shape. Because of the promise of perfectly beautiful bound feet – in a culture and time where the ideal female foot was three inches long – the matchmaker senses that Lily could make an excellent marriage with a family whose social standing is much higher. To facilitate this, the matchmaker makes a laotong (“old sames”) match between Lily and Snow Flower, a girl from a neighboring village whose upbringing educated her as to all of the etiquette and cultural things that Lily would be expected to know as a married lady of a more wealthy house.