Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Reminder of some deadlines!

The submission period for The Tomorrow Prize for original short sci-fi stories by Los Angeles County high school students closes next Monday, February 26, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. There is no fee to submit. Judges will select five to six finalists, and their stories will be read dramatically by celebrity guests on stage at LitFest Pasadena on Sunday, May 20. After the reading, the first-, second-, and third-place Tomorrow Prize winners will be announced, and then the special prize for The Green Feather Award will be presented.

You can access the competition guidelines and instructions here. (Be sure you enter the teen contest, not the adult one!) Almost a week left--you can do it!


The New York Film Academy College of Visual and Performing Arts is offering two full-tuition scholarships to qualified high school juniors or seniors living in or attending school in Burbank!

One scholarship will be for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Design, while the other is for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 3D Animation/Visual Effects.

The application deadline is March 1, 2018. Send an email to burbankscholarship@nyfa.edu to get an application request and to find out the details and requirements, or you can call 818 333-3558.

Good luck!

Friday, February 16, 2018

6+7 Book Club Report for February

Fourteen people gathered at the Central Library on Tuesday night to discuss Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, for this month's 6+7 Book Club. Although some felt the story would have been just as good had it not borne any relation to Cinderella as its root tale, everyone seemed to enjoy the book's plot and the interesting details introduced (the fact that it's set in China, and that Cinder is a cyborg). Some felt the lack of an explanation for why the Lunar people could cast glamours to get others to see and do what they wanted was a crucial flaw in the background or world-building details; but over all, the book received high ratings, with a final score of 9.

For March, we segue from fantasy into realistic/horror, with Gone, by Michael Grant.

Sam was sitting in history class when it happened. One minute his teacher was talking about the civil war; the next minute, he was GONE. So was everybody else over the age of 14. The first response of teens when I start this book talk this way is always "YEAH!" but stop...wait...who takes care of the infants who can't take care of themselves? You. Who has to find food and cook it and make sure everybody gets something to eat? You. Who has to fight fires? You. Who has to keep bullies from picking on other people? You. And what happens next? when you turn 15? or when the food runs out? Because there's a barrier around the town, and those delivery trucks have stopped coming....

For April's read, we picked The Last Dragonslayer, by Jasper Fforde, a lighthearted British fantasy full of bumbling magicians managed by a sensible girl named Jennifer Strange.

Other books we considered, in descending order by popularity, included:

Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud
Jackaby, by William Ritter
Scarlet (the sequel to Cinder), by Marissa Meyer
Ruby Red, by Kerstin Gier
Monstrous, by MarcyKate Connolly
Ender's Shadow, by Orson Scott Card

This club will meet next on March 13.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Black History Month at the Library!

This Thursday night, at 6:30 p.m., at the Central Library, we will be screening the iconic documentary
I Am Not Your Negro, for Black History Month.

In 1979, author James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin's death in 1987, he left behind only 30 completed pages of this manuscript. In this documentary, filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished.

The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words, as well as a flood of rich archival material. I Am Not Your Negro is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter.

The screening will be followed by a discussion moderated by Brooklyne Gipson, who has a degree in History with a focus on African American studies from UCLA, and is currently in the doctoral program at USC Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism, where she is focusing on the intersections of race and digital technology.

All are welcome to attend this screening and participate in the discussion afterwards, but priority seating will be given to teens in grades 8-12. The documentary is rated PG-13 and the runtime is 93 minutes. Proof of attendance slips will be distributed after the event, for those whose teachers are offering extra credit.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

10-12 Book Club Report for February

Only six people turned up to discuss The Vault of Dreamers, by Caragh O'Brien, the chosen read for February's 10-12 Book Club Thursday night. (Only two, however, were properly excused, ahem! This is a problem, people!) However, while we didn't have the attendance we'd like, the discussion about the book was thoughtful and varied. Everyone had something to say, and the typically quiet ones raised their voices and were heard! Bravo! It was an engaging meeting. Everyone wondered, where is the ART the whole TV premise was supposed to encourage, anyway? (Good question.)

The book received a rating of 7 from those present, and Georgiana plans to read books #2 and #3 in the series, although she finds the whole concept somewhat disturbing! Chris A. liked that the book was about more than the reality TV aspect, and particularly liked Rosie's rags to riches stories, although he disliked her "relationship" with Linus. And Katrina was intrigued enough by the book that she was going to borrow the sequels from Georgiana—or so she has us thinking! (Recall that Katrina is "allergic" to sequels...) Melissa is reading the sequels while she is at home (recuperating from her accident), and although she wanted to know what happened (and a lot does), the conclusion so far is that Rosie is the stupidest and most gullible protagonist EVER.

For March, the club is reading Romeo and/or Juliet, by Ryan North, a "multiple endings" book in which you, the reader, choose the path and fate of the protagonists. (What if they never met? What if, instead of falling in love, they became besties and took over Verona...in robot suits? Whaaaat?)

For our April read, the club selected All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders, which as far as we could tell is a combination of magical powers and time travel, hipsters and global warming. We'll just have to see when we read it!

Other books that were considered but not selected included:

  • Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, by David Wong (which Allison is going to read right away after just finishing and loving Wong's What The Hell  Did I Just Read. Maybe she can sell us on Futuristic Violence next time. I'm dying to read about the smelly cat!)
  • The Heist Society, by Ally Carter (only to be chosen over Anika's dead body)
  • Down  Among The Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire (a sequel to Every Heart A Doorway, but the sequel can be read as a stand-alone—and is awesome, btw)
  • Vicious, by V.E. Schwab (which Katrina is going to read and also convince us to read, as soon as it becomes affordable)

Our next meeting is on Thursday, March 8.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Important events this week

Are you a gay teen?

Wednesday night at 7:00 at our Buena Vista branch, "Gay Youth Today: Are They Us?" will be presented as a joint enterprise by Burbank Public Library, Burbank's newly formed chapter of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and the Gay/Straight Aliance clubs of the Burbank Unified School District.

This is a special program for gay youth, a chance for you to hear about what life is like for your generation's peers. It’s also an event for parents, family, friends, and an older gay generation who want to understand the experience and challenges facing gay youth today so that they can know better how to support them in our schools and local community.

Our special guest speaker, Ritch Savin-Williams, Ph.D., is professor of Human Development and the Director of the Sex & Gender Lab at Cornell University. His research focuses on adolescent and young adult sexual identity development, relationships, and family issues in sexual minority populations, and he has written nine books on these subjects. One of his topics for the evening will be the always-difficult "how to come out" conversation.

Are you a photographer?

If so, this is a reminder that the 2018 Amateur Photography Contest put on by the Friends of the Burbank Public Library is ON, and that your absolute deadline for turning in a photograph is February 17. There are lots of categories and subjects from which to choose, including still life, people (posed or natural), scenic, architecture, and photojournalism; you can access the brochure here, which includes the rules and the entry form. Don't forget to pay close attention to the rules and regs regarding SIZE and MOUNTING of your photos. You wouldn't want to take the perfect photo and have it disqualified for such a silly reason, right?

Were you planning a trip to the library on Friday?

If so, change your plans—all branches of Burbank Public Library will be CLOSED this Friday, in order that we may have an Library Staff In-Service Day. What does that mean? It means we are all getting together and pondering ways to make the library a better place for YOU, and we need a whole day on our own to do so! The library will be open regular hours on Saturday and thereafter. So take Friday off, and we'll see you later!

Do remember, however, that when the library is closed, the digital collection remains open. You can get e-books, e-audio, movies, and more, by linking up with the appropriate app from our website; and you can get valuable study resources from our databases. All you need is your library card!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Teen review: A modern classic

Reviewed by Mher A., grade 11

No Country for Old Men
, written by acclaimed author Cormac McCarthy, is a stand-alone, 320-page contemporary crime novel following a man named Llewelyn Moss as he finds himself in an unnerving cat-and-mouse game with an unhinged psychopath named Anton Chigurh, after Moss finds (and takes) a briefcase stuffed with money in the desert. Chigurh is a maniacal exacter of death who is determined to hunt down and retrieve the money that Moss took. As Chigurh chases Moss, Ed Tom Bell, a traditional sheriff, races to save Moss and bring Chigurh to justice.

The plot summary of No Country for Old Men sounds like just another typical Western story in which the simplistic and vapid villains are brought to justice by the lawmen and everybody lives happily ever after. But No Country for Old Men is anything but a typical Western story. While the characters fit traditional archetypes, the plot is unpredictable and nihilistic. McCarthy is a master of tension, and shootouts and confrontations are visceral and well written. This book is not for everyone. It contains oftentimes brutal violence that may upset the squeamish, but those who brave the sometimes unbearable tension are rewarded with a chaotic and unforgettable tale.

No Country for Old Men masterfully covers a multitude of complex themes like morality, chance, and fate, and brings forth a pessimistic world view that may be upsetting to some. It is definitely a book that begs discussion, and I found myself reading and watching many analyses about the meaning of the work and the actions of the characters.

No Country for Old Men was also made into a film in 2007 by Joel and Ethan Coen. The adaptation is faithful to the source material and is a masterpiece in its own right. It won an Academy Award for Best Picture, and serves as a wonderful film that is best enjoyed after reading the book.

I would highly recommend No Country for Old Men to anyone who wants an unconventional crime novel chock full of themes and discussion topics. Because of the violent content, I would recommend that the reader be in at least 10th grade, just to be safe.

It gets a perfect 5/5 from me.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

8+9 Book Club Report

Tuesday night, we had 16 readers at our 8+9 Book Club meeting to discuss Ink and Bone, the first in the Great Library series, by Rachel Caine. It was a far-ranging, fascinating, and somewhat heated discussion, as those who loved the book attempted to defend it to those who disliked it, while everyone in the middle looked on and contributed their two cents!

The main point of contention seemed to be the division between hard science and magic in the story. Mohammed, who loved Ink and Bone, compared it to Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, because it likewise took one thing in history and made it turn out differently in order to create an alternate universe, which is what he enjoyed about both books. Rhett, who is also a big Leviathan fan (unlike some of the rest of us), vehemently denied that this story was the same thing, precisely because of the magic, which was not a part of that series. And regarding the science, he felt that if the knowledge contained within the Library of Alexandria had survived, this civilization would be both further ahead and further behind than the actual science that was exhibited in the book! (He had a particular problem with the advancements it would take to produce the automata.)

We then discussed the fact that the Library in these books had evolved into an approximate doppelganger for the Catholic Church in our world, and it was precisely because it had become a top-down hierarchy more interested in protecting itself than in protecting the rights of all the people that the civilization wasn't more advanced. We observed that when any institution becomes so patriarchal that it is hiding knowledge in order to retain power, then science, which depends on transparency, will suffer in its development.

Others who enjoyed the book but didn't love it cited such reasons as poor character development (some found no one to whom they could relate) and missed opportunities. Specifically, the main character, Jess, is given this background as the son of a long line of illegal book dealers, but (I think it was Maya who noted this) the fascinating stories that could have been told were either absent or shorthanded in a frustrating way. Daniela, however, called people on their reactions to book one and echoed Rhett's sentiments two months ago about Leviathan: "If you didn't like this one, you still owe it to yourself to read the rest of the books in order to give the series a chance, because the scene-setting in this one pays off in the rest." She has read the series, but no one else has yet. Perhaps some will go on to do so!

The ratings ranged from a high of 10 (two people) to a low rating of 4, with the final score being 7.85.

Next month's book is Trial by Fire, by Josephine Angelini, and in March we will read Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, just in time for the movie release on March 30.

Other books that we considered but didn't choose (some by a narrow margin), in descending order by popularity, included:

Starflight, by Melissa Landers
Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow
A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin (who passed away on Monday, to the heartbreak of her fans)
Raised by Wolves, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Will Sparrow (Aedin suggested this, and it sounded good, but I can't find any book by that name...?)
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin

The next meeting of this club is on February 27th.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Poem on the same theme!

I subscribe to a "poem a day" service from poets.org, and today they sent a poem that seems as if it was written using our requirements for this past October's writing contest, "Stranger in a Strange Land." Some of you wrote a story for that, about an alien who is visiting Earth secretly, to observe it, and some of you read the top stories, posted here over the last three months. Read this poem by Robert Hayden, and see if you agree:

[American Journal]

Robert Hayden

here among them     the americans     this baffling
multi people     extremes and variegations     their
noise     restlessness     their almost frightening
energy     how best describe these aliens in my
reports to The Counselors

disguise myself in order to study them unobserved
adapting their varied pigmentations     white black
red brown yellow     the imprecise and strangering
distinctions by which they live     by which they
justify their cruelties to one another

charming savages     enlightened primitives     brash
new comers lately sprung up in our galaxy     how
describe them     do they indeed know what or who
they are     do not seem to     yet no other beings
in the universe make more extravagant claims
for their importance and identity
like us they have created a veritable populace
of machines that serve and soothe and pamper
and entertain     we have seen their flags and
foot prints on the moon     also the intricate
rubbish left behind     a wastefully ingenious
people     many it appears worship the Unknowable
Essence     the same for them as for us     but are
more faithful to their machine made gods
technologists their shamans

oceans deserts mountains grain fields canyons
forests     variousness of landscapes weathers
sun light moon light as at home     much here is
beautiful     dream like vistas reminding me of
home     item     have seen the rock place known
as garden of the gods and sacred to the first
indigenes     red monoliths of home     despite
the tensions i breath in i am attracted to
the vigorous americans     disturbing sensuous
appeal of so many     never to be admitted

something they call the american dream     sure
we still believe in it i guess     an earth man
in the tavern said     irregardless of the some
times night mare facts we always try to double
talk our way around     and its okay the dreams
okay and means whats good could be a damn sight
better     means every body in the good old u s a
should have the chance to get ahead or at least
should have three squares a day     as for myself
i do okay     not crying hunger with a loaf of
bread tucked under my arm you understand     i
fear one does not clearly follow i replied
notice you got a funny accent pal     like where
you from he asked     far from here i mumbled
he stared hard     i left

must be more careful     item     learn to use okay
their pass word     okay

crowds gathering in the streets today for some
reason obscure to me     noise and violent motion
repulsive physical contact     sentinels     pigs
i heard them called     with flailing clubs     rage
and bleeding and frenzy and screaming     machines
wailing     unbearable decibels     i fled lest
vibrations of the brutal scene do further harm
to my metabolism already over taxed

The Counselors would never permit such barbarous
confusion     they know what is best for our sereni
ty     we are an ancient race and have outgrown
illusions cherished here     item     their vaunted
liberty     no body pushes me around i have heard
them say     land of the free they sing     what do
they fear mistrust betray more than the freedom
they boast of in their ignorant pride     have seen
the squalid ghettoes in their violent cities
paradox on paradox     how have the americans
managed to survive

parades fireworks displays video spectacles
much grandiloquence much buying and selling
they are celebrating their history     earth men
in antique uniforms play at the carnage whereby
the americans achieved identity     we too recall
that struggle as enterprise of suffering and
faith uniquely theirs     blonde miss teen age
america waving from a red white and blue flower
float as the goddess of liberty     a divided
people seeking reassurance from a past few under
stand and many scorn     why should we sanction
old hypocrisies     thus dissenters     The Counse
lors would silence them

a decadent people The Counselors believe     i
do not find them decadent     a refutation not
permitted me    but for all their knowledge
power and inventiveness not yet more than raw
crude neophytes like earthlings everywhere

though i have easily passed for an american     in
bankers grey afro and dashiki long hair and jeans
hard hat yarmulka mini skirt     describe in some
detail for the amusement of The Counselors     and
though my skill in mimicry is impeccable     as
indeed The Counselors are aware     some thing
eludes me     some constant amid the variables
defies analysis and imitation     will i be judged

america     as much a problem in metaphysics as
it is a nation earthly entity an iota in our
galaxy     an organism that changes even as i
examine it     fact and fantasy never twice the
same     so many variables

exert greater caution     twice have aroused
suspicion     returned to the ship until rumors
of humanoids from outer space     so their scoff
ing media voices termed us     had been laughed
away     my crew and i laughed too of course

confess i am curiously drawn     unmentionable     to
the americans     doubt i could exist among them for
long however     psychic demands far too severe
much violence     much that repels     i am attracted
none the less     their variousness their ingenuity
their elan vital     and that some thing     essence
quiddity     i cannot penetrate or name