Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Doll Factory

In this novel, a pair of twins unhappily work in a doll shop and  a collector of rare specimens, Silas, takes interest in one of them. Iris also fall under the gaze of a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of painters hoping to take Victorian London by storm.

The drudgery of Iris' work is palpable. What she wants more than anything is to become an artist. Louis, a member of the Brotherhood, offers her a chance of a lifetime. He tells Iris,

"I can teach you how to use oils, and perhaps next year you can enter a canvas into the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition."

The offer, however, is contingent upon her becoming a model for him. He promises to also teach her to paint--something that Iris has longed for all her life. 

Her family disowns her after she becomes Louis' model. They feel its unbecoming of a woman to live alone and work as an artists model. This leaves her more vulnerable to the local psychopath, Silas. 

MacNeal skillfully creates this character by first hiding his flaws. Silas originally appears as just another impassioned artist, except in his case he is interested in curiosities. He preserves dead animals and skeletons, butterflies, and other odd assortments.

Oddly enough, several women associated with Silas go missing--Flick, Bluebell, and now Iris. 

The novel skillfully draws readers into the Victorian world. Readers care about the plight of the protagonists--Louis who has gotten himself in a quandary--and Iris who desperately wants to be free to paint. Like the queen in Louis' painting, Iris finds herself figuratively and literally imprisoned. 

In writing that rivals the best suspense novel, MacNeal takes readers into the mind of a serial killer and contrasts it with a desperate woman's fight for freedom. 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

African American History Month

If you want to learn more about African American history, here's a great starting place:

https://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/


Some titles about African American heroes and leaders:

Buckley, Gail Lumet. The Black Calhouns: From Civil War to Civil Rights. 


Greenidge, Kerry. Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter.

Kotz, Nick. Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws That Changed America.

Sullivan, Patricia. Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement.

If you're a teacher, you may be interested in this website,
https://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/for-teachers/

February is National Bird Feeding Month

February is National Bird Feeding Month. Here are some titles
that take the guess work out of attracting birds to your yard:


Fenimore, Bill. Backyard Birds of Texas.


Roth, Sally.  Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds To Your Backyard.


Sorenson, Sharon. Planting Native To Attract Birds To Your Yard. 


Stiteler, Sharon. 1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know. 



If you want to make a bird feeder, look for these titles that can explain how to make a feeder out of wood or a simple one out of a milk jug.


Griffiths, Mark. Woodworking in a Weekend: 20 Simple Projects For The Home.


Latham, Donna. Biomes: Discover the Earth's Ecosystems: with environmental activities for kids.


Lim, Annalees. 10-Minute Seasonal Crafts for Winter.


Ventura, Marne. Fun Things To Do With Milk Jugs.



Don't forget to check our Home Reference Center for DIY articles on how to make a bird feeder.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Spotlight on Animators

Do you know someone who likes to sketch, paint, animate? Where does the drive come from? Aspiring artists may enjoy reading about these pioneering artists:



Guglielmo, Amy. Pocket Full of Colors: the Magical World of Mary Blair. 


Holt, Nathalia. Queens of Animation.



Johnson, Mindy. Pencils, Pens & Brushes: A Great Girls' Guide to Disney Animation.

Markel Michelle. Out of this World: The Surreal Art of Leonora Carrington.


Novesky, Amy. Mary Blair's Unique Flair. 


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create Your Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar


Ben-Shahar describes three types of choices. The first two choices affect how we react to a moment or a certain event. The third type involves big decision choices e.g. What will you major in?

Ben-Shahar believes that its actually the small choices we make every day that affect our overall happiness. He writes "at every moment in our life we have a choice." 

Of course, it's not always easy to realize that life is full of choices. By overlooking choices, you will deny yourself opportunities. A limited perspective limits choices.

Even if you feel trapped, search for paths that may lead to change. Mindfulness is a choice. For improving mindfulness he recommends reading Helen Keller's "Three Days to See."

He describes a technique called a "five-minute takeoff" that can help chronic procrastinators.

He also states that it is our mindset that affects our experiences at work or elsewhere.

This is a perfect book to read while crafting New Year's resolutions.

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