Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Merry adventures and the spirit of rebellion – Robin Hood

I would say it is highly indicative that when a story has survived about 700 years, it must be pretty good. One of the most well-known English folktales, the story of Robin Hood has managed to resonate with people over hundreds of years and is as popular as ever today. I’ve always loved the adventure and spirit of rebellion it carries, and having tried many different versions over the years, rarely have I been disappointed. From ballads and poems to TV shows and movies, you can find a Robin Hood to suit any preferences. The genres span from aged classics, science fiction, romance, modern mysteries and stories suited for any age range.

Though the legend may have survived, almost all of the details have been tweaked and added to by storytellers over the years. The earliest written versions of Robin Hood, from 1450 on, portray an outright ‘bad guy’. At best, he was a self-interested outlaw with some inkling of sympathy for the poor. His raison d’être (taking from the rich to give to the poor) is nowhere to be found until many centuries later. Robin really only became the hero we know him as today with a few texts from the 1800s, in particular The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle and Ivanhoe by Walter Scott – both very entertaining and enlightening reads.

The more recent versions have changed characters and plot lines in major ways. You can find traditional characters like Will Scarlet, Alan-a-Dale, Little John, Much the Miller, Friar Tuck and Maid Marion in many different variations or not at all.

So where to begin? You can always start with a classic, and there are many adaptations that stick pretty close to older versions of the legend. The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley is one of my personal favourites that has a good mix of old and new. The library has so many different versions of Robin Hood, there really is something for everyone.

Book cover - Stephen Lawhead's book "Hood"

If you’d like a gritty, darker Robin then you can try Steve Lawhead’s King Raven series (beginning with Hood), Angus Donald’s Outlaw Chronicles, or try a paranormal spin on the tale with Debbie Viguié’s Mark of the Black Arrow. Tim Hall’s Shadow of the Wolf is a good option for YA readers who also enjoy a supernatural and dark spin.

The Forest Queen book cover

Where you have adventure, there’s usually a spot of romance. The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest and Lady of Sherwood each have a good balance of both, as do their YA cohorts, The Forest Queen, A Daring Sacrifice and Scarlet.

Legend of Hong Kil Dong book cover

There are many graphic novel versions, including DC Comic’s Red Hood and the Outlaws, Outlaw by Tony Lee and for younger readers, Robin Hood: Outlaw of Sherwood Forest. One of my favourites was The Legend of Hong Kil Dong, a Korean addition aimed at younger readers.

Kids and tweens have tons of options to choose from. Will in Scarlet and The Band of Merry Kids are both historical fiction with a similar feel. If you prefer female main characters, then Hawksmaid, Shadows of Sherwood and Robbie Forester and the Outlaws of Sherwood Street will be right up your alley. Younger readers will enjoy Robin Hood adapted by Annie Ingle. It also makes the perfect read-aloud for these cold winter days!

When talking Robin Hood (at the office water cooler, for example) you’d be remiss not to mention some of the wonderful films. Most enter the ‘hood’ with Disney’s Robin Hood (1973), but Prince of Thieves and Men in Tights are also popular editions. The Adventures of Robin Hood is a fan favourite from 1938 and definitely wins the best wardrobe award. On my to-do list are the BBC series Robin Hood, which seems to fit into that darker, grittier category, as well as the most recent (put your hold on it now!) Robin Hood fresh out of theatres.

Happy reading!


What I Love to Read

Bibliophile: (n) A lover of books; someone who finds joy and peace of mind while holding a quality book.

Being passionate about your work is one of the greatest gifts that you can have in this life, and I’m so fortunate that my job allows me not only to indulge in my passion for reading but also to share it with others. Since February is also I Love to Read month I thought this would be a great opportunity to share some of my most current favourite books. I’m fickle about my favourites, so this list changes often, but these are the books that are currently on the list.


penguin in love

Penguin in Love by Selina Yoon

You can never go wrong with a penguin story, and this story not only has penguins, it has knitting and (almost) unrequited love.



ruinous sweep

The Ruinous Sweep by Tim Wynne-Jones

Donovan Turner has lost his memory and has no idea what he’s doing on a dark, deserted stretch of road in the middle of the night, after being tossed out of a moving car. Then things really start to get interesting. This book kept me guessing from beginning to end, and my first impulse after finishing it was to read it again, to really be able to savour the intricate twists and turns in the plot.



Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manuel Miranda

In contrast to The Ruinous Sweep, which I read quickly (both times, and there will likely be a third reading in the near future) Gmorning, Gnight! is best read only a page at a time, preferably once in the morning and once before you go to bed. Lin-Manuel’s upbeat and inspiring words, coupled with Jonny Sun’s incomparable illustrations are the best way to start and end your day.


synchro boy

Synchro Boy by Shannon McFerran

I loved this story of a teen competitive racing swimmer being brave enough to try synchronized swimming. Bart’s journey of self-discovery is centred around the swimming pool, where he finds a way to be true to himself, despite the pressures and perceptions of those around him.

To my way of thinking, the only thing that’s better than reading a great book is telling someone about it. So what’s on your list?



The Right Book for the Right Time

three-body problemOver the last couple week, I’ve committed a librarian faux-pas. I recently read Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem and have been telling everyone to read it because they’ll love it. It’s so good; I don’t understand how someone could not love it! It’s compelling, imaginative, and suspenseful. Covering topics as broad as theoretical physics, Chinese political history, aliens, video games, with a sprinkle of social commentary, the author still succeeds in telling an engaging story.

The faux-pas I committed isn’t from being so excited about a book that I can’t stop talking about it—I highly encourage everyone to do this!—but rather, telling people they should read it without taking into consideration their reading preferences and interests, and hyping up the series so much that I promise they’ll love it. I end up taking responsibility for that person’s enjoyment of the book, and that is something I definitely can’t control. I’m usually more careful, but when a book is this good, my judgment gets clouded.

But when you come to the library and ask for a book recommendation, we’ll be much more professional. We’ll ask you a few questions to get a sense of what you like:

  • Which books have you really enjoyed in the past?
  • What sort of book are you looking for today?
  • Do you prefer books that are focused on character, plot, setting, or language?

the dark forestIt may take us a few minutes to figure out what to suggest, but know that we’re basing those suggestions on your reading preferences. We’ll usually give a few suggestions so you can figure out what works for you. Reading a book is a very personal experience and so much more than its subject or genre. Language is more nuanced than that and so to get the perfect book for the perfect moment we have to take into account different factors such as your mood, your level of engagement, your openness to different experiences, and so on. If you can’t make it into a branch for your next suggestion, make sure to check out our new Info Guide: Your Next Great Read for ways to discover new titles.

death's endThe stars aligned for me with The Three-Body Problem. Just before the holidays, I was reading a mystery novel more focused on the sense of place and character (P.D. James’ An Unsuitable Job for a Woman), but I was looking for something different – something fast paced to contrast the slow days of winter. I wanted a story that was plot-oriented yet more stimulating than the usual action-thrillers I go for. I overheard a friend losing his mind over this book called Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, recently translated into English and set in the same world as the Three-Body Trilogy. Intrigued, I picked up the first in the series at the library and subsequently lost my mind over the writing style, the mysterious plot, and Cixin Liu’s prediction of humanity’s response at finding out there is extra-terrestrial intelligence in the universe.

You should really read The Three-Body Trilogy. It’s exhilarating! But if it’s not for you, let us help you discover something that will excite you.

– Rémi


Faeries and Wendigos and Witches, Oh My!

I love reading short story collections featuring many different authors, especially the horror collections edited by Ellen Datlow. Short stories allow us to get a taste for an author’s writing style and if we enjoy their story we can look further for other books of theirs. Or if we aren’t enjoying a particular story, we can skip to the next one. Short stories are also great for delivering quick hits of suspense in just a short amount of time (you can usually finish one on a coffee break and not have to wait until your lunch break to find out what happens next). Needless to say I was very excited to hear that a collection of speculative fiction short stories was coming out, all stories written by Manitoba authors and all take place in Manitoba or are partly set in Manitoba as travelling to other realms/worlds/planes is inevitable in speculative fiction.


Image courtesy of Great Plains Publications Ltd.


The collection is titled Parallel Prairies: Stories of Manitoba Speculative Fiction and it is edited by Darren Ridgley and Adam Petrash who also contribute a story each. The 17 other authors who contributed to the collection are Chris Allinotte, Wayne Arthurson, Jonathan Ball, S.M. Beiko, Sheldon Birnie, Keith Cadieux, Jennifer Collerone, Gilles DeCruyenaere, Will J. Fawley, Chadwick Ginther, Kate Heartfield, Patrick Johanneson, Lindsay Kitson, J.M. Sinclair, David Jón Fuller, Craig Russell, and Christine Steendam. The best part of this collection is that it is has something for everyone and as each story uses the local landscape and landmarks, Manitobans are sure to be able to picture the setting perfectly and be in the know regarding certain Manitoba customs. Lest I bungle up a nice synopsis of the collection, I’ll let the book explain itself to you: “Get acquainted with baby dragons, killer insects, faery kings, infernal entities, and more; as 19 authors let the Manitoban landscape inspire weird and wondrous tales. You thought the prairies were flat, plain, and boring. You were wrong.” Does that not sound intriguing to you? As mentioned these stories feature faeries, wendigos, witches, dragons, folklore and everything in between so there should be something for everyone. Some of my personal favourites were The Comments Gaze Also Into You by David Jón Fuller which discusses cyberbullying in online message boards on news websites in a very unique way, Seven Long Years by Jennifer Collerone which follows a young woman and Wisp, a coyote, as they set out to complete a task that must be undertaken every seven years, and finally Eating of the Tree by Chadwick Ginther which explores Norse mythology in present-day Winnipeg. The other stories in this compilation are of course very good as well, but these three especially stood out for me.

If you are craving more Canadian short stories that are speculative fiction, we have a couple of collections available titled Imaginarium which may be right up your alley.

In other Canadian speculative fiction news, Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Testaments, is now available to request from Winnipeg Public Library so be sure to get your requests in, as it is sure to be a popular and talked-about read!

Happy Reading!


Oh! For the love of Reading!

As a long-time lover of books, I’m sure to most it’s no shock that I became a Librarian. For as long as I can remember I have always enjoyed reading, but … to confess, I didn’t fall in love with reading right away! I know shocking right?! Once people hear that I am a Librarian most assume I was born with a tight bun in my hair, a book in one hand and mug of tea in the other. That may be the case now, but it wasn’t always. As a child I was taken to the West Kildonan Library on a regular basis, so my ambivalence towards books was not for a lack of access. Or even interest; I liked Goosebumps and Stuart Little as much as the next kid. I liked reading, but I didn’t LOVE reading. It took a little time, and the right book, for the written word to totally win me over and for me to truly fall head over heels in love with reading.

And I mean reading! All aspects of reading; the cozy, can’t wait, won’t put it down until I finish the next chapter reading. The up all night, I need to talk to someone about this, my life is changed kind of reading. The, I cannot believe it ended that way, can’t wait for the next one type of reading. Yeah THAT kind of reading!

One of the best parts about being a Librarian, is knowing that I am not alone in my love of reading, and all things book related, in fact I am the furthest thing from being alone. There is a wide variety of books published every year about … well…books! From Public Libraries, to independent book stores, to illustrated anthologies, there is definitive proof that there are bibliophiles everywhere and we really love books. Recently there have been several that have come across my desk that I thought were just too good to not share. Published within the last year these books are sure to delight anyone who loves a good read.


library book The Library Book by Susan Orlean

In this fascinating investigative piece, author Susan Orlean explores the infamous fire at the Los Angeles Public Library that occurred on April 29, 1986. She thoroughly examines one of the largest library fires in history, from its long suspected cause of arson to chronicling the loss, damage (over four hundred thousand books were completely destroyed) and personal stories of librarians that picked up the pieces. Orlean delves deep into the mystery of the fire and the life of its only suspect, aspiring actor Harry Peak, in great detail.

But, what this book really turns into is a love story about libraries and not just their contents. She describes the inner workings of Los Angeles Public Library with poetic ease, having totally immersed herself in understanding how public libraries function. The importance of libraries in today’s culture is emphasized, especially in light of the “fake news” era, but what Orlean captures so perfectly in my opinion, is how libraries make us feel; connected to something greater than ourselves. For anyone who has an interest in learning more about libraries, or just LOVES them in general, this book is for you.


bibliophileBibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount

For those of us that never outgrew picture books, Bibliophile, is a fascinating feast for the eyes. The book itself is organized into a vast collection of booklists upon booklists, but instead of using just … well… words, there is a beautifully detailed drawing of each spine label stacked up on top of one another. These illustrated pillars of books are perfectly detailed to look exactly like their covers and serve as wonderful recommendations for those looking for their next great read. The types of booklists are equally unique representing categories like “Book Club Darlings” and “Technothrills & Cyberpunks.” But, what makes this even better, are the illustrated lists of “Beloved Bookstores” or “Beautiful Contemporary Covers” or “Writer’s Pets” that are cleverly mixed in among the stacks of books. There are even short quizzes scattered throughout that only add to the fun of this book.


booksmortarBooks and Mortar: A Celebration of the local bookstore by Gibbs M. Smith

This charming little book is a tribute to independent and local books stores, some more well-known than others. Roughly 60 different stores are featured from San Francisco to Buenos Aires, including my personal favourite The Strand in New York City. Though, it really doesn’t matter if you’ve frequented these book sellers in the past, a short history is provided for each along with enticing anecdotes and accompanied by beautifully detailed oil paintings of the store fronts. The late Author/Illustrator Gibbs M. Smith was a passionate advocate for the independent book publishing and selling industry. His last published piece is truly a celebration of his and his wife Catherine’s, life’s work. Admittedly, this book makes it hard to resist planning the trip of a lifetime visiting all of these bookstores; there is even a check list at the back.

morethan More than Books by Eve Dunton and Kathleen Williams

I might be a little biased, but the Winnipeg Public Library’s publication, More Than Books, is a real treat for any local history buffs, and for anyone wanting to learn a little more about Winnipeg.

This book is a comprehensive overview of library services in Winnipeg and chronicles early beginnings with the development of the Red River Library in 1848, all the way to the Millennium Library opening in 2005.

One of my favourite parts of this book is a short feature in almost every chapter called “What Were We Reading” that highlights exactly that. Organized by time frame, it’s fascinating to know that in the 1930’s Winnipeggers loved reading westerns and mysteries, with Gone With the Wind being the most popular book of 1937. But by the 1980’s Winnipeggers were way more interested in the “how to” genre checking out books on auto repair and resume writing. Though, the best part of this book is that it truly gives you the sense of how much Winnipeg loves its library services, and how many avid readers really are out there.

Even more books about books, or libraries or reading …

If any of the above titles caught your attention, why not check these out too!

The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders by Stuart Kells

I’d Rather be Reading: A Library of Art for Book Lovers by Guinevere De La Mare

I’d Rather be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel

The Art of Reading: An Illustrated History of Books by Jamie Camplin

Oh! And the book that totally won me over was the Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. Thirteen year old me LOVED it.


The Influence of Patricia Highsmith

carol Every year in December I lament the fact that there aren’t any fun romantic Christmas movies that star two women as the leads.  I like watching the cheesy predictable Hallmark Christmas movies (especially the ones with extremely far-fetched royalty-themed plots).  I would love for there to be a movie about a woman who goes home for Christmas to a family who is way too invested in her love life and who decides to put an ad out for someone to play her fake girlfriend but then they end up falling in love for real.  (Credit to Hallmark’s A Holiday Engagement.)  But until just this past Christmas season all the leads were only white, straight, and heterosexual.  In 2018 there were several films whose leads were not white, and reportedly Hallmark will be making Hanukkah movies for next winter. Progress!  There are still no queer lead characters (or any queer characters) in sight, however.  In a few of the non-Hallmark Christmas movies (like the Netflix hit A Christmas Prince) queer characters are mostly relegated to the sidelines.  The closest film I can think of that breaks the mould is Carol , which is an adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt.  It’s different than the psychological thrillers she is known for.  It’s not cheesy, but it is a romance between women that ends happily and takes place during Christmas.  It’s gratifying to see that Highsmith’s novel has become increasingly relevant to queer women today with the release of Carol.

simplefavor Other media I’ve encountered recently has also been heavily influenced by Patricia Highsmith.  The film A Simple Favor came out last year, based on the book  by first time novelist Darcey Bell.  The novel is more of a straightforward thriller than the film (which has a lot more darkly comedic elements to it) but both offer a critical look at so-called “mommy bloggers” and the edited views of their lives they present to their readers.  Widowed young mom Stephanie is the “mommy blogger” main character whose best friend Emily appears to have gone missing.  What starts off as a missing persons case turns into a mystery about a complicated woman that Stephanie realises she didn’t really know at all.  There are similarities with Gone Girl but Emily’s motivations are very different, and the author uses tropes in a fresh and fascinating way.  Stephanie mentions Emily’s love of Patricia Highsmith’s novels and she references Strangers on a Train  on multiple occasions, including a pivotal moment when she reveals a big secret to Emily.  Emily also leaves behind a bookmarked copy of Highsmith’s novel Those Who Walk Away which Stephanie notices and starts to suspect it might lead to clues about Emily’s disappearance.

genuinefraud Genuine Fraud  is a YA novel by e. lockhart which was marketed as being inspired by The Talented Mr. Ripley  by Patricia Highsmith, which is the first in a series about a man who spends his life impersonating people and lying to everyone around him.  Imogen is a girl who has spent her life trying to be someone else, and plans to continue to do so at any cost.  There is a lot of action and the story isn’t boring, but I found this novel suffered from similar qualities as lockhart’s previous novel, We Were Liars .  The strength in her previous books (such as the Ruby Oliver series and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks ) lay in the humour and heart of her characters who have plenty of flaws but are essentially good.  In these two latest books she has written main characters who are not what you’d call “good people” and while I absolutely enjoy books with these kinds of characters, I don’t think she succeeds in creating them.  At the end of both I was left feeling unsatisfied.  Genuine Fraud seems more of a retelling rather than just being “inspired” by The Talented Mr. Ripley.  (In my opinion a far more successful retelling of a classic novel is Catherine  by April Lindner, a modern YA version of Wuthering Heights.)


30 Years Ago: The Fall of the Berlin Wall

“Today I walk from my place up Brunnenstrasse, past Frau Paul’s tunnel to Bernauer Strasse where the Wall was. There is a new museum here. Its greatest exhibit is opposite: a full-size reconstructed section of the Wall, complete with freshly built and neatly raked death strip, for tourists.”       –Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

Cover image for The year that changed the world : the untold story behind the fall of the Berlin Wall

We are going to mark several anniversaries of important historical events in 2019, one of them being the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the end of the Cold War – 30 years ago already!  And the library has a lot to offer fans of history on this topic.

For over 50 years, Germany, which was divided between the victors of WWII, was a symbolic battleground where two ideologies and their competing East/West alliances faced-off.  This era that became known as the Cold War was marked by varying periods of tensions and detente between the two blocs of nations.  The city of Berlin, an already divided city in a divided nation witnessed the erection in 1961 of a wall protected by mines, barbed wire and watch towers, supposedly to protect East Berliners from the evil of the capitalist West (the wall’s official name in the Soviet sphere was the  “Antifascist Bulwark”) but was really there to keep them in.


Cover image for The Berlin Airlift : the relief operation that defined the Cold War

70 years before the wall, Berlin was already a flashpoint of the Cold War that pitted former wartime allies over the fate of a still-ruined German capital.  In 1948, Stalin ordered the closing of all land access points to the city, leaving West Berliners potentially isolated in East Germany without food or fuel.  The Russian dictator hoped that the Western nations would lack resolve and accept the loss of the blockaded city to the Communists in order to avoid another shooting war so soon after the last global conflict.  Instead, the United States and its allies (including Canada) chose to keep West Berlin supplied through a massive airlift operation where transport plane flew around the clock, defeating the blockade while avoiding a shooting war.  The blockade was lifted after 11 months and over 200,000 sorties by allied planes ferrying 2,300,000 tons of food and fuel, but this first triumph of the West set the tone for what would become a new type of conflict that would define the lives of most nations of the world for decades to come.  Barry Turner’s The Berlin Airlift is an excellent book for readers interested in learning about the day-to-day experience of Berliners as well as those who took part in the airlift operations to preserve their freedom, often at the risk of their lives.


Cover image for Berlin 1961 : Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the most dangerous place on earth  Cover image for Bridge of spies [DVD videorecording]

The brinkmanship that characterised the Cold War came to its most dangerous point in the early 1960’s, with the risk of a nuclear war and the end of humankind becoming a real possibility.  It was in this context that the Berlin Wall was built, taking most everyone by surprise.  In Berlin 1961Frederick Kempe explains how a series of diplomatic blunders and misunderstandings across the globe came to a head when the armies of both super powers became fully mobilised in Berlin.  Up until then, travel between East and West Berlin was still possible even if closely monitored by the state.  This led to 3.5 millions East Germans defecting to the West between 1946 and 1961, leading Eastern leaders to find a way to stop this exodus by effectively closing its border.  Construction of the 156-kilometer wall began on August 13th and would be reinforced and improved over the coming years.  Attempting to cross it without official permission became a crime punishable by prison or death, with up to 200 people killed while trying to escape and 5,000 managing to reach West Berlin out of 100,000 attempts.  The recent movie Bridge of Spies, featuring Tom Hanks takes place in part during that period and portrays the real-life efforts of an American lawyer trying to secure an exchange of prisoners at the height of the crisis.


Cover image for Forty autumns : a family's story of courage and survival on both sides of the Berlin Wall

One woman who did manage to escape East Germany was Nina Willner, and her memoir Forty Autumns is an intimate portrait of how one person had to choose between her freedom and the loved ones she had to leave behind.  Nina takes us deep into the terrifying world of East Germany under Communist rule, revealing both the cruel reality her relatives endured and her own experiences after becoming an intelligence officer, running secret operations behind the Berlin Wall that put her life at risk.  We also learn of the aftermath, when both sides of her family had a chance to meet each other when the wall fell.


Cover image for Stasiland : stories from behind the Berlin Wall

Probably the most terrifying aspect of life in East Germany was its all-powerful and ever-present surveillance apparatus in the form of the Stasi (with 1 out of 6 East Germans being either informants or agents, it surpassed even the KGB and the Gestapo in its pervasiveness in the lives of East Germans).  In Stasiland : stories from behind the Berlin Wall, Ana Funder collected the testimonies of former East Germans, even some former members of the Stasi, to get a sense of everyday life in a totalitarian society where everybody lied and risked being betrayed, even by the people they knew.  Stories include those who tried to escape and were jailed and then pressured to spy on others in exchange for their release, a rock star who experienced being made an “un-person” to be erased, and then those who were still unrepentant about their role in propping up the regime they served through.  This is an important but difficult read but it also has hope and humour as people have had time to rebuild and reflect after German reunification.


Cover image for The collapse : the accidental opening of the Berlin Wall

I used to think I had a good idea of how the Wall fell but historian Mary Sarotte’s The Collapse: the Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall made me realize how much I had missed from previous readings.   The forces that ultimately brought the Berlin Wall down had been at work for some time, but the announcement that the border between East and West would open on November 9th, 1989, took the world (least of all East Germans) by surprise.  That was in part because it was the work of East-European politicians working behind the scenes, combined with a growing popular peaceful protest movement against a stagnant and stifling dictatorship.  But according to the author, the tipping point was a series of miscommunications that culminated in a small error by an East German official during a press conference about new travel regulations that accidently led to the floodgates opening literally overnight and heralded the end of East Germany a few months later.  Sarotte’s account is well-researched and is a suspenseful read that I recommend for anyone wanting to learn the fascinating history of the millions of ordinary citizens whose actions were instrumental in bringing this about.


Cover image for Berlin now : the city after the Wall

It is fitting that the last book of this post should discuss the revival that Berlin has experienced since the fall of the wall in 1989 and how it has changed.  Berlin Now: the City after the Wall by Peter Schneider offers a tour of the reunited city and how it has changed since while describing the insidious legacies of division and re-unification that remain, like the lingering suspicion instilled by the East German secret police to the clashing attitudes toward work, food, and love held by former East and West Berliners.  It explores a city still in flux, with hodgepodge architectures from different worlds, construction cranes everywhere, and animated by a vital art and clubbing scene and rich in diversity of its inhabitants, new and old.

Come and check out these great reads!



Reading Local. Becoming Global.

I prefer to break down walls, thank you very much. In this time of dwindling empathy for refugees and antipathy towards global problems, we can open our eyes and hearts through reading. Books offer us an opportunity to walk in the shoes of those whose journeys are difficult, even deadly. Share some of these global stories, all written by Canadians, with your friends, children and students in the spirit of International Development Week, coming February 3rd – 9th, 2019 whose theme this year is “Breaking Down Barriers”.

Deborah Ellis is the author of the award winning and now motion picture, the Breadwinner series. She has written about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in The Cat on the Wall, forbidden love in Iran with Moon at Nine and taken us into the slums of India with No Ordinary Day. If you are looking for a great read-aloud for your classroom, start here where children who are sitting, stand up for themselves.

sit     Sit is a series of short stories about children who are stuck, sometimes sitting, as the adults in their lives make decisions for them. The novel takes the reader to a chair factory where Jafar is a child labourer, to Uzbekistan where Noosala waits to see what the refugee smuggler will do with her and to Auschwitz where Gretchen contemplates the lives of concentration camp victims. Somehow the children find the courage to make either a small change or an act of defiance that will help them get through their difficulties.


Sharon McKay’s passion for dramatic stories is evident in her body of work. She writes historical and realistic fiction with characters facing war situations. Her novel, Prison Boy was endorsed by Amnesty International and was short listed for the Manitoba Young Reader’s Choice Award for its unflinching look at children who are orphaned, homeless and vulnerable.

prison boy Seven year old Paxton lives in a filthy slum in an orphanage called Pink House run by matron, Bell. When she refuses to rescue an abandoned baby, Paxton insists that he will help with the child. He names the baby Kai and takes on the role of an older brother and mentor. As they grow up, the two become inseparable. Then, one fateful day, Paxton discovers that Bell is planning to close the orphanage and send the boys to different homes. Pax is devastated but determined to stay with Kai so they decide to escape and live out on the streets, alone but together.


Cherie Dimaline is a Métis and Anishinaabe author from the Christina Island First Nation community. Cherie was the first Indigenous writer in residence for the Toronto Public Library and was named the Emerging Artist of the Year at the Ontario Premier’s Award in 2014. Her novel, The Marrow Thieves has taken Canada by storm and was the Governor General’s Literary Award winner and The Kirkus Prize winner. It has been short listed for the White Pine Award and for Canada Reads as well as being nominated as a best book of the year by School Library Journal and Quill and Quire.

marrow thieves    The Marrow Thieves follows the story of Frenchie and his brother Mitch who are on the run from the government recruiters who have a dark purpose for Indigenous people. Cataclysmic weather patterns have destroyed the earth and survival is risky without a community. When Mitch allows himself to be captured, it gives Frenchie a chance to escape. Frenchie sets off alone but his survival depends on whether he can find help, and soon.


Fartumo Kusow was born in Somalia in a farming family that put an emphasis on the girls getting as much of an education as the boys. She credits her father with giving her a journal to write in, which led her to write her first novel in the Somali language. When the civil war broke out, Fartumo fled the country and was granted refugee status in Canada. The transition was difficult but she knew she wanted to learn English so that she could continue on her path to becoming a novelist.

tale of a boons wife   Idil is a young Somali woman belonging to the upper class known as Bliss. As she grows up she observes the hardships that her mother faces and refuses to be a victim like her. When she falls in love with Sidow, a poor, lower caste Boon Man, they defy their families and society by marrying against their wishes. This choice affects Idil deeply and as the country’s political situation devolves into civil war, she must accept the consequences even as life becomes more and more dangerous.



Esi Edugyan is quickly becoming a Canadian superstar. With her previous novel Half-Blood Blues, she has won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Roger’s Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize. Now with her new novel Washington Black, she is again nominated on the longlist for the Booker.

washington black Born into slavery, Washington Black is a gifted artist. His talent is noticed by the plantation owner’s younger brother, Titch who is currently trying to invent a hot air balloon. When Washington witnesses a death, he must escape to avoid punishment. Titch and Washington use the “Cloud Cutter” to leave the Barbados, but the real danger still lies ahead as Washington begins to realize that even if he is free physically, he may never be free, emotionally.


Become a global citizen by reading about these characters’ amazing journeys and follow the events in Manitoba for International Development week on the Manitoba Council for International Co-operation’s Facebook page. Or stop by your local library to pick up one of these novels that are guaranteed to move you deeply. Our enormously talented and visionary Canadian authors are lighting the way to a path forward for humanity. One that builds bridges instead of walls.


January: Looking forward with….

It is a new year!  Decorations have been stowed away, stray needles tidied up, empty chocolate boxes have been thrown in the blue box, and New Year’s Resolutions are still fresh in our minds.

I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions (in our family, my brother always made the resolution to not eat haggis that year- it was an easily kept one!)It may be because they often feel sort of empty or overwhelming (lose weight, work out more, be more organised).  But what if we focused on resolutions that helped those around us, either directly, or by helping us to be healthier and kinder people and therefore making our communities healthier places to be?

Thanks a Thousand

It is pretty well understood that grateful people are often healthier people. In Thanks a Thousand, New York Times bestselling author A.J. Jacobs takes on a journey in which he endeavors to thank every single person involved in producing his morning cup of coffee. The resulting journey takes him across the globe, transforms his life, and reveals secrets about how gratitude can make us all happier, more generous, and more connected. And by the end, it’s clear to him that scientific research on gratitude is true. Gratitude’s benefits are legion: it improves compassion, heals your body, and helps battle depression. Along the way, Jacobs provides wonderful insights and useful tips, from how to focus on the hundreds of things that go right every day instead of the few that go wrong. And how our culture overemphasizes the individual over the team. And how to practice the art of “savoring meditation” and fall asleep at night. Thanks a Thousand is a reminder of the amazing interconnectedness of our world. It shows us how much we take for granted. It teaches us how gratitude can make our lives happier, kinder, and more impactful.

Books for Living

For a book lover, starting the year off with some book lists/challenges is pretty common (and exciting!).  In Books for Living, Will Schwalbe presents us with a book about books. “I’ve always believed that everything you need to know you can find in a book,” writes Will Schwalbe in his introduction to this thought-provoking, heart-felt, and often inspiring new book about books. In each chapter he makes clear the ways in which a particular book has helped to shape how he leads his own life and the ways in which it might help to shape ours. He talks about what brought him to each book–or vice versa; the people in his life he associates each book with; how each has led him to other books; how each is part of his understanding of himself in the world. And he relates each book to a question of our daily lives, for example: Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener speaks to quitting; 1984 to disconnecting from our electronics; James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room to the power of connecting with people face to face; Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea to taking time to recharge; Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird to being sensitive to the surrounding world; The Little Prince to finding friends; Elie Wiesel’s Night to choosing to do something in the face of injustice; Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train to trusting. Here, too, are books by Dickens, Daphne Du Maurier, Murakami, Edna Lewis, E.B. White, and Hanya Yanagihara, among many others. A treasure of a book for everyone who loves books, loves reading, and loves to hear the answer to the question: “What have you been reading lately?”

The Hidden Door: Mindful Sufficiency as an Alternative to Extinction

Thinking about consumerism seems like a pretty natural thing coming out of the holiday season. We are bombarded on all sides by ‘holiday shopping’- in our inboxes, on the radio, tv etc. Giving gifts to the ones we love can be a natural outpouring of that love, but most of us will feel that tug, or bad aftertaste of  consumer culture at some point. And it is a complex topic that can feel overwhelming at times.

In The Hidden Door : Mindful Sufficiency as an Alternative to Extinction, author Mark Burch gives us hope that what we do matters to our communities and to our collective future. Many people sense that consumer culture is dragging us toward extinction. We feel trapped in a cell of our own making. If humanity is to have any sort of future worth living in, we must discover an exit from our confinement. There is a door, hidden in plain sight. What sort of culture might appear if we took seriously the essential values and principles that form the deep structure of voluntary simplicity and used them to inform a new perspective of the good life? Might we discover an exit from the confining cell of consumer culture? Can we find the passage leading beyond individual lifestyle choice to cultural renaissance? This book aims to help seed this renaissance by widening the conversation about how we transition from the road to extinction to a path with heart that has a future.

Factfulness : Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things are Better Than You Think

When asked simple questions about global trends–what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school–we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess teachers, journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.

In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and global TED phenomenon Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators, Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens . They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective–from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).

Our problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and even our guesses are informed by unconscious and predictable biases.

It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.

Inspiring and revelatory, filled with lively anecdotes and moving stories, Factfulness is an urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world and empower you to respond to the crises and opportunities of the future.

Counting on Community

I was tidying in the picture book room at our branch when I happened upon this gem of a board book.  Counting on Community is author Innosanto Nagara’s follow-up to his ABC book, A is for Activist.  It is never too early to begin reading to your child, and in that vein, I think we can say that it is never too early to teach them the value of community.  Counting up from one stuffed piñata to ten hefty hens–and always counting on each other–children are encouraged to recognize the value of their community, the joys inherent in healthy eco-friendly activities, and the agency they posses to make change.

What books are inspiring you on these long, thoughtful winter days?


Hygge Do You do?

The other day I was talking to a friend who was overjoyed at the prospect of a cold, gloomy Sunday. Turns out that when your idea of a good time is sitting down with a stack of books, it doesn’t matter if it’s a “nice” day – it’s all good.

Are you familiar with the term hygge? (It’s pronounced hoo-ga, in case you’ve been saying it wrong all this time like I have). It became all the rage a couple years ago, although your Scandinavian friends will likely tell you they’ve known all about it for much longer than that. The word itself refers to the mood of coziness, happiness, and contentment that abounds when you’re settled into a plush armchair under a soft blanket with a cup of tea or hot chocolate while the candlelight flickers and wind howls outside.

If you’re thinking “yes, please!,” then look no further. Winnipeg Public Library has plenty of wonderful hygge-related books to get you through the season of snow with a smile!

How to Hygge by Signe Johansen

Let’s start with the basics! How to Hygge by chef and author Signe Johansen is a fresh, informative, lighthearted, fully illustrated how-to guide to hygge. It’s a combination of recipes, helpful tips for cozy living at home, and cabin porn: essential elements of living the Danish way—which, incidentally, encourages a daily dose of “healthy hedonism.” Who can resist that?

Making Winter : A Hygge-Inspired Guide to Surviving the Winter Months by Emma Mitchell

Embrace this warm-hearted philosophy with 25 creative crafts and recipes, from gorgeous trinkets to snuggly woolens and tasty treats. Make vintage ornaments, bake plum and orange blondies, crochet boot cuffs, and more–you’ll feel hygge warming you no matter how cold it is outside.

Scandinavian Comfort Food : Embracing the Art of Hygge 
by Trine Hahnemann

Trine Hahnemann is the doyenne of Scandinavian cooking, and loves nothing more than spending time in her kitchen cooking up comforting food in good company. This is her collection of recipes that will warm you up and teach you to embrace the art of hygge, no matter where you live.

The Joy of Hygge : How to Bring Everyday Pleasure and Danish Coziness into Your Life by Jonny Jackson

The Joy of Hygge is packed with recipes to warm you on a winter’s evening, craft ideas for decorating your home, and inspirational suggestions for enjoying the magic of everyday pleasures.

Live Lagom : Balanced Living, the Swedish Way by Anna Brones

Following the cultural phenomena of fika and hygge, the allure of Scandinavian culture and tradition continues in the Swedish concept of lagom. Instead of thinking about how we can work less, lagom teaches us to think about how we can work better. Lagom is about finding balance between aesthetics and function, a holistic approach for the body and mind, including connecting more in person, caring for self, managing stress, keeping active, and embracing enjoyment in daily routine. Live Lagom inspires us to slow down and find happiness in everyday balance.

And there you have it, just a few ideas to ride out the winter in comfort and style! What will you do to make the most of our Manitoba winter?

Happy reading,