Looking for both the perfect summer read, a classic, and a great children’s story to read aloud? Yes, such a thing exists!
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame captures the idyllic peacefulness of summer days, but also has adventure and shenanigans galore to entertain. As a child, my grandmother would read this novel aloud to my brother and me, and we also later enjoyed watching an animated television version of the story. Mole and Ratty were of course my favourite characters, with such lovable characteristics as Mole’s abandonment of spring cleaning, and Ratty’s absolute love of boats and picnics.
For those not familiar with the story, The Wind in the Willows follows the adventures of four main animals through the English countryside. Through different seasons and settings, Mole, Ratty, Badger, and Toad form friendships and learn what they value most, while exploring the wide world out beyond their familiar neighbourhood of the riverside and woods. Grahame’s writing captures a wondrous sense of the peacefulness and richness of the outdoors, while also keeping his characters lively and the plot moving at a steady pace.
Kitchener Public Library has a number of different versions of The Wind in the Willows available, which you can browse and borrow here.
***Content Warning: This novel, and review, deals with racism, sexual assault, abuse of power, slavery and death***
For the fans of Octavia Butler, may I present Rivers Soloman’s first novel An Unkindness of Ghosts. The HSS Matilda, is an intergenerational starship on a journey to find humanity’s new homeland. There are rigid rules intended to keep the population compliant amidst an atmosphere of racism as seen in the antebellum era of the United States. The white gentry population are well educated and tucked away from the “Tarlanders” a diverse group of slaves who work on the agriculture levels of the ship and perform menial tasks.
What makes this novel truly remarkable is Soloman’s deft creation of Aster Grey, a “Tarlander” who is black, intersex, and genderqueer, and displays aspects of being on the Autism spectrum. Aster is the unexpected leader of a rebellion, a healer who struggles everyday to modulate personality to fit within society, and who develops complex relationships with others struggling with their own mental and physical health. Soloman allows Aster to explore the question of consent in medicine and life, and friends to handle situations where Aster does not understand social cues or nonliteral language in a respectful manner.
Soloman has created a novel, which is most definitely in the realm of traditional science fiction, but focuses her attention on characters dealing with the reality of living with unexpected sexual assault and death, forced labour, abuses of power, and confined spaces without reliable access to food, power, and medicine. Yet among all of these horrible events, the cultures of the “Tarlanders” are diverse and beautiful filled with ritual and history, which are not stamped out by the occupation of their bodies and minds.
To be honest I picked up this novel because the beautiful cover art intrigued me. By the time I had finished the last page I felt I went through a transformative experience. At times, it ripped through me leaving me anguished, and in other quiet moments, it left me in awe of Soloman and Aster. I am just hoping for a new novel to continue Aster’s story.
If you would like to read about Aster’s journey, please click here or listen to her story here.
- Amanda, Information Services
What We're Watching
Ethel & Ernest
by Raymond Briggs
How surprised was I to come across this true story of Ethel and Ernest, the parents of author and illustrator Raymond Briggs. Wonderfully animated, this film is not only the sweet telling of the romance and marriage between an ordinary London couple, but deftly interweaves great moments in history and there effects on their everyday lives. The couple only has the one son, Raymond, and we see him grow up in wartime Britain. Evacuated from London with other children to the safety of farm life, Raymond learns to cope well but his mother has difficulty letting go of her only son. A loving but opinionated “Mum”, it is interesting to see how Briggs portrays his mother’s reactions to all of his life choices, even down to the vehicle he chooses to drive. He gently pokes fun at her insistence that he comb his hair, even as an adult. To the rest of the world, Briggs gains fame as a graphic novelist and is well-known for his picture book, The Snowman, which later became an animated movie. Briggs has produced a moving account of his parent’s lives taking you back to a slower paced life but also highlighting the advances in technology as the world changes.
The Forest Heights Community Association, in partnership with the Forest Hill T-Ball Association, is hosting their annual Fun Day BBQ on Saturday, June 16th. For several years this has been a fun event full of lots of games, activities and rides for people of all ages. You can also participate in arts and crafts. There will be face painting, balloon animals, and many other fun ways to spend your afternoon! Last, but certainly not least, there will be treats like cotton candy and a barbecue. And best of all, everything is free!
What:Forest Heights Community Association Fun Day & BBQ
When: Saturday, June 16 from 1:30 to 4 pm
Where: Forest Heights Community Centre, 1700 Queen's Blvd Kitchener
Why:Because it's fun!
How:With your friends and family!
- Ashley, Information Services
Out of the Archives
Good Old Fashioned Fun
The leap from winter to summer (whatever happened to spring, you might ask) has got us in the mood for some good old fashion fun. We’re talking about the fun of summer and yesteryear – company picnics, baseball games, camping, and being out in the great outdoors. Those warm summer nights, lit up with fireflies, crickets calling, and basking in the glow of a beautiful sunset are fond memories for many of us. Nostalgia, yes, but not so distant memories of a simpler, less rushed time. If you are out for an evening stroll in our neighbourhood, please drop into the Grace Schmidt Room to see our “Good Old-Fashioned Fun” display. Our colleague, Ingrid, has lovingly crafted a display of people actually enjoying summer and all of its glorious highlights of good weather, family, neighbours and friends. I promise that you will find no one staring blankly into a brightly-lit phone, oblivious to the world around them. Summer has always been a time for connection – freed from the peril of winter, schedules of school, and formalities of life lived indoors. Stop by, reflect and enjoy!
- Karen, Local History Librarian
Kitchener Public Library 85 Queen St. North Kitchener, Ontario N2H2H1 519-743-0271 http://www.kpl.org/