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Black History Month

As we commemorate Black History Month, there are many ways to discover stories celebrating African American experiences. Check out a selection of recommended books and browse a collection of films available through the Library's free streaming services. Attend one of our public speaker events or activities. You can also explore, learn, and celebrate with resources from the Kansas City Black History website and commemorative booklet.
 

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Anyone listening to the radio in the 1970s certainly heard a song or two by the Red-Headed Stranger. Anyone reading the local Kansas City daily newspaper anytime from 1880 to the present is familiar with the name of its founder, William Rockhill Nelson.

Lots of things are growing on the farm where I live. Strange things. Pumpkins make me think of Halloween monsters. They grow in all sizes and many colors: reddish and warty, orange and ribbed, or smooth grayish white. I've seen gourds that look like little blue-green aliens that just hopped off of a spaceship.

What are gourds, anyway? Botanists, or people who study plants, say that gourds are fruit, like melons, cucumbers, and pumpkins.

Gourds have been around for a long time. People eat the pulp and drink the juice. The outer shell, when it's dried, makes a good musical instrument, basket, birdfeeder, nest box, or cup. People from Asia, Africa, and the Americas have used gourds for fine art. (Never decorate a gourd without an adult; the mold and dust can be harmful.)

The drinking gourd has played an interesting part in American History. Some people believe that "Follow the Drinking Gourd" was a folk song that contained a secret code. The drinking gourd was really the constellation the Big Dipper, which "points" to the North Star. The song was like a map that guided slaves north to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Other people feel that the real path to freedom was much more difficult. Just "going North," or hearing a song, was too simple. Escaping slaves had to be creative, secretive, and extremely brave.

Are there any aspiring writers out there? In October and November 2008, acclaimed writer Ann Hagedorn presented four talks for hopeful authors. On October 15, she provided an introduction to this four-part writing course. On October 22, she focused on the technical aspects of writing. On November 5, Hagedorn discussed storytelling and structure. Her final session on November 12 featured tips on pitching your book and finding a publisher. Get ready with these books on writing for publication and how to get published.

It’s difficult to pick only a handful of Paul Newman movies that encompass the scope and extent of his long and varied career, but these titles represent a sampling of him at his onscreen best. They’re all available on DVD at the Kansas City Public Library.

The Left-Handed Gun (1958)
As Billy the Kid, Newman made quite an impression (the role had been intended for James Dean) in this new type of psychological Western.

The Hustler

The Hustler (1961)
Newman starred as pool hustler Fast Eddie Felsen in a game where the stakes prove too high.

Hud (1963)
Newman is Hud Bannon caught up in a fierce struggle with the values of his rancher/father played by Melvyn Douglas.

Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Newman plays a convict with a mind of his own in this Oscar-winning performance.

Celebrate your freedom to read during Banned Books Week this year (September 27 – October 4, 2008). These books were the top ten books challenged last year, a “challenge” being a request to remove the book from a school or library. To find out why these books were challenged, visit the American Library Association’s page on the Most Frequently Challenged Books & Authors in 2007 or read additional details in the Illinois Library Association’s brochure, Books Challenged or Banned in 2007-2008 (pdf).

Top ten books challenged in 2007

And Tango Makes Three book jacket

Based on a true story, And Tango Makes Three: The True Story of the Very First Chinstrap Penguin to Have Two Daddies by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell tells how two male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo raise a baby after a zookeeper gives them an egg. Illustrated in watercolor, this picture book tells a heartwarming story.

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