Category Archives: Libraries

Guest blog: Life changing stories about changed lives

*This blog is a guest article part of the Foster Care Fortnight campaign. It was written by Brent Fostering in collaboration with Brent Libraries staff. We would like to thank everyone for the wonderful titles they recommended.

 

Placing decent work and social justice at the core of policy making is simply a recognition of the obvious: none of us can build a better future for ourselves unless we include others.

Guy Ryder

 

We must work to help all families and all communities realize their dream of a better future.

Christine Gregoire

Future means different things for different people, but one thing is clear – future means change, and change is the only constant in life. With this in mind, we always strive for change for the better that leads to brighter futures. When it comes to writers and their published works, many writers have dedicated thousands of pages to stories of people growing to become better humans thanks to others’ love and support.

In fostering, which is our area of expertise, we try to change things by finding loving families for Brent’s looked after children. When we see these children become successful young adults, we know that we have done something right – we chose the right people to change their futures.

Inspired by our children’s stories, we decided to write this short piece about the good reads out there about changed lives. This way we hope to show that even though it is hard to keep under control a situation where inequality leads to children suffering, there is hope thanks to loving and devoted adults who become foster carers. Between 13 and 26 of May we celebrate fostering, the foster carers and the children during Foster Care Fortnight. This year we are focusing on changed lives and how fostering has changed children’s future in Brent. Discover what we’re planning for Foster Care Fortnight.

With this in mind, we asked our colleagues from Brent Libraries to recommend some powerful reads about changed lives. With their help we managed to put together the list below that we hope you’ll enjoy.

harry-potter-and-the-philosopher-s-stone-3

 

  1. Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling

Harry was an orphan child fostered by his uncle’s family. While this isn’t a positive fostering example that we would like to hear about in the service, we have to admit that Harry’s story is truly inspiring. The way this young boy stays positive during his time with the unloving Dursley family and how he fights the evil to discover his strength is empowering. Just like with fostering, challenges never end and things are never easy; the same happens in the story where Harry and his friends have to fight the evil in order to find peace and happiness. The novel is also a great because it speaks about the hard life of children without parents who relies solely on friends to find their sense of belonging. The mystery and the suspense it creates coupled with the humour and the imaginative descriptions make all the Harry Potter books a read suitable for everyone aged 8 to 80.

Find copies of Harry Potter on our catalogue .

  1. Lost and Found Sisters – Jill Shalvis

Sarah Smith, Library Development Manager recommend this novel “to curl up with on the weekend with yummy food. This is about what happens when chef Quinn finds out she’s adopted whilst still going through bereavement for a sister lost. A whole new world opens up when her birth mother whom she met without knowing, whilst in a coffee shops listening to two women discussing post-menopausal sex life (too funny but stick with me…), leaves her an inheritance with some challenges. Yes, another death but it’s the beginning of an adventure laced with lots of laugh out loud moments. I’ve just discovered this author and will definitely look out for more of her work. Go check it out!”

Find a copy to borrow in a Brent Library near you.

book thief

  1. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Recommended by Andrew Stoter, Library Stock Manager, this is a book perfect for children and adults alike. “By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.” For a realistic experience of the 1939 Nazi Germany, Find a copy to borrow here.

a little princess

  1. A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Recommended by both Fiona Heffernan, Development Officer and Zoe English, Culture Services Marketing Officer, this novel follows the story of “motherless Sara Crewe who was sent home from India to school at Miss Minchin’s. Her father was immensely rich and she became ‘show pupil’ – a little princess. Then her father dies and his wealth disappears, and Sara has to learn to cope with her changed circumstances. Her strong character enables her to fight successfully against her new-found poverty and the scorn of her fellows.”

Discover the story of Sara and how she grows up to be stronger while shaping her own personality in the absence of her father by borrowing a copy from the library.  We also have the ebook available.

oliver twist

  1. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

Or The Parish Boy’s Progress, tells the story of orphan Oliver who was born in a workhouse and sold into apprenticeship with an undertaker. After escaping, Oliver travels to London, where he enters a system of exploitation run by a member of a juvenile pickpockets’ gang. Crowned with a happy ending, this novel speaks about how the life of Oliver improved after overcoming the obstacles far too challenging for a young boy. The story gives us the opportunity to reflect on how far the English social care system has come since the 1800’s, and it is a reminder of how much poverty impacts the lives of innocent children, hindering their development.

If you fancy a read, you can borrow Oliver Twist from our libraries or download the ebook

Catalina

 

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LGBT History Month at Wembley Library

February is LGBT History Month in the UK, a month long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender histories, civil rights movements, achievements, cultures and rememberances. It is held in February in the UK to coincide with the anniversary of the abolition of Section 28, which was a clause that banned schools from ‘promoting’ homosexuality in schools.

The painful history of Section 28 specifically concerns books – the rising support for it in the parliament and public came from fears that books promoting homosexuality were present in schools and around young children, and they would encourage ‘abnormal’ ‘bad habits’.

Sappho

Ancient Greek poet Sappho

It feels especially fitting then to celebrate literature about and by LGBT people in Wembley Library this month. Countless well known authors from around the world have been gay, bisexual and / or trans throughout history, sometimes written out of history and therefore hiding in plain sight. Historical examples are TS Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde (whose birthday coincides with both LGBT History Month and Toni Morrison’s birthday!), Leslie Feinberg, June Jordan and Sappho. More modern day examples are Juno Dawson, Jeanette Winterson, Paula Gunn Allen, Roxane Gay, Jack Monroe, and Sarah Waters. Much famous literature can be read under an LGBT lens – for example Shakespeare, or Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. The endless list spans centuries, races, ethnicities and religions, a testament to the enduring desire of people to speak and hear and see themselves through the written word.

It was important to choose literature for the display that ranged in genre, tone, target age group, time period, and author. LGBT literature often gets sidelined in publishing houses and bookshelves. Publishing rates are limited, and historically in LGBT films and books, storylines have been confined to negative stereotypes and unhappy endings. The books in the display do reflect that aspect of LGBT literature, but also encompass literature with positive depictions and happy endings, which are a becoming more popular in mass media. Importantly, there is also a section of LGBT literature for young people, who may be searching for visions of themselves in literature in a formative period of their lives.

The books in the display encompass just a small section of the memoirs, fiction, poetrty, plays and non fiction written by and about LGBT people in Brent Libraries. I would encourage staff and borrowers to have a look at the display, which is arranged by genre, and grab anything that attracts them, but also to peruse other books in the library with an open mind, because people might find that more authors, characters, themes and subtexts related to LGBT history and culture are weaved into the fabric of libraries and literature than they realise.

LGBT display

Wembley Library’s LGBT display

Alternatively if you want to buy copies for yourself, Gay’s the Word in Marchmont Street (near King’s Cross) is the UK’s oldest LGBT bookshop and offers a range of LGBT fiction and non fiction. It’s holding a range of events for LGBT History Month.

To end, I’d like to recommend my personal top favourites in LGBT literature and film: Zami, by Audre Lorde, The Handmaiden by Park Chan Wook (a film adaptation of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith), and Heather Has Two Mommies, an iconic children’s picture book by Leslea Newman.

Happy LGBT History Month and Happy Reading!

Neelam

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Guest blog – Healthy Chocolate

Ahead of her event for Brent Libraries next month Aneta Grabiec tells us more about her mission to inform the world about the benefits of raw chocolate.

I Love chocolate and chocolate loves me back!  It all started with the Mayans in Mexico where they would use cacao as medicine, and modern science agrees – chocolate can be good for you!

green chocolate

Let’s get things straight linguistically here: chocolate is the product of cacao (raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans). ‘Cocoa product’ is a sugary powdered milk substitute of chocolate.

Cacao has nearly twice the antioxidants found in red wine and almost triple the antioxidants of green tea. Most people know that dark chocolate contains magnesium, and most of us don’t get enough of it. But there are many other nutrients in cacao, including vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, C, D, E; and minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, and phosphorus.

To extract the health benefits from every bite, I recommend dark chocolate. Dark chocolate falls into the category of healthy monounsaturated fats—along with avocados, nuts, and seeds. Milk chocolate contains milk, which counters the benefit of the flavanols, a type of flavonoid (phytonutrient) in cacao. For example, one flavanol in chocolate is epicatechin, which acts as an antioxidant and supports insulin sensitivity. (Insulin imbalance causes diabetes type 2 and overweight).

What’s more: Dark chocolate made with at least 70 percent cacao has been proven to lower cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone. Another molecule in chocolate called phenylethylamine acts like a gentle antidepressant. Dark chocolate raises serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical in charge of mood, sleep, and appetite. Do I need to say more?

Research shows that subjects who had 40 grams (1.5 ounces) of dark chocolate per day, for two weeks, showed lowered cortisol levels.

Dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure. It reduces cholesterol and lowers your risk of heart disease.

It increases blood flow to the brain, which helps the brain remain neuroplastic and young. It improves executive functioning—including attention, working memory, cognitive flexibility, problem-solving, and planning.

Many people speak about the medicinal properties of chocolate, particularly because it provides an antioxidant boost that counters the stress of aging and modern life. From a nutrigenomic perspective, cacao interrupts the motor pathway, which helps to slow down aging. It reduces the inflammation associated with acute stress.

Read the labels!

Extra dark chocolate—at least 80 percent cacao or higher, is ideal. When chocolate has higher cacao content, it has more health benefits, in part because there are more flavanols and in part because there is less sugar. I recommend organic, soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free chocolate. If you want to cut out sugar altogether, there are some options sweetened with stevia and coconut sugar. Avoid chocolate with 5 grams of sugar or more (per recommended portion of 25g)

I feel that the best and healthiest way to enjoy the chocolate is to make it! I praise and promote raw chocolate due its exceptional medicinal content (the ingredients don’t get heated up to high temperature, therefore, most beneficial nutrients of the ingredients remain in the chocolate). Come along to my fun and informative raw chocolate making workshop on 6 December where I will be sharing the knowledge and creating dark delicious superfood out of best quality ingredients.

Come and join me for the Healthy chocolate workshop, at The Library at Willesden Green, 6 December 6.15-7.30pm.  £2 – book here.

Aneta

Aneta Grabiec,

The Wellness Designer, http://www.thewellnessdesigner.com

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Book Review:  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

doerr

This novel follows the stories of two young people growing up during the Second World War.  Marie-Laure is a blind girl living with her widowed father in Paris and Werner is an orphan boy growing up in an orphanage with his sister in a German mining town.

The book alternates with short chapters from each of their stories.  There are also time hops.  The book begins on a night of terrible peril for both characters towards the end of the war then jumps back a few years to tell us how the characters arrived at this point, then every now and then the author throws in another moment from this one night to sort of remind us where we are heading before jumping back to the more linear story of our characters.

hitler youth

Werner is still just a boy when he is called on to fight for Nazi Germany

Overall I did not feel this book worked, which is a shame as there were some good moments and themes within.  I loved the character of Werner and the dark journey he found himself on.  It really dealt well with the question often asked about the rise of Nazism ‘how did this happen?’ ‘why did so many people go along with this evil?’.

Poor Werner has a really bleak future as a child, no parents and the only possible future mapped out for him is a dangerous grim life toiling in the mines.  But he is exceptional bright and wins a place at an elite school run by Nazis.  It feels like an amazing opportunity and his sister is the only one with doubts that it is the right path for him.  He never actually decides to become a Nazi and early on his journey the marching, chanting and arm bands seem relatively harmless, just meaningless routines he must go along with to get a good education and the advantages it brings.  By the time the more sinister elements become apparent it is almost too late and would take a huge act of courage and rebellion from Werner to leave the path he has found himself on…and he is still just a boy.  Although I wished Werner would rebel I understood why he didn’t and had huge sympathy for him and his plight.

The only problem with the very compelling story is I kept having to leave it every few pages to read about Marie-Laure!  I felt the author seemed to prefer her journey and devoted many more pages to it than Werner’s.  I found her tale a little dull in comparison.  There was some interest in reading how she copes with her blindness in wartime and some tension as her father and her have to flee Paris to stay with relatives.  But she is just so good, and her father is good, and her uncle who she later stays with is good – there wasn’t any of the juicy moral conflict we got with Werner.

FOT1229728

Our characters face real danger as the Allied bombs rain down

Another issue with the book was I felt the climax of the book (although not the end of the story), which I referred to earlier, this one night of terrible peril when our main character’s stories merge together and each faces extreme danger – was badly handled.  Doerr tries to build up to it throughout the book by starting there and giving us regular reminders it is coming, then when it finally arrives for our characters he tries to rack up the tension further with very very short chapters, some less than a page, alternating between viewpoints and some covering just a few minutes of time.  This seems to go on forever, bouncing back and forth between them for page after page after page, I got to the ‘oh just get on with it!’ moment very quickly.  And, of course, when the climax comes it is bound to be an anti-climax after all that build up.  From there the novel sort of fizzles out and Doerr does that really annoying thing where he feels he has to tie up every possible lose end, going years and years into the future and ensuring the reader has no opportunity whatever to make their own minds up about any aspect of the fate of the characters.

I quite enjoyed the beginning and the middle sections but by the end I was sick of it and very glad to take it back to the library.

2/5

Zoe

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The Muse by Jessie Burton is the 2018 Cityread book

The Muse by Jessie Burton (Pan Macmillan) has been chosen as the book for Cityread London 2018. The title will be the centre of a month-long celebration of reading in the capital, starting on 30 April and running throughout May.  Cityread is a huge city-wide book group which aims to help Londoners explore and celebrate their city through its stories.

The Muse cover

The Muse opens in London 1967, where we meet Odelle Bastien, recently arrived from Trinidad and trying to make her way in a new country.  A new job at the Skelton Institute of Art brings a mysterious painting, and even more enigmatic colleague, into her life.  We are then transported to Spain, 1936, and meet Olive Schloss, and we begin to discover how the painting came into being, against the turbulent backdrop of Spain on the eve of civil war.

Taking Burton’s depictions of 1960s London and 1930s Spain as a starting point, a programme of events exploring The Muse’s themes of arrival, the creative process, art history and family secrets will take place in Brent Libraries (and indeed across London!) throughout May.  Highlights will include:

  • A life drawing art workshop on Tuesday 8 May
  • A Spanish cookery class on Thursday 10 May
  • A history talk about the Moors of Spain on Wednesday 16 May
  • An art history talk, Guernica and beyond, looking at the art of the Spanish Civil War on Tuesday 22 May

We will also be holding a competition for the best book review of The Muse with some exciting themed prizes!

For full details of our events look out for our special brochures, keep an eye on our online events lists or email libraries@brent.gov.uk

Jessie Burton

“I’m truly delighted that The Muse will be London’s Cityread for 2018. It’s a novel that celebrates the diversity, humour and spirit of Londoners – both those who were born here and those welcomed in to make it their home. It’s an honour to support our city’s libraries and to be reminded of their incomparable value, and I can’t wait for new readers to find my story of Odelle and Olive, and make it their own.”

Jessie Burton

 

Further details of all Cityread London activity can be found at the website:

www.cityread.london and at Facebook/CityreadLondon

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Book Review: Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

Missing persumed

The clue is in the title plus a serious crime has been committed. Great mix of characters reflecting UKs rich diversity. Author Susie Steiner really captures ordinary lives, the hustle and bustle of urban living and social welfare challenges.  The  protagonist does online dating and you really relate the all the uncertainty surrounding such attempts. Brent folk will enjoy recognisable locations including watering hole McGoverns. An engrossing crime mystery with  some unexpected outcomes. Looking forward to reading the next in the series following good reviews for this first crime novel which has garnered a lot of attention.  The follow up second crime novel Persons Unknown  was given Sunday Times book of the month for June 2017. Happy reading!

Sarah

 

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Event: Meet Author Anne Corlett

Anne Corlett

Come and meet author Anne Corlett at Kilburn Library on Thursday 7 December at 6.30pm.

Anne Corlett is originally from the north-east, but sort of slid down the map, finishing up in the south-west where she now lives with her partner and three young sons. Before she became a full time writer, she spent 16 years working as a criminal lawyer in London and Bristol.

The idea for The Space Between the Stars came to her while on one of the regular family trips up to the Northumberland coast. While walking on Beadnell beach one evening, she had a sudden clear image of someone arriving on that spectacular stretch of coast after an impossibly long journey, and the story grew from there. At the time, she was working on another novel as part of the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, but she put that project to one side to write The Space Between the Stars.

Anne has had short fiction and non-fiction pieces published in various magazines, journals and anthologies, and she has won, or been shortlisted for, various literary awards.

Anne has lots to share about the writing process and about her life as an author.  Book now for this free event.

Space between the stars

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Empowering the Future: Code Club Is Coming to Wembley Library

The world is run by technology — more so than ever before! From the moment we wake up until we go to bed — whether we are studying, working, driving, shopping, watching movies or simply making phone calls — there is a good chance we use software at every turn, sometimes without even realising it. In the technology-fueled world we’re living in, coding is quickly becoming an extremely necessary and sought-after skill.

 

In an effort to get more children involved and passionate about STEM, we’re very excited to announce that Code Club will be coming to Wembley Library, starting next month. For anyone who hasn’t heard of Code Club, it’s a truly fantastic nationwide network of free volunteer-led after-school coding clubs for 9- to 13-year-old children that provides their members with a fun and safe environment (all volunteers have DBS clearance) to learn programming and is currently reaching 85,000 children all over the UK. Not everyone will become a computer programmer, but it’s important for everyone to have an understanding of computing and programming in order to understand and shape our increasingly digital world. Coding strengthens problem solving and logical thinking and is useful for a range of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

 

What happens at Code Club?

Code Club is all about creativity and learning through exploring! Together with volunteers, your children will work through step-by-step guides that will help them create games, animations, websites, and much more. They’ll start off by using Scratch, a simple block programming language and an online community where children can program and share interactive media such as stories, games, and animations with people from all over the world. Scratch is designed and maintained by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. As children progress, they’ll move on to more complex HTML & CSS and Python projects, and later on Raspberry Pi, Sense HAT, Sonic Pi, and even drones. Club members learn at their own pace and are encouraged to use their newly acquired skills independently.

 

Who is Code Club for?

Code Club’s projects are designed for children aged 9-13. If your child is 5-8 years old and interested in learning to code, please do let us know. Based on the feedback, we might organise a one-off class where parents and young children can work together to create their own themed interactive stories and games by using an introductory programming language called ScratchJr.

 

Where and when is Code Club happening?

The club sessions will be held in Wembley Library (Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way). The first session will take place on November 2 and sessions will continue fortnightly, on Thursday afternoons at 4pm to 5pm.

 

As one of the Code Club volunteers, I’m thrilled to be a part of such an incredible educational journey and can’t wait to inspire the next generation to get excited about coding. …And did we mention that the coding club is absolutely free? Simply come along to explore, think creatively, and work collaboratively. Be inspired!

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Book Review: He – A Novel by John Connolly

Laurel and Hardy hats

Really looking forward to learning more about Stan and Ollie at your talk in December! https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/laurel-and-hardy-from-soup-to-nuts-tickets-37839787824

will / write and talk

Ollie: “Shut up and get this mess cleaned up. Do you know that my wife will be home at noon?”

Stan: “Say, what do you think I am, Cinderella? If I had any sense I’d walk out on you.”

Ollie: “Well, it’s a good thing you haven’t any sense.”

Stan: “It certainly is.”

As John Connolly magnificently recounts in his heartbreaking new novel “He”, Stan (above right) never did walk out on Ollie. At least not professionally. Many subsequent comic double acts ended in recrimination and alienation (see the sad fate of Abbott and Costello or Martin and Lewis), but Laurel and Hardy’s artistic and personal partnership endured, lasting three decades until Ollie’s death in 1957. What Connolly’s scrupulously researched and sensitive book has achieved is an explanation of perhaps how it did so. It’s a story of love, friendship and compromise between two very different performers.

The novel opens…

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Find out more about our code clubs

Brent Librarian Sarah Smith shares her thoughts on setting up code clubs in Brent Libraries.

Getting with the programme: Code Clubs and the digital challenge in Brent Libraries

Coding club 5

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