Great Historical Non-Fiction Reads 

Witches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer

In January 1692 in the small village of Salem, Massachusetts, the daughter and niece of the town’s minister, Reverend Parris, had fallen ill with strange symptoms. The young girls would speak in garbled words that no one could recognize, they would twitch and scratch and contort their bodies into abnormal shapes. The reverend and his wife were beside themselves as to how to care for the girls sudden disturbing symptoms, until an elderly town physician examined them and declared that the two were “under an evil hand” also known at the time as being bewitched.

Using startling facts, actual court transcripts, and striking black, white, and red scratch board illustrations, Witches: the absolutely true tale of disaster in Salem tells the story of the period of very dark days of the now infamous town of Salem. In the height of witch hysteria, over 100 individuals were accused of witchcraft and jailed. At least 20 were eventually executed. Brothers accused brothers, children accused parents, rich and poor alike were hauled off to jail to await trials that weren't based on any factual evidence but only on the dreams and visions of the accused.

This was a fascinating historical account that I recommend to anyone who has ever been curious about this dark period in history.

Cleopatra Rules! The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Cleopatra. Just her name summons images of other-worldly beauty and ruthless power. Undoubtedly one of the most famous female rulers in history, Cleopatra’s life hasn't always been portrayed in the most flattering of lights given that most of what we know about her came from the Romans, who hated and feared her. However, in Cleopatra Rules! we are offered a fresh and funny look at her life that strives to show Cleopatra’s point of view.

Peppered throughout the book are fascinating facts on Cleopatra and Egyptian life in general. For instance, did you know that Cleo was a hardcore book worm spending many hours of her youth at the Great Library of Alexandria? For a wedding present, Mark Anthony, instead of showering her with the customary jewels, plundered the library in Ephesus, Turkey for her. How romantic!

The author also has a way with words that’s sure to keep you amused, Mark Anthony was a “Roman Redneck,” and Cleo’s competitive siblings were a "a nest of squirming, hissing reality-show stars,” and Cleo herself was “as compelling as a giant magnet in a room full of nails.”

Cleopatra Rules! is a fun but informative trip through the life and times of the original teen queen, check it out from your local LFPL branch!

-Claire, Teen Services, Jeffersontown Library

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Cosplay: Subculture, Hobby or Way of Life? 
I’ve seen a variety of debates covering this subject. The only answer that doesn’t make me grimace or want to argue is the general answer “It depends on the person doing it.” I think that is the best answer, but the process of scanning these debates made me wonder about the narrow views that some people have of cosplay.

(Attendees from the Library's 10th annual Animecon try there hand at cosplay)

It’s not surprising for someone who isn’t familiar with cosplay to raise an eyebrow when they see someone “dressed up.” It begs the question, “Why are they dressed up?” What does surprise me is the number of people within the practice of cosplay that limit themselves and others on the broad array of cosplay to be experienced and shared.

Some cosplay arises from comic, anime and manga fandom. In that instance, it is often viewed as a subculture. The passion for particular characters arises out of a particular series or style; so, the cosplay is secondary or sub to the initial interest.

But how do you define it when the cosplay is a result of a passion for a particular movie or video game that doesn’t have a “culture”? What if the person makes one costume to bring to life one character that they love? That’s just plain old fandom, right?

Then there are people who bring to life multiple characters from multiple formats: movies, video games, novels, manga/anime, online comics. They don’t stick to any one series or format. The just bring to life the characters that grab their imagination and interest. I guess that becomes a hobby.

And hobby can also be applied to people that just love creating costumes. These people can be very singular in a style or origin for their costuming, or they can be interested in challenging themselves by seeing how many different types of costumes they can create.

Does that become a way of life? When does a hobby stop being just a hobby and become a way of life?

Is it when you become a “professional” cosplayer like, Jessica Nigri or Anna "Ormeli" Moleva? When you create your own company like Holly Conrad or Bill Doran? Or is it more gradual?

So, let’s revisit my original comment about some people viewing cosplay too narrowly. Within subcultures and fandoms there is a bad tendency to “turn up” the nose at people who are not in your particular clique. It seems counterproductive. The thing that makes a community thrive is its members. And you get more members by making the subculture, hobby or way of life inviting.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to at least allow for the appreciation of other types of cosplay? From what I’ve seen of the various types of cosplay, the most successful cosplayers and costume creators are those that at least study a broad array of what’s out there. If cosplayers of all types acknowledge and appreciate one another, it increases the chance that the world of cosplay will continue to grow and thrive.

I feel I must acknowledge and give credit to the cosplayers that already embrace this way of approaching cosplay. Not only are they helping to make it more mainstream, but they honestly seem to have more fun. That’s ultimately what it’s about, right? Having fun?

What do you think?

-Angel, Teen Services, Bon Air Regional Branch

[ 200 comments ] ( 5573 views )
Teen Summer Reading Grand Prize 
The Library's Summer Reading is almost over. We are pleased to announce that this year's GRAND PRIZE will be an ASUS Transformer Pad TF300T. This awesome 10.1" tablet comes with a mobile dock and runs the latest version of Android (Jelly Bean 4.2). Click the image below for more device specifics.

Be sure to turn in your Teen Summer Reading Card before Saturday, August 10 to get your name in for the grand prize drawing.

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Keep Summer Reading Going with Chemistry at Home! 
Do you love cool chemistry tricks, and don’t want the summer reading theme to end? Like flashy chemistry experiments but you don’t have a lab of your own? Well, you’re in luck! Here’s a Summer Reading Stinger: the Chemistry Continues! Here are some amazing online resources, and even some experiments you can do at home!

Internet Resources

This fantastic YouTube channel features spectacular experiments that we can’t do at home! Ever wonder what’s in glow-sticks? Want to shatter hearts with liquid Nitrogen? Will it oxidize?? Find out all this and more with NurdRage.

Oak Ridge Health Physics Museum Online
In case you haven’t already clicked the link just from reading the title, Oak Ridge National Laboratory was one of the flagship sites for the Manhattan Project – America’s successful bid to build a nuclear bomb. They deal in all manner of nuclear experimentation. But this very special website is dedicated to history: the history of radioactivity and human culture. Radioactive toothpaste, buttons from the Chernobyl control room, and the infamous Shoe-Fitting Flouroscope are just three of the delightful entries in the online museum. Fascinating histories and descriptions as well as radiation dosage rates (where applicable) are provided.

In the Pipeline – Things I Won’t Work With
For a more technical read, there’s the In the Pipeline blog by a research chemist. Along with his reviews of literature, commentary on the industry and so on, however, the author also provides an entertaining look into the chemicals that scare chemists. The “Things I Won’t Work With” category reads as a litany of the lethally poisonous, the highly explosive, and the just plain stinky.

At Home Experiments

Clean Pennies
You can make a grubby old corroded penny look shiny as new by rubbing it gently with salt and vinegar. Rinse your shiny pennies in water and dry them off for a permanent finish. (Just don’t do this with expensive coins that people might want to collect. Removing the patina removes the value.)

Instant Freeze Soda
One cool experiment making the rounds takes advantage of the ability of some liquids to stay liquid below their freezing point if there’s nothing for ice crystals to form on. Soda, luckily for us, is one of these. Shake a sealed plastic bottle of soda really hard. You want to get all that CO2 out of solution, and raise the pressure. Then, put your pop in the freezer for about two and a half hours… the exact time might take some trial and error to perfect. Be careful, though, a soda bottle forgotten in the freezer for too long will explode (this is also why you shouldn’t leave soda cans out in a car trunk in freezing weather). Finally, when your sodas are super-cooled, but still liquid, you can uncap the bottle suddenly (releasing the built-up pressure and lowering the temperature even more) and pour yourself an instant slushie.

Vinegar Bone
While the ever-popular Naked Egg (48 hours sitting in vinegar will strip the shell right off a raw egg) is very well-known, one of the greatest hits in the Teen Outpost this summer was the Vinegar Bone. Steep a clean chicken bone in vinegar for about two weeks, and the vinegar will react with the calcium in the bone, leaving behind only rubbery connective tissue. Gross! You might even be able to tie your bone in a knot! (Rib bones – long and slender – are good for knot-tying.)

-Katherine Skaggs, Teen Services, Teen Outpost, Highlands/Shelby Park Branch

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Bronies and Pegasisters: the Subculture World of My Little Pony 
Bronies…Pegasisters…? Have you been living under a cultural rock?! It’s the massive subculture of the most diehard My Little Pony fans--specifically the newest version of the cartoon, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic . Anyone can be a “Brony” or “Bronie” (bro + pony), but some females identify with their own group: Pegasisters (Pegasus + sister).

(note: above images from our book catalog, while the fandom typically surrounds the updated television series)

In its newest version (starting in 2010 and currently in its third season), producer Lauren Faust wanted to create a cartoon that didn’t fall back on the blatant sexism that the older versions had. The girls, aka the “mane six” ponies, would no longer be limited to only “girlie activities.” These ponies go on dangerous adventures, deal with difficult “frenemies,” and battle evil. But what about the guys? The “man-ponies?”

Some call the new show out on sexism… but this time towards men. There are three male pony characters, but none with any personality to speak of. This makes this statistic all the more interesting; 86% of Bronies are found to be men. There was even a MMO (massive multiplayer online game) for about a year or two for My Little Pony, but it seems the people running it had some “internal issues,” and have since disbanded. But, you can still keep up to date with other games, community issues, toys, etc. on Equestria Daily .

Why are people so crazy about it? What is the appeal? Is it funny in an ironic way? Sometimes, but not always. I really want there to be more to it, but my research has concluded with this simple answer; it’s cute… and funny, and that is why Bronies exist. Men (and women) are getting very serious about this cutesy bubble gum world of enchantment and magic, and don’t seem to be afraid to embrace their younger, more feminine side--and let the whole world know it.

Shining example here: this is the punk rock band Neigh Slayers, who are all men who look to be around 18 . And, if you want more stats on Bronies, check out Brony Study (that’s where my statistics came from).

-Lynette, Teen Services, Shawnee Branch

[ 205 comments ] ( 6348 views )

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