A Warm Cup of Memories

An illustration shows a green park with two friends enjoying tea on a blanket, pettting a small tea dragon. The friends are fantasy creatures with horns, dressed in modern casual clothes like flip flops.

by Peter N.

Serene.  

The only way to describe Kate O’Neill’s series The Tea Dragon Society is that she has crafted a world that feels just like a soft warm blanket.  

In the first book we are introduced to Greta, who is learning blacksmithing from her mother. While in town she finds an injured tea dragon and returns it to Hesekiel and Erik. She’s then introduced to the world of tea dragons and Minnette, a young girl who was training to be a prophetess and inadvertently lost her memory. Through the seasons, Greta and Minnette grow closer while learning more about themselves, Hesekiel and Erik, and the power of memory.  

In the second book, which serves as a prequel, Rinn is an aspiring cook and lives deep in the woods. During a day of foraging, they meet Aedhan who has pulled a Rip Van Winkle and been asleep for 80 years. Aedhan, guardian dragon of Rinn’s village, was enchanted into sleep by a mysterious forest spirit. To atone for “disappearing” for all those years, he begins to help out around the village, getting to know its inhabitants and striking up a close friendship with Rinn. Through their friendship and the acceptance of the villagers, we learn to let go of guilt and accept what life gives you.  

In the third (and hopefully not the last) book, we once again see Greta who is trying her best to take care of her tea dragon to no avail, as well as training to become an apprentice. Minnette has also been dealing with her own demons and must learn to discover herself again. And we are treated to seeing Rinn and Aedhan again when they come to visit Hesekiel and Erik. This book is a culmination of the Tea Dragon story and teaches about grief, loss, and most of all, growth.  

A good cup of tea is comforting, familiar, and warms you from the inside out. Take it from me, these books will do the same.  

Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and collects way too many things.  

The Early Days of Television

The cover of When Women Invented Television is set against a yellow background with black and white pictures of Betty White, Hazel Scott, Irna Phillips, and Gertrude Berg.

By Peter N.

Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg! 

In Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s When Women Invented Television, she talks about the early days of television and the rise of popular TV programs that defined what America was watching for decades to come. But four women in particular were TV powerhouses who foretold the coming of modern-day television personalities we have come to love, such as Ellen DeGeneres or Oprah, and sitcoms such as The Golden Girls. They were among the first of television’s pioneers during the transition from radio to television as America’s most popular medium of entertainment. 

There once was a woman by the name of Gertrude Berg, and what a woman she was! She was the creator behind the much-lauded radio show The Rise of the Goldbergs, an NBC radio show showcasing the lives of a Jewish family living in the Bronx and cared for by their matriarch Molly Goldberg, as played by Gertrude Berg. After years of high ratings on radio, she worked tirelessly to bring her show to a fledgling new medium called television, and when she succeeded there was no stopping her. At its peak, The Goldbergs was dominating the airwaves, and much if not all the credit goes to the woman behind it all, Molly Goldberg…I mean, Gertrude Berg. She was creator, writer, and star behind her hit show and nothing could stop her. What she accomplished in a time when patriarchal views and traditional family values were taking hold is nothing short of astounding.  

It’s Time to Say Hello Again… 

Ah, Betty White. What can I say about Betty White that hasn’t already been said countless times? Sadly, at the time of this post, she will have gone to that great TV studio in the sky to join her husband, Allen Ludden. Betty White was made for television. From her early days on KLAC hosting with Al Jarvis for 5.5 hours a day, to being the main lead on the sitcom Life with Elizabeth, to hosting her own talk show, The Betty White Show, she was unstoppable. Her infectious smile, dimples, and radiant personality won over countless millions, and at one time she was having to turn jobs away because she was working too much! She loved to work and one could say that show business was the love of her life. She fought against prejudice against her during the early days of television as a single woman not trying to settle down and have a family. Through it all, she would continue to be invited into the living rooms of her legion of fans for years to come.  

The Guiding Light 

Irna Phillips was the guiding (pun intended) force behind The Guiding Light, the longest running soap opera on television. Its earliest incarnation was as a popular radio show, which is why Irna Phillips knew that it would be just what television needed. Working tirelessly for years along with raising two adopted children and doing the best that she could possibly do, she finally was able to bring her show to TV. She was not only a single mother of two children when it was believed families should have a mother and a father, but with the success of The Guiding Light, she became the figurative mother of the soap opera genre in a time when that genre was still very much maligned. Her works have reverberated through daytime television through her own shows as well as mentoring Agnes Dixon, creator of many other long-running soap operas. This was a woman who tried not to let anything stand in the way of bringing her creation to life. 

The Hazel Scott Show 

In a time when racial segregation was still running rampant, Hazel Scott managed to become one of the first African American people to headline their own show on network television. Already an accomplished musician and used to playing to large crowds, she brought her talent to The Hazel Scott Show to great reception and ratings. Her television career was cut short when she was targeted by the infamous publication Red Channels, which listed suspected communists in various areas of entertainment. She bravely defended herself, but she could not recover her TV career. However, she persevered and returned to her roots as a musician and touring. Her TV stint was brief but powerful all the same.  

These four women were astonishing and it was a pleasure to read about their accomplishments, their legacy, and the effects they’ve had on popular culture. One can only imagine what they could have done had they not been impeded by the politics of their era.

When Women Invented Television is available in print and as an eBook and an eAudiobook from Libby.  

Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and is continually grateful to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz not only for pioneering methods of television production that enabled generations to experience the brilliance of early television, but also for taking the chance on a small sci-fi show that still endures 50 years later.  

Don’t Underestimate a Good Craft

The photo shows a shadowbox format of birch tree branches and falling yellow and orange leaves against a pale background in a white frame, with a brown and a tan stone in the foreground. All are placed on a wooden tabletop.
Join fellow crafters at Tezukuri Crafternoon on Wednesday, November 10 to create this delightful fall display!

By Peter N.

First of all, a well-deserved welcome back to all of our customers! We have so enjoyed seeing your faces (or at least, half of them) in our branches once again, particularly for in-person classes and events like the one we’re sharing here.

Were you one of the regular participants in Create by Music at the Miller Branch in the pre-pandemic times? Well, good news! We are back but we have re-branded. Create by Music is now Tezukuri Crafternoon. What does that mean? Well, Tezukuri translates to “handmade” in Japanese and Crafternoon…well, that’s just craft combined with afternoon.

The photo shows the word "Tezukuri" in Japanese, followed by "Tezukuri Crafternoon" in English.

Each first Wednesday of the month, join us for a relaxing afternoon hour of crafts and conversation. No artistic talent required! And if you’re looking for a selection of titles from our collection to check out about handmade crafting, please enjoy this list of items from our catalog.

Register for our next Tezukuri Crafternoon on November 10th at 2 pm here. Ages 19+.

Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and LIVES for the upcoming sweater weather.

Be Yourself, and Maybe a Little Magical

The picture shows all six book covers discussed in the blog post, against a dark background with the title "Books Are Inherently Magical" above them in gold letters.  Clockwise from upper right:  The first image is of the cover of The Witches of Brooklyn with main character of Effie in the forefront. A cityscape is set behind her.  The second image shows the cover of The Sand Warrior, the first in the 5 Worlds series. Main character Oona is in the middle with her friends An Tzu on the left playing a flute, and Jax Amboy on the right, whose left hand is glowing with energy. Oona is manipulating sand. The bottom of the image shows an alien landscape.  The third image is of the cover of Snapdragon with the main character Snap and her bike and dog who is missing a leg in the basket atop the back of the bike. The background is a forest with a spirit of a buck behind Snap.  The fourth image is the cover of The Witch Boy. Main character Aster reads a spell book over an altar made of liquid in a bowl, candles, and a mortar and pestle.  The fifth image is the cover of Beetle and the Hollowbones. Main character Beetle and best friend Blob Ghost are sitting atop a ledge set in front of a full moon over top of houses and trees.  The sixth image is the cover art for The Okay Witch. Main character Moth is riding atop a broomstick with a black cat behind her and pages flying out of a book in her backpack.

By Peter N.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, I haven’t had the desire nor the motivation to read. I know that’s a horrible thing to say as an employee of a library (a 5-Star Library system as a matter of fact), but it took me quite a while to get back into reading novels. So you know what I did? I did what I’ve suggested to many a parent who has come in trying to find something to get their child to like reading; I picked up a graphic novel.

Graphic novels can be about literally hundreds of subjects across any number of genres. Many authors have written wonderful original stories as well as graphic representations of classic novels. When a parent needs a suggestion for a book for their reluctant child or when someone wants something interesting to read, I almost always suggest a graphic novel. Why? Well, as a visual learner, I find myself more engaged with the story and with the characters when I see them visually represented, and it’s easier for my brain to follow along without distraction. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve read graphic novels for adults, teens, tweens, and children. From the many I’ve recently read, here are six picks that teach everyone to be who you are unapologetically, and if you can, be a little magical, too.

This image shows the cover of The Witch Boy. Main character Aster reads a spell book over an altar made of liquid in a bowl, candles, and a mortar and pestle.
The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

What I loved about this book is that it challenges the gender norms in Aster’s family and society. In his family, the girls are raised as witches while the boys are raised as shape-shifters. But that isn’t who Aster is, and he practices in secret since it is forbidden for boys to study magic. He desperately wants to be a witch but is afraid of his family finding out. When trouble brews and his magical skills are what’s needed to help save the day, he has to find the courage within himself to be who he feels in his heart that he is meant to be.

The image shows the cover art for The Okay Witch. Main character Moth is riding atop a broomstick with a black cat behind her and pages flying out of a book in her backpack.
The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Many will see the similarity between the events of the Salem witch trials and the events of Founder’s Bluff in this book. Moth has always loved all things witchy and magical, so when her powers emerge, she is immediately thrust into a world where the history of her hometown is intertwined with that of her own family. She discovers that her mother was once a member of a powerful coven of witches who separated from a world that despised them but broke away to live a life free of magic. As she discovers this history, she must come to terms with being a witch (which she finds kind of cool) along with the existence of people in town descended from those who discriminated and hated her family and those like her. What’s a fledgling young witch with a talking cat to do?

This image shows the cover of Beetle and the Hollowbones. Main character Beetle and best friend Blob Ghost are sitting atop a ledge set in front of a full moon over top of houses and trees.
Beetle & the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne

Beetle and the Hollowbones is a tale of outgrowing what society expects you to be, standing up for your friends even if it means standing up to them, and embracing and loving who you are. Much like the Witch Boy, Beetle is a goblin and goblins are only supposed to do a specific type of magic and none other. One day she meets Blob Ghost, a, well, ghost blob haunting the local mall that is inexplicably tied to its location. So when the mall is due to be demolished, it is up to Beetle to find out why he’s connected to the mall and rescue him. Along the way she reconnects with an old friend (and love interest) who needs to be reminded about their friendship, who they are, and to stand up to family even if they are family.

This image is of the cover of The Witches of Brooklyn with main character of Effie in the forefront. A cityscape is set behind her.
Witches of Brooklyn by Sophie Escabasse

How would you feel if your life was turned upside down and inside out all of a sudden? That’s what happens to Effie. Having lost her mom and the only home she ever knew, she is suddenly taken to live with two estranged aunts. Once there, Effie learns more about her family than she ever thought possible, including the fact that they can do magic! This newfound knowledge and ability is almost too much for Effie, and it rears its ugly head at the worst of times. She soon starts to accept that this is her life now, that magic is a part of it, and that zany things are going to happen, including helping one of her favorite singers when she comes to Effie’s aunts for help with a nasty curse.

This image is of the cover of Snapdragon with the main character Snap and her bike and dog who is missing a leg in the basket atop the back of the bike. The background is a forest with a spirit of a buck behind Snap.
Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

Snap’s town has a witch. Maybe. Possibly. At least that’s the rumor going around. When Snap needs help from the town “witch”, she learns that there’s more than meets the eye and discovers the power she has within herself. Aside from the super cool supernatural elements, the characters are all a delight to read. And especially the children. They’re the perfect example of prejudice being made, not born, because when given an upbringing that doesn’t include any of that, they can be perfectly accepting of everyone around them without thinking it’s “weird.” They celebrate and encourage uniqueness.

This image shows the cover of The Sand Warrior, the first in the 5 Worlds series. Main character Oona is in the middle with her friends An Tzu on the left playing a flute, and Jax Amboy on the right, whose left hand is glowing with energy. Oona is manipulating sand. The bottom of the image shows an alien landscape.
5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun

What happens when three friends are brought together by unforeseeable circumstances and their group, particularly young sand dancer Oona Lee, is what stands between saving the five worlds and their destruction? Oona must find the power within herself that she didn’t know she had, as well as the confidence to travel the five worlds, light all the beacons, and fend off attacks from the evil hiding in the shadows. Between all of this, she has to save her friend An Tzu, who also has mysterious origins and a tie to what can save everything, from a mysterious ailment. Beautiful art, rich characters, and full of world-building elements, you’ll love this series!

Disclaimer: There are a number of graphic novels on the same subject but these are only the most recent I’ve read. Please visit any Howard County Library branch to learn more!

Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and LOVES graphic novels and dogs. Especially fluffy dogs.

JOUST!

This photograph shows the cover of Cosmoknights and has the 3 main characters, Cass, Pan, and Bee in the foreground. Cass and Bee are wearing their jousting armors and carrying their weapons. In the background is presumably the hand of a princess grasping their favor which is an electronic pendant carried by the princesses of each planet and is given to the winner of each joust.

For this ragtag band of space gays, liberation means beating the patriarchy at its own game.

By Peter N.

Did you know that jousting is the state sport of Maryland? Chalk this up as a fact I was surprised to learn as an adult. The sport that involves horses, lances, and two knights? What you see at the Renaissance Festival? Cool! But I digress. Jousting usually is a competition between the aforementioned two knights for the hand of a fair princess or maiden – but this book, this clever and action-packed book, takes it one step further. 

This photograph shows an intergalactic joust in progress with a jouster in the foreground wearing predominantly white armor and sporting several jet boosters and a large lance surrounded by other jousters. The king is shown on screen in the background shouting "JOUST" to begin the games.

 

Cosmoknights was a sleeper hit for me. I’m always beefing up my reader’s advisory arsenal; in the course of my usual day of helping customers find new reads and old favorites, I decided to dive into an article recommending 20 MUST-READ LGBTQ COMICS FOR TEENS AND YOUNG ADULTS, where I ran into a recommendation for this.

GAYS IN SPACE

That made me laugh. But it also got me. Hook, line, and sinker. Without giving away too much, we meet Pan, who seems to be your ordinary teenage girl helping her cooped-up friend sneak out for a night of fun. We soon find out that her friend is their planet’s princess, who is to be offered up as a prize to the knight that wins the planet’s joust competition and wants out. She needs to get away but needs help. Pan helps her escape, but at the cost of becoming the planet’s pariah. Flash forward to five years later, when she’s living a mundane life working in her father’s mechanic shop. One night, two tough types show up at their door, and one is in need of medical attention. For what exactly? And why do they seem so familiar to Pan? Pan finds her way off-planet with these two strangers and is sucked into a battle to take down the archaic competition of jousting for the “prize” of the princess. There’s more to these warriors that showed up on her doorstep than she thought!

This photograph shows the characters Bee and Cass on Pan's front porch. Cass is injured and supported heavily by Bee and they are asking for help from Pan.

I positively loved this book. There’s action, drama, mystery, and a slight Star Trek-y/steampunk-y/sci-fi vibe to it. It’s set in the future with space travel and such, but with none of the future utopia. The characters are likable, witty, and unbelievably brave with a little bit of selflessness thrown in. The art flows well and is seamless, easy to follow, and easy on the eyes. As with so many others I’ve read lately, it’s a series that IS STILL GOING – so here comes the waiting game until there are updates or another volume is published. If you’re like me and can’t wait, then the author, Hannah Templer, makes updates Tuesdays and Fridays on their website. But I’d highly recommend checking out Cosmoknights from your local Howard County Library branch and you won’t be disappointed.

Cosmoknights is also available from HCLS as an ebook via Libby/OverDrive.

Peter (he/him/his) is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and needs to read the books he has checked out before grabbing new ones. 

잘 먹었습니다

Book cover for Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking, which shows her in a black shirt with bright pink lipstick, holding a white bowl of Korean fried chicken garnished with sesame seeds and parsley.

by Peter N.

If you’re familiar with Korean cooking and YouTube, chances are you’ve heard of Maangchi. Originally born and raised in Korea, she now lives in New York City and has been uploading Korean cooking videos to YouTube since 2007. Always cheerful and armed with her trusty knives, she’s taught her 5.5 million subscribers the ins and outs of Korean cooking and the recipes she grew up on. And she is just fun to watch. Even if I’m not cooking, I will watch her videos just because she is a breath of sunshine; by the end, I always want her as my Korean auntie.

I work at the Miller Branch of HCLS which is in Ellicott City and home to Route 40, or Korean Way as it is designated by the state. Here, there is no shortage of great establishments that serve the most delicious cuisine that Korea has to offer, but if you’ve ever wanted to cook Korean food at home, I wholeheartedly recommend watching Maangchi’s recipe videos or checking out her books: Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking or Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking. Through these books I have learned just how EASY it is to cook many of the staples I’ve had in Korean restaurants over the years. Bulgogi, kimchi, numerous jjigaes or stews, bibimbap, you name it; she has taught me all. Her recipes are so simple and so easy to make that you’ll be hosting your next get-together with her recipes and wowing everyone with your cooking prowess. I can personally attest to that. I recently hosted a small Korean BBQ party (where everyone had been fully vaccinated) and everyone was so impressed and so full by the end.

  • The photograph of place settings and table service shows plates, glasses, a smokeless grill with tongs, chopsticks, and a variety of meats and vegetables for grilling, all against a bright tablecloth in summer colors.
  • The photograph is of bibimbap on a white plate containing bean sprouts, spinach, pickled carrots, cucumbers, pickled radish, mushrooms, and red pepper sauce on a bed of white rice.
  • The photograph of budae jjiajae shows a pan of kimchi-based stew with spam, vegetarian dumplings, tofu, and fish cakes in a spicy red pepper sauce.
  • The photograph of potato pancakes shows pancakes on two white plates with forks, with a fried egg on top and served with a bowl of soy dipping sauce with onions and peppers and a broccoli garnish.

Both of her books are available to check out or reserve through the Howard County Library System. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.

See you next time! Bye!

Maangchi at the end of every video

Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and just loves to eat.

Everyone Has a Flavor

A figure in a yellow top and blue pants appears in front of Earth. The "O" in Space Boy looks like a big white oval.

“In space, the stars don’t twinkle. Apparently, twinkling only happens when you look at the stars through the atmosphere of a planet.

Oliver

For months I had noticed the Space Boy series by Stephen McCranie on the graphic novel shelves, and while it looked interesting, I never picked it up. That all changed a couple of weeks ago when I decided to check out book one and there it was: that moment when you start reading and wonder “why in the world didn’t I read this sooner?” I was hooked. And ultimately glad I had waited, because by now I had eight volumes to catch up on and I wouldn’t have to wait for more…at that immediate moment that is.

Book one starts out with a short introduction to Oliver, a boy who is filled with emotion and yearns to express it, yet is confined to what he calls the Nothing. There is immense loneliness in his opening thoughts, and we come to experience that the Nothing has taken almost everything away from him. Things shift to Amy, a young girl living on a mining colony in deep space. The colony is all she knows, but when her father is fired there comes the biggest change: they must move back to Earth. Leaving behind her home, her friends, and her life, Amy and her family are essentially shipped to Earth on a transport in cryogenic suspension. Thirty years pass by the time she reaches Earth and the implications soon hit her. Life has moved on and so has Jemmah and her other friends. Starting anew on a new planet, a new home, and a new school, Amy begins to acclimate to her environment. She makes new friends and starts to adjust. But along the way she meets Oliver, a boy with no flavor. See, she has the ability to identify another person’s flavor by looking at them. But with Oliver there is no flavor until she finally glimpses something through his stoic and expressionless exterior. There’s got to be more to him, and boy is there ever!

At this point I was hooked. The mystery, intrigue, and space exploration drew upon my love of space opera and I found myself devouring volume upon volume along with what was available to read on WebToons. Finally, there was no more and I fell upon that age-old waiting game. Subsequent volumes expand on the mystery behind Oliver, the secret organization that is pulling all the strings, and just what awaits out in space.

You can find volumes 1 – 10 available to reserve and checkout through the Howard County Library System website.

Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and has entirely too many books on his to-read list.

Bon Appetit

The DVD cover for the movie with Meryl Streep as Julia Child at the top in a green kitchen and Amy Adams licking her finger and holding a fork at the bottom.

By Peter N.

2020 was a difficult year, and we all know it. In difficult times, we often turn to things that bring us comfort such as books, music, movies, or food, and oftentimes our favorites are the ones we turn to many times over and never get tired of. What brings me comfort? The movie Julie & Julia. This 2009 film is based on Julie Powell’s 2005 book and intertwines the story of Julia Child as she grows into a chef extraordinaire with the life of government worker Julie Powell as she cooks her way through all of the recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This is a favorite film of mine for many reasons: Meryl Streep as Julia Child, Stanley Tucci, comedy, and last but not least…FOOD. Seriously, I could watch this movie once a week for forever.

As a child we didn’t have cable so I had to rely on watching whatever our TV antenna was able to pick up and most often it was PBS. I remember seeing Julia Child and Jacques Pépin cook dish after dish, and they (along with many other PBS cooking shows) are one of the reasons I became the foodie I am today.

But back to Julie & Julia: as I mentioned before, there are many reasons why I love this movie, but what I didn’t mention was that it has one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard. It’s…relaxing, for lack of a better term. When I turn on this movie, it is often just in the background as I cook, clean, or when I just want to free my mind of all the clutter. Don’t believe me? Well, check it out – it is available to stream and download from Freegal through Howard County Library System. All you’ll need is your library card number and PIN. It’s that easy!

Meryl Streep shines as Julia Child accompanied by Stanley Tucci as her husband Paul. Their onscreen chemistry makes you believe in love and triumph through hard work and determination, and I love every single scene with them. Amy Adams, however, is no slouch, and her portrayal of Julie Powell perfectly conveys how arduous the task was to cook more than 500 of Julia Child’s recipes, all while enjoying most of it, despite a few burnouts and tantrums along the way. When she describes her childhood memory of the magic of Julia’s bœuf bourguignon I am sorely tempted to make the recipe myself (but would end up eating by myself thanks to my vegetarian partner).

I leave you with a quote from Julia Child:

People who love to eat are always the best people.

Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch where he is one of the nerdiest people you could meet.