Syndicate content Birmingham Public Library
Birmingham's Place for the Latest Library News, Reviews, & Information
Updated: 1 hour 48 min ago

Birmingham Public Library to Host September 9 Workshop on How to Care for Orchids

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 10:09am
Master Gardener Richard Healy will lead a free workshop on how to care for orchids on Tuesday, September 9, 6:30 p.m., at the Springville Road Library.

There are more 2,000 orchid species, including several that thrive in Alabama climate and in the home. Healy, who has about 80 orchids in his own greenhouse, will give tips on which orchids do well in this area. He’ll also have orchids on display.

“If you take care of them properly, you can get months of blooms out of an orchid,’’ said Healy, a member of the Alabama Orchid Society. “I’ll even give people tricks to get a second set of blooms after that first bloom.’’

Some of his other tips will include:
How to look for bargains when shopping for orchids
How to drop the fear of caring for orchids
How to avoid killing an orchid

“The biggest thing that causes orchids to die is over watering them,’’ Healy said. “When people feel like something is wrong, they water it.’’

For more information, contact the library at 226-4081. Also, check out the Alabama Orchid Society’s Facebook page and the Alabama Orchid Society’s 30th Annual Orchid Show and Sale on September 19-21 at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Free to the show and sale.

Renasant Offers Entrepreneurial Success Series

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 3:57pm
 
Renasant Bank is reaching out to help small businesses succeed with a free six-part entrepreneurial success series. Series topics include Financial Management, Networking and Relationship Building, Social Media, Tax Information, Business Plan Components, Human Resources and Access to Capital.

Renasant staff and local experts are leading these valuable learning sessions throughout the Birmingham and Shelby County communities. The event is co-sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library System and Trudy Phillips Consulting. Complementary refreshments will be served.

Tracey Morant Adams, Senior Vice President Small Business and Community Development Director said of the series, ‘This free series is part of Renasant Bank’s continuing commitment to further the success of small business owners and entrepreneurs in our area. We are pleased to provide valuable tools and insight to help our local community businesses thrive and flourish.”

To register for any of the sessions, please visit: http://movetogreaterservice.com/smallbiz

Sessions:

Networking, Building Relationships, Sales and Customers
Columbiana Public Library
August 21, 2014
9:30-11:00 a.m.

How Do I Make Money with My Website
Central Library
September 18, 2014
9:30-11:00 a.m.

Financing, Lending Sources and Credit
Pratt City Library
October 23, 2014
9:30-11:00 a.m.

Self-employed & Small Business Tax Workshop
Woodlawn Public Library
November 20, 2014
9:30-11:00 a.m.

One-Page Business Plan with Financial Projections
Alabaster City Hall
January 15, 2015
9:30-11:00 a.m.

Contract Employees vs. Full Time Employees
Avondale Public Library
February 12, 2015
9:30-11:00 a.m.

Birmingham Public Library, a Family Place Library, Presents 1-2-3 Play with Me

Sat, 08/09/2014 - 12:12pm
Playing with your baby is not only important for bonding but it is also an educational experience for your child. We are providing a special time and place for you to come to the public library and spend one-on-one time playing with your child. 1-2-3 Play with Me, a five week program, is for children birth through age 3 and their parents/caregivers. We will have toys, books, and art activities just for you and your child. Also, we have invited special guests from the community to join us each week to answer your questions about parenting.

Remember—you are your child’s first teacher. 1-2-3 Play with Me is an opportunity for you and your child to play and learn together. Visit Birmingham365 for the 1-2-3 Play with Me schedule for these Birmingham Public Library locations: Avondale, Central, Five Points West, Pratt City, and Springville Road.

Avondale Branch Library – September 10-October 8 – every Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.

Central Library – October 14-November 18 – every Tuesday (except November 11) at 10:00 a.m.

Five Points West Library – September 9-October 7 – every Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.

Pratt City Library – October 15-November 12 – every Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.

Springville Road Library – October 9-November 13– every Thursday (except October 16) at 10:00 a.m.




The Birmingham Public Library: Family Place Library is funded in part by a Community Project Grant from the Junior League of Birmingham in the impact area of education.

Learn to Crochet with Instructional Books and DVDs from Your Library

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 1:22pm

As I was wandering around a farmer’s market in early April, I came across a table of crocheted items and decided to stop and take a look. I’d always been fascinated with needle crafts and had (briefly) attempted to knit a few years ago, which resulted in a few hastily made scarves and sore wrists. As I struck up a conversation with the lady selling her items, she revealed that she began crocheting as a form of stress relief many years ago. She had a fast paced job and learned to crochet as a way to distress after a long day of work. Her hobby had now turned into a side business which she thoroughly enjoyed. I asked her how she got started, thinking that she took several months or years of in-depth classes from some strict professional crocheter. She had a simple answer: books from the library.

Genius idea! So I did what any self respecting librarian would do in this situation: I turned to my library’s catalog to research what was available to me. I’ve taken the last few months to browse through some of the material that we have on the subject of crochet and taste test it, so to speak. I was looking for the items that were best suited for a beginner. As a result, I’ve picked out some specific items that have helped me learn. These books are very in-depth, but yet still give the basics that a beginning crocheter would need:

Books
Crochet
The Crocheter’s Companion
Simple Crocheting: A Complete How-to-Crochet Workshop with 20 Projects

While books are always helpful tools, there are some people like me that are more visual learners. We need to also see the process in action to fully grasp what’s going on and what to do. The library system has multiple DVD offerings on the subject of crochet, but here are a few that I‘ve used and are more suited to a beginner:

DVDs
Crochet from Start to Finishing
Crochet Stitches in Motion
How to Crochet
I Can't Believe I'm Crocheting

With these resources at your disposal, you can learn the basics of crochet. Once you have the basics, you open up a whole new world of different stitches and project types. Always wanted to make homemade holiday ornaments? No problem! Want to make a baby blanket for your co-worker that’s expecting? Piece of cake! Need something entertaining to take with you on those long summer car trips? Bingo! The possibilities are endless when you take the time to learn a new craft.

Pam Jessie
Woodlawn Library

You Want to Buy What?!

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 2:49pm
I dislike having to buy big ticket items like…cars. Whoever invented the term “sticker shock” had to have been looking at cars or houses. I like looking but I don’t like spending the money. When you decide to buy a new or used car, be sure and research before you buy because some things have changed. (Did you know that some new automobiles no longer have a spare tire and a jack as standard equipment?)

I’ve put together some resources to help you avoid sticker shock the next time you decide to purchase a car.

Books
Don't Get Taken Every Time: The Ultimate Guide to Buying or Leasing a Car in the Showroom or on the Internet
First Car Smarts
I Didn't Know That!: How to Take Care of Your Home, Your Car, and Your Career
Lemon-Aid 1990-2015: New and Used Cars and Trucks
Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving (Read the chapter on “Car buying and sharing, and saving on gas.”)
Reader's Digest Penny Pincher's Almanac: 2753 Surprising Ideas for Getting the Most Value Out of Your Money, Home, and Possessions (This is a good resource for all kinds of things, read the chapter “Cheap Car Talk.”)

Websites
CarBuyingTips.com
This is a good website if you are looking for tips and information on purchasing a new or used car. I especially like the section titled “dealer scams.” It could help car buyers stay away from unscrupulous car salesmen and dealers.

Car Talk
This is a great show to listen to on National Public Radio (NPR) and a very informative website. Go to the “Car Info” section and get tips on buying, owning, driving and selling a car.

ConsumerReports.org / New Car Buying Guide
This is a wonderful website and takes you from “Choosing a Car” to “How to Maintain Your Car.” This website is a real gem and it’s free. Check out their Used Car Buying Guide, too.

Good hunting and happy driving!

Maya Jones
West End Library

Three Promoted at Birmingham Public Library

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 2:04pm

Three librarians at the Birmingham Public Library have been promoted to coordinator positions.

K’aryn Davis-West, former manager of computer services for the public, is now coordinator of Central Library Public Services. She coordinates all public service departments at the downtown library location.

Jared Millet, former manager of the Acquisitions Department, is now the Collections Management coordinator. He is responsible for the Cataloging, Acquisitions, and Web Services departments.

Felita Hawkins, former manager of the East Lake Library, is now coordinator of all of the branches in the library system’s Southern region. She oversees Avondale, North Avondale, Eastwood, Southside, and Titusville libraries.

Artist Raises Linoleum to a Whole New Level

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 7:58am
            "i learnt to sing a glad new song"Take a good look at this image. What technique do you suppose was used to create this work of art? If you guessed woodblock printing, you’re getting close. Except rather than wood, a piece of linoleum is carved to achieve a similar effect. Yes, lowly linoleum…the stuff that covered your grandmother’s kitchen floor. Though the linoleum artist Debra Riffe uses is especially made for printmaking and is a combination of cork, linseed oil and adhesive. Riffe has taken the technique to a whole new level to create striking images that speak eloquently of themes such as social identity and sense of place. 

An exhibit of Riffe’s linoleum block prints will be on display in the Fourth Floor Gallery of the downtown Birmingham Public Library during regular library hours  until August 26. 

Titled "Every Line Tells a Story", the exhibit will also be featured at the August 7 Birmingham Art Crawl from 5 to 9 p.m., and Riffe will be on hand to greet visitors from 6 to 9 pm. The Art Crawl is a recently inaugurated monthly event which brings people to the Central City area and showcases Birmingham’s wide-ranging pool of creative talent. Art Crawl is held on the first Thursday of every month from 5-9 p.m.
“My linoleum block relief prints reflect my love for the south and all things southern. The majority of my compositions depict singular, figurative images of African Americans placed in rural settings of the American South.” Riffe states on her website.

Though born and raised in the American South, Riffe’s wide ranging world travels also inspire her art. A native of Tupelo, Mississippi, Riffe has called Birmingham, Alabama home since 1996. She completed her undergraduate degree (B.F.A.), at Howard University, College of Fine Arts, Washington, DC and worked as an art director with a Fortune 500 company. After a few years, she left the work force to travel around the Caribbean and live abroad with her family in Barranquilla, Colombia, South America. For two years, she lived on the La Guajira peninsula, located in the northernmost point of South America that borders Venezuela and the Caribbean Sea.

Creating these prints is a time-consuming process. Riffe begins with a detailed pencil drawing which is retraced onto the surface of the linoleum. She uses a variety of tools called gouges to carve away the linoleum which she does not want to show up on the print, and the surface of the linoleum that is uncut is in relief (raised). Oil-based ink is then applied to the linoleum block and a sheet of quality paper is placed upon the block and pressure is applied either manually or by using a tabletop printing press.
To learn more about Riffe and her art, visit her website:
http://www.debrariffe.com/

And check out these titles on printmaking at the Birmingham Public Library:
Non-Toxic Printmaking
Printmaking at the Edge
The Printmaking Bible
Printmaking Revolution
Relief Printmaking

"Every Line Tells A Story"
Linoleum Block Relief Prints
July 24-August 26, 2014
4th Floor Gallery
Birmingham Public Library
2100 Park Place

World Book eBooks Now @ BPL!

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 10:07am

Now available for readers of all ages: World Book's entire eBook Collection online!

The World Book eBook Collection includes highly illustrated, engaging titles that support a span of curriculum areas and reading levels. World Book eBooks feature World Book titles such Animal Lives, Explore the Universe, Learning Ladders, and many more.

  

The World Book Ebook Collection is available at all locations of Birmingham Public Library.

Birmingham residents may access the Ebook Collection from home with a valid, up-to-date library card!

This and many other online resources are available as part of BPL's Online Database Collection.

Family and Friends Donate $50,000 to the Birmingham Public Library to Honor Retiring Director Renee Blalock

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 11:28am

Birmingham Public Library Director Renee Blalock received more than well wishes during her retirement reception on August 1. She also went home with a smile she found hard to erase after her family presented a $50,000 check to the library in her honor.

“We wanted to give a leadership gift to recognize and honor her efforts to revitalize the library,’’ said Brooke Coleman, Blalock’s daughter. “Today, we give $50,000 and hope this is just the beginning of raising money toward projects of revitalization.’’

The money will be used to help fund various library needs, including programs, materials, equipment ,and a redesign project of the downtown library, said Olivia Alison, director of development for the library.

The gift was a result of donations from Blalock’s children, Coleman and Daniel Hertzog; the library’s Foundation Board; and special friends of the library. “We are just proud of our mom. She was an inspiration to us and we wanted to inspire other people,’’ Coleman said. Blalock's children and Foundation Board President Jim White made the announcement today.

The donation came as a total surprise to Blalock, who retired after 33 years of library service. “It’s an investment in the future of the library and I’m very thrilled for it,’’ Blalock said.

During her career, Blalock managed branches, worked as a library business manager and served as a regional branch coordinator. She became an associate director in 1994. She was appointed director in 2009.

Children's Author and Storyteller Bil Lepp to Visit Central and Springville Road Libraries, August 6 & 7

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 8:30am

Famed storyteller and author Bil Lepp will appear at the Central Library on Wednesday, August 6, 6 p.m., and at the Springville Road Library on Thursday, August 7, 6:30 p.m. The events are free and open to the public. Lepp is the author of several books, both fiction and nonfiction. His latest release and first children's book is The King of Little Things, which won a 2013 Parents' Choice Gold Award.

"Bil Lepp became adept at spinning tales and exaggerating circumstances at an early age. A nationally renowned storyteller and five time champion of the West Virginia Liars’ Contest, Bil’s outrageous, humorous tall-tales and witty stories have earned the appreciation of listeners of all ages and from all walks of life. Though a champion liar, his stories often contain morsels of truth which shed light on universal themes. Audiences all across the country have been delighted by Bil’s mirthful tales and delightful insights into everyday life. Be it a hunting trip, a funeral, or a visit to the dentist, Bil can find the humor in any situation. Lepp explains that while his stories may not be completely true, they are always honest."

Learn more about Lepp at http://leppstorytelling.com/.

Society of Alabama Archives and Birmingham Public Library Call for Nominations for Marvin Yeomans Whiting Award

Fri, 08/01/2014 - 10:46am
Dr. Marvin Whiting, BPL Archivist, 1975-1996
The Awards Committee of the Society of Alabama Archivists calls for nominations for the 2014 Marvin Yeomans Whiting Award. Named for Marvin Whiting, the Birmingham Public Library's first archivist and a pioneer in the professionalization of archives in Alabama, this award recognizes individuals, organizations, or institutions that have made a significant contribution to the preservation and dissemination of local history in Alabama. The award recognizes the preservation of historic documents and oral history but not buildings, historic sites or artifacts. The Birmingham Public Library co-sponsors the award.

The award was created in 2012 and the past recipients are Ed Bridges, retired Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, and Elizabeth Wells, former Head of Special Collections at Samford University.

The deadline for nominations is August 22, 2014 and the award will be presented at the Society of Alabama Archivists Annual Meeting at the University of Montevallo on November 14, 2014.

For more information and to access the nomination form, visit the SALA website http://alarchivists.org/.

Questions may be directed to:

Jim Baggett, Head
Department of Archives and Manuscripts
Birmingham Public Library
2100 Park Place, Birmingham, AL 35203
205-226-3631 (voice), 205-226-3633 (fax)
jbaggett@bham.lib.al.us
www.BirminghamArchives.org
http://www.facebook.com/BirminghamArchives

Rotaract Club of Birmingham to Give Away Free School Supplies at Four Birmingham Public Libraries on Saturday, August 9

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:15pm
The Rotaract Club of Birmingham will distribute free school supplies and clear backpacks to more than 800 children at four Birmingham Public Library branches on Saturday, August 9, starting at 9:00 a.m. Distribution will take place at Avondale, East Lake, Pratt City, and Wylam branches, while supplies last. The event is free and open to the public.

New this year, Rotaract will partner with Whole Foods Market, which will donate fresh fruit to be distributed during the event. The goal is to encourage students to make healthy school snack choices.

“Rotaract is excited to present this event, which has a tremendous positive impact on our community,” said Sarah Beth Combs, Rotaract service director. With great economic challenges still facing Birmingham neighborhoods, many students do not have the basic supplies they need to begin the new school year. This project equips students with what they need to learn from day one.

For more information, please contact Allison Westlake at 218-7187.

About the Rotaract Club of Birmingham
The Rotaract Club of Birmingham provides an opportunity for young professional leaders to promote responsible citizenship, develop professional skills and employ effective leadership. The Club’s membership is comprised of young professionals, deeply committed to playing a key role in serving communities locally, nationally, and globally. It was founded in 2004.

Bards & Brews Open Mic Night To Be Held at Avondale Library, August 1

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 10:00am
North Birmingham Library hosted July's poetry SLAM
For more photos visit Bards & Brews Facebook page
Enjoy the perfect blend of poetry and free beer samples during the Birmingham Public Library's monthly Bards and Brews, Friday, August 1, at Avondale Library. Open Mic Night poet registration starts at 6:30 p.m. and poetry performances start at 7 p.m. Avondale Brewing Company will be providing the beer. Music by Patrick Summey. Call 205-226-3670 for more info. Attendees must be at least 18 to enter and at least 21 to be served. Free.

Bards & Brews, which is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, is typically held on the first Friday of the month at various locations around Birmingham. Visit the Bards & Brews Facebook page for more information.

BPL to Open at 10:00 A.M. on August 1

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 7:44am
All Birmingham Public Libraries will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Friday August 1.

Avondale Library To Host Bards & Brews Open Mic Poetry Event, August 1

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 2:46pm
North Birmingham Library hosted July's poetry SLAM
For more photos visit Bards & Brews Facebook page
Enjoy the perfect blend of poetry and free beer samples during the Birmingham Public Library's monthly Bards and Brews, Friday, August 1, at Avondale Library. Open Mic Night poet registration starts at 6:30 p.m. and poetry performances start at 7 p.m. Avondale Brewing Company will be providing the beer. Music by Patrick Summey. Call 205-226-3670 for more info. Attendees must be at least 18 to enter and at least 21 to be served. Free.

Bards & Brews, which is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, is typically held on the first Friday of the month at various locations around Birmingham. Visit the Bards & Brews Facebook page for more information.

The Genealogists and the Feds: Using Government Documents in Genealogical Research

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 1:42pm
In June, I attended the Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research sponsored by Samford University. I took a course titled “Advanced Library Research: Law Libraries and Government Documents.” It was an opportunity to learn a new use for government documents. How could genealogists use them? In surprising ways, I discovered.

Why would genealogists want to use law resources or government documents? Depending on what is used, genealogists can find out a variety of information to fill in blanks about their ancestors’ lives. For example, did Great-Great-Great Uncle William have a property dispute with Great-Great-Great Uncle Robert and take him to court? The case might be listed in the Alabama Digest: Table of Cases, and that could be the proof of why those relatives don’t speak to each other today.

Government documents can give a researcher similar information, primarily, what interaction did the ancestor have with the government? Government documents record the actions of federal, state, and local governments and agencies. BPL’s Government Documents Department collects documents from each of these. This article gives examples of some federal resources which a genealogist may use there.

The Congressional Information Service (CIS) indexes records produced by Congress beginning in 1970. The volumes are Abstracts, Indexes, and Legislative Histories. Government Documents has the print volumes and microfiche until 2012.

The United States Congressional Serial Set (“the Serial Set”), contains documents and records numbered in sequence by each session of Congress. It began in 1817, and The American State Papers (1789-1838) are included. An example of a document found there that would involve names of persons is “Titanic Disaster: Hearings on Titanic disaster, to investigate collision of White Star liner with iceberg and rescue of passengers, officers and crew by steamer Carpathia.” The Serial Set is available through BPL’s database Congressional Publications.

One resource on microfilm and paper is the Congressional Record, which began as the Congressional Globe (1834- current). Congress is required to keep a record of each session, word for word. An ancestor might be given recognition in the CR, such as “140 Cong Rec S Capt. Ronald Arthur Route, (Introduced by) Mr. Shelby” or “160 Cong Rec S3466 Nevada’s French Legion of Honor Recipients, (Introduced by) Mr. Heller.” The CR from 1994 is available through the Government Printing Office web page, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/.

United States Statutes at Large contains every law enacted by Congress, public and private. It also includes treaties, conventions, executive proclamations, and concurrent resolutions. A genealogist’s interest would be in the private laws which pertain to individuals. For example, “An Act For the relief of the estate of the late Captain D.H. Tribou, Chaplain, United States Navy. February 9, 1925…page 1560.”

Maps are another resource a genealogist might check. He/she might want to look at a battlefield map, for example, if a relative fought in a specific battle such as Gettysburg. The Department of the Interior, which supervises the national parks, produces excellent guides. The United States Geological Survey produces a variety of maps dealing with land and minerals. Such a map could give a genealogist an idea of what the area was like where an ancestor lived. Maps also may be found in the Serial Set, such as “Chart No. 1: Ice as Reported Near Titanic.”

Michelle Andrews
Government Documents Department
Central Library

Math & Science Day at Five Points West Library, July 26

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 8:16am

The Annual Math & Science Day conducted by Kwanzaa Year Round, Science for Kids Ministry, and hosted by the Five Points West Library, 4812 Avenue W, Birmingham, AL, will be held Saturday, July 26, 2014, 1:00-4:00 p.m., in the Main Auditorium. The emphasis this year will be on “Slave Science – African Contributions to Science Before Enslavement.”

The topic is based on studies compiled by historian Dr. Joseph E. Holloway in an article titled “African Contributions to American Culture.” His research documents Africans who helped establish rice growing, cattle raising, variolation (early vaccination), musical and architectural styles that were incorporated into American culture. Other specialties include metal working, midwifery, ship building, and navigation.

“Before the enslavement, Africans were closely observed for their various skills,” said Elinor Burks, one of the event’s planners. “Many skills Africans brought were not appreciated until several generations after their arrival in America.”

In addition to the historical emphasis, the math table will challenge students to solve Einstein’s puzzle using movable objects. The creativity table will let kids use their hands to make recycled objects from toilet tissue rolls as an example of protecting nature’s resources. The nutrition table will show young people how to create fun foods included in Japanese packed lunches called Bento, while learning about that ancient culture.

This event is free and designed for students ages 5 to 105. Parents must accompany all participants.

The End of Summer Reading—Now What?

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 7:13am
Poster created by Sarah McIntyreAs a fairly new librarian serving an underserved community where making ends meet supersedes the Library’s stance, the nearing of the end of Summer Reading has stimulated several questions such as: “How do I keep the momentum going and continue to motivate children and adults to read? How do I intertwine the Library’s resources with the needs of the community? How do I attempt to close the new digital divide where Internet access is no longer an issue, but how the Internet is being used poses the problem?”

I know that understanding the needs of the community where the Library resides is paramount and there are several resources available both in print and online that will provide insight on how to put community knowledge to use. One resource in particular that I recently found and plan on putting to use is the American Library Association’s Outreach to Underserved Populations Resource. This site targets many underserved groups and provides several resources that specifically address the issues within these groups. The site also provides a wide range of resources from blogs to organizations that focus on issues that plague underserved groups.

For more information on how you can serve an underserved group in your Library’s Community, visit http://www.ala.org/advocacy/diversity/outreachtounderservedpopulations.

Karnecia Williams
Inglenook Library

Library Assistance Available for Online High School Registration

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 7:12am

Beginning July 1 the Birmingham Board of Education initiated an online registration process for parents of high school students. They offered a training session which was attended by employees of the Birmingham Public Library. Since many people do not have computers or Internet access at home, the library is the perfect place for them to come to begin registering their high school students, though they will still need to contact the school to complete the process. An email address is required to register and library assistants are trained to help people set up a free account.

At Springville Road, patrons who need more than a few minutes of help can make a brief appointment with a library assistant who will help them log in, set up a password, and create an email account if they don’t already have one. This service is for people who do not know how to use a computer or who may be uncomfortable with the online registration process. Library assistants can direct, but they cannot enter data for the patron, so someone who can type must accompany the parent.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a Springville Road library assistant, please call 226-4083.

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Regional Branch Library 

Book Review: The Silkworm

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:30pm
The Silkworm
Robert Galbraith

An obnoxious old writer has gone missing from his shabby London home just as he finished his scandalous masterpiece, Bombyx Mori. If that name sounds like a spell taught at Hogwarts, it won’t surprise you to learn that Robert Galbraith is the nom de plume of J. K. Rowling and that “bombyx mori” is the scientific name for silkworms, creatures boiled alive in their cocoons to preserve the valuable threads they have woven.

The Silkworm is the sequel to The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013) which introduced Cormoran Strike, a down on his heel (he lost half a leg in Afghanistan) private investigator. Strike is built like a boxer with a nose that has been broken more than once. In pain, he limps through the winter mist and snow of a gritty contemporary London, negotiating slick pavements and steps down into the London Underground. He can’t afford taxis, but is nonetheless attractive to beautiful socialites he encounters on his search for the missing author, Owen Quine. Strike’s search leads him into the heart of the London publishing scene, familiar turf for Rowling. The publishing executives, editors, staffers, and agents he interviews present themselves to the reader like Hogwarts professors, or fine old British character actors at the least. Rowling’s portrait of the book publishing world is trenchant and frankly outrageous.

Cormoran and Harry do not physically resemble, and the adult detective novels substitute sex, often perverse, for magic, but the two series of novels share much, including a taste for the horrific. Characters inhabit a shadowy world of evil intentions and official indifference. Strike and Harry are both lonely knights, keeping their counsel, finding truth in details, as is befitting of noir fiction. Strike has but one sidekick. Her name is Robin.

Lovers of crime fiction and devotees of Rowling’s Harry Potter series will likely find enjoyment in The Silkworm. The author retains her gift for plot and narrative. Her many characters have lives one can imagine extending beyond the written page. Dark quotes from London writers of the Jacobean era, like John Webster and Thomas Dekker, set the tone for each chapter. The Silkworm is yet another page turner from Rowling.

Don’t miss it!

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library