Dr Seuss Day at Kensal Library

We celebrated the wonderful world of Dr Seuss on Thursday 2 March which was also World Book Day so we had some children wearing great costumes in the library.  There was a ladybird from ‘What the ladybird heard’, Catwoman, Woody from Toy Story, a spy, Spiderman and later we were joined by The Woman in Black!

Our first craft was making a mini version of the Cat in the Hat’s hat.  Look at how cute they turned out!

Next we made The Lorax’s face from polystyrene balls cut in half which we coloured orange and stuck on eyebrows and a moustache made from yellow felt, googly eyes and a sweet mini pom pom nose.

Dr Seuss activity at Kensal Library, March 2017

Then everybody decorated and made some cool Cat in the Hat bookmarks.

Dr Seuss activity at Kensal Library, March 2017

Dr Seuss would have been 113 years old on the 2 March 2017! His books are still immensely popular and his quotes continue to inspire.

Below are a few of my favourite Dr Seuss quotes:

‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.’
I Can Read with My Eyes Shut

  “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
Oh, the Places You’ll Go

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
– The Lorax

Hope you all had a great World Book Day.

Natasha Chaoui, SCSA, Kensal Library

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Agatha Christie’s 125th anniversary

Malcolm Batten, Librarian, writes:

Outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare, Agatha Christie (15.9.1890 – 12.1.1976) is the best-selling novelist of all time. She is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, as well as the world’s longest-running play – The Mousetrap.

Death on the Nile, by Agatha ChristieDescribed as the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, Devon in September 1890. Educated at home, she taught herself to read and was soon writing poems and short stories.

It was during the First World War that Agatha turned to writing detective stories. Her debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles took some time to finish and even longer to find a publisher. She started writing partly in response to a bet from her sister Madge that she couldn’t write a good detective story and partly to relieve the monotony of the dispensing work which she was now doing.

It was not until 1919 that a publisher, John Lane of The Bodley Head (the fourth to have received the manuscript) accepted The Mysterious Affair at Styles for publication and contracted Agatha to produce five more books. She chose a Belgian refugee detective, Hercule Poirot as her sleuth – Belgian refugees were a common feature in England during the war.

Subsequent books introduced new characters – Tommy and Tuppence and Miss Marple who were to feature in many further titles.

Witness for the prosecution, by Agatha ChristieRecommended reading from RBKC library staff:

Susie:

“I choose the play ‘Witness for the prosecution’. I think Sir Wilfred is one of the wittiest characters she has written and I love the ending.”

Kate:

The mirror crack'd from side to side, by Agatha Christie“I like ‘The mirror crack’d from side to side’ – it was the first Agatha Christie I ever read aged 11 or maybe even younger and I was hooked from the start. I then went on to ‘Sparkling cyanide’. I just love her characters, the ‘bad boy’ who must have done it because he is mad, bad and dangerous to know – talking of which, I think perhaps my all time favourite is ‘Taken at the Flood’ a truly wicked plot.”

Maarya:

AC_brownsuit“I discovered Agatha Christie shortly after my twelfth birthday and read every title available in my local library. Hercules Poirot was my favourite detective – of course! Tommy and Tuppence were fun, and Miss Marple had her moments, but Poirot was, and remains, the quintessential eccentric/ genius detective. An honorary mention must go to the glamorous and fun thriller, ‘The Man in the Brown Suit‘ (with a really great female lead!)”

Christie’s first marriage ended in divorce in 1928. She travelled to the archaeological site of Ur where the following year she met Max Mallowan who was to become her second husband. Several books were influenced by their travels in the Middle East such as Death on the Nile and They came to Baghdad.

From 1928 Agatha also wrote non-crime novels under the pen name of Mary Westmacott. She continued writing through the war and post-war period, although now there was much time-consuming work with theatrical productions which limited the time Agatha could devote to writing.

Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott

On 3rd December 1926 Agatha Christie’s life featured a real life mystery when she left her home alone. Her car was found abandoned the next morning several miles away. A nationwide search ensued. The press and public enjoyed various speculations as to what might have happened and why but no one knew for sure. It eventually transpired that Agatha had somehow travelled to Kings Cross station where she took the train to Harrogate and checked into the Harrogate Spa Hotel under the name of Theresa Neale, previously of South Africa. She was eventually recognised by the hotel staff on 14th December, who alerted the police. She did not recognise her husband when he came to meet her. Possibly concussed but certainly suffering from amnesia, Agatha had no recollection of who she was. An intensely private person, made even more so by the hue and cry of the press, Agatha never spoke of this time with friends or family.

Agatha Christie died in January 1976 and is buried in the churchyard of St. Mary’s Cholsey, near Wallingford.

Find Agatha Christie books in your library by checking our new reading list.

The elusive Miss Austen

A selection of Jane Austen biographies
A selection of Jane Austen biographies

Kensington and Chelsea libraries holds a nationally renowned biography collection at Kensington Central Library (we’ve blogged about it before).  There are over 80,000 printed works with over 1000 new titles added each year.

As part of our celebration of the 200 year anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Lindsay Robertson, Senior Customers Services Assistant  has looked into how Jane Austen features in our biography collection.  

Revisiting Pride and Prejudice is a bit like meeting up with old friends. Characters like the scoundrel Mr Wickham, silly old Mrs Bennett and her sarcastic husband and, of course, our heroes Elizabeth and Darcy have been cherished by readers for two centuries. But how well do we know the lady behind the book?

Jane Austen presents biographers with a challenge, as very little is actually known about her. Despite being a successful novelist in her own lifetime she enjoyed her privacy, which her family dutifully kept even after her death in 1817. This hasn’t stopped our curiosity as Kensington Central Library’s biography collection holds over sixty titles dedicated to the author.

Dear Aunt Jane

Though she never married, Austen was a devoted family woman. The biography collection owns a memoir by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh composed from various family recollections. The second edition contained Jane’s previously unpublished material, including Lady Susan, a cancelled chapter of Persuasion and extracts from her unfinished works Sanditon and The Watsons. We also own several titles on the Austen family including Maggie Lane’s Jane Austen’s Family through Five Generations and J C & E C Hubback’s Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers.

 “Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?”

Jane Austen's letters
Jane Austen’s letters

The biography collection has books of Jane’s collected letters, with some reproduced in her own handwriting. The majority were written to Cassandra Austen, Jane’s only sister and closest friend, though many more letters were burned after Jane died. Those left tell few secrets yet they capture Jane’s delightful turn of phrase, even when describing the dullest everyday activities. Cassandra once summed up her relationship with Jane in the words ”I had not a thought concealed from her”, so we can only imagine what her famous sister might have written in return.

 The whole story?

Reproduction of Jane Austen's handwriting
Reproduction of Jane Austen’s handwriting

The family accounts have been criticised for censoring details of Jane’s life. We can’t help but wonder what she truly felt about her writing career or her real life love affairs. There was a ”youthful flirtation” with Tom Lefroy (later Chief Justice of Ireland) and she once accepted a marriage proposal from a friend’s brother only to withdraw it the next day. According to Cassandra, Jane fell in love on her travels, however the gentleman in question was never named and apparently died before he and Jane could meet again. Much as we regret losing the chance to know her better, we can appreciate the Austen family’s wishes to keep Jane’s personal life private.

 A novel life

More Jane Austen biographies
More Jane Austen biographies

Readers discover the real Jane Austen through her books. Judging by our collection, it seems that several biographers have done likewise. There’s Jane Austen and her Art by Mary Laschelles, Jane Austen: Real and Imagined Worlds by Oliver MacDonald and Introductions to Jane Austen by John Bailey, which focuses on each novel in turn. She also appears in a book by Francis Warre Cornish in the series “English Men of Letters” – I’m sure the irony would not have been lost on her!

 We see the author’s rational and romantic sides in the Dashwood sisters of Sense and Sensibility, the loving aunt in Emma and the older Jane in Persuasion’s complex and composed Anne Elliot. Most of all, we find her in Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. Like her heroine, Jane was independent, strong-willed and didn’t suffer fools gladly unless she found humour in them. In Lizzy’s words “Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can”.

Perhaps this is why Elizabeth is one of the most beloved heroines in literature – her creator’s wit and vivacity can’t help but shine through.

Lindsay Robertson
Lindsay Robertson, Senior Customer Services Assistant

Lindsay Robertson, Senior Customers Services Assistant

Kensington Central Library