Fixed Navigation Bar

Friday, June 29, 2007

Potter Mania

While the release of the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” is still three weeks away, the buzz has started. Last week, when Scholastic, the publisher of the series, chose the Chantilly Regional Library as one of 37 stops nationwide on the Knight Bus Tour, 600 people showed up for a chance to see the purple, double-decker vehicle familiar to readers of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

The Fairfax County Public Library has ordered more than 500 copies of the book in various formats – 390 in regular print alone. As of yesterday, there were 1,285 holds on that regular print edition. When Scholastic announced the July 21 release date for the new book on February 1, 2007, 216 people had placed holds on the regular copy by the end of the day. More copies may be ordered as the ratio of copies to the number of people on hold increases.

Copies of the book will be kept secured in the receiving section of the library’s cataloguing department until several days before the release date. The boxes will then be opened and the books processed. They will be placed on carts and sorted by branch. Staff from each branch will pick up copies early Saturday, July 21 and deliver them to each location to be distributed to those who are on the waiting list for the book.

There are also Harry Potter-related activities at a half-dozen library branches this summer, including a Harry Potter Midnight Release Celebration at the Patrick Henry Library. (See below for details.)

You’re Invited
July 9, 7 p.m. ‘N2 Reading: Book Discussion Group. Vote on which characters will meet their doom in the next Harry Potter; enter a drawing to win a book. Age 9-12 with adult. Centreville Regional Library, 703-830-2223.

July 12, 2 p.m. Harry Potter Party. Activities and fun as you wait for the arrival of the final book.
Age 8-12. Kingstowne Library, 703-339-4610.

July 16-19, 6:30 p.m. Wizard Film Festival. Magical movies on four consecutive nights. All ages. Patrick Henry Library, 703-938-0405.

July 20, 9:30 p.m. Harry Potter Midnight Book Release Party. Enjoy a costume show, Quidditch and other activities before the midnight sale of the new Harry Potter book, courtesy of Borders-Tysons Corner. Age 8 & up. Patrick Henry Library, 703-938-0405.

July 21, 11 a.m. Hogwarts Library Open House. Games, snacks, crafts and a costume contest. All ages. Herndon Fortnightly Library, 703-437-8855.

Aug. 3, 2 p.m.
Harry Potter: Editio Septimus. What does Harry Potter mean to you? Age 12-18. Centreville Regional Library, 703-830-2223.

August 11, 2 p.m. Wizard Rock. Enjoy live music from the Whomping Willows and the Remus Lupins. Age 8 & up. Patrick Henry Library, 703-938-0405.

REMEMBER: The sign-up for these popular events begins two weeks prior to the activity. Call early.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Martha Washington

George Washington’s spouse is said to have been a reluctant First Lady. “I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else, there [are] certain bounds set for me which I must not depart from..." she wrote to a niece in one of her few surviving letters. According to the National First Ladies’ Library, her husband’s secretary created strict rules of protocol that forbade her and the President from dining in private homes. She also discovered that taking her grandchildren shopping or to the circus was covered by reporters.

Martha married George Washington at the age of 27, a year after the death of her first husband. Ironically, she wed Colonel Washington on January 6, 1759 at her first husband’s mansion on the Pamunkey River, known as the “White House,” although she would never live in the later home of presidents and their wives. Her sojourns as first lady took place first in New York and then Philadelphia.

It is clear Martha Washington valued her privacy, although she shared with her husband the sense of public duty that her position required. Just prior to her death in 1802, she burned all the letters between her and Washington, much to the chagrin of biographers, such as Joseph Ellis, author of His Excellency: George Washington.

For more on our nation’s no. 1 First Lady, check out these books:

Martha Washington: An American Life by Patricia Brady

Martha Washington: A Brief Biography by Ellen McCallister Clark

Martha Washington: First Lady of Liberty by Helen Bryan

More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Virginia Women by Emilee Hines

George and Martha Washington: Portraits From the Presidential Years
by Ellen Miles

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Battle of the Little Bighorn

For you history buffs, June 25 marks the anniversary of The Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. It is also known as Custer’s Last Stand and was one of the last armed encounters in the Indian Wars. George Armstrong Custer was pursuing a band of Lakota Sioux led by Sitting Bull, when he underestimated the strength and skills of his foes. Custer lost his life, as well as the entire 7th Calvary detachment of men under his command.

In popular culture, the battle has been commemorated in such films as "Little Big Man" (1970) and "They Died With Their Boots On" (1941). In the novel Flashman and the Redskins (1982), author George MacDonald Fraser places his anti-hero at Little Bighorn. The battle even appears in a level of the computer game "Age of Empires III -- The War Chief."

The library owns a number of books on the battle and Custer, as well as the two chiefs ― Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse ― who led the 1,000-plus warriors at Little Bighorn. Here is a sampling:

The Story of the Little Big Horn: Custer’s Last Fight by William Graham

To Hell With Honor: Custer and the Little Bighorn by Larry Sklenar

With Custer on the Little Bighorn: A Newly Discovered First-Person Account by William O. Taylor

Custer: The Controversial Life of George Armstrong Custer by Jeffry Wert

The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph Marshall

Monday, June 18, 2007

In Mint Condition

After George Washington died on December 14, 1799, the myth-making began. As author Joseph Ellis concludes in His Excellency: George Washington: “Over the ensuing years, the mythology that a new and more democratic nation required of its symbolic hero arose around him to form a smothering blanket of Lullabies. … ”

One of those legacies is Washington’s enduring image on our dollar bills and in 2007, on the U.S. Mint’s new dollar coins. Washington first appeared on a $1 United States note in 1869. After many variations and occasionally other portraits, our familiar dollar bill with the Gilbert Stuart portrait dates from 1963.

This year the U.S. Mint has launched its Presidential $1 Coin Program and George is among the first to circulate. His coin was released on February 15. Four coins will be minted each year over the next decade honoring our presidents in the order they served. The coins have some unique features. Each coin displays an image of the president on one side, the order he served and the years in office. Phrases that usually appear on the front of other coins are inscribed along the edge. These include: “E Pluribus Unum,” “In God We Trust,” the year of minting, and the mint mark.

For more on the man behind the money, check out the library’s All Fairfax Reads selection.

Friday, June 15, 2007


According to the Census Bureau, there were 159,000 stay-at-home dads in 2006 — defined as “married fathers with children under 15 years old, who have remained out of the labor force for more than one year primarily so they can care for the family while their wives work outside the home.” This special breed of dad cared for 283,000 children last year. Here are a few more stats:

60 percent had two or more children.
40 percent had an annual family income of $50,000 or more.
35 percent had children younger than three living with them.

While they are still a small percentage of the 64.3 million fathers in the U.S., we suspect many stay-at-home dads will receive a tie or shirt this Sunday from the nation’s 8,685 men’s clothing stores, or tools from its 14,257 hardware stores or 5,925 home centers. And dads will also receive more than 66 million Father’s Day cards. The holiday is the fourth-largest card-sending occasion during the year!

Do you have a favorite Father’s Day gift? Let us know.

In the meantime, here’s some special reading for Dads:

Father’s Day: Notes From a New Dad in the Real World by Bill McCoy

Crawling: A Father’s First Year by Elisha Cooper

The Good Father: On Men, Masculinity and Life in the Family
by Mark O’Connell

Don’t Make Me Stop This Car! Adventures in Fatherhood by Al Roker

A Father’s Poems by Ajit Singh Dutta

Summer Reading Program
All family members can enjoy the Fairfax County Public Library’s Summer Reading Program, which kicks off on Monday, June 18 and runs through September 1. It’s held in cooperation with Fairfax County Public Schools to encourage students to read for pleasure during the summer. But, there is something for everyone. Adults can find a special summer reading list in the library’s calendar, “This Month.” Teen filmmakers can compete in the Cool Clips contest and those entering 7th and 8th grade can enter a writing contest and win up to $100.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Benedict Arnold

In His Excellency: George Washington, author Joseph Ellis devotes only a paragraph to the treachery of Benedict Arnold during the American Revolutionary War. But, when Arnold plotted to turn over the American fort at West Point to the British, his treason became the stuff of history books. Perhaps his downfall is more poignant because in the early years of the war, he was one of the Continental Army’s most accomplished leaders. He led successful campaigns to capture Fort Ticonderoga and at the Battle of Saratoga among others.

But, perhaps because he was passed over for promotion, or because of mounting debts and an investigation for corruption, Arnold asked and was given command of West Point in order to turn it over to the British. The plot was discovered with the capture of British Major John André. Arnold fled to the British side where he was later named a Brigadier General and led raids in Virginia and attacked New London, CT. He eventually settled in London, returned to New Brunswick to run a mercantile business, but ended up back in London, where some say, toward the end of his life, he was bitter and remorseful. Andre, despite pleas that he should be shot as was befitting for an officer, was hanged. He was only 31 years old.

For more on the hero turned traitor and the West Point affair, see:

George Washington and Benedict Arnold: A Tale of Two Patriots
by Dave Palmer

Benedict Arnold’s Navy: The Rag-Tag Fleet That Lost the Battle of Lake Champlain, but Won the American Revolution by James Nelson

Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary Hero: An American Warrior Reconsidered
by James Martin

The Man in the Mirror: A Life of Benedict Arnold by Clare Brandt

Benedict Arnold: Traitor to the Cause by Norma Jean Lutz

Major John AndrĂ©: A Gallant in Spy’s Clothing by Robert Hatch

Check out the library’s All Fairfax Reads selection, His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis for more information.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Book reviewer Merle Jacob traces the history of “noir” from the 30s and 40s up to contemporary times in a recent essay on NoveList. The database, which has great reading suggestions, is available on the library’s Web site.

In noir fiction, you’ll find gritty places, psychologically damaged sleuths and an air of desperation and despair. Great for post-midnight reading! Here’s a few contemporary noir gems that Jacob recommends:

Done for a Dime by David Corbett

Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie

In a True Light by John Harvey

The Big Blowdown by George Pelecanos

Derailed by James Siegel

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

Are you a fan of the noir genre? If so, do you have some favorites? Let us know.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

George Washington: Fact and Fiction

Even comic and Broadway and film performer Robert Klein believes the father of our country has been underrated. In a special Kennedy Center appearance with the National Symphony Orchestra last Saturday night, he lamented that the man’s name is now associated with mattress sales.

But Klein had done his homework. He referred to one of the first popular biographers of Washington, Parson Mason Locke Weems, an Episcopal minister who was a bit of a gypsy, and actually made his living for 31 years selling books from New York City to Savannah, Georgia.

Weems wrote fictionalized biographies popular with the masses. His most famous is The Life and Memorable Actions of George Washington (1800), in which he invents the famous cherry tree tale that has survived through the centuries. Weems liked to imbue his books with virtues, such as temperance, honesty and frugality. He felt the Federalists were portraying Washington as too much of an aristocrat and wanted him to be seen as more of a republican.

As Joseph J. Ellis’ biography His Excellency: George Washington, shows, the real story is much more complex. Check out the details of our All Fairfax Reads selection.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A Protest

The term “book burning” has taken on new meaning in Kansas City, MO.
According to CNN, Tom Wayne, the owner of a used book store has thousands of books that he can’t seem to give away, so he is burning them to protest what he sees as the nation’s diminished interest in books.

"This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today," Wayne told a crowd as he lit his first batch. The fire burned for almost an hour before the fire department arrived and told him he needed a permit. Apparently, he plans to fill out the required paperwork and continue monthly burnings.

What would Fahrenheit 451’s Bradbury think? Has Wayne gone too far?

(Thanks to the Waterloo Public Library in Maine for this tidbit.)