Title: The strange affair of Spring Heeled Jack (Burton & Swinburne #1)
Author: Mark Hodder
Genre/Style: Alternative history, time travel
Read If You Like the idea of a Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes cross-over.
Sir Francis Burton, famous explorer, is all set to participate in a heated public debate with his former partner. The debate is intended to not only settle the question of where the Nile River originates, but also repair Burton’s tattered reputation. Instead, Burton is thrust into the search for a man he thought was only a myth: Spring Heeled Jack. Acting as an agent of the king in an alt-history London filled with motorized carriages, genetically modified parakeets who act as messengers, and on the brink of all out culture war between the Technologists (eugenicists) and the Libertines Burton runs into a plethora of Victorian characters including (but not limited to) Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Florence Nightingale, and notorious boogeyman Spring Heeled Jack himself.
Personally, I rated this book a 2.5/5. The Audible narrator was spectacular and I loved the overall theme of the book. However, I am not a fan of time-travel. Placed right in the middle of the book is a semi-separate time-travel almost-short story explaining how SHJ came to be in Victorian London from the year 2202 which I felt really pulled too far from the Steampunk I came to the book for. I also felt the book could have used a better general editor. Meeting a few intentional historical personalities is fun, but meeting everyone and the kitchen sink becomes cumbersome.
Every year the American Library Association promotes a week-long series of displays and events to draw attention to censorship in schools and public libraries. Simply called Banned Books Week, these events highlights items that have been banned/censored, or otherwise branded as immoral or unfit for circulation.
According to the ALA a challenge “is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.” A breakdown of terminology can be found here.
In 2013 307 formal challenges were reported by the ALA , down from 464 in 2012. That’s more than a challenge a day for every day in 2012. It should be noted that because of the specific definition of “challenge” and “banned” the ALA has limited means to keep statistics on what books are being targeted and why. The ALA estimates that for every challenge they count “four or five remain unreported.”
Public and academic libraries across the country show their support for the right to read through displays, activities, and speakers. These events vary is scope from highlighting the irony of banning some books (for example, banningFahrenheit 451 ) to promoting conversation about what themes are deemed unreadable and why (like this display ).
The ALA and other library organizations across the country have supportive materials from posters to display templates to t-shirts. Bellow I’ve compiled some of my favorite ideas for displays and activities to draw attention to censorship and promote thoughtful discussion about what we censor.
Share your own favorites in the comments bellow, or on Twitter @SteamLib #BannedBooksWeek.
Program Type: Book Display
Time Frame: Week of BBW
Space Needed: Single display shelf, visible from library entrance
Budget Considerations: Staff time and paper
Description: Cover selected historically challenged books in yellow paper. On the paper you can choose to represent the attitude towards the challenge of your choice (thought provoking, fear mongering, sarcastic, and so on). Options include:
-Ironic list of reasons it was challenged (ie Anne Frank being sad, Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian as racist, or Perks of Being a Wallflower as unsuited to age group)
– Excerpts from court cases/media interviews about the book
– Warning sign for reasons banned (ie “contains descriptions of nudity” or “parental guidance strong language”)
Space Needed: Wall for display, cleared area to allow all users access, space for camera/printer/screen
Budget Considerations: Backdrop creation, staff time to supervise users, camera rental (if not owned by the library) paper/ink for printing the pictures
Description: Have patrons pose with their favorite banned book in front of a decorative police mug-shot styled back-drop. Include the height chart, a sign which includes the name of your library, and an “I Read Banned Books”/ “Caught Reading Banned Books” sign. Print a copy of the photo for your patrons to take home with them. For budget reasons this might be set as the ending of an event or workshop.
Time Frame: Week of BBW, best suited for story-time or book groups
Space Needed: Presentation space
Budget Considerations: Costumes & props (if provided by the library)
Description: Have book group members/story-time participants/your class read a banned book and perform a monologue from their favorite character’s point of view. Have them address the reasons they have been banned and how they feel as a character or what they believe the person making the challenge miss understood about their book.
Space Needed: Film viewing room, book group meeting room
Film showing rights, if applicable
Custodial for rooms
Popcorn/snacks for movie nights
When you think of monsters who comes to mind? Frankenstein? Dracula? The Victorian monsters became the staple of the silver screen for a reason: their stories are equal parts terror and intrigue. Since there are so many film options now the monsters make themselves an easy pick for a mini-film festival.
The festival can be stand-alone, or tied in to other programs, like a book group. The original story behind the films are very short (Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Invisible Man, The Portrait of Dorian Grey) which are well suited for teen readers. For adults Frankenstein, Dracula, or a Jack the Ripper novel lend themselves to longer book group discussions. The film showings are a great way to stir up interest and advertise the book groups to an audience with a noted interest.
Tea time is a simple idea with lots of ways to modify it to fit your library.
Do you offer snack time for school kids? Add a little Victorian flair by talking about etiquette and letting the kids play make-believe. Read a steampunk short story during the snack.
Do you have a book club that meets regularly? Host a public meeting (preferably the first meet up) with tea, top hats, and your first discussion of your group’s Steampunk book selection.
Is there a convention coming to your town? Offer a pre-convention meet up for the locals to have tea, show off their costumes, and get excited for the event. Use the meet up as a chance to highlight your collection’s books on costume construction, crafting, and DIY jewelry.
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