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Chris Melnick: Reads &Watches

July 1, 2022

[Editor's note: Chris Melnick is the Executive Director of Share the Magic Book Program, which is a federally registered charity that distributes books, from books for babies to adults, fiction and non-fiction to underserved communities in Manitoba.  To date, Share the Magic has given away over 630,000 books at an estimated value of over $4.2 million. You can follow Share the Magic on Facebook by searching "Share the Magic Book Program"]




Mmmmm… summer reading … better than a chocolate milkshake from the BDI (almost!).  Nothing better than enjoying a good read during a long, hot summer’s day or on a rainy day, as is the case this Sunday afternoon in mid-June as I write this column.  Light, adventurous, fiction, non-fiction, just because I want to read it.  To be remembered or forgotten, just to have fun with.


        The first book I am recommending fits the above description perfectly.  It is Birds of a feather: Tales of a Wild Bird Haven by Linda Johns.  Linda Johns, an artist and bird enthusiast and her husband run this haven in Nova Scotia.  Through a series of vignettes, birds and other animals, who, through various means, find themselves at the haven are introduced, they stories lovingly told.  The exploits of the haven guests, some short term, others longer and a few permanent, include hawks, blue jays, a rabbit named Edna, a starling named Star, two goats named Mower and Munch, respectively, are but a few that you get to know through Ms. Johns’ vivid and entertaining descriptions of both animal and human antics.  This is great reading for a day at the lake or a week at the cottage.  While reading it, you may even be treated to some of songs of the birds in the book in your own urban or cottage neighbourhoods.  I read the book hearing robins play about in my own back yard. 

        Birds of feather is available at the Winnipeg Public Library in the following format:


Book:  639.978092 Johns 2005


        Wild and woolly:Tails from a woodland studio can also be found at the Winnipeg Public Library. Although I have not yet read this book, I feel comfortable in recommending it:


Book: 819.85403 Johns



        Alan Bradley, another Canadian writer whom I have greatly enjoyed reading, provides a series of mysteries lived through the life of an 11 year old English girl named Flavia de Luce.  Taking place during the 1950’s, Flavia stumbles upon mysterious events in her local village and using her not so childlike smarts, gets the better of several not so kind hearted individuals.  With titles such as A Red herring without mustard, these books are sure to please those who can’t resist a grand who done it. 


        Several of Allan Bradley’s mystery novels can be found at the Winnipeg Public Library under the following:


Book:  Fiction Myst Bradley



        More than books: The History of the Winnipeg Public Library by Eve Dutton and Kathleen Williams tells not only the development of our beloved public library system, it also offers a telling of the development of the City of Winnipeg, through the establishment and growth of library system.  Where the main library and branches were established and how they expanded and were moved, based on the growth of the City itself is very interesting.  Unicity brought the current system together under one roof, so to speak and the rest is history.  Just think of the location of your local library to see this trend.  Branches are still moving today as witnessed by the location of the new Bill and Helen Norrie Library at 15 Poseidon Bay.


        A point stressed throughout the book is that Winnipeggers have always punched above their weight when it comes to reading.  William Library was opened on October 11, 1905 by Governor General Earl Grey, of Grey Cup fame and within five years boosted the second highest circulation number of all public libraries in Canada.


        A column entitled “What were we reading” at the end of each chapter is a fun item outlining what Winnipeggers were reading during the decade covered in the chapter- ie.  “In 1937, the Manitoba Free Press reported … Winnipeg book lovers, generally speaking, are avid readers at the present time of wild and wooly western yarns and detective mysteries”


        This book illustrates how the Public Library plays an important role in many aspects of our lives, offering quality reading to all residents, whatever their economic status, creating wonderful programming for all ages and provides physical spaces for groups to meet.  During the recent COVID pandemic, responding to the urgings of Winnipeggers, it found a way to keep the doors open and lend items by the thousands.  No doubt a great comfort for many during this difficult time.  To this day, one can access the COVID Rapid Response tests, again free of charge.  As the last line of this review, I would like to take a moment to thank all of the dedicated Winnipeg Public Library workers who, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and at some risk to themselves, continued to provide the outstanding services to ensure the magic of reading is available to all. 


        More than books is available at the Winnipeg Public Library in the following formats:


Book:  027.4712743 Dutton 2017


eBook: EPUB and HTML


        A fun summer activity might be to try your hand at origami.  Origami, originating in Japan after the invention of paper, is the art of paper folding, so named from the twinning of the two Japanese words ori (to fold) and gami (paper).  The original rules still dictate the vast majority of structures – only one sheet of paper can be used and no cutting is allowed.  Until recently, only 200 – 300 structures had been developed.  The past few decades have witnessed an explosion of structures – from the very basic to extremely complicated.  Universal codes have been developed to ensure anyone, anywhere, speaking any language can engage in the art, and it is an art form, of origami.  This ancient art form has recently become the study of scientists and mathematicians finding that designs include certain aspects of geometry and trigonometry, as well as number theory, coding theory and the study of binary numbers and linear algebra.  All way beyond me!  My greatest origami feat was to learn how to make a camera that clicked, which I taught to the children at the Cornish Library Storytime group decades ago.  So whether you are a rocket scientist or someone just enjoying a warm summer’s day, give it a try and see where it goes.


        The Winnipeg Public Library has many books on origami, a select few follow:


Origami Design Secrets: Mathematical methods for an Ancient Art by Robert J. Lang.  Note: Robert J. Lang is an American physicist who is also one of the foremost origami artists and theorists in the world.  His designs are very complex and I happened to see him on a show called “To Tell the Truth”, during which he told the audience that the largest origami structure he has created is thirty four feet long.  Origami design secrets is available at the Winnipeg Public Library in the following format:


Book: 736.982 LANG 2017


        The Winnipeg Public Library has many books about simpler origami designs, in English and French, for children and adults under the following:

Call number 736.982 – add a ‘J’ before the call number for children’s books.


And now for this month’s Yiddish proverb:


Az me fregt, blonzhet men nisht.

If one asks, one does not err.


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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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