Return to the Wizarding World!

November 2, 2016


Have you heard? Audiences are returning to J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World with the release of the new movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on November 18th! With an original screenplay written by Rowling herself, the film follows magizoologist Newt Scamander, author of the famed textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” used by Harry and his friends at Hogwarts. But before Newt wrote his book, he was just a lost wizard, kicked out of Hogwarts and wandering the streets of New York City with a suitcase full of magical creatures. A suitcase that opens…and lets the beasts loose on New York! The film looks to be a more “grown-up” version of the magical world we know, rife with political struggles between witches and Muggles in the days of prohibition.

We are so excited to return to the magic, and at Fountaindale, we are celebrating! On November 12th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Fountaindale will be converting to 1920s Wizarding NYC! Join us for some flapper-themed magical fun, including a photo booth, wizard treats, real-life beasts, scavenger hunts, and more! Here’s the full schedule:

All Day

  • Fantastic Beasts 1920s Street Photo Area
  • Origami and coloring sheets

10:00 a.m.– Noon

  • Fantastic Beasts Animal Experience—Meet amazing creatures of all shapes and sizes!

10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

  • Make Your Own Wand Craft
    • Create magical wand creations with washi tape!
  • MACUSA Wand Registration
  • Creature Maze
  • Wizard Emporium
  • Find the Fantastic Beasts Creature Scavenger Hunt Challenge

11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

  • Experimental Creatures Lab—Bristle Bots

1:00–2:00 p.m.

  • Center Stage Players present Your Favorite Scenes from Harry Potter

2:00–4:00 p.m.

  • Studio 300’s Have You Seen This Wizard Poster Shoot
    • Come in for an interactive photo inspired by the wizarding world!
  • Make Your Own Wand Craft
  • MACUSA Wand Registration
  • Creature Maze
  • Wizard Emporium
  • Find the Fantastic Beasts Creature Scavenger Hunt Challenge

…and Brooks Café has a special wizard menu of Butterbeer, Pick-Me-Up Potions, Chocolate Frogs, and more!

The Friends of Fountaindale Book Cellar will be open 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

This is an all-ages, no-registration event – so stop by to discover the magic!

Here are some photos of what we’ve been working on to get prepared:

Great Reads Book Club – September’s Book

September 30, 2016

omw0510Old Man’s War by John Scalzi was a step outside of what the Great Reads Book Club usually reads. Most people in our discussion group thought the book was “clever, engaging and filled with interesting concepts.” The book explores what happens when a 75-year old man decides to transfer his consciousness into a genetically enhanced, 25 year-old body and joins the Colonial Defense Force in a war effort against alien species. And, of course, what happens is not pretty.

Why would our protagonist John Perry decide to join a war that is almost certainly going to kill him? Well, the love of his life Kathy passes away and, with an aged body, there is just not much left for John to live for on Earth anymore. After visiting his deceased wife’s grave, John’s leaves the planet and his adventure begins. Old Man’s War is packed with action, cool scientific concepts and different alien species.

There was one important problem with Old Man’s War. The majority of characters in the book are old people, and yet all of them, without exception, talk and act like teenagers. In short – this is a missed opportunity. Old people are interesting because they have years and years of experience, wisdom, memories and knowledge under their belt. Unfortunately, these characteristics are only mentioned passingly and don’t play a meaningful part in the story. Additionally, the story’s premise was so promising: “75 year old man transfers his consciousness into a genetically enhanced, 25 year-old body and joins the army.” Ideas on ethics and philosophy could have been explored in greater detail here. Instead, we have a military space shooter that’s primarily interested in entertaining the reader, not making her think.

When it’s all said and done, Old Man’s War is a decent book. It’s entertaining and, at times, very funny. If you enjoy fast-paced narrative and cool action scenes – read this book immediately. However, if you like reading science fiction and think about ethical themes and philosophy, I would not recommend reading this book. Check out The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu instead.

by Ilya Kabirov

Sue Monk Kidd Inspires Literary Vacation

August 13, 2016

s The Invention of Wings sparked a multi-generational adventure to Charleston, South Carolina.

After reading The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd I became obsessed with learning as much as I could about the sisters Grimke.  Although the book was historical fiction, Sarah and Angelina Grimke are more than just characters in a book, they were true abolitionists and suffragettes, and not surprising were daughters of true American patriots.  Their father was once jailed in Charleston by the British and the girls eventually had to leave Charleston in fear for their lives, never to return for the sake of their family.   After finishing my research I felt the need to visit Charleston and see some of the places that were so vividly described in the book.  Having also read the books, I invited two of my Aunts and one of my Daughters to go along with me on this pilgrimage.  Before our trip I contacted Carol Ezell-Gilson, part of the Charleston Preservation Society, who, along with a partner, leads the Original Grimke Sisters Tours.  We were not disappointed. Carol led us through Charleston, bringing us to the home that Sarah lived as a young girl, the home they moved to before Angelina was born, by the (most likely) home of Denmark Vecey, a free black carpenter and minister who led the opposition of Slavery in Charleston in 1822 and many other relevant landmarks.  She helped us discern the differences of fact and fiction in the book and helped us understand the city during the early 1800’s in such a special way. a

The book, written in two voices, the first being Sarah Grimke and the second being Hattie (Handful), her slave, gives life and breath to what it might feel like to live in the South during a turbulent time when people were so divided about right and wrong.  Having three generations of women following a path forged by the strength of two sisters was a powerful experience, building a bond I will cherish forever.


By Kathy Bennett
Children’s Services Associate

Great Reads Book Club – June’s Book

June 24, 2016


21853621In a video book trailer for The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah called it her personal favorite out of the books she had written. A veteran of romance genre, Hannah captivated her old readers and gained many new fans in the historical fiction genre after The Nightingale’s publication. The novel won many prestigious awards, such as the Goodreads Choice Award in 2015 and Library Journal’s Best Historical Fiction Award, but even more importantly, Kristin Hannah’s take on the Nazi-occupied France enthralled everyone in the Great Reads Book Club.

Hannah mentioned in one of her interviews that the idea for The Nightingale came to her several years ago while she was in a process of doing research for her other book, Winter Garden, which was set in Russia during World War II. While reading women’s war stories and diaries, Hannah came across the true story of a 19-year-old Belgian woman who created an escape route out of Nazi-occupied France. Her name was Andrée De Jongh and her story inspired The Nightingale.

When the Wehrmacht troops entered and occupied France in 1940, they broke the spirit of the French people with scare tactics, malnourishment, and at times, outright savagery. Albeit their cruel actions weakened the French population both physically and mentally, many fought back by joining together in what became known as the French Resistance. Our protagonists, sisters Isabelle and Vianne, fought back against the Nazi occupation in their own ways. The courage and sacrifice these sisters displayed in the novel honors the real French men and women, who experienced tremendous suffering during that time period.

My favorite aspect of The Nightingale was the gradual transformation of Isabelle and Vianne. In the beginning of the novel, we find out that they were driven apart by unhealed childhood wounds and divergent personalities. Isabelle is rebellious and not afraid to express her true feelings, even in the face of certain harm and danger. Vianne’s main source of anxiety is the safety of her daughter in the face of German occupation and, therefore, she tries to follow the rules. The Great War transforms the sisters and, while driving them apart initially, ultimately brings them closer together. If you enjoy courageous, dynamic, three-dimensional characters and seeing what actions they would take when facing tremendous ordeals, The Nightingale is the book for you. Hannah writes in a compelling and emotionally-moving way and it’s truly hard to put this one down.

Ilya Kabirov

Great Reads Book Club – May’s Book

May 31, 2016


The term “Easy Read” is subjective to the individual reader. What one reader might define as an “easy read”, another might mark as a “hard read”. It was agreed by everyone in the Great Reads Book Club that What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman was not an easy read. Despite the fact that Wiseman possesses an undisputed talent for narrating a good story, the topic under examination is not an easy one.

Wiseman wanted to tell a story of what happens to different people admitted to mental institutions. She accomplished this through two storylines. The first is of Izzy Stone, who grew up without a mother because she was in prison for shooting Izzy’s father ten years prior. Traveling from one foster home to another, Izzy was forced to become self-reliant from her early years. Now, Izzy is seventeen and her new foster parents have asked for Izzy’s help in cataloguing abandoned belongings in a local, deserted mental asylum. While working, Izzy discovers Clara Cartwright’s personal journal, which gives Izzy a new purpose in life.

The second plot line tells us a story of Clara Cartwright’s appalling experiences in a mental asylum. Clara was 18 in 1929, when her conservative father arranged a marriage for Clara with a man she did not love. Clara rejects the proposal and her furious parent sends her to a public asylum, in order to convince Clara to change her mind. Clara’s experiences in the asylum are truly awful and some readers might find those parts hard to read. One of the biggest points that sparked up an excellent conversation in the book club was doctor’s authority over patient’s body. Is it ok for a doctor to make any sort of changes to his patient’s body just because he is considered to be a professional or can a patient reject doctor’s orders?

What She Left Behind can be considered a historical novel, for a large portion of the story is unveiled in the past through the eyes of Clara Cartwright. However, the novel can appeal to readers of fiction set in present times. There is a plethora of topics in the book, relevant to today’s world and its problems, like abusive relationships, motherly interference in child’s growth, bullying, women’s rights, professional authority, and birth control. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys leisurely-paced, character-driven, thought-provoking literary fiction and schemes of parallel narratives.

Ilya Kabirov

Historical Non-Fiction

November 18, 2015

What’s New in Historical Non-Fiction?

November is going to be astounding in the field of historical non-fiction. Historians like  Robert Service, Ian Kershaw, along with a classicist Mary Beard, are considered to be the leading experts in their fields and they are all releasing a book! And not just any book, each work might be considered an author’s magnum opus. Make sure not to miss these!

Mary Beard – SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

Publication Date: November 9, 2015


SPQR is an acronym of a Latin phrase, Senatus Populusque Romanus, which means ‘the Senate and the People of Rome’. In her SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, a professor of classics at the University of Cambridge, Mary Beard brings the reader an enthralling tale of Rome’s birth. Previously, Beard wrote extensively on the topics of the Western cultural heritage and her invaluable expertise in the field is cherished by her colleagues and her readership.

Robert Service – The End of the Cold War: 1985-1991

Publication Date: November 10, 2015


Robert Service is regarded with great respect in historical circles. Having published eleven other books prior to The End of Cold War, Service has been helping the reader to make sense of the complex Russian history since 1979. In his new book, Service explores the final six years of the Cold War period. Service possess a unique talent of presenting complex ideas in a simple, straightforward prose, which makes his books accessible to most adult readers. This one is high on my reading list!

Ian Kershaw – To Hell and Back: 1914-1949

Publication Date: November 17, 2015


If Robert Service is a master of Russian history, Ian Kershaw is a colossus of German historical narrative. He is widely considered to be the world’s leading expert in the studies of Adolf Hitler and the Thrid Reich. Long-awaited To Hell and Back: 1914-1949 is Kershaw’s first publication in the last four years, which recreates the most destructive and tragic period in European, and perhaps, the world’s history.

-Ilya K

Japanese Fiction

October 22, 2015

Five Magnificent Tales from the Land of the Rising Sun

that aren’t written by Haruki Murakami
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When it comes to historical and cultural features, there is no place like Japan. Concealed from the rest of the world, Japan developed a unique culture, which eventually clashed with Western ideas. However, Japan’s case is unique because they were able to implement new western ideas and technologies, while preserving traditional values and culture. Any inquisitive reader will find it enriching to inquire into the Japanese works of fiction and this carefully compiled list can be a good start.
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by Natsuo Karin
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In Kirino’s valiant depiction of the contemporary Japanese society, the main object of the author’s careful examination is an ordinary woman, facing inconceivable adversities. Much like the characters in Damian Szifron’s Wild Tales, Kirino’s protagonists are asked a tough question: “What do you do if something awful happens to you?” In the case of Out’s heroine Masako, the dilemma is how to get away with her abusive husband’s murder.

Natsuo Kirino’s themes: multiple narratives, female protagonist, loneliness, dark and fast-moving plots.

What would Haruki say: “Despite your best efforts, people are going to be hurt when it’s time for them to be hurt.” Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood.

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The Woman in the Dunes

by Kobo Abe

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“One day in August a man disappeared,” begins a deceptively simple, yet exceedingly symbolic tale. The prominent themes of angst, dread, despair and absurdity make Abe’s work one of the most important existential novels to ever come out from Japan.

Kobo Abe’s themes: allegories, existentialism, sand, and surrealism.

What would Haruki say: “No matter how far you travel, you can never get away from yourself.” Haruki Murakami, After the Quake.

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by Natsume Sōseki

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This list would not be complete without the main literary work by the celebrated Soseki. Rich in symbolism, the novel follows a friendship between a young college student and an elderly man he calls “Sensei”. There is no better introduction to modern Japanese literature than Kokoro.

Natsume Soseki’s themes: guilt, isolation, shame, and modernization of Japan.

What would Haruki say: “Even if we could turn back, we’d probably never end up where we started.” Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

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The Housekeeper and the Professor

by Yoko Ago

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He is a 64-year old professor, who can only retain new memories for 80 minutes and she is his housekeeper hired to take care of him. If you think that the premise sounds a lot like Adam Sandler’s 50 First Dates, you’re right. Except this one might make you contemplate about the plot a little more than the movie.

Yoko Ogawa’s themes: memory loss, math, and living in the present.

What would Haruki say: “No matter how much suffering you went through, you never wanted to let go of those memories.” Haruki Murakami

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The Remains of the Day

by Kazuo Ishiguro

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This quiet character study probably does not belong on this list because, technically, Ishiguro is British and not Japanese. However, the man was born and spent the first 5 years of his life in the coastal town of Nagasaki, Japan and the reader can certainly feel that influence in his writing. The book was awarded the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989. That, along with a fact that Remains of the Day is one of my favorite books of all time, grants Ishiguro the final spot on my list.

Kazuo Ishiguro’s themes: dignity, politics, love, and memory.

What would Haruki say: “Life is not like water. Things in life don’t necessarily flow over the shortest possible route.” Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

-Ilya K