Fun at Foster's blog

Summer Reading for Adults @ Foster

This coming Sunday, June 15, marks the beginning of the Summer Reading for Adults contest at E.P. Foster Library! Let us know what you’re reading this summer and you’ll be entered to win one of our exciting prizes.

All adults with a valid Ventura County Library card can enter once per week starting on June 15 by filling out our online entry form. The contest runs for six weeks, and at the end will be a grand prize drawing for all entrants. The big winner will receive an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite!

Call or visit the library for more information. Remember, summer reading isn’t just for kids; plan your own private getaway with a good book!

"Maleficent": The Original

With the live-action/3D Maleficent a success at the box-office (at least this week), I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the origin of the title character.

Most people probably know that the arch-villainess first appeared in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. The 1959 film was in production for most of the decade and ended up costing six million dollars, making it the most expensive animated feature up to that time.

Original 1959 Whitman "Story Hour" Sleeping Beauty

Disney had wanted this film to be his masterpiece, and to a certain degree, mostly visually, it is. In keeping with the epic trends of the ‘50s (Ben-Hur, et al.), Sleeping Beauty was shot in Technirama, one of the largest widescreen processes of the era, and with multi-track stereophonic sound.

Another innovation was having one artist oversee the entire look of the film. Eyvind Earle, an artist noted for his stylized renderings of California landscapes, was given free rein to style the film’s total look. But while the film looks fabulous, Disney was also involved with the development and opening of Disneyland (in 1955) and so had less time to contribute his usually-astute editing skills to the film’s story and characters.

However, one aspect of the film that was a unique success is the character of Maleficent, the wicked fairy whose curse motivates the entire story. Her character was visualized as a statuesque, even glamorous, blue-complected creation with a throaty voice and a rather sophisticated sense of irony. Her subtle evil is enhanced by a flowing black robe with touches of purple topped off with a formidable headdress of two prominent black horns (the latter a kind of premonition of her awesome transformation into a dragon at the film’s spectacular climax).

And as if more was needed, viewers of the period really knew they were getting a new kind of Disney villain when, during the dragon scene, she declaims “Now shall you deal with me, oh prince, and all the powers of HELL!”

However, some of the 1959 film’s character motivations remained a bit vague, so if you’re still wondering why, aside from being snubbed at the christening, such a dominating sorceress was ticked off enough to put a death curse on a newborn princess, I hear you can find out in detail in the new Maleficent (2014).

In the Ventura County Library collection the original animated Sleeping Beauty is available in a two-disc Platinum DVD set with lots of extra features. Eyvind Earle’s autobiography, Horizon Bound on a Bicycle (1990) is also available. Several editions of Christopher Finch’s The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdom (Abrams, 1973) provide a comprehensive overview of the Disney oeuvre. The well-known author/illustrator Bill Peet also worked on Sleeping Beauty’s story adaptation.


Ross Care

Daisy Duck as Maleficent, Main Street, Disneyland

David's Dish: Polentina alla Toscana

First off, I really connected with the title of this cookbook: One Good Dish, by David Tanis. It’s flattering for the author to dedicate a book to me! Getting serious now, One Good Dish is a heck of a cookbook, lots of tasty recipes and beautiful pictures.

Deciding on which dish to prepare was easy; the minute I saw the phrase “very traditional Tuscan soup," I knew what I would prepare this late spring evening: polentina alla toscana. I love how that sounds! Kale is a key ingredient in this soup, and as I recall one of our extremely informative and entertaining Book Appétit events did go into some depth on the virtues of kale. Another interesting ingredient is the gorgeous and aromatic fennel bulb. I have never prepared a dish with one before, but that will change. In addition to all of that I had just received a new soup pot; will the excitement ever end? The recipe called for half a pound of kale. I skimped a bit, knowing that kale will be shocking and new to a number of people in my household that will be consuming the soup. However, I didn’t skimp on the garlic; most of my passionate readers know where I stand on garlic, especially homegrown.

After I chopped, peeled, salted, and peppered I tossed everything into my new soup pot and let it boil and simmer. During the period of time in which the soup was simmering I made a rash decision to listen to an opera CD, checked out from the library of course. In all honesty I wasn’t wild about the opera; I guess it’s an acquired taste. I wholeheartedly hope that mentioning my underwhelming opera-listening experience doesn’t downgrade my perceived level of sophistication in my reader’s eyes. Anyway, confession over; I served the soup and it was magnificent!



***** David’s Dish

Check out One Good Dish at Foster Library, or put it on hold—we will send it to you. If there are any cookbooks in Foster Library’s collection that you would like me to try out, please leave the title on our Facebook page and I’ll get cooking!

Exploring the Channel Islands @ Foster

This coming Sunday, June 8, E.P. Foster Library will host a multimedia presentation by local photographer and author Tim Hauf.

Mr. Hauf has made hundreds of trips to Channel Islands National Park and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, capturing the wonders of the wilderness.

This presentation is free and open to the public, and begins at 4 p.m. in the Topping Room. Stop by to learn more about these amazing locations!

Bodie, California

Your Resident Photographer occasionally travels out of Ventura County to take photos in other parts of California. Recently, my sojourn led me to discover the old mining town of Bodie, a place that was once so lawless that the Reverend F.M. Warrington described it as “…a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion.” There is little evidence of that lifestyle today, but the relatively-intact community is in a state of “arrested decay.” Some of the homes look as though the residents just stepped away for a while. The yards are overgrown, there are rusting carcasses of vehicles left in place, and, in some cases, curtains are still hanging in the windows, albeit a little worse for wear. There are certainly enough artistically collapsed buildings to delight any photographer.

At one point, Bodie was in danger of becoming just another casualty of time and vandalism. However, Bodie is now part of the California State Park system and is officially designated as a State Historic Park. Park rangers live on the premises and make repairs, as necessary, using materials as close to the originals as possible. The road to Bodie is not for the faint-hearted as the last three miles of the road are unpaved, making for a very slow, very bumpy ride. Should you decide to brave the perils of the unpaved road, be prepared to bring your own food and water since there are no amenities in this ghost town.

If you would like to travel to Bodie, the Sierras, or explore California in general, Foster library can help you plan your expedition.


Resident Photographer Aleta A. Rodriguez

Olive Oil Tasting @ Foster

Next week, E.P. Foster Library will be hosting an olive oil tasting event in partnership with the Ojai Olive Oil Company!

The free event will include a presentation on the many uses of olive oil, cooking techniques, and the importance of buying local.

It all starts at 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 7, in the Topping Room. This event is open to the public, so stop on by. We’d love to see you there!

Novelties: “The Invention of Wings,” by Sue Monk Kidd

Historical fiction is a genre which must strive to find a balance between the parts of a story that are real and those that are added by the author to provide insight into our shared past. When writing about difficult or painful historical topics, authors can risk trivializing important events if they are not given the proper weight or placed in the right context. Slavery is one such topic, and this month’s featured works explore the ways in which various women in 19th century America were affected by the institution of slavery and by systematic oppression based on both race and gender in Southern society.

Inspired by real life historical figure Sarah Grimké, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings (2014) mixes fiction with fact to create a story that touches on themes of friendship, personhood, and freedom. The novel explores the relationship between Sarah, a daughter of a wealthy Southern plantation owner, and Hetty, a slave gifted to Sarah on her eleventh birthday. The reader sees Sarah struggle with the concept of owning another human being, becoming friends with Hetty (nicknamed “Handful”) but learning the harsh realities of all that slavery entails (Sarah is severely punished, for instance, for teaching Hetty to read). For her part, Hetty has to endure the full horror of human bondage, becoming separated from her family and tangled up in conspiracy and rebellion as she searches desperately for a path to freedom. By following the lives of Sarah and Hetty over the course of three decades, The Invention of Wings highlights the injustices surrounding slavery and the treatment of women in a way that diminishes neither and offers insight into what it means to value freedom.
Tracy Chevalier throws her own hat into the historical fiction ring with The Last Runaway (2013). Honor Bright is a young woman who leaves England in 1850 looking for a fresh start with her sister, Grace, and her future in-laws. Sadly, Grace dies en route to America, and Honor is left to build her new life as an outsider among strangers in a community that is both familiar and strikingly different. Living among the Quakers in Ohio, Honor is struck by the apparent hypocrisies and moral paradoxes that abound in a society that is built on moral fortitude but nonetheless recognizes the legitimacy of slavery as the law of the land. The novel is full of detail—including rich descriptions of everything from the period and setting to the practice of quilting—and deals with love and loss as Honor creates a place for herself and ultimately finds herself tested in her relationships with people on both sides of the slave trade. Her convictions lead her to get involved in helping fugitive slaves escape through the Underground Railroad, and to realize just how much strength it takes to flaunt the law when the law is itself unjust.
Shifting gears significantly, we have Valerie Martin’s Property (2003), which like The Invention of Wings deals with a relationship between two women, one free and one a slave, but which takes that relationship in an entirely different direction. Manon Gaudet lives with her husband, a man for whom she holds little respect and less love, on his sugar plantation. She is herself childless while he has two illegitimate children whom he has fathered with Sarah, a slave who was a wedding gift to Manon. Manon despises Sarah, in part because of the attentions she receives from Manon’s husband but much more so because Manon’s hatred of her husband and resentment for her own station in life leave her bitter and self-absorbed beyond the point of seeing Sarah as a fellow human being. Looking closely at the ways in which slavery warped the humanity of slave owners as well as the hopelessness it visited upon those like Sarah, Property refuses to sugarcoat the evils of the period and gives the reader a glimpse of how complicated the dynamics of oppression truly are.

The Invention of Wings and The Last Runaway are available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library, and Property can be requested from one of our other Ventura County Library branches. In addition, The Invention of Wings can be borrowed in eBook format through OverDrive. If you want to find more read-alikes, you can access NoveList Plus from our eLibrary’s Reading Suggestions section. If the book you are interested in is not currently on the shelf at your branch, you can always request that a copy be sent to the branch of your choice in person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.

Created by Ronald Martin.

Saturday Matinee @ Foster

Saturday, May 31, there will be a screening of two films at E.P. Foster Library for our Saturday Matinee!

Come by the Topping Room for an evening of adventure that will include a short Superman cartoon and a film featuring Sinbad the sailor. This event is free and open to the public.

The first film starts at 4 p.m. We hope to see you there!


It’s time to get your noir on! I just recently read Fatale by Ed Brubaker, a unique blend of old-style noir and creepy horror. It’s a tale of a unique dame, mysterious cults, and ritualistic murder. The story moves back and forth from the present day to the 1950s, and centers on a mysterious woman named Jo, an ageless beauty with the ability to drive men to obsession and who may have just sold her soul to the devil. Every man she meets desires her, and she uses it to her advantage.

This is only the first volume of the series, so there still remain many questions to be answered. How has this woman remained young after so many years? Did she make a deal with the devil? Why is a cult after her? Are they even really people or just demons in disguise? What is this power she has over men?

Like any good noir, the plot thickens. I won’t give anything away because I can’t. The book gives just enough to get you reading without revealing too much of the mystery. It will be interesting to see where the story goes and how everything ties together!

Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess

David's Dish: Fried Meatballs

The International Meat Book by Carole Lalli is a wonderful collection of sixty of the world’s favorite meat recipes. Choosing a recipe proved difficult for there are so many delicious dishes to pick from. Fortunately, I could not get the song “One Meatball” out of my head, and I had just finished reading Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; consequently, I chose to prepare the fried meatball dish.

Preparation of the meatballs seemed straightforward—breadcrumbs, eggs, ground beef, and spices—but it was not without problems. I didn’t have enough olive oil on hand, so canola oil was used as a substitute. I’m sure I’ll be scolded at our upcoming olive oil tasting event, but the Dish has got to do what the Dish has got to do. Another issue was not making the meatballs uniform in size; I had some very large, robust meatballs and some little, lumpy meatballs. That just won’t do!

But, even robust or little and lumpy, with some pasta and semi-homemade sauce the taste was superb. After I polished off the meatballs and pasta I did a rereading of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, then took a nap and dreamt I was in the wonderful tiny town of Chewandswallow. So, give the meatballs or any one of the terrific recipes in this cookbook a whirl!


*****David’s Dish


Check out the book at Foster Library, or put it on hold—we will send it to you.

If there are any cookbooks in Foster Library’s collection that you would like me to try out, please leave the title on our Facebook page and I’ll get cooking!

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