From Mongrel Media

Who knew that breakdancing has something in common with the rumble in West Side Story? Fact of the matter is, breakdancing got its start as rival gangs postured for authority, somewhat like those Jets and Sharks, but without the guns and knives. Rather than die a painful (but necessary) death with other ‘fads’ of the 1980’s, breakdancing simply crossed the pond and took a major hold in Europe. It made its way back to North America with the rise of hip-hop, but do not confuse it, if you please, with gangsta rap hype or the pseudo-b-boying of boy-bands - the b-boyers of today make those posers look like Mickey Mouse, influenced as it is by martial arts, gymnastics and the style of James Brown. Planet B-Boy follows 5 teams as they vie for the chance to represent their countries at the Battle of the Year, the world championship of breakdancing, which annually swells the population of the small town of Braunschweig, Germany by eight or ten thousand fans. Fans aside, this is not a high-perk championship, as we learn by following groups from the USA, South Korea, Japan, and France as they overcome obstacles (many of which are personal) to win their regional championships. In the first round each team is judged on their choice of music/theme/choreography, their synchronization, and their stage personas, and the top 4 ranked teams then ‘battle’ for the top three places. The French team emphasizes inclusion and style, and has the littlest member, “Lil Kev’, who cartwheels around the stage like a demon; the Japanese team is the most imaginative, the US team is arguable the best at battling, and the two South Korean teams – one of whom is defending their title - have the jaw-dropping power moves. The teams are not only thrilling to watch the stage, but they are inspirational behind the scenes too – through the power of breakdance two of the boys reconcile with their families, one overcomes racism and two of the teams fly in the face of political oppression. In this particular year, the winners for the Battle of the Year went on to perform for a national arts festival, as well as at the World Cup of Soccer, plus star in a dynamic commercial for national tourism – but you’ll have to watch the DVD to find out which nation that was. If you think you know how to dance, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Click here to find it in SPL's on-line catalogue.

By Stephen Thompson, CA, CFP, TEP

Tax season is quickly approaching, and in this economic climate those in small business ventures – entrepreneurs, mom-and-pop stores, small corporations etc. – are especially vulnerable. Stephen Thompson, a Certified Accountant with the firm Wilkinson & Company has put his specialist knowledge of small-business taxation into a well-organized guide to the murky world of Canadian tax rules, with the intent of showing how small business can reduce the taxes they pay. The table of contents alone reads like an FAQ for quick reference, although to get the most out of the book (and your taxes) it is recommended that the book is read from start to finish, since there may be savings tips along the way that you didn’t know could be applied to your business. The first chapter begins with the basics, like the types of expenses that can be deducted, then there is a chapter on accurate record keeping (essential in case the tax man revisits), a guide to incorporation, an entire chapter just on the GST, numerous chapters on saving, and he even provides information on what can happen after all the tax forms are submitted. I especially like the easy, (mostly) jargon-free language he uses, the side-bar “Tax Beater” short tips and its quick reference index in the back, which is very handy in avoiding turned-down pages or a mass of sticky-note bookmarks. Read this book early to avoid the tax-season rush. Click here to find it in SPL's on-line catalogue.

That Stripy Cat, by Norene Smiley

Oh, that stripy cat! What will become of him? Rescued and brought to Mrs. Cosy at the Hummingbird Animal Shelter, the little grey and white-striped cat is up for adoption … but with his rambunctious nature and silly tricks, he’s unlikely to be chosen by anyone. Sure enough, after hiding in drawers, climbing curtains, shrieking like a fire engine, and refusing to come out from under a couch, the little cat is consistently left behind. Every customer who enters the shelter leaves with a new pet that is calmer and more predictable than Stripy Cat. At the end of the day, Mrs. Cosy isn’t sure what to do with him… except to take him home and see what happens…
Readers won’t be able to resist this loveable little cat who appears to have adopted his owner before she has adopted him! That Stripy Cat is Nova Scotia author Norene Smiley’s first picture book. Paired with the illustrations of Ontario artist Tara Anderson, it’s definitely a winner!
** Recommended for ages 3 to 6 years of age. @ SPL: JP Smile
Find this item in the library catalogue.

Bad Dog, Marley! by John Grogan

Marley, the family’s new Labrador pup, didn’t mean to be bad! How was he to know that shoelaces, buttons and Mommy’s eyeglasses were not to eat, and that Daddy’s paycheck wasn’t something to chew – and that the delicious turkey fresh out of the oven wasn’t meant for him? How was he to know that he wasn’t to chase every squirrel within sight or steal underwear from neighbouring clotheslines? And he certainly didn’t have the slightest idea of the awful mess that would result from destroying every feather pillow in the house…
On the other hand, how was his new family to know that the irresistible tiny, squiggly, yellow furball, which came home with Daddy one day, would quickly grow into a large, floppy, but good-hearted dog that would leave a trail of canine chaos everywhere he went?
Just when the family wondered if they should find another home for Marley, something happened to convince them that Marley wasn’t a “bad” dog after all! ­­­ ­­­­
Bad Dog, Marley! was inspired by John Grogan’s best-seller, Marley & Me (also available at the Stratford Public Library). Beautifully illustrated, this is an engaging picture book for young children.
** Recommended for ages 3 to 6 years of age. @ SPL: JP Groga

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Published in the Stratford Gazette on January 16, 2009

By Nicholas Nigro

I wish there were not a demand for books like these, but thank goodness the publishing world is responding to the current economic reality. Released this month is this very optimistic approach to unemployment, No Job? No Prob! Nicholas Nigro’s philosophy is that unemployment does not have to mean a reduction in the quality of life. He looks at joblessness as a series of opportunities to reorganize one’s mind and life’s direction, create new networks, have fun in unconventional (and virtually free) ways, as well as making a bit of money to help tide things over. The atmosphere of the book is upbeat, positive and anti-doom-and-gloom; a hard but necessary thing to achieve for those of us who feel that job loss is akin to a shipwreck. (This is aided by numerous “Unemployment Benefit facts” sprinkled throughout the book, like “you can get up bright and early to watch the sun rise… and then go back to bed.”) Not all fun and games, each chapter also has a series of exercises to help you get through this stressful time – like focusing one’s goals, choosing where to trim one’s budget, streamlining the job search so it doesn’t consume you, plus a whole chapter of tips for avoiding stress, boredom and depression. Although the book is American in its focus, it only takes a little imagination (and maybe the help of your friendly neighbourhood librarians) to find local equivalents of its suggestions. This book is for anyone who is currently unemployed or facing job loss.

Click here to find it in our on-line catalogue and reserve a copy.

Dawn French is a household name in Britain and to those who watch BBC Canada. She played the Anglican minister Geraldine in The Vicar of Dibley for 10 years, which is tuppence compared to how long she’s been in the comedy biz with her buddy Jennifer Saunders (she of Absolutely Fabulous fame, and to whom the ‘Fatty’ of the title refers - who is anything but). Younger audiences may know Ms. French from her cameo as “the fat lady portrait” in the third Harry Potter film, and lately she has been seen in the series’ Jam & Jerusalem and Lark Rise to Candleford. In this most unusual memoir, however, she writes very little very about her own stardom, although plenty of pictures show just how broad her career has been. Still, she keeps the name-dropping at a tantalizing minimum, and instead focuses on the people in her life who have influenced and inspired her along the way. Each chapter is actually a letter to one of those people – her parents, Fatty, various friends met along the way, past crushes, her B.F. (best friend, whose name is not revealed), her husband and daughter – and each letter recalls hilarious anecdotes, cringe-worthy moments, and even imaginary fantasies (i.e. the kiss with George Clooney - not so imaginary, but the after-affect was). A perpetually overweight RAF-brat who moved around lot and developed her sense of humour to make friends and not alienate people, her seemingly privileged life has not been tragedy-free by a long-shot. However, she avoids being maudlin by introducing these episodes in a very gentle way, chapters before she gets into the nitty-gritty of the circumstances. More like a peek into someone’s diary, Dear Fatty is likely to leave one tearful as much from laughing at Dawn French’s ebullient self as from the tender revelations of her life. It is the best memoir I have read in a very long time.
Click here to reserve your copy of her memoir, or here to watch her in action on Youtube.
In the Stratford Gazette on January 9, 2009

Dino-Hockey, by Lisa Wheeler

Could dinosaurs skate? Did they play hockey? Well … perhaps they did!
In this imaginative hockey story, dinosaurs are indeed playing hockey. The fearsome meat-eating dinosaurs have challenged the plant-eating dinos to a match!
The opening face-off, with T-Rex and Triceratops battling for the puck, has fans roaring in the stands, and after that, the hockey action doesn’t stop for a minute.
Dino-Hockey may even have the edge on NHL hockey in this particular game, “unrivalled in history”, with its fascinating cast of dinosaur hockey players.

Told in rhyme, this clever story combines a child’s love of hockey, if dinosaurs, and of an entertaining, well-written story.
** Recommended for ages 4 to 8 years. @ SPL: JP Wheel
Find this item in the library catalogue
In the Stratford Gazette on January 9, 2009.

Wendel and the Great One, by Mike Leonetti

David has just been chosen as captain of his hockey team! But wait – what exactly will this mean? What responsibilities will he have as team captain?
David does some research, reading about such past NHL captains as Wendel Clark (the Toronto Maple Leafs) and Wayne Gretzky (the Los Angeles Kings). With the help of his dad, he also checks out other notable Canadians who have been leaders in some way: Terry Fox, Roberta Bondar, Rick Hansen, various Canadian prime ministers, and others. He discovers much about leadership – that it involves setting a good example in hard work and perseverance, promoting good morale among team members, and encouraging and supporting the other players. Soon there is an occasion when David is able to apply his knowledge, by helping a team member who faces a language barrier.
Canadian author Mike Leonetti, who has written a number of hockey stories for children, has created an inspiring story in Wendel and the Great One – one which is sure to be popular during this season of hockey. Illustrated by Greg Banning, it is also available in French (Wendel Clark et le Grand Gretzky) at the Stratford Public Library.
** Recommended for ages 6 to 10 years. @ SPL: JP Leone
Find this item in the library catalogue.
In the Stratford Gazette on January 9, 2009

It is the New Year, but we still have the same old economic crisis, the same old global warming, and maybe the same old tendency toward poor fitness habits. If only there was a way to tackle all three problems at once… But wait, there is! Check out The Human-Powered Home, and learn how to reduce your hydro bills, reduce your carbon footprint, and reduce your waistline all in one go. Through designs for pedal and pump power we can power any number of household appliances, from blenders to washing machines (remember the one on Gilligan’s Island?), even pedal-powered snowplows (wait till you see that one) and bike-framed cultivators for your garden. When considering implementing these plans in your own home, it may be helpful to have a friend or family member who is an engineer at heart, as the schematics are not as detailed as the instructions, but the author – who lives in her own human-powered home – also provides information on commercially available parts and contraptions. There are photos from all over the world illustrating the various uses for pedal and pump power, including some innovative entrepreneurs who use them in their various businesses. These machines are designed for energy efficiency, not time efficiency, of course, and your grandparents may recognize some of them from days gone by (the hand-cranked ice-cream maker is just one example), but sometimes the old things really are best for the economy, earth and your own health. This book is recommended by Mother Earth News.

In the Stratford Gazette on January 2, 2009

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