Let’s Get Ready to Roleplay!!!

So, what is roleplaying all about? We have all found ourselves in some sort of roleplay scenario at some point in our lives, whether it’s acting out a customer interaction at work with your coworkers, pretending to be in a certain role while playing house as a kid, or while playing roleplaying games of the tabletop or videogame variety. Maybe you’re familiar with tabletop roleplaying games already, but for those who are not aware, it’s a game of imagination and calculation where a gamemaster, the storyteller/referee/moderator, describes the setting and story as it unfolds while considering each of the players’ characters and how they are interacting with the world around them. The most famous of these is D&D, or Dungeons & Dragons. It’s currently on D&D 5th Edition commonly referred to simply as 5E. Thanks to the popularity of the Netflix show, Stranger Things, there has been a resurgence of interest in the genre. And, if you think D&D is for the nerds, I dare you to say that to the face of Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson or Vin Diesel. You could also incur the witty wrath of the likes of Anderson Cooper, Stephen Colbert, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt who have all credited D&D with being an influential part of their lives. If you’ve never played a tabletop roleplaying game or if you’re a nostalgic veteran looking to get back into it, here are some resources to get you started.

Though it’s referred to as a “tabletop” roleplaying game, you are not limited to sitting at a table with close friends to play. The onset of technology since the days of pen & paper roleplaying, a synonymous name for the genre, has made it possible to use smart devices and computers to replace the need for the pens, paper, and even dice. That means a group can sit around a campfire with their phones or tablets in hand and still participate. You can also connect with long-distance friends and family, or even some random people, and play a game online. Here’s how…

  • Roll20 – Roll20 is arguably the most popular web-based resource for tabletop roleplaying. It contains all of the tools you need to play including GM resources, maps, character sheets, dice rolling, and more. It also has content for hundreds, yes hundreds, of different roleplay systems, including the ever-popular D&D 5E. There are pay-to-use features but offers plenty of free content to appease the average player.
  • Astral – A recent competitor to Roll20, Astral offers similar web-based features with a little more polish and pizazz, but lacks in the content variety. Like Roll20, it hides some of its content behind a paywall but functions well in its free state.
  • D&D Beyond – If you’re planning on doing 5E specifically, you can use D&D Beyond to maintain your character sheets. It has a wonderful interface with automated features making the maintenance of your character a little less rigorous.
  • Discord – Discord is a popular chat and VoIP software that many gamers use to communicate. It offers live vocal interaction for communication while playing as well as chat interfaces for sharing information that is retained indefinitely.
  • Zoom – If COVID brought us anything great, it would be the popularity of video conferencing software like Zoom. Zoom may be used to make the interactions in tabletop roleplaying more personable or to share that amazing costume you assembled for your character. 
  • DriveThru RPG – An incredible catalog of content for many tabletop roleplaying systems, DriveThru RPG offers cost-effective content, frequent sales, and even some free material for anyone looking to delve into the world of tabletop roleplay.
  • RPG Table Finder – If you’re looking for people to play with, check out RPG Table Finder. It’s a website dedicated to posting as either players or GMs who are looking to play games.
  • RPG Geek – RPG Geek is an informative website on tabletop roleplaying games that connects a community of players and GMs to many resources and provides forums for communication and even a market for buying, selling, and trading tabletop roleplaying resources.

Though we have a limited selection on the MORE catalog, there are some libraries that are carrying various books for a few popular tabletop roleplaying systems including D&D 5E, Pathfinder, and various RPG Kits from the Cadott Community Library. For GMs who are looking for some help, Table Fables books are a great resource that offers various randomization tables for just about anything you could think of for a fantasy-themed roleplaying system. If you want to take a gander at the general roleplaying content in the MORE catalog, you should try the call number 793.93. There are a few other materials included such as Minecraft, but most of the books are tabletop roleplaying related.

Banner reads Graphic Novels in Libraries Month

Graphic Novels in Libraries Month

This July marks Booklist’s third annual “Graphic Novels in Libraries Month,” and we want you to join us in celebrating! Whether it is your very first time reading a graphic novel, or you know more about the genre than library staff, here are a few new staff picks from our collection of graphic novels you are sure to enjoy:

 

This graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s 1993 sci-fi novel Parable of the Sower was adapted by the award-winning team of Damian Duffy and John Jennings. The year is 2024 and the country is suffering from massive climate disasters, economic and social inequalities, and corporate greed. Amidst the chaos, a preacher’s daughter living in a gated community in Los Angeles is faced with a series of horrors that force her into a fight for survival.

 

Rebecca Burgess’ 2020 memoir about growing up asexual was selected as a 2020 LGBTQIA+ Graphic Novel for Young Readers by Publishers Weekly. Growing up, Rebecca just assumes that sex is something Cover art for How to be ACEthey will “grow into,” but as they continue to be baffled by the sex obsessed teenagers around them, they learn to understand and embrace their own asexuality. Burgess’ charming and funny insights into their asexuality and asexual relationships empowers readers to embrace their own identities. “Like every other sexuality, asexuality is just a simple, shorthand label to help someone express their much more individual and unique experience!”

 

Cover art for graphic novel FangsLooking for a little supernatural romance involving a 300-year-old vampire and a werewolf? Filled with humor and puns and really fun illustrations, Sarah Andersen’s graphic novel Fangs is a Too Good to Miss title that might be just your blood type. (ha ha ha)

 

Rounding out my list of recent graphic novel recommendations is I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Mannie Murphy. What starts as a reminiscence about the author’s infatuation with River Phoenix Cover art for I Never Promised You a Rose Gardenmorphs into a history of white supremacy in the Pacific Northwest. Murphy deftly weaves alternative culture icons, including William S. Burroughs, Keanu Reeves, Phoenix, and Gus Van Sant, with local history about the Whitman Massacre of 1847, the Ku Klux Klan’s involvement in Portland’s city planning, and the “Rose City” street kids who made their way onto the screen in some of Van Sant’s films.

 

World map on two hands with doves flying into a blue sky with fluffy white clouds

Be the change you wish to see in the world

It’s time for a check in. It is a wonderful time for us to remind ourselves that we are all on a journey to better understanding ourselves and others. This is the journey we are all on, living and learning throughout life. I believe that the library can be an integral part of this journey for each and every person, here is why.

This last weekend I was reflecting on the wonderful opportunity to observe Juneteenth. Juneteenth is meant to be a day of jubilation, a day to celebrate significant turning point for the rights of people who are racially black in the United States. It is also meant to be a day to honor and remember those who have been lost or had their lives disrupted by enslavement. Lastly, it is a day for us to ignite action in individuals to make changes. Action, it is a word of intention, of movement, and change. Yes, there has been so many things that have progressed, but there is still a long ways to go and you can be a part of it.

Today I encourage you to take time to set intentions to first seek to understand before seeking to be understood. This may seem simple, but it takes putting ourselves aside for a moment to better hear and understand others and that can be a really hard skill. We can do this by being intentional about our listening, and focusing not on our own thoughts or responses while we take time to listen to others.

Next, I encourage you to consider that individuals are experts in their own lives. How do we best learn from these experts? By listening, reading, and talking to others about their stories. Pick up a book from an author that is of a different background than yourself, go someplace new that might challenge you to meet new people, or have a conversation with a friend about something new you learned. We can take steps regularly to expose ourselves to new ideas and new people. Here are some programs through the library that might help you find something to enhance your journey.

One Book, One Community https://www.ecpubliclibrary.info/onebook/

Tough Topics Book Club https://www.ecpubliclibrary.info/toughtopics

Anti-Racism Resources and Book Lists https://www.ecpubliclibrary.info/antiracism/tools/2021

Diversify Your Reading Challenge https://www.ecpubliclibrary.info/challenge/

Today I encourage you to take a moment and set intentions. Take a moment and consider one step that you can take to move forward in your journey. Right now I am striving to be a better listener and learner about other’s stories, and how I can be a part of the change. Will you join me?

Rosa Parks at the front of a classroom speaking to students

Black History Reads

While February and Black History Month comes to end this week, it’s never too late to dive into the rich literature about many important African Americans who have helped shape our nation. Officially being recognized in the United States in 1976 by President Gerald Ford, Black History Month is a time to celebrate the endless contributions in politics, education, entertainment, etc. by African Americans.

For the Chippewa Valley, one of our proudest achievements is having the legendary Hank Aaron play in Eau Claire. Assigned to the team in 1952, Aaron played for the Eau Claire Bears before eventually moving up to the major leagues to play for the Milwaukee Braves. He would go on to break the long-standing home run record by Babe Ruth, which he would then hold for another 33 years. Our library has some great reads about Hank Aaron, you can check out A Summer Up North or a whole host of others.

For more Black History Month reads, check out these links for suggestions:

Black History Month: A reading list of books by Black UCLA faculty

Ten Books to Read during Black History Month

Black History Month Reads

2021 Black History Month

14 books to read during Black History Month

Several Christmas movies on a book shelf with the movie, Elf, faced out.

Favorite Christmas Movies

I admit it! I love movies! My wife and I miss going to an actual movie theater, but what can you do?

When it comes to Christmas movies, I certainly do have my favorites. However, to me, a Christmas movie has to do with the actual holiday, and the wonderful ideas of family, friendship, love, giving, hope, and peace on earth. For Christians, the birth of Jesus is a significant event.

Searching for the most popular Christmas movies, there are several that come up that are not really about the Christmas Holiday, but only take place during the season. Home Alone was a riot with Macaulay Culkin, Bruce Willis was my hero in Die Hard, and Ben Affleck wearing a Santa outfit at the end of Reindeer Game was a hoot. But each of these was more about the story and characters, than about Christmas.

There are many classic Holiday movies out that I have truly enjoyed over the years. Some of these are It’s a Wonderful Life, The Polar Express, White Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Holiday Inn, Miracle on 34th Street, plus several Grinch productions, with Jim Carrey as my winner. Also, Scrooge has had many different lead actors, but I think Patrick Stewart portrayed Ebenezer the best in the 1999 Christmas Carol production.

Some newer comedic movies I also enjoyed were Christmas with the Kranks, Four Christmases, and The Christmas Chronicles on Netflix.

Here are my five favorites:

5. The Holiday, with Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black. Wonderful story about four lonely and flawed people that meet over the Holidays after the two women in the story swap houses from Los Angeles and small-town England.

4. A Christmas Story. Who has not seen Ralphie almost shoot his eye out with his new Red Rider BB gun? Or stuck their tongue to a flagpole on a cold winter day? How many of you have a leg lamp as a Christmas ornament?

3. Elf. You may have to be a Will Ferrell fan, but Buddy is just so cute, loveable, and innocent that you just have to pull for him. Zooey Deschanel is simply adorable as Buddy’s friend, and Ed Asner looks and sounds, well, just like Santa!

2. The Santa Clause, starring Tim Allen. He plays an ordinary man, Scott Calvin (same initials as Santa Claus), who accidentally causes Santa to fall off his roof on Christmas Eve. Scott then must assume the role of Santa, and delivers presents around the world with his son Charlie, played superbly by Eric Lloyd. The drastic transformations Scott goes through the next year, such as weight gain and a beard, are magic special effects. It is a funny and heartwarming story about believing not only in Santa but family as well.

And #1 on my list? Love Actually. This sexy romantic comedy starts five weeks before Christmas, delving into the different aspects of love from a variety of individuals, many are shown to be interlinked at the end. Bill Nighy as an aging rock star is hilarious, Hugh Grant as a serious, love-struck Prime Minister, and Liam Neeson’s son Sam, played by Thomas Sangster, flawlessly plays a tween boy who falls in love with a classmate. With several other intertwining stories and characters, it is a must-see. There are several other well-played parts of the story by Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, and Rowan Atkinson. Like life itself, not all the stories have happy endings.

Love Actually movie posterAs always, the library has many of these available to check out. With our new hold pickup service, library staff want to help all of us get past what has been a challenging 2020 for many people. Our only goal is to help you get the movies, books, and music you love into your hands.

The Reference Team is here to help 10-5, Monday-Friday. Please give us a call at 715-839-5004, send an email to librarian@eauclaire.lib.wi.us, or contact us via our new chat window.

Merry Christmas, and Blessed New Year to all!

Holiday Nostalgia

With the turning of the calendar over to December, a trip to the grocery store and a certain Mariah Carey song reminds you of the fast approaching holidays. Although it can be hectic, it is one of my favorite times of the year. The music, the smells, the lights, they all sort of bring back a magic nostalgia I don’t get any other time of the year.

Easily one of the biggest and instant hits of nostalgia is felt whenever my favorite Christmas album, “A Charlie Brown Christmas“, comes on. I’m instantly whisked away to my childhood home helping my mom make Caramel Crispix Mix and listening to those Vince Guaraldi tunes on the CD player in the kitchen. I was also the official taste tester and my approval was very necessary to ensure only quality product was delivered. Or maybe I just couldn’t resist snacking.

A container of Cool Whip, on the other hand, brings a more cautionary nostalgia during this time of year. Because, just like Thanos, someone getting a finger covered in whipped cream to the face was always inevitable during dessert.

If you are seeking some more tunes, holiday recipes to tap into that magical feeling, or a film to put you in the mood, please check out this curated list of titles available in the MORE catalog. May you find some comfort and joy this holiday season.

Ode to an October Classic: The Pumpkin Smasher

Long, long ago, back in the October days of my youth, visits to my grade school library meant finding a secluded corner to hunker down with a stack of Halloween picture books and diving into illustrations of amazing autumn days and murky, monster-filled nights. I can’t really remember most of the book titles, just page after page of spooktacular images.

Except one. I do remember one book: The Pumpkin Smasher.

I count circling The Pumpkin Smasher on my Scholastic book order form as one of the very best decisions of my entire life. This book isn’t just my favorite Halloween book, it’s one of my favorite books, period.

The artwork? Fabulous. Smasher was written and illustrated by mixed media printmaker and handmade paper artist Anita Benarde, and published in 1972. I don’t know anything about Anita, but I’m confident history will recognize her as…just really awesome. The entire book is colored in only black and orange, with gorgeous illustrations of a small town called Cranberry.

Every year just before Halloween, someone (or something) appears in the dead of night to smash every pumpkin in Cranberry. The town almost cancels Halloween until some troublemaking twins take matters into their own hands.

© Anita Benarde

As an adult, you’ll get a strong ’60s or ’70s vibe from the book, which creates a much richer tone, as if the story, decades later, may have become a kind of urban legend.

Looking over the illustrations, I quickly realize how this book pretty much defined autumn and Halloween for me—it hardwired certain images into my head which became the gold standard for how this time of year is supposed to look. A creaky old wooden wagon stuffed with pumpkins and hay. Kids in warm coats climbing scraggly trees to hang up ghosts. A giant orange moon looming over a black town square.

Years ago, I tried to find my old copy of the book within the dusty boxes of childhood junk my parents keep in their basement. But it was gone. And it was also out of print. You could find used copies online, but they were pretty pricey. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see The Pumpkin Smasher again.

Until 2013. Because in the summer of 2013 the book was reissued (to much rejoicing), making it way more affordable (to much rejoicing). That year, my family surprised me with our very own copy (to much, much rejoicing).

So I beg you—go find a copy and make your autumn season that much better.


P.S. Our very own MORE catalog has a copy. (Thanks, Chetek!) There used to be more in circulation, including a handful of copies here in Eau Claire’s collection, but the quality of the reissue is unfortunately kind of flimsy, and it looks like most are gone.


 

Latinx at the Library

During this month and throughout the year, library staff are working to improve access and develop more inclusive and equitable collections. National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 through October 15 and I wanted to encourage folks to check out a book from one of the library’s Latinx booklists or a music title from the Latinx music list listed below.

Libraries need diversity in books and other library materials because they can expose us to the world and to people who are different from us. The Latinx lists bring together recent book titles concerning a Latinx experience from history, heritage, and accomplishments of Hispanic and Latino Americans of past and present. These selections are by or about the people, and shine a light on the rich cultural contributions we see in our modern lives. From memoirs to cooking to popular fiction, I sincerely hope you enjoy the range of topics and formats!

Books Worth Re-Reading

Have you found yourself in a reading slump? If yes, you are not alone. When the quarantine first began, I initially thought that I would get so much reading accomplished. I was looking forward to all the books I was going to finish. But guess what? It didn’t happen. After talking to a co-worker about my reading slump, she let me in on a secret. I wasn’t alone. Finding the right book can be comforting so why not return to an old favorite? Here are a few books that I enjoy reading again and again. Share your favorites in the comments below.

 

Friday, the Australian Shepherd Puppy

Puppy Love

It has been twenty-three weeks (yes, I am counting) since the state’s initial stay-at-home order. By day three, I wanted a puppy.

Now I know what you are thinking: “Ah, yes, yet another pandemic puppy,” and maybe you are right. But what better way to get through this pandemic than to bring home a lovable furball who is (mostly) oblivious to the high-stress environment surrounding her. Another creature to bring joy to our family; something to focus on other than the latest news and our lack of normalcy. And I’m not the only one! Four other staff members at LEPMPL have adopted puppies this summer!

In celebration of all these new library pups, here are some top picks from our catalog featuring some fabulous canines.

  1. Dog Man: Grime and Punishment by Dav Pilkey (Author, Illustrator) From the creator of “Captain Underpants” comes #9 in the “Dog Man” series, release date September 1, 2020, so place your hold today! What type of dog is dog man? A hound.
  2. Think Like a Dog (DVD) Oliver is a middle-school tech prodigy whose science fair experiment has a furry twist that gives him a telepathic connection to his dog, Henry. If you are wondering Cover Art of Where the Red Fern Growswhat kind of dog Henry is, he is a Labradoodle.
  3. Muzzled by David Rosenfelt Reluctant lawyer Andy Carpenter and his beloved golden retriever are back on the case in this 2020 release about a missing owner.
  4. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls A list of titles featuring dogs would be incomplete without this classic tale of a young boy and his adventures in the Ozarks with two redbone hounds.
  5. The Call of the Wild (DVD) If you want to see Harrison Ford take on the role of Jack London’s John Thornton, the final owner of Buck, a Saint Bernard/Scotch Collie mix, check out this 2020 title.

If your household has recently been blessed, (or the other, depending upon how sleep-deprived you are right now), and you are looking for some training guidelines, wondering why your puppy seems to have a witching hour at 7 p.m. every evening, or need some advice on crate training, check out this list of puppy training titles available in our system.

Happy training and enjoy those puppy snuggles!