David Bowie influenced many aspects of culture in his career. He had strong ties to science fiction and fantasy and was an avid reader. He played with gender fluidity and created many characters with their own stories. His work explored the fringes and many people who felt like outcasts found a strong connection in his music. So to honor his life and remember his career I've selected some books that remind me of his work and explore similar themes.
My introduction to David Bowie was as the Goblin King in the 1986 Jim Henson movie The Labyrinth. My sister and I loved this movie and would act out the parts and sing the songs often when we were children. If you're looking for more goblin adventures, try Goblin Secrets by William Alexander or the Goblins in the Castle series by Bruce Coville.
David Bowie introduced generations of people to the idea of gender fluidity. At a time when people were often persecuted for straying from rigid gender roles, David Bowie gave visibility to those who didn't fit into neat boxes. He inspired many people to show the world their true face. To learn more about how gender has affected modern teens who identify as transgender or gender neutral, read Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin. You can see David Bowie's exploration of gender in his music video for "Boys Keep Swinging" which features him in various drag outfits. At the end he takes off his wigs and smears his lipstick in a now iconic gesture.
David Bowie's influence has reached far and wide, even into outer space. In the video below astronaut Chris Hadfield records a version of Space Oddity on the international space station. For another look at outer space and isolation closer to home try Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil. This Australian import is about a group of misfits who love science fiction movies and video games. They don't live in outer space, but as far as the rest of the school is concerned they might as well. All this changes though when someone new comes to town. For humor, heart, and fun geeky references check this book out.
In "Let's Dance" Bowie suggests that you "put on your red shoes and dance the blues." A sentiment the main character of This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales would surely understand. Elsie has never found it easy to make friends and when her plan to finally blend in at school fails she begins sneaking out at night to wander the streets and contemplate her life. Everything changes when she stumbles across a secret, underground dance club. There she finally learns how to let it all out in a dance, but it's her introduction to the DJ that really sparks something in her. Soon she's thrown herself into mastering the art of playing music while her life continues to unravel around her.
David Bowie filmed the video for "Let's Dance" in a remote community in Australia to highlight the plight of ingenious peoples there. You can find more information about the filming of the video and its political impact over at The Guardian. As a bonus, check out the brilliant comic Lost and Found by Shaun Tan which includes an allegory for Australian colonial history and its effect on indigenous peoples.
My two favorite superhero comics out right now feature Kamala Khan, a Muslim Pakistani-American from New Jersey, as Ms. Marvel and Miles Morales, a Black Hispanic teenager, as Spider-Man. Both characters are charming and inspiring and provide a great adventure story first and foremost. They also provide some much-needed diversity to the Marvel lineup. David Bowie was a known champion of diversity in the music industry and famously asked MTV in its early days why they weren't highlighting Black artists. You can read more about that at the Washington Post.
The holiday season is over now, but I still love this duet by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. It was recorded shortly before Bing Crosby's death and almost didn't happen because Bowie reportedly hated "The Little Drummer Boy." So right before they were set to record, a group of composers and producers wrote the "Peace on Earth" lyrics and set it to a counter melody. I think it turned out beautifully and that Bing and Bowie pull it off with so little rehearsal is a testament to their talent. (Read more about the recording here.) For a darker look at peace on earth try reading The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow. Set in a future where a renegade AI has taken over the world's weapons and began blowing up cities until countries agree to peace. Now leaders in charge of war decisions are required to send their children to be hostages. Countries can declare war, but if they do the hostages are killed. This has eliminated conflicts for small matters, but leaves the "children of peace" in a precarious position. Princess Greta has been living as a hostage since she was five and she learned to live within the system and was willing to die for the cause, until a new hostage comes along and changes everything.
Our third graders have been closely analyzing picture books for our own Mock Caldecott. The votes have been tallied and the winner is April Chu for In a Village by the Sea with honors for Patrick McDonnell and Christopher Meyers. Look at the graphic below for more details.
It's Koko's 44th birthday and she got a very special present: two new kittens! Those familiar with Koko from her book Koko's Kittens will be excited to hear this news and for those who haven't read the book, now is the perfect time! You may also be interested in the beautifully-illusted picture book Little Beauty about a fictional gorilla/kitten pairing. Gorilla fans will also love the chapter book The One and Only Ivan. For those wanting to learn more about gorillas and other primates, we have a great selection of non-fiction books on the subject.
Here in the library we're excited about the discovery of Homo Naledi. If you haven't heard the news yet, two cavers exploring the Rising Star cave in South Africa discovered a cache of bones that belongs to a previously unknown early human ancestor. Accessing the bones required squeezing through some very tight spaces so they had to recruit archaeologists who could fit. The team extracting the bones ended up being all female. To learn more about the discovery you can find an article at National Geographic http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/150910-human-evolution-change/ or watch the video below.
We have a lot of great books about archaeology in the library, you can find a few below:
If you're wondering how artists and scientists can re-create how people looked from their bones, like they do in the video above, then this is the book for you! Uncover the fascinating process used to make these models and learn more about the early North American peoples. Faces from the Past by James M. Deem
This true story of an important fossil discovery reads like an Indiana Jones adventure story. Read the book to find out how a professor and his 9 year old son used technology to make a magnificent find.
The Skull in the Rock by Marc Aronson and Lee Berger
Learn all about the Mwangdui tombs in China from what life was like in ancient China to embalming techniques to create mummies. Photographs illustrate the artifacts and the techniques used to unlock their mysteries. At Home in Her Tomb by Christine Liu-Perkins
Explore the archaeological finds at Hisarlik, what some people believe to be the site of Troy. Debate continues as to whether the story of the Iliad is just a legend or if it is based on real events but either way the stories of the people who have gone looking for it and the artifacts they have found is fascinating. Digging for Troy by Eric H. Cline and Jill Rubalcaba
When two men stumbled about some bones near Kennewick, Washington they did not except them to be over 9,000 years old. Since their discovery, archaeologists have learned more about life in early North America and as well as how the Kennewick man lived and died. Read along to see how scientists solved a mystery over 9,000 years old. Their Skeletons Speak by Sally M. Walker and Douglas W. Owsley