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LIbrary Happenings – Summer Reading Program plans theme centered around heroes (March 4, 2015 issue)

Since January was notable for illness and February for cold and ice, we are looking forward to March. It holds the promise of the vernal equinox and the start of preparations for our Summer Reading Programs. The theme for 2015 is heroes, so we will be highlighting books about heroes.
For many children the word conjures visions of comic book superheroes, but we are thinking about the subject more broadly than that. The first who come to mind are “everyday” heroes, such as police officers, firefighters, paramedics and military personnel. These brave men and women risk their lives every day to keep us safe.
Biographers generally write about historical heroes. In preparation for this year’s Summer Reading Program, we ordered almost all of the “Who was…” series of children’s books. They tell the stories of explorers (Ferdinand Magellan), pioneers (Amelia Earhart), rulers (Queen Elizabeth), statesmen (Ben Franklin), artists (Pablo Picasso), musicians (Elvis Presley), scientists (Marie Curie) and prominent sports personalities (Jackie Robinson).
When I remarked that all the subjects of these books are heroes, Kristy pointed out a flaw in my statement. Who was Genghis Khan? Genghis Khan was the title earned by Temujin, a 13th century Mongol leader who was the scourge of two continents. Since he bears ultimate responsibility for the deaths of up to forty million people in Europe and Asia, the only kind of respect he is likely to get is grudging. Except, of course, in Mongolia, where he is a hero.
When it comes to opinions about conquerors, quite a lot depends on your point of view. Were your ancestors on the winning or the losing side? Because I have no Mongolian ancestry, I conceded Kristy’s point. Most of the subjects of the “Who was…” books can be called heroes, but not all.
Many of the best-loved heroes never lived at all except in the imagination of the authors who created them. My favorite is Baroness Orczy’s Sir Percy Blakeney, better known as “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” Although he portrayed of himself as a foppish English aristocrat, the Pimpernel rescued innocent victims of the French Reign of Terror with courage and cunning.
So what exactly is a pimpernel? It’s a small flower of the primrose family that served as Percy Blakeney’s emblem. It was the hero’s calling card and a clue to his identity. I also asked our staff about their favorites.
Leanne admires Violet Baudelaire, the eldest of three orphans at the heart of Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Violet stands to inherit her parents’ fortune on her eighteenth birthday if she and her siblings can withstand the attempts of their unscrupulous uncle, Count Olaf, to bump them off.
Fortunately, Violet is a gifted inventor and her creations allow them to escape Olaf’s devious plots. Leanne chose Violet because she shows that a survivor can be a hero and an inspiration.