Refer a male friend to volunteer in an Open Books literacy program and you’ll not only earn a $10 gift card to the Open Books store but you’ll be the catalyst for a high-need student’s transformational learning experience too!
Basics: During the month of January, you can earn a $10 gift card…
One Book, One Chicago is made possible by funding through the Chicago Public Library Foundation. Thanks to our sponsors in 2012, BMO Harris and Allstate.
Our foundation and its funders want to hear from you! How did you participate in the most recent OBOC? Tell us a bit about yourself in this very short survey so that we can report back to our sponsors on the success of this fall’s program!
A list of characters from The Book Thief, fully described and brought to you by Chicago’s librarians.
LIESEL MEMINGER is the book thief. She is 9 years old at the beginning of the story, when after the death of her brother she is taken in by the Hubermann family.
HANS HUBERMANN is Liesel’s foster father. Once a reluctant soldier during World War I, he is a house painter and accordionist. He teaches Liesel to read.
ROSA HUBERMANN is Liesel’s foster mother. She washes and irons clothing for the wealthy people of Molching.
RUDY STEINER is Liesel’s neighbor and eventual best friend. He is one of six children and is obsessed with American track athlete Jesse Owens.
MAX VANDENBURG is a young Jewish man who changes the Hubermanns’ lives.
DEATH is the sympathetic narrator of Liesel’s story. Death’s duty is to carry the souls of the dead away.
(listed in alphabetical order by last name)
Klaus BEHRIG is a neighborhood boy. Liesel runs into him on purpose during a game of soccer.
Arthur BERG is the leader of a group of young thieves who steal food. He shows kindness to Liesel and Rudy, and proves to be fair.
Viktor CHEMMEL is Arthur Berg’s successor as leader of the group of thieves. He is cruel to the others.
Franz DEUTSCHER is Rudy’s sadistic Hitler Youth leader.
Frau DILLER is the owner of the corner shop and a fervent Nazi sympathizer. One must say “Heil Hitler” in order to be served in her shop.
Wolfgang EDEL is a Nazi Party acquaintance of Hans.
The FIELDERS are a family that lives six houses down from the Memingers. Their basement serves as a bomb shelter during air raids.
Rolf FISCHER is a Nazi who sees Hans painting Joel Kleinman’s door.
Wenzel GRUBER is the first boy Max fought with as a child.
Fritz HAMMER is an older neighborhood boy who introduces Liesel and Rudy to the gang of thieves.
Herr HECKENSTALLER is a supervising teacher who oversees the humiliating medical examination of Rudy and other boys who are being considered for elite Nazi schools.
Frau HEINRICH is the woman from the foster care agency who brings Liesel to the Hubermann home.
Heinz HERMANN is the mayor of the town of Molching.
Ilsa HERMANN is the wife of the mayor of Molching. Her son, Johannes Hermann, was killed in World War I and she mourns his death with her silence. She introduces Liesel to her library.
Frau HOLTZAPFEL is the Hubermanns’ hostile neighbor. She spits on their door every time she walks past.
Michael HOLTZAPFEL is Frau Holtzapfel’s son who returns from the war injured.
Robert HOLTZAPFEL is Michael’s brother. He never returns from the war.
Hans HUBERMANN, Jr. is the Hubermanns’ grown son. He is a Nazi Party member who believes his father is a coward for not supporting Hitler.
Trudy HUBERMANN is the Hubermanns’ grown daughter. She is a live-in housemaid for a wealthy Munich family.
The JENSONS are a family that use the Fielders’ basement during air raids.
Joel KLEINMANN is a Jewish shopkeeper whose store door is defaced, then repainted by Hans Hubermann.
Walter KUGLER is Max Vandenberg’s friend, with whom he used to fight in his youth. Walter helps Max hide from the Nazis before he goes to the Hubermann home.
Thomas MAMER is a grocer who calls for police when Rudy steals the largest potato. Teacher Herr Link defends Rudy.
Paula MEMINGER is Liesel’s mother, who gives her up into foster care. Her husband was taken away for being a communist and Paula awaits the same fate.
Werner MEMINGER is Liesel’s brother.
Harald MOLLENHAUER is a neighborhood boy and a leader in the Himmel street soccer games.
Tommy MÜLLER is Liesel and Rudy’s classmate whom Liesel beats up after misunderstanding his reaction to her being teased. He has chronic ear infections, twitches a lot and is not athletically inclined.
Frau OLENDRICH is Liesel and Rudy’s teacher.
PFIFFIKUS is an old man who likes to whistle. The children taunt him and he taunts them back.
Andy SCHMEIKL is Ludwig’s older brother and also a member of the group of thieves.
Ludwig SCHMEIKL is a student in Liesel’s class. He makes fun of her for not being able to read, and Liesel beats him up.
Boris SCHIPPER is an Air Raid Special Unit sergeant during World War I. Hans Hubermann is a member of his unit.
Stephan SCHNEIDER is Hans’ sergeant during World War I.
Jürgen SCHWARZ and Olaf Spiegel are fellow school boys who are examined by Herr Heckenstaller.
Sister Maria is Liesel’s teacher who doles out corporal punishment.
Alex STEINER is Rudy’s father. He owns a tailor shop and is a member of the Nazi Party but does not hate Jews.
Barbara STEINER is Rudy’s mother.
Kurt STEINER is Rudy’s older brother. Rudy’s other siblings are Emma, Bettina, Karin and Anna-Marie.
Otto STURM is a somewhat wealthy boy who is targeted by Arthur’s gang and is knocked off his bicycle by Liesel and Rudy.
Erik VANDENBERG is Hans’ German Jewish friend and fellow World War I soldier. He is also Max’s father.
Ernst VOGEL, the PFAFFELHÜRVERS, Helena SCHMIDT and the WEINGARTNERS are Rosa Hubermann’s washing/ironing customers. Ernst was the first of the customers to tell Rosa he wouldn’t be able to use her services any longer.
Dieter WESTHEIMER is the owner of a bar called the Knoller.
Reinhold ZUCKER is an Air Raid Special Unit member who trades seats with Hans on a truck.
As a horrible plague rages outside, Prince Prospero shelters the nobility in his abbey and welds the doors shut to prevent anyone else from entering. Later they celebrate with a masquerade ball but become fearful and angry upon seeing someone costumed in a bloody shroud and a corpse mask. They confront the figure and pull away his mask but find nothing inside, realizing it is the Red Death himself.
The Seventh Seal Film directed by Ingmar Bergman, 1957 In this classic film, actor Bengt Ekerot introduces the iconic dark-robed and hooded figure of Death subsequently parodied by many filmmakers. A medieval knight journeys home while the Black Plague ravages the land. Throughout the story he delays his own demise by playing a game of chess with Death.
“(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” Song by Blue Öyster Cult, 1976 These heavy metal iconoclasts scored a hit song with a defense of Death featuring menacing guitars, eerie vocals and a darkly ambiguous message. Many people thought the lyrics, which mention Romeo and Juliet, alluded to a murder/suicide pact. However, songwriter Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser says he intended it as a metaphysical love song.
Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life Film directed by Terry Jones, 1983 The Grim Reaper, played by John Cleese, arrives unexpectedly at a dinner party, scythe in bony hand. He is repeatedly interrupted by the stereotypical loud-mouthed American guests, while the very British hosts attempt to engage him in small talk.
Fox TV series created by Seth MacFarlane, 1999–2002 and 2005-present Radio personality Adam Carolla is the voice of Death in eight episodes of this irreverent animated comedy. The iconic black-robed, scythe-carrying character has a grating personality and still lives with his mother. His pet dog, voiced by comedian Jimmy Kimmel, reaps canine souls.
Novel by Christopher Moore, 2006 In this humorous fantasy novel, Charlie Asher is a neurotic beta-male whose wife has just died after giving birth to their daughter Sophie. He meets a pastel-suited stranger in the hospital and begins working with him as a minor death merchant, collecting souls from the recently departed and protecting them from forces of evil.
Actress, writer and director Heidi Stillman wrote the stage adaptation of The Book Thief, playing at Steppenwolf Theatre this fall. Heidi and Markus Zusak took part in the below conversation via email in spring 2012.
H.S.: This novel is so finely plotted and the characters so fully formed, that people love to hear about the genesis for this story. Can you tell us a bit about when the concept for a novel about WWII, narrated by Death and about a girl book thief, came to you? Which idea came first and how did you build upon it?
M.Z.: Like most ideas, I stumbled across bits and pieces over time and started using them for no apparent reason. Once, when my computer was broken, I was writing the book I was working on at the time on foolscap paper. In the middle of it, I wrote a page about a girl stealing a book in modern-day Sydney. I didn’t do anything with it at the time, but a few years later, when I started thinking seriously of writing about my parents and their childhoods in Germany and Austria during World War II, I thought, “Maybe I should put that book thief in.” I guess that’s how things start. You put two unrelated things together and at some point, you understand: they’re actually not unrelated at all, they’re perfect for each other.
The next realization was also a bit of a fluke. I was working with some kids at a high school and got them to write about color. I did the exercise with them and realized I had written about red, white and blue—but more importantly, about three different deaths, from Death’s point of view. Again, I thought, “How about just throwing that in to that book set in Nazi Germany as well?” I didn’t wonder if it made sense at first, I just wrote, and very slowly, the ideas formed a little more clearly. As an example, it wasn’t until many months working on the book that I saw that the colors in the prologue should actually be red, white and black, in the colors of the Nazi flag…
At the end of the day, there’s a whole range of answers to this question. You could say the concept of the book was always there. It was waiting while I was growing up in Sydney, listening to my parents’ stories in the kitchen with my brother and two sisters. In so many ways, that’s where the book truly began.
The power of words and language is so wonderfully emphasized in this novel. Liesel writes, “I’ve hated the words and I’ve loved them;” and the narrator points out that “without words the Fuhrer was nothing.” Is this a theme that you felt you could explore more in telling this story than in anything else you have worked on?
It felt like it by the time I’d finished, but I never set out to do that. Like most writers, I start to understand what a book is about as I’m writing it, and sometimes even afterwards. In The Book Thief I started to make those connections as I considered using Mein Kampf in the story and having characters paint over it and write their own story over the top. From another point of view, it wasn’t until the book was published when I saw that it was also about people doing beautiful things in even the ugliest times. I guess you do know it as you’re writing, but not in such a definable way. The more time you spend with it, the clearer (and sometimes murkier) it all becomes.
This is a wonderful article about Yiyun Li’s work in The Guardian. Writes Rustin:
The 2010 Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, currently in prison in China, wrote that the Mao era “caused people to sell their souls: hate your spouse, denounce your father, betray your friend, pile on a helpless victim, say anything to remain ‘correct’”, and argued that the consequence was today’s “Age of Cynicism in which people no longer believe in anything”.
Such generalisations can feel uncomfortable to those with little or no first-hand knowledge of China. Many recent commentators have noted the futility of trying to summarise everything currently taking place in China, let alone trying to predict what may come next.
But Yiyun Li’s fiction echoes Xiaobo’s analysis of a society hollowed out by its past, of people who have lost their moral bearings and struggle to find any meaning in life. Character after character in Gold Boy, Emerald Girl rejects intimacy in favour of isolation, and those who do scramble after lust or affection end up disappointed or betrayed. “People who do not cling to life perish, one way or another,” reflects the narrator of the opening story, “Kindness”.
Melodies of Love and Loss: Chinese Music Inspired by Gold Boy, Emerald Girl
We are so grateful to the Chinese Fine Arts Society and to their Artist-in-Residence Yuan-Qing Yu for curating our upcoming concert inspired by Yiyun Li’s stories in Gold Boy, Emerald Girl.
Join us for this concert on Sunday, April 15 at 2:00 PM at the Harold Washington Library Center. In the meantime, allow us to tease you with these concert notes from the curator:
Literature and music are inseparable; both are the essence of enlightenment. Goethe once said: “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry every day… in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
When I was asked to curate this concert in support of YiYun Li’s “Gold Boy, Emerald Girl”, I was very excited to combine my two loves. Li’s book is a collection of short stories, each rich with emotions and is beautifully crafted. I want this concert program to be the perfect union for this wonderful book.
Cursive for Flute and Piano – Chou Wen Chung
I chose “Cursive” with “Kindness” in mind, not only because one of the characters in “Kindness” is a flutist, but also because the venerable Chou Wen Chung’s works are always based on principles drawn from traditional Chinese paintings and Chinese theories of ‘Yin/Yang’ and ‘I-Ching’. These qualities resonate with what the New York Times’ reviewer said about Li, “What’s distinctive about YiYun Li’s work is the contrast between its emotional intensity and its calm”.
Being for Clarinet and Viola – Huang Ruo
Huang Ruo’s “Being” is chosen because of the title, and the alliance of the Clarinet and the Viola despite the distinctions between the two. This reflects the heart of the story “A Man Like Him”.
C.A.G.E for Piano – Tan Dun
Tan Dun’s “C.A.G.E.” is written in memory of composer John Cage. The restrictive nature of the piece, (the entire piece is composed from only four notes, C A G E), and the play on the word “cage” is the perfect pairing of Li’s third story “Prison”.
My Hometown Far Away – Bin Li *Migratory Journeys World Premiere
Chen QiGang’s Le Souvenir is a direct link by title to Li’s story Souvenir. Bin Li’s “My Hometown Far Away” is a tribute to YiYun Li’s life as an immigrant. In Lei Liang’s Five Seasons, the Pipa and the String Quartet “achieves exuberant synergy together” and reaches “expressive extremes”. Aren’t these the emotions mirrored by the longings and desperate desires portrayed in Li’s stories?
Vivian Fung: Miniatures for Clarinet and String quartet
Vivian Fung’s “Miniatures” serves as the ideal summary of the nine stories in “Gold Boy, Emerald Girl”. Whether this sonic program gives you the feeling of pleasure, melancholy or despair, I hope the union of literature and music from today’s program will leave you satisfied.
Performers include pipa virtuoso Yang Wei, members of Fifth House Ensemble, Spektral Quartet and Camerata Chicago.
This Wednesday, March 7th, Reading Under the Influence is teaming up with the Chicago Public Library for “One Book One Chicago”. There will be readings of original work and host trivia segments related to the theme of “One Book One Chicago.”
Blair Kamin’s take on the Chicago Tribune blog on the Chicago Public Library building prototype—where it has worked and where it hasn’t.
Since 1997, the Public Building Commission (PBC) of Chicago, which constructs buildings for Chicago Public Library and other city agencies, has built 22 prototype libraries, according to a commission spokeswoman.
I’ve never been a fan of the prototype approach, which tends to produce bland, cookie-cutter buildings more suited to suburban commercial strips than a city renowned for great architecture. But prototype proponents argue that there are advantages to standardization: Reduced spending on design and construction costs, easier maintenance because the buildings have the same interior features, and equal facilities citywide.
Besides, some prototypes are better than others, as a look at the latest generation of Chicago public libraries reveals.
Laramee: “I carve landscapes out of books… Mountains of disused knowledge return to what they really are: mountains. They erode a bit more and they become hills. Then they flatten and become fields where apparently nothing is happening. Piles of obsolete encyclopedias return to that which does not need to say anything, that which simply IS. Fogs and clouds erase everything we know, everything we think we are.”
The end-of-event stats blog post has become one of my favorite NaNoWriMo traditions (and I derive great pleasure from looking at these stats posts from years past, too…). I hope you enjoy devouring this year’s numbers as much as I enjoyed compiling them!
General Stats Round Up!
For NaNoWriMo main:
256,618 participants, up roughly 28% from 2010’s total of 200,530 writers.
We wrote a total of 3,074,068,446 words, up 7% from 2010’s collective word count of 2,872,682,109.
This averaged out to 11,979 words per person!
We had 36,774 winners, giving us a 14% win rate!
For NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program:
81,040 participants, up 19% from 2010’s total of 68,710.
We wrote a total of 368,143,078 words up 40% from 2010’s collective word count of 262,303,074.
This averaged out to 7,199 words per person.
We had 16,334 winners, giving us a never-before-precedented 32% win rate!
On Saturday, we welcomed 7,000 children and families at Bookamania, CPL’s annual celebration of children’s books and authors. Bookamania is presented each November to enhance a child’s joy of reading and love of books by bringing to life their beloved storybook characters with stories,…
This fall, The Adventures of Augie March was checked out of Chicago Public Libraries 4,702 times. 1809 people (that we were able to count) attended programming around the book selection—quite an ambitious one, we admit. We’re still tallying the many readers who attended book group discussions in library locations, or at stores such as Open Books and The Book Cellar.
One Book, One Chicago is a big idea, and for our 10th anniversary this fall we wanted to celebrate that. Whether you read the book or not, or attended a tour, an exhibit or a public event; whether you entered a design contest or a writing contest or took in a staged reading, we are so grateful to all who took on this lofty task with us.
Each November, thousands of people undertake the challenge that is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month,) where they try to write 50,000+ words in a single month (in other words, a whole book.) Many people will “win” this contest, and even though these stories may not be the best works in…
Well, it’s no surprise that of all of the books we’ve selected, the first line of Bellow’s novel clocks in as longest.
Shortest? Toni Morrison. Most over-quoted? Jane Austen. Most obvious (if this were a quiz)? A tie between Tim O’Brien and Sandra Cisneros. One that makes us smile? Raymond Chandler, absolutely.
Here, for your enjoyment and in order, are the first lines of every book we have selected in the past ten years for One Book, One Chicago:
When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
They called him Moshe the Beadle, as thought he had never had a surname in his life.
- Night by Elie Wiesel
I first heard of Antonia on what seemed to me an interminable journey across the great midland plain of North America.
- My Antonia by Willa Cather
The Younger living room would be a comfortable and well-ordered room were it not for a number of indestructible contradictions to this state of being.
- A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey.
- The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Tonight, a steady drizzle, streetlights smoldering in fog like funnels of light collecting rain.
- The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek
She is plucking her bird of paradise of its dead branches, leaning around the plant every time she hears a car.
- In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Gil and I crossed the eastern divide about two by the sun.
- The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tillberg Clark
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The hammer banged reveille on the rail outside camp HQ at five o’clock as always.
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The notice informed them that it was a temporary matter: for five days their electricity would be cut off for one hour, beginning at 8pm.
- Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Everyone had always said that John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father.
- Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
At the time of these events Pariss was in his middle forties.
- The Crucible by Arthur Miller
The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lenox he was drunk in a Rolls Royce Silver Wraith outside the terrace of The Dancers.
- The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
Within five minutes, or ten minutes, no more than that, three of the others had called her on the telephone to ask her if she had heard that something.
- The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
We didn’t always live on Mango Street.
- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
The Plan of Chicago establishes its authoritative tone and announces its ruling assumptions in its opening pages
- The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City by Carl Smith
Eilis Lacey, sitting at the window of the upstairs living room in the house on Friary Street, noticed her sister walking briskly from work.
- Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
Don’t be afraid.
- A Mercy by Toni Morrison
The night before he went to London, Richard Mayhew was not enjoying himself.
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things as I have taught myself, freestyle, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.