Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Zootopia”

Disney has long used animals to entertain us, but they also insert a subtle message or morals into their stories. Most of the time, it’s a simple message of being brave or learning that you have inner value and that your dreams can come true. Occasionally, the story can take on a deeper meaning that both children and adults can relate to and value. Zootopia is one of those films.

It is the story of a world where anthropomorphic animals evolved over time to where predators and prey now live in peace and harmony with each other. The animals in this world have jobs, just like regular people, but they’re more catered to their habitat and size. The animals in this world usually stick to their natural inclinations or temperaments most associated with the various species. This is not always the case, however, as we meet our protagonist: a rabbit by the name of Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin. Judy dreams of leaving her small town and becoming a cop and serving her fellow animals in the bustling metropolis of Zootopia. She is consistently regarded as inferior due to her size and species. Most police in this world are physically larger and brutish animals like lions, bears, and wolves. Judy, however, wishes to make her mark and earn the respect of her fellow officers.

Judy soon stumbles upon a sly fox named Nick Wilde, voiced by Jason Bateman. Nick is a professional con artist who has become disillusioned with his original hopes and dreams and has let himself become exactly what other animals always accused his nature of being. The two become unlikely partners and eventually friends due to a mysterious plot involving disappearing predatory animals and a more insidious agenda that could lead to chaos in Zootopia unless they can stop it.

This film tackles issues involving prejudice, bullying, and bigotry. It handles these issues in a very easy to understand way, becoming even tongue-in-cheek at times.  The lesson is simple and well-timed given our current social climate; Zootopia teaches that you should never prejudge someone based on their immutable characteristics, let alone an entire group.

Zootopia was extremely well received among audiences. It grossed over one billion dollars worldwide, making it one of the highest grossing animated films of all time. It also went on to receive an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

Zootopia is a witty, PG-rated film for the whole family, and it is available at the Union University Library.

 

 

Harry Potter: Expectations and Isolation

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In this blog post, student assistant Donny Turner recounts his experience of reading the Harry Potter series for the very first time!

Warning: This Blog Post Contains Spoilers

When I was growing up, parents were skeptical about the Harry Potter fad. Like many Christian kids, I was not allowed to read the Harry Potter books until I was 13. As I grew up, the series became something of an urban myth to me- the taboo of something I felt like I was not supposed to have. In my head, the stories became something of a legend, and I kept building up how amazing the books were going to be once I turned 13. By the time I turned 13, my expectations towards the books became something that no book, no matter how good it may be, could match. So, when I ended up starting to read the first book, I was admittedly underwhelmed. The book was great, but when I found out that Harry Potter was an adventure story about a group of friends trying to save the world and it just happened to include magic, I was almost disappointed. I never even finished the first book, and for years I had no desire to read the other Harry Potter books. Throughout all of this I felt extremely out of touch and alone with a lot of my friends who had been obsessed with and read every single Harry Potter book.

Years later, in my sophomore year of high school, I stumbled upon the entire Harry Potter series in a used book store. I was able to purchase the collection for less than $50, and I was really excited about getting all of the books. I decided to attempt to read the series again, and for a while, it worked. I read through the first 3 books in less than a month, but then I stalled about 200 pages into the 4th book. For whatever reason, I just could not get past the Quidditch World Cup. I would read the first 200 pages, get busy and it would get set aside for a few months, and I would have to reread those pages again. Another few years would pass before I was able to get past those first 200 pages. Eventually, I began to read less in general; it just never took a precedence in my life.

When I first began college, I once again experienced a feeling of isolation again. I was at a new school full of new people that I had to meet. Often times I felt like an outsider at school; I had a very difficult time finding my niche. For the most part, I felt isolated and outside of the whole community. I remember thinking back to how I felt when my friends were talking about the Harry Potter books. Everyone had these shared ideas, and I couldn’t latch on to them. I felt detached from others. Eventually, I did find my groove, but those first few months of school were difficult.

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In my junior year of college, during the month of January, I found myself having to drive 4-10 hours a week and listening to music in the car was getting old; I needed something new. I realized I was able to check out the 4th Harry Potter book from the library (here), and I decided to listen to it on my long drives. While on the road, I was able to get about 400 pages into the book, and then I decided I had to start reading it in print. I flew through the last 400 pages in less than a month, and I immediately picked up the 5th book.

The 5th book is quite a bit darker than all the others. The tone is more somber and there is an edge to everything that is going on. Voldemort, the main antagonist, is on the rise, and it seems like something bad could happen at any moment. Throughout all of this Harry beings to feel more and more isolated. None of the awful things that are happening seem to be happening to anyone else. Harry begins to feel more depressed and more alone as time goes by. To top it all off there is a new professor at the school that is the literal worst. She specifically targets Harry, and she actively attempts to make Harry’s life worse. Harry feels utterly alone. The story focuses around this idea of loneliness and builds more and more that Harry has to learn to rely on his close friends. He must realize that he is not, nor was he ever, alone in any of what is happening to him. At the end of this book, the closest thing Harry has to a father figure, Sirius, dies. Once again, Harry experiences those feelings of expectations being destroyed and a great feeling of isolation. Once again I was able to relate very strongly to the character.

The 6th book of the story has some lighter tones, but ultimately ends on a very dark note. Harry is growing older, and Voldemort continues to gain more and more power. He is learning more about the history of who Voldemort is, and through these lessons, Harry learns of some of the humanity of Voldemort. The main antagonist is still extremely evil, but through multiple backstories, we are able to better understand Voldemort as a character. He is revealed to be more human, although definitely a very sociopathic human. Harry’s expectations of him change as a whole. He understands that he has love while Voldemort never will. Also, Harry’s expectations shift slightly towards the end of the story towards Draco Malfoy. Throughout the entirety of the series, Draco has been considered the antithesis of Harry Potter, and Harry absolutely suspects him of malicious intent at different times throughout the story. As the story is nearing its ending, Draco, ordered by Voldemort, matches up against a very weak Dumbledore and is poised to kill him. Yet, he cannot do it. There is a flicker of humanity in Draco, and he is unable to murder his headmaster. Harry, watching silently in the room notices this. Harry’s perception of Draco has changed in this moment, if only slightly. Where previously Harry had not seen any humanity there was some.

At this point, I was totally hooked on the books. Much of my free time was spent reading on and talking about the books. I can now say with certainty that the 6th book is my favorite, and I would tell anyone who would listen about it. Unfortunately for me, the fad of Harry Potter, while still quite prevalent, has definitely faded. I was dealing with isolation once again. Most people don’t want to listen to someone talk about how much they adore Harry Potter. Nevertheless, I persisted on towards the 7th book.

If you’ve ever read the 7th Harry Potter book, you know how different this book is compared to the rest of the series. The protagonists are no longer at Hogwarts, everything around them seems to be falling apart, and many of the main characters that you have grown to love end up being killed off. The book is gut-wrenching, and it seems like every chapter has a new main character dying. With each death, I felt more and more sadness and isolation. Throughout this book, the main characters become more and more removed from everyone as they are trying to find and destroy the horcuxes, the items that contain Voldemorts soul and ensure his survival.  At one point, Ron leaves Harry and Hermione, leaving them even more alone than they already were. Without Dumbledore, and with wicked stories of what Dumbledore has done, the main characters feel utterly alone.

As the story nears the end, however, the main characters learn of all the different people that are still on their side, supporting them. They are encouraged, and they are able to find and destroy almost every single horcrux. It is only when Harry returns to Hogwarts at the end of the story that he realizes he must sacrifice himself to save everyone. This singular moment, the moment he realizes that he must die in order for everyone to live, is a pivotal moment. This is when he reaches his most isolated, but he stays brave and dives deep into the darkness. He sacrifices himself, and through his sacrifice he is able to destroy the last bit of Voldemort that exists. Through his sacrifice, he is given the option to live again. In the moments proceeding his death, he is given a choice. He can decide to stay dead, and go on to the afterlife or whatever happens to witches and wizards after they die, or he can come back to a life that has caused him suffering and pain. He has to choose to make another sacrifice, and once again he makes the choice to come back and fight one last time to save his closest friends.

Despite his isolation and fear, Harry Potter is able to be strong and courageous when he needs to be. Sure, he absolutely makes a lot of really dumb decisions throughout the books that would have saved everyone a lot of time and pain, but I think that is what makes these books so special. Many of the characters are flawed, and even some of the main characters that seem downright evil throughout the entire series have redemption arcs. The Malfoys end up regretting their actions, and, most famously, we get to see and understand why Snape made the decisions that he did. We get to understand his love for Harry’s mother and how isolated and alone he has been throughout most of his life. Finally, the reader is able to understand why Snape acts how he does, and that he was actually acting out of love this entire time. He clings to one aspect of his life that will keep him from being completely isolated, and as a result, dies for an extremely heroic cause.

Every single Harry Potter book has some themes of isolation, and dealing with feeling misplaced or alone in the world. Reading these in the first years of college or whenever you are in a new place in your life can be especially helpful because often people feel out of place and alone at times of change. These books can help give one perspective about isolation, and they can show how one can emerge from that isolation and be a much stronger and better human being.

Plus, the books themselves are fantastic stories, with deep characters. These books are probably the most famous series of the 21st century. They personally have helped me get through a challenging time in my life. Harry Potter is absolutely incredible and 100% lives up to the hype, and if you have not read them yet, there is no time like the present.

 

*written by Donny Turner

Book Review: “Looking For Alaska” by John Green

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Over the past decade, John Green has been one of the most prominent figures in young adult books. He has written and co-written 6 books, and all of them have made it to the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. His distinct writing style with young characters is seen throughout every single one of his books. John Green’s characters are typically sarcastic, romantic, and relatively pretentious. The books always focus around an ambiguous theme often relating to empathy or mental health issues. These ideas are seen in what may be his best work: Looking for Alaska.

Looking for Alaska tells the story of Miles, an introspective junior who is obsessed with the last words of famous people. He finds himself at a boarding school in Alabama, and while there, he meets two fascinating people: Colonel, his new roommate, and Alaska, an expressive, unpredictable, and emotional girl who seems larger than life. Alaska is obsessed with Simone Bolivar (His last words being “How am I ever to get out of this labyrinth”).  The labyrinth in this case is life and suffering, and that is what much of the book is about: figuring out how to get out of the labyrinth of suffering. The characters must learn how to understand the mental and physical issues that they all are dealing with, whether it is relationship problems, depression, or anxiety. A huge part of the book revolves around the relationship between Miles and Alaska.

The relationship that forms between Miles and Alaska builds the story, but this book is so much more than a romance. Alaska is dealing with heavy depression, and Miles feels  like an outsider, worrying about others’ opinions of him. The story follows them through their first semester until something tragic happens. The book changes from a cheery book about living at a boarding school (complete with pranks, copious amounts of school work, and drama) to something much darker. A new issue has arisen, and the main characters must deal with something much heavier than ever before. The majority of the second half of the book is about dealing with grief. The main characters have so many questions, and they don’t understand why bad things can happen to the people they are close to. This book tackles the great struggle of losing someone very near to you. It emphasizes how important it is to feel emotions.

This book is raw and real. Of course, the plot isn’t perfect; there are exaggerations, and many of the events would probably never happen in real life. I doubt many of the pranks in the story could ever work out the way they did, and many of the main characters are larger than life; however, the characters still feel real and personal. The struggles they face at 16 years old are issues many people at this age are dealing with. The book also stresses the importance of teenagers understanding that their issues are not minimal. Just look at one of my favorite quotes from Looking for Alaska:

When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.

This quote is so important for teenagers today. Often times, teens feel overshadowed by adults, and they feel like their issues are minimal due to the fact that there are worse things going on the world, but the issues those teens are dealing with are real. To think that teens are lesser simply because of their age is ignorant. Teens do have power, and they need not forget that.

This book is a fantastic story about grief and learning to keep going after hard events happen and how to grow from strife. Miles eventually learns the way out of the labyrinth.

 

Content warning: contains strong language, drug references, and other suggestive material.

Check it out here!

 

*written by Donny Turner

How To Look At Union Yearbooks Online

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When you want to look up a family member or certain year in Union’s history, the “Lest We Forget” Union yearbooks can be a helpful resource. An easy way to search through the yearbook collection is by using the library website online. Provided below are instructions for access.

To access the “Lest We Forget” Union yearbooks:

  1. Go to the library website.
  2. Click on Archives and Special Collections under Quick Links.
  3. Click University Archives.
  4. Lest We Forget will come up in the middle of the page. Click the books to access them. You can find them by year and click through them like an online book to find people’s names. (If you just click this link, it will take you straight to them).

 

For other archival material, take a look at the Online Archives.

A Week of Kids’ Reads

Looking for a fun book to share with your child or little sibling? Well, don’t stop at one – get one for every day of the week so you can have a daily reading time! Whether you’ve got the midweek blues or feel like celebrating the weekend, we’ve got a book for you (and your family)!

monday

  • Monday
    If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff
    Sure, Monday is the dreaded start of the school week – but look on the bright side and enjoy this story of the hilarious escapades of a mouse in the schoolhouse.

tuesday

  • Tuesday
    Tuesday by David Wiesner
    A zany wordless tale of a very unusual day involving a flying frog invasion!

wednesday

  • Wednesday
    The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting
    On Wednesday nights when Grandma stays with Anna everyone thinks she is teaching Anna to read. But the two have a different surprise up their sleeve for Dad’s birthday. A beautiful story about a loving family and the joy of literacy.

thursday

  • Thursday
    Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
    While Wednesday is often hailed as the awfullest day of the work week, everyone knows that Thursday really takes the cake. It’s near enough to the end of the week for you to be exhausted, but not quite near enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel (see Friday). Commiserate with Alexander’s unfortunate day by reading this book to your overtired kids.

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  • Friday

Friday means it’s time to have fun! School has let out for the weekend. Check out Family Fun Nights: 140 Activities the Whole Family Will Enjoy for tons of games and ideas for a great night with your children.

saturday

  • Saturday
    Saturday Market by Patricia Grossman
    Join Ana and Estela as they sell their handmade goods at a Saturday market in Mexico. Enjoy the colorful illustrations and learn a few Spanish words along the way.

sunday

  • Sunday
    The Lord’s Prayer illustrated by Tim Ladwig
    The text of the Lord’s prayer is presented along with beautiful oil-painting illustrations about a father and daughter. May the words of this treasured prayer stay with your family as you head into a new week!

Featured Author: Eoin Colfer

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Born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1965, Eoin Colfer first became interested in writing through stories about Vikings and adventure. He taught primary school before penning his first book, Benny And Omar. But it was the arrival of his second book, Artemis Fowl, that brought Colfer the recognition he now has as a talented author of children’s books. The Artemis Fowl series follows a preteen boy with criminal genius and the fairy world that he uncovers.

artemis fowl books

Colfer has now written over 15 books for young adult audiences. He plans to keep writing as long as possible.

I will keep writing until people stop reading or I run out of ideas. Hopefully neither of these will happen anytime soon.

  • Eoin Colfer

 

For a list of Colfer books that the library has available, click here.

Autumn Story Time

Autumn Story Time (2)

 

Are you a Union employee with a child or grandchild? Come join us for an Autumn Story Time at the library!

Back To School Story Time

back to school story time

Story Time for Union children is back! Faculty and staff, bring your children and grandchildren to The Logos for a back-to-school story time on September 9th.

Mother’s Day Story Time

Union families should join us for our Mother’s Day Story Time! This will be the last story time of the semester. Be sure to thank Rachel Powers for her work as the storyteller!

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Welcome, STEM Day Students!

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Welcome to Union University!

Here at the library, we have many books, DVDs, journals, and other resources dedicated to STEM subjects.

On this special STEM Preview Day, a display of our STEM-related materials will be located on the library’s first floor. Feel free to stop by the library during your visit and check out what we have to offer.

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You are also welcome to ask questions to our staff or student workers at the Circulation Desk, also on the first floor. We look forward to hosting you and your families!

Here is a list containing some of our most intriguing STEM-related titles: