A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power, by Paul Fischer

Caitlin's picture

In this fascinating book, film producer Paul Fischer combines interviews, research, and first-hand investigation to tell the strange story of Kim Jong-Il’s kidnapping of South Korea’s leading director and his star actress ex-wife. Obsessed with film since he was a child, Kim Jong-Il used North Korea’s Ministry for Propaganda to build his power within the regime, making the only movies that the isolated North Korean people were allowed to view. As Kim’s ambitions eclipsed his country’s limited filmmaking ability, he decided to recruit new talent—forcibly.

Choi Eun-Hee was South Korea’s biggest and most beloved star; Shin Sang-Ok, her director ex-husband, ran the largest film production company in South Korea. Kim kidnapped both in 1978, and after torturing Shin into compliance, the two began making films for North Korea’s captive audience. With success—their films played to packed theaters for months and won international awards—came the opportunity to escape via a chase straight out of a spy novel.

A must-read for anyone interested in the history and culture of North Korea. 

Daily Life Through History

Katie's picture

One of our reference databases that I find most interesting is Daily Life Through History. It allows you to revisit past times and places throughout history and learn what a typical day was like for the people living there, including details of their home life, diets, and common ceremonies. Here are some examples of the great stuff you can explore:

  • The location of Cahokia: It was a settlement in the Southeast/Midwest region of North America during the years 900-1500 AD. It was about the size that London is today and was populated by the Mississippian culture, who constructed mound dwellings and excelled at stone carving, pottery, woodwork, weaponry, and agriculture.
  • Sports and recreation during the Han Dynasty: During this dynasty, which reigned from 260-220 BC, people commonly enjoyed activities such as archery, fencing, boxing, equestrian activities, and even an early version of tug of war. Their sports and physical education were strongly influenced at that time by military training practices.
  • Education in British and Dutch Africa: The database discusses African education mainly during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries and explained that young children primarily learned about traditions, customs, and cultures by observing and imitating their elders. Upon their initiation into adulthood, they began a period of more formal education.
  • Food and drink in Victorian England: The working class and rural laborers in the early 1800's had diets that consisted mainly of bread, potatoes, and tea with bacon added for flavoring once or twice a week. Middle and upper class families enjoyed a more diverse menu which could include vegetable-marrow soup, lemon dumplings, boiled mackerel, and macaroni and cheese.

If you've got a time period or culture that you're interested in, you should definitely check out this database to learn more about how the people actually lived.

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Delicious! By Ruth Reichl

Colleen's picture

Billie Breslin has an incredible gift. She can identify any flavor, no matter how subtle, with just one taste. Follow Billie as she moves to New York City to pursue a career in food journalism at the well known Delicous! Magazine. Away from her family and feeling out of place in a new city, Billie learns to find total comfort in her eclectic coworkers. 

I love reading. I love food. I especially love reading about food. Delicious! is a fun read and is filled with so many twists I never expected. It's a story with a rich history, intriguing characters, and I guarantee your mouth will water more than once.

Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles by Bernard Cornwell

Scott's picture

To meet one’s Waterloo” has become a phrase in popular culture meaning a decisive defeat. It's fitting this term has endured because The Battle of Waterloo is considered a history-changing battle. In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from the island of Elba, where he had been exiled. He immediately headed to France to reunite the French army, which was always fiercely loyal to him, and to expand the French Empire. Although considered one of the greatest military minds in history, the author indicates Napoleon made some questionable moves and interesting assumptions at Waterloo.

Bernard Cornwell artfully sets the stage for this epic battle and details the events as they unfold. The author’s use of primary sources (letters from the soldiers) gives the reader a vivid account of the brutality of the battle that cost the lives of over 65,000 people. This is an exceptional account that will satisfy anybody with an interest in the Battle of Waterloo.


Biographies for African American History Month

Kevin's picture

February is full of holidays, including Presidents Day and Valentines Day. It's also African-American History Month (which, I guess is a holi-month). This weeks eBooks feature biographies on this theme.

Since we are all a little short on time, I've picked three, concise ebooks, aimed at a younger audience, but with enough information to interest any age. Check one out, and learn more about a few of the African-Americans who have shaped our country.


Teacher Recommendation: Where Do President's Come From?

The election season is almost upon us so it might be a good time to have your students brush up on some presidential history.  Michael Townsend has created a hilarious, yet very informative graphic novel about our presidents.  Students will love the sometimes weird, but always interesting fun facts that range from presidential pets to what the president does all day.  (Grades 4-9 School Library Journal)

Cuban History

Kevin's picture

In the last month, the United States has taken steps to restart diplomatic relations with Cuba, including a face-to-face meeting between the two countries' presidents. These are the highest level meetings in more than 50 years.

If you're interested in learning more about Cuba, check out one of the books below and explore the colorful and controversial history of our southern neighbor.

Happy Reading!


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