Monday, March 22, 2010

Bozo's Circus, Des Plaines, and Lyric Opera--All in One Book!

The Black Sox Scandal

Bozo's Circus

The Chicago Literary Renaissance

Des Plaines

Lyric Opera

What do these five things have in common?

They're all entries in of one of the coolest books at the library, the Encyclopedia of Chicago. I had planned to include the Encyclopedia of Chicago in my post on Chicago theater, but I decided it deserved a tribute all its own.

An authoritative and engagingly written source on the history of Chicago, it also contains information on the surrounding suburbs, including a 523 word entry on Des Plaines. (Who knew that in the summers of the late 1800s and early 1900s, "the idyllic river setting enticed Chicagoans to board trains for Des Plaines to picnic or camp. As many as 8,000 people came in a day, disrupting the quiet community and annoying townspeople whose flower gardens were trampled by visitors.")

That entry, by Marilyn Elizabeth Perry, is just one of the 1,400 A to Z signed entries by journalists, historians and experts. Entries range from Hull House to Machine Politics to Steppenwolf Theatre to one of my favorite features, entries on all the neighborhoods, or community areas, of Chicago, such as Edgewater. (Although the emphasis is on the history of Chicago, the book is also a treasure trove of information on contemporary Chicago and its culture.)

Fun to thumb through as well as a great resource for students, it includes entries on subjects of national concern but with a Chicago slant, such as Environmental Regulation and Urban Renewal. Useful features include census data for counties, municipalities, and Chicago community areas, as well as a Biographical Dictionary at the end.

All of this is contained in one comprehensive but portable volume, complete with photographs, maps and tables. You can always find a copy on the shelf--we own a reference copy for in-library use. (Whenever you see the word REFERENCE in front of a book's call number, that means it's to be used in-library.) There's also a copy you can check out.

Finally, if it's 3 am and you're wondering just why the puppet Garfield Goose, of the Garfield Goose and Friends tv show, wore a crown on his head,* you can look it up in the free electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago, which you can access here, or via the library's guide to history and geography resources online, one of the library's many subject-specific guides to resources.

Although the library has many wonderful reference books, The Encyclopedia of Chicago is my favorite, and a fascinating book to simply browse. (I realize this makes me sound like a total geek. Does anyone else out there have favorite reference book?)

*Answer: Garfield Goose believed he was king of the United States. (The Encyclopedia of Chicago entry on Garfield Goose and Friends.)


Linda K, said...

This is one of my favorite books about Chicago. Shortly after it was published we had to run out and buy one for our book collection at home. I remember watching Garfield Goose (at a very young age, of course) and telling my mother "That's crazy, a goose can't be king of the United States!" (it really bothered me)I believe another Chicago classic television program "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" is mentioned in the book. Lots of fun stuff to spend an enjoyable afternoon reading.

Laura A. said...

Yes, there is an entry for Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Such a sweet, gentle show. I was especially fond of Oliver J. Dragon. It always made me smile when he'd turn head upside down--for some reason that charmed me.

Jo said...

I am also a huge fan of this book. (I still hear the tune of "Clutch Cargo" and " I'm Hard Rock, I'm CoCo, I'm Joe" in my head - an allusion only a old Chicagoan would know.)

Anonymous said...

I'm going to look up Windy City and see what it says. I know many people say that moniker refers to the politicians but I always doubt that when walking down Miner Street in February.

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