NOTE: All Kalamazoo Public Library locations close at 5 pm Wednesday for Thanksgiving. Closed Thanksgiving Day. Normal hours resume Friday.

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Staff Picks: Books

The Season of Styx Malone

I really enjoyed the new book by Kekla Magoon. It reminded me a little bit of Orbiting Jupiter but more lighthearted. When ten-year-old Caleb and older brother Bobby Gene meet sixteen-year-old Styx Malone, they are in for a not-so-boring summer. Caleb and Bobby Gene have really different personalities even though they are very close. Of course, that's typical of siblings, but the way their relationship is portrayed is really well done. And while I started out thinking that their dad was going to be nothing but a jerk, his character changes over time. Styx's character also grows over the course of the book. I kept turning pages because I wanted to see if what I thought was going to happen would happen. Well, I can tell you that it did and it didn't. No plot spoiler there at all, right? 

Great storytelling, great turns of phrase, and a diverse and interesting cast of major and minor characters makes this a really good read. The Season of Styx Malone asks: What are the limits of friendship? When does being protective become overprotective? The small-town summer-time setting reminded me of summers from my own childhood. This is a great book to enjoy as a family over the Thanksgiving break.


My Beijing by Nie Jun

My Beijing: Four Stories of Everday Wonder by Nie Jun is a children's graphic novel that collects four brief but fantastic stories. The tales bring Yu'er and her grandpa's neighborhood to life, all with interesting characters and a twist of magical realism. Nie Jun's art is whimsical and bright. I read this graphic novel quickly, but it stayed with me, so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more from this author. Although you'll find it shelved with children's books, My Beijing is for all ages of comic fans.


A Very Large Expanse of Sea

With stunningly beautiful prose and a protagonist who will make you laugh and cry, A Very Large Expanse of Sea, by Tahereh Mafi, has just risen to the very top of my "Best of 2018" list. The book follows a year in the high school life of 16 year old Muslim girl, Shirin. The year is 2002 and unfortuneately, Shirin is no longer surprised by how awful other humans can be. To protect herself she projects indifference as she moves from school to home and back again. Of course, as in so many teen stories, something interrupts her planned indifference. The readers' heart will break and mend and break again along with Shirin's in this incredibly moving, sometimes devastating, and ultimately hopeful, snapshot of her life. Check it out today! You'll be so glad you did!                                            

This is the first book I've read by Tahereh Mafi. She's also the author of the Shatter Me teen series and the middle grade fantasy novels, Furthermore and Whichwood. I'll be reading every word she writes! 


100 Places You Will Never Visit

Subtitled The World's Most Secret Locations, this book that lists 100 Places You Will Never Visit is good for both information and entertainment. There are descriptions and photographs (some from a distance, of course) of 100 sites, many of which the general public has not even heard of, let alone visit, such as the Rosslyn Chapel vaults, Room 39, Pionen White Mountains, and the Oak Island Money Pit. Others are famous because of their secrecy, such as the Fort Knox Bullion Depository, the Coca-Cola Recipe Vault, Air Force One, and the Queen's Bedroom at Buckingham Palace. This is another example of a book that can either be read straight through or looked at by individual site.


What Makes a Garden Grow?

A really wonderful, sad and yet hopeful story, The Rough Patch written and superbly illustrated by New York Times bestselling author Brian Lies is about a fox named Evan and his devoted dog.

Truly the best of friends, Evan and his pooch do everything together. Of all the activities that they engage in, they most relish working in Evan's magnificent garden! It is almost a magical place for plants, and everything they planted there thrived.

But one day , completely out of the blue, Evan sees his beloved canine friend lying dead in his doggie bed and everything in their wonderful existence changes.Evan first shuts himself out from the outside world by staying inside his house. He then decides to vent some of his dark feelings by cutting and slashing his beloved garden to the ground and disposing of the resultant plant trash by throwing it into a large pile. In place of his once beautiful garden filled with fragrant flowers and vibrant vegetables, newly sprouted, unattractive, prickly, dark weeds grew and so this garden became a sad, desolate place which matched his now never-changing mood.

However, one day he finds a pumpkin vine had snuck under a fence from the neighboring yard. His first inclination is to destroy it, but he rationalizes that since it was fuzzy, prickly, and spidery, that he would let it be. Evan ends up watering it and caring for it and decides to enter the pumpkin in the local fall fair. His pumpkin wins third place and as a prize he gets to choose either ten dollars or a pup found inside a cardboard box. Evan's first inclination is to take the money but he then hears a scratching sound coming from inside the box and thinks it wouldn't hurt to peek inside. He ends up adopting one of the pups and drives it home in his old red truck. And the rest( as they say) is history.

 A well written book on the topics of friendship, loss and redemption. Accompanied by beautifully detailed illustrations done with heart. This winner of a book is sure to please kids and many adults as well!

 

 


No one tells You this

Glynnis MacNicol celebrated her 40th birthday by herself, intentionally, even though her dear friends wanted to throw her a party. She was unmarried with no kids, no partner and no plans for either. She was squirming a bit under the burden of others’ expectations that she should be married, should be a mother by now. In No one tells You This, MacNicol chronicles how, during the year following her 40th birthday, she shook hands with that expectation, then let go of it for herself. Meanwhile, she embraced her full and interesting life--with gratitude for the flexibility her schedule allowed her to support her parents, sister, niece and nephew with some life changes--and found new choice adventures of her own.

MacNicol has a captivating writing style, and this is a meaningful memoir. There are so many single people in our culture, living vital multi-dimensional lives. Yet our media and our literature too rarely illuminate this reality. I hope MacNicol will publish more soon.


Coding for Kids!

While computer coding is a deep topic, like math and technical fields, it never hurts to set foundations early. Kiki Prottsman and DK have created a fun way to set these foundations with the new “My First Coding Book.” The basics of coding have to do with learning logic and the words used to describe certain actions and ideas. My First Coding Book teaches young readers these concepts, with fun illustrations, and lift-the-flap style games. This book is very cute, great fun, and I recommend it to anyone (even adults) who want a better sense of how this computing stuff -- at its core -- really works.


NYRB Classic Series

For all of the various ways we as readers can discover new authors and titles (amazing librarian recommended titles being a fantastic one), there are still those moments, even as a librarian, that the girth of new and exciting books to choose from overwhelms me, leading to a kind of mental paralysis. To get around this, I've recently decided that what I need is to focus my reading efforts. I am going to try my hand at reading only books published as part of the New York Review Books series (NYRB) for the next couple of months. I'm starting off this project with Arthur Schnitzler's Late Fame. From their web site:

The NYRB Classics series is dedicated to publishing an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction from different eras and times and of various sorts. The series includes nineteenth century novels and experimental novels, reportage and belles lettres, tell-all memoirs and learned studies, established classics and cult favorites, literature high, low, unsuspected, and unheard of. NYRB Classics are, to a large degree, discoveries, the kind of books that people typically run into outside of the classroom and then remember for life.


Dreamers

Books became our language.  Books became our home.  Books became our lives.  Yuyi Morales has created another beautifully illustrated picture book about her experience as a young immigrant mother with her infant son.  She left her home in Juarez, Mexico and settled in San Francisco feeling completely lost, until the day she discover the public library.


The Word Collector

Like many in the library profession, I am a fan of words. So is young Jerome, who has a unique way of collecting them and sharing them. To be enjoyed are both the story and the artwork.