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Staff Picks: Books

A John Berry Meachum Story

This fictional children’s story was inspired by a real event. In Missouri in 1847 a law was passed that prohibited the education of Blacks, slaves or free. This law was passed by the General Assembly of the State of Missouri and it stated that: “No person shall keep a school for the instructions of negroes or mulattoes, reading or writing in this state.”

A man named John Berry Meachum lived from 1789-1854. He had been born a slave and worked to earn enough money to buy his freedom. In 1826 he became a minister of the first African American Baptist Church in Missouri. Although, educating blacks was against the law it was very important to Meachem. Being a very resourceful and creative person he worked to find ways to defy the unjust law that stated black people could not be educated within the state. He built a steamboat and used it in the middle of the Mississippi River as a school for Blacks.

That’s where the idea for this great story, Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson, came from.


Awake Beautiful Child: an ABC Day in the Life

I love Amy Krouse Rosenthal's way with words and letters and many of her books have become favorites at our house. Awake Beautiful Child is a wonderful picture book that tells the story of an average day in new creative way. Each phrase uses words that start with A-B-C in alphabetical order. Some of my favorites include, "Above, Birds Chirp", "Afar, Bells Chime", "Afternoon Brings Calm", and "Always Be Curious". We were inspired to create our own stories at home using just words that start with just those 3 letters again and again. The illustrations with Gracia Lam are wonderfully retro, calming, and fun! Find it in our picturebook collection in the JE Concepts Neighborhood.


Everything I Never Told You

I am drawn to family dramas and this book is no exception. It follows the Lees, a Chinese-American family in Ohio in the 1970's, immediately after--and leading up to--the tragic drowning of their daughter, Lydia. The multiple points of view in alternating chapters reveal tragic family dynamics and cultural sensitivities that weave their way into every character's psyche. (And the mystery surrounding Lydia's death kept me reading later into the night than I am usually able before falling asleep!) This is a new Book Club in a Bag title and can also be checked out in several formats including digital audio and ebook. It was named a "best book of the year" by several sources including NPR, the Huffington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Amazon.


The Girl With All the Gifts

The Girl With All the Gifts is the story of a young girl. Melanie is a genius- bright and full of questions, and curious about the world and her place in it. She loves school and her teacher, Ms. Justineau, and loves the stories and fables Ms. Justineau tells the class every day.

Melanie spends the rest of her day locked in her cell, and is strapped into her chair every morning while the Sergeant and his soldiers hold guns to her head. Her classroom is filled with other kids strapped into chairs like hers. She tells the Sergeant she doesn't need to be strapped in; that she won't bite, but he doesn't think this is a funny joke. It becomes clear very quickly that Melanie, the other kids in her class, and the world they live in, are very, very different... Equally terrifying and moving, The Girl With All the Gifts is a Pandora's box of horror and humanity.


The Misadventures of Max Crumbly

Welcome to a brand new series by the author of Dork Diaries. The new series: Misadventures of Max Crumbly is based on Max who is facing the scariest place he’s ever been: South Ridge Middle School.

Max has been homeschooled by his Grandma, a retired kindergarten teacher, and frankly he is tired of animal crackers and naps. He must make middle school work or it’s back to Grandma’s kindergarten. In Locker Hero, Max runs into some trouble from Thug (Doug) the 8th grade school bully, who takes every opportunity to stuff Max into his locker. Max must become like his favorite comic book hero in order to think and act his way out of his locker at the beginning of a 3 day weekend. There might also be a part with thieves trying to steal the school computers, Max seeing them and then trying to get away. Super hero powers are needed – can Max do it?

Written in the same diary entry format and the same great illustrations, this is sure to be a fun new series which will fly off the shelves. Watch for it to be another bestseller for Rachel Renee Russell.


The father (Made in Sweden series)


Check out this new thriller (housed along with our mystery books), based on a true story about Swedish bank robber brothers that rose to lives of crime under their father’s violent rule. The father is written by Anton Svensson, a pseudonym for the writing team of Anders Roslund and Stefan Thunberg, the fourth brother who was not involved in the bank robberies. The brothers known as The Military Gang, were responsible for ten daring bank robberies over a period of 2 years in the early 1990s. Thunberg turned to fiction in order to be more honest about what happened within his broken family, but all events in the book are true, with names being changed. This book is a bestseller in Sweden and is being looked at in the US to possibly be made into a movie.

 


The Value of Quiet

True or False?

I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.
I often prefer to express myself in writing.
I dislike small talk, but enjoy talking in depth about topics that matter to me.
I tend to think before I speak.
I often let calls go through to voicemail.
I dislike conflict.
I'm not a big risk-taker.


If you answered some of these questions "true", then you might be an introvert and you might enjoy this book!

According to the author, Susan Cain, introversion is often mistaken for shyness. Shyness is a fear of social judgement, where introversion is a high sensitivity to stimulation, including social stimulation. Introverts are most comfortable with a quiet, calm environment where we can focus on a small amount of important stimulation. They also need time alone to recharge after periods of high stimulation, such as a party or a after giving a presentation. The books presents research and stories of successful people that highlight the contributions of introverts, both in personal and professional life.

I consider myself an introvert, and I found this book very encouraging. The world needs all kinds of people. We need strong, fearless personalities who will jump right into action or be willing to talk to everyone. But we also need thoughtful, reserved people to balance them out.


somethingtofoodabout

Somethingtofoodabout is a testament to what you can do when you reach the upper echelons of pop cultural cool. By all accounts, Questlove (drummer, producer, musical director, NYT bestselling author and culinary bon vivant) has reached the highest heights of hipness and now is basically tenured in the university of cool and can seemingly do whatever he pleases. Thankfully, Questlove’s celebrity was earned the old-fashioned way, through hard work and talent, as opposed to the "Kardashian" way, and he continuously makes interesting creative choices, including this new book. Instead of creating a celebrity cookbook or turning himself into yet another made-for-tv food impresario, Questlove gives us a book about the creative aspect of high-level cooking, filled with interesting photographs and rich conversations with chefs at the white-hot center of the food world. The book is artistic, unexpected, and casually but totally unapologetically cool. Check it out.

 


Rise of the Rocket Girls

We often think of the women astronauts as breaking gender barriers, but a whole generation of women came before them in the early days of the space program.

Rise of the Rocket Girls follows an elite group of women in the 1940’s and 50’s who broke gender and scientific barriers in the early days of rocket design and helped lay the groundwork for our space program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Interestingly, they were referred to as computers because they performed the math computations that determined speed, trajectory, combustion, and other factors for rocket and propellant development. These women computed thus they were labeled computers.

This book is very readable. Interspersed with their space work, are stories of their challenges of balancing home and family with a career, their struggles in a male-dominated workplace, and their pride in their role in launching American into space.


Save the Orangutans

Orangutan Orphanage was written and photographed by Suzi Eszterhas, a wildlife photographer whose work has appeared in numerous periodicals. She is also an advocate for conservation and helps raise money for various wildlife organizations throughout the world.

In this informative, endearing and just plain sweet book, she documents her visit to the Orangutan Foundation International’s Orangutan Care Center, where they actively care for rescued orangutans, most of which are orphaned youngsters.

The Center is located in the jungles of Borneo, Indonesia, just outside the Tanjung Puting National Park. Some three hundred orangutans are cared for by a hundred or so good-hearted, local villagers who are specially trained in orangutan care and development. Taking care of the youngest orphans is a 24 hour a day, seven day a week task, where the caretaker plays the role of surrogate mom. This includes round-the-clock bottle feedings, bath times, playtimes and educational outings to teach their charges about their environment and how to get along with other orangs. After years of effort, and a little luck, many or most of these animals will be released back into the wild to live the life that they were intended to live.

This is a wonderfully appealing visual book for animal lovers, both young and old. Additional information is provided on Doctor Birute Mary Galdikas, founder and president of the Orangutan Foundation International, as well as ecotourism, conservation, and how we can all help orangutans survive.

Check it out! You’ll be glad you did.