Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
I’m Not a Plastic Bag by Rachel Hope Allison, is a wordless graphic novel about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch published in association with Jeff Corwin Connect, a company founded to raise awareness of issues facing the earth and its many inhabitants.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a swirling spiral of manmade litter in the central North Pacific Ocean. It formed accidently as the result of discarded waste (mostly plastic) bits and pieces that have pooled together through the naturally occurring movements of oceanic winds and currents over the course of many years. The Patch occupies a large and relatively stationary region between Hawaii and California. Research shows that this marine debris field negatively affects at least 267 species of marine birds and animals worldwide including seals, whales and turtles.
Plastics are materials that have been designed to last, in some cases almost forever. They are also cheap and readily available making them ever-present throughout the human world. In fact, millions of plastic bags are tossed away every single day, some of which make their way into waterways and eventually the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There they join the Patch, one of the largest, unintended accumulations of consumer waste on the planet!
After learning about this Patch, illustrator Rachel Hope Allison felt she had to spread the message of substituting bio-degradable bags for plastic ones. By using her artistic imaginings of this real threat to our environment, she does a commendable job portraying the trash items and their interactions with one another, as well as their devastating effect on marine life. The negative message is pretty clear, but there is also a strong positive one: The hope that readers will get excited about decreasing their plastics consumption footprint on the environment.
Jeff Corwin, the conservationist and television host of “Ocean Mysteries”, wrote the forward to this book. In it he drives the enormity of the issue home by stating; ”The journey of discarded waste is wide-ranging and far-reaching. A produce bag from a distant supermarket, masquerading as a jellyfish, could find its way into the belly of an endangered sea turtle.” Read Jeff’s review of the book.
The United States has only 5% of the world’s population, yet generates 40% of the world’s trash. All of us can make some simple changes in our daily habits and thereby reduce ocean bound plastic garbage and help marine life survive into the future. And now is a great time to start!
After all, it may be just an innocent plastic bag at the market, but it could turn into a serious threat to an animal’s life if it joins the Patch.
I'm not a plastic bag : a graphic novel
Hari Kunzru’s weird and wonderful new novel Gods Without Men masterfully weaves together multiple story lines and characters with a deeply mysterious rock formation in the Mojave Desert loosely threading it all together. The novel, legitimately I believe, has been compared to “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham and David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas” in the way it magically snaps back and forth through time and changes perspective without losing a bit of its momentum. Ultimately this rather surreal novel leaves it to the reader to determine what strangeness is happening out there in the desert, but along the way as more and more questions are raised and fewer conclusions offered you become twisted in knots of inquiry that pull you deeper into this book and don’t let go. This is Kunzru’s fourth novel and I enthusiastically recommend them all, they are all so different and all so great.
Gods Without Men
Dogs—big ones, small ones: the varieties are nearly endless. A new offering of children’s books here at the library about dogs provides something for almost any child who wants a story about canines.
Middle grade readers who like funny mysteries will enjoy The Trouble with Chickens: a J.J. Tully Mystery by Doreen Cronin. J.J. is a former search and rescue dog, so he’s not very impressed when two chicks named Dirt and Sugar, and their chicken mom, ask for J.J.’s help in tracking down their missing siblings. They offer J.J. a cheeseburger if he will help. What dog could resist such an offer? This is the first in a new series by Cronin, author of Diary of a Worm, a best-selling picture book.
Little Dog, Lost is the story of a small town, a boy named Mark who wanted a dog, and Buddy, a dog who had lost her way. Newbery Honor award winning author Marion Dane Bauer has written a satisfying chapter book story with evocative illustrations that will appeal to children. This would also make a good read-aloud story.
Switching gears a little, Stay; the True Story of Ten Dogs tells the true story of Luciano Anastasini, who works for a circus. His family have been circus performers for generations, and when an accident means he can no longer work as an acrobat, Luciano has the idea of developing an act with dogs. But he chooses dogs from the pound, the ones nobody else wants. In the book’s introduction, author Kate DiCamillo says. “It is a story of second chances, belief and love. Mostly, though, it is a story of the miracles that can occur when we (dog or human) are extended the grace of being well and truly seen by another.” Wonderful photographs showcase the personalities of Luciano and his talented dogs.
The Trouble with Chickens: a J.J. Tully Mystery
I watched the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart interview author and dog lover Maria Goodavage about her latest book entitled Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes which was published last March, and I immediately put it on my must read list. By the way, MWD is the acronym for Military Working Dog.
Throughout history, dogs have been used in numerous martial roles: Attacking enemies, protecting fighters, as well as alerting soldiers when they detect danger. They have also been deployed as trackers, messengers and first aid deliverers, especially in high risk areas where humans would more likely than not be able to get through. But today their most common job is to sniff out explosives.
This book is an engaging account of the dedicated canines who play significant roles in our military’s efforts both past and current. While the exploits of military working dogs have been documented in earlier war efforts, much of the information in this volume concentrates on the hostilities in Afghanistan. In 2010, working dog teams in that country were credited with finding more than 12,500 lbs. of explosives. Current figures show that the Department of Defense has some 2,700 U.S. military working dogs in service throughout the world, with about 600 found in actual warzones.
Ironically, MWDs are classified as equipment by the Department of Defense. It’s a designation that fell upon military dogs after the Second World War, when the military started purchasing canines. Of course handlers see their dogs as anything but equipment. Handlers put their lives on the line for their devoted canine companions, and the reverse is also true. A common refrain among handlers who have been deployed is “war would have been hell without my dog.” Dogs and their soldier counterparts spend almost every minute together. Handlers and their canines eat, sleep, play and work together. As a result it’s not surprising that extremely close bonds are formed. Some soldiers feel so close to their dogs they have even shared their honorary medals with them, and many make a point of adopting their dogs when they return home.
So the military’s practice of categorizing soldier dogs as mere equipment seems odd, out of touch and somewhat heartless. After all, these animals are hard working and vibrant partners who should be treated with respect, kindness, and love, all of which their soldier handlers freely lavish upon them.
Many of the dogs used by the armed forces are German Shepherds and Belgium Malinois, although other breeds are also occasionally drafted. I can especially appreciate the use of German Shepherds. My step mother-in-law used to breed these very disciplined canines. They are highly intelligent, aggressive and have a keen sense of responsibility and devotion to owner and family. They are natural protectors and enjoy having a job to do, which makes them highly suitable for military purposes.
This book is written in an easygoing style which relies heavily on first hand accounts, observations and quotes from those involved with MWDs. It also chronicles the stories of soldiers whose dogs did not come home, dying at the hands of the enemy; an all too common and heartbreaking reality of this world.
Over the years MWDs have become an invaluable part of the complete modern army. As former Four Star General and current CIA Director, David Petraeus put it: ”The capacity they bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine.”
So here is a salute and a heartfelt thank you to our military and their canine heroes!
Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes
Patrick, a Dutch Blue Dwarf rabbit, has lived with us for a little over two years. He weighed a meager four pounds when we adopted him from the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary in Willis, MI, not too far from Ann Arbor.
Right from that first day when we met him we knew that he was going to be a handful. As we were readying him for his trip to his new home, one Sanctuary staff member casually mentioned that we should be careful in handling Patrick, since apparently he had started to nip people recently. No problem, I thought. He seemed docile and sweet enough. And besides, how much pain can a diminutive bunny inflict? A few days later I learned the hard way. Being irresistibly cute, Patrick was the recipient of many kisses from me; something that he did not enjoy as much being the recipient, as I did being the giver. So to get his displeasure through to me, one day he bit me on the cheek just as I was about to land a particularly loving smooch on that adorable little nose of his. The pain was tolerable. But I was shortly thereafter admitted to a local urgent care clinic to clean up the wound and stop the bleeding.
After reading up on domestic rabbits in a 2008 book titled, When Your Rabbit Needs Special Care: Traditional and Alternative Healing Methods by Lucile Moore, I was only a little bit happier to learn that only highly intelligent rabbits nip or bite. Supposedly, that’s because they know what they like and don’t like, and have no inhibitions in communicating their desires as forcefully as they can. No dumb bunnies for our family!
Patrick turned out to be brilliant - absolutely brilliant! However it was a brilliance that came with an attitude the size of Texas! A few months later in a momentary lapse of judgement brought on by his delightfully sweet appearance, I was once more bitten, this time on the lip. Back I went to the clinic to have it super glued together. No worries, but from that time on, I decided to show my affection to Patrick from the back of his head, so that my face was not in his. In all honesty, after that second bite, for a moment or so (actually it was a little longer than that), the thought of taking him back to the Sanctuary from where he came did cross my mind. But a promise is a promise, and I did pledge to take care of that rabbit until death did us part. However, who will precede whom into the great hereafter is still up in the air.
Well, as it happens, about three weeks ago we almost lost Patrick. On that Sunday morning, (why do these things always take place during the weekend when most vets are closed?) we noted that Patrick was uncharacteristically tilting his head and that one of his ears was drooping. After consulting the internet, we came to the conclusion that the treatment would be rather painless, relatively inexpensive, and that recovery would be imminent. The next day we took him to a local vet known to have some familiarity treating rabbits. She confirmed our diagnosis and prescribed an antibiotic for the infection in his ear. After administering one dose of the medication that day, Patrick began wheezing terribly and breathing through his mouth, which is not a good sign in bunnies.
He was visibly worse the next morning, but our local vet was not in the office, and rather than take him to the emergency clinic here in town that has little experience dealing with rabbits, we decided instead to transport him to a clinic in Grand Rapids. Although the vet there did have some knowledge of bunnies, after several hours he called saying that they couldn’t do anything more for him. However, he also suggested that we take him to see a true rabbit specialist in Cascade, MI. Although the specialist didn’t hold out much hope for his prognosis upon his arrival, after several days of intensive care, Patrick started responding positively.
After several more days, we were able to take him home where we continued his treatments. He seemed very happy to be back in his own environs at last and his condition improved dramatically, almost on a daily basis. The three feline members of our family, Ollie, Graham, and Lionel kept vigil over him and seemed to really care about his condition. They took turns lying by his cage and keeping him company throughout the day. It seemed obvious that they were hoping for his recovery almost as much as we were.
Finally after more than two weeks at home, Patrick is close to his normal self. No more force feeding him, no more meds or penicillin shots. He’s back to a normal bunny routine of constant eating and pooping with intermittent naps or jaunts around his area. He is still very assertive and isn’t above nipping the hands that nursed him back to health. But he is our bunny; we love him dearly and wouldn’t have it any other way!
When your rabbit needs special care : traditional and alternative healing methods
When I read that Rin Tin Tin: the Life and the Legend was Library Journal’s pick for top nonfiction title of 2011, I was intrigued.
Author Susan Orlean has written a wonderfully readable book, not only about Rin Tin Tin, the iconic dog star of films and TV. Her story ranges widely and touches on the early history of Hollywood and films, the bravery and use of animals in war, and much more.
The story begins on a battlefield in France during World War I. A young American soldier, Lee Duncan, discovers an orphaned German shepherd puppy in a bombed out kennel. He has left his own dog behind in America, and adopts the small pup. Duncan, who was raised in an orphanage, feels an affinity with the abandoned dog, whom he names Rin Tin Tin. He immediately senses that this is an extraordinary dog, and is fortunately able to bring “Rinty” back to the US. The rest, as the saying goes, is history—and what a ride it is!
Susan Orlean is a respected reporter who spent ten years researching and writing this book, the story of a dog born in 1918 and his descendants, and the people who loved them and helped to insure their legacy.
This is a book for all people who have ever had or loved a dog.
Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend
With the weather we’ve been having you can’t help but realize that butterfly season is right around the corner. The library has lots of really good books on butterflies. One of them is simply called Butterflies by Seymour Simon. Simon does children’s science educational books with simple titles like Cats, Global Warming, The Universe and Penguins and they all have great pictures. The pictures are all close-up and graphic. His books are colorful and well written. The information is useful and comprehensive at a child’s level. There’s no better way for you and your kids to spend the day than in the garden with this book looking for butterflies and learning just about everything they need to know about them.