Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

We Made a Wampa

Fans of Star Wars of all ages will enjoy the projects in The Star Wars Craft Book.  My family tackled our first project last weekend.  wampa-2-160.jpgWe made our very own Washcloth Wampa!  It took most of the afternoon, but was worth it.  Next on our list to make are: Yoda finger puppets, Han Solo in Soaponite, Wookiee Bird House and a Star Wars snow globe.  The directions for each project are easy to follow and simple to create.  Several of the projects use inexpensive items found around your house or your recycling bin.  The book is filled with fun references for the Jedi in all of us.  Check this book out and let yourself “Give in to the Power of the Crafty Side.  May the glue gun be with you.”



The Star Wars Craft Book
Jill L

Time-crunched Life

Anyone who’s been out and about in Kalamazoo on a Saturday morning since early winter has likely encountered the large groups of runners, many organized by the awesome Kalamazoo Area Runners, who have been training steadily for the Kalamazoo Marathon (May 6-8). With the weather improving (any day now!) and the event now only a week away, the dedication and discipline of these runners who trained outdoors through the Michigan winter is sure to pay off. The fact that these folks are not professional athletes, but regular, busy, time stressed, everyday people with professional, social, and family lives is not lost on me. While I am not a runner, I am a (mildly) competitive cyclist and the older I get and the more packed my daily life becomes with family, professional, and community commitments, the more my fitness goals take a backseat in my life and my time to devote to training shrinks further. Luckily KPL has multiple resources that can help keep you motivated and getting the most out of even the most limited of training schedules. If its training/social groups that keep you motivated then there is no better place to start your search for local organizations than the Kalamazoo Public Libraries Local Organization Directory. If you are looking for books to help make the most of your workouts, Chris Carmichael’s The Time-Crunched Triathlete , Kris Gethin’s Body by Design, and in the extreme even the craziness of Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Body, provide a scientifically (if not a tiny bit morally questionable in the case of Ferriss) backed approach to squeezing the most fitness out of the least amount of time. If it is advice or motivation from the vast amount of online communities and information sources that keep you going, KPL has you covered with free wifi in all of our locations and plenty of newly installed blazing fast computers. But even with all of these information sources easily accessible from KPL, it is still the individual that gets out of bed and out running on a cold and snowy January morning and that is why those folks running in next week’s marathon are so worthy of the communities support and I wish everyone participating, no matter what distance or target time, good luck in next week’s event. 


Time-crunched Triathlete

A Wonderful Year of Discussions

The Oshtemo Book Group has had a wonderful year of discussions about a variety of books. We ended the 2009-10 season with a “Readers Choice” roundtable where everyone could share a book they particularly enjoyed.

Not surprisingly, each book mentioned was a top favorite of the reader, and we all added that title to our “must read” list.

We were surprised that so many of the titles fell under the “historical fiction” category, but not all. There were several nonfiction books and a Pulitzer Prize winner as well.

So if you are looking for a good summer read you might want to check out the following titles:



Oshtemo Book Group

In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

From Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"


King's dream




Walter Cronkite: A Reporter’s Life

Forty years ago this week, the world watched together as mankind landed on the surface of the moon for the first time. And for my own family, and of course millions of others, it was the voice of Walter Cronkite who led us there. As a kid, naturally, I was excited. My father had kept meticulous scrapbooks of all the space program events, and had even taken us on a family vacation to visit (then) Cape Kennedy. I remember watching my father shed tears of disbelief as Cronkite told us that the Eagle had landed. It seemed that a new world of possibilities was opening right before our eyes.

In A Reporter’s Life, Cronkite himself summed it up rather well. “That first landing on the moon was, indeed, the most extraordinary story of our time and almost as remarkable a feat for television as the space flight itself. To see Neil Armstrong, 240,000 miles out there, as he took that giant step for mankind onto the moon’s surface, was a thrill beyond all the other thrills of that flight. All those thrills tumbled over each other so quickly that the goose pimples from one merged into the goose pimples from the next.” (The library also stocks an audiobook version of A Reporter’s Life (read by the author), and lots more.)

And as we look back on our first explorations into other worlds, it seems ironic that the very person who took us on that amazing journey and would have perhaps celebrated this anniversary as enthusiastically as anyone, has himself left this world for another.

Plenty has (and will be written) about Cronkite’s professionalism and the personal-ism he brought to his craft. Indeed, television journalism as we know it might have been very different were it not for his pioneering leadership. In a CBS News Saturday Early Show tribute this morning, many of his colleagues remarked that Cronkite insisted the evening news program he first pioneered was to be about accurate reporting rather than celebrity entertainment.

But for me as a kid growing up in rural America and watching the news each evening to see what the rest of the world was doing, it was Cronkite’s enthusiastic optimism that I remember and treasure most. Indeed, there was plenty to be worried (even scared) about during the sixties and seventies, but for me at least, Cronkite’s positive outlook guided our family through it (and even attempted to make sense of it) all.

One of my personal favorites was the Emmy award-winning CBS series The 21st Century (1967-70). In a weekly news magazine format, Walter brought us stories about fascinating inventions and new developments, and provided us with an optimistic glimpse of what the world might look like in what then seemed like the quite distant future. Today, that seemingly distant future is here and many of those fascinating ideas are indeed a reality.

“And that’s the way it is…”


A Reporter's Life

Visiting author--Francine Prose

 Francine Prose will be visiting the Central Library on Thursday, March 12, 2009 from 8pm-9pm as part of the Gwen Frostic Reading Series, co-sponsored with WMU. Francine is the author of fifteen books of fiction including A Changed Man, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her newest book, Goldengrove, is about a thirteen-year-old girl who must face the loss of a sister, parents who are grieving themselves and her sister’s enigmatic boyfriend. Her novel has been acclaimed as “among the great novels of adolescence."

Please join us.


Changed man
Joanna L

You Are Where You Eat

My sister-in-law is a New Orleans native and a fabulous cook. Recently, she sent me the book, You Are Where you Eat: Stories and Recipes from the Neighborhoods of New Orleans, by Elsa Hahne. This she did without realizing that Ms. Hahne will be here at Kalamazoo Public Library, on January 28, to talk about her book. What a coincidence!

My sister-in-law’s note that accompanied her gift describes the book better than I could, so here’s a quote from Gabrielle: “I received a copy of You Are Where You Eat for Christmas. I read it from cover to cover, completely fascinated by the cultural and culinary patchwork that is New Orleans---something I always knew of course, but didn’t necessarily appreciate. This is a writer’s book as well as a cook’s book, a book for people who appreciate anthropology, sociology, and community.” 

The thirty-three multi-ethnic home cooks featured in this book share their stories, recipes and enthusiasm for their food and their city. I hope you’ll check out the book and join us on January 28 at Central Library. Ms. Hahne’s appearance is in support of the exhibit, “Spared from the Storm: Masterworks from the New Orleans Museum of Art” at the KIA through February 8.


You Are Where You Eat

Who Won Kalamazoo's Caldecott Award?

Last night we conducted our Mock Caldecott with Ed Spicer, an official member of the 2008 Caldecott Committee.  Ed has done many programs around the Kalamazoo area in the past couple of months (including two here at the Kalamazoo Public Library) where he introduced new books that were eligible for the Caldecott Award given to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.  From votes taken during these programs, he developed a short list of books that we discussed last night and voted on.  Congratulations goes to local photographer, Nic Bishop, for his book Frogs!  (Nic being from Kalamazoo didn't bias us at all.)  Ed explained how the actual Caldecott Committee might have to vote multiple times as they narrow it down to one book and up to four honor books. 

Ed Spicer with mock Caledcott committee

After three votes of our own, we chose the winner and two honor books:

The House in the Night illustrated by Susan Marie Swanson

Wabi Sabi illustrated by Ed Young

Now we just have to wait until late January 2009 when they announce the actual Caldecott winner to see how we did.  If Nic Bishop were to win the Caldecott, it would be a historic event since it would be the first time that a book with photographs won the award.  Good luck, Nic!

Let us know who you think is the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children in 2008.


Steve S

It's Not Easy Being Green

Kermit the Frog once sang that it wasn't easy being green, spending each day the color of the leaves.  Well, I would venture to say that is true in our society as well--it isn't easy being "green" doing all the recycling, conserving, reusing, etc.  There is even a software out now that says it "eliminates unwated pages saving paper, ink, money, and millions of trees".

How else are we saving trees?  In Douglas Tallamy's book Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens the question is raised about our habits unrelated to recycling the trash.  What do we plant that will sustain our environment?  Do we plant non-native species that attract destroying insects?  Or, do we plant things that will create a strong ecosystem in Michigan?  Doug states; "Only 15 percent of the Amazonian basin has been logged, whereas well over 70 percent of the forests along our eastern seaboard are gone" (25).  That seems to possibly prompt us to a rethinking of priorities.  As I drag my yellow recycle bin to the curb every week, am I passing a smooth carpet of green grass (where most of the watering we do is run-off) or am I passing some flowers designed by nature to encourage bird and insect life?

These are the ideas Tallamy presents in his book.  While many of the plants and grasses he promotes aren't as pretty as those wild pink hybird coneflowers showing off in the garden next to the Japanese Beetle attracting zinnias, they are made to work in collaboration with other things found naturally in Michigan.  Ever wonder where all the birds in your backyard went?  Take a look around and see what might keep them there--do they have natural shelter to dwell in and a plethora of insects to feast on?  If the answer is no, then you might consider upping your "green-ness". 

NOTE:  Doug Tallamy will speak at a free, day-long conference held on October 11, 2008 at the Kalamazoo Nature Center and sponsored by Kalamazoo's Wild Ones


Bringing Nature Home:  How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens

A Dangerous Age

Ellen Gilchrist is writing about her usual cast of characters, the women of the Hand family. However, the tone of this outing into Hand family lore is slightly darker that in her earlier titles. In the beginning the Hand women are all headed toward North Carolina for a cousin's wedding, but instead of a wedding, they attend a funeral, as the fiance was killed in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. In one way  on another the events of 9/11 influence the lives of all the female cousins. Three of them fall in love and marry men who will eventually be involved in the Iraq War. There are more funerals and heartbreak to follow, but at the same time a feeling that these women will be as strong as their forebearers. I am making this sound grimer than it really is, because Ellen Gilchrist has the ability to make us see the ebb and flow of everyday life in a very pleasurable way.  We are left with the women struggling on, with perhaps further adventures of  the New Orleans Hands. The last entry in the book reads: "Aug. 27, 2005 -- Major hurricane forming in the Gulf of Mexico." One supposes that Katrina is a story for another novel.


A Dangerous Age
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