Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

Rise Up Singing

May Erlewine’s great song “Rise Up Singing” celebrates the restorative power of singing. Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook collects words, chords and sources for 1200 songs from many folk traditions as well as the commercial music industry. This venerable print resource is organized by topic from America to Work. My favorite topical section is Play. That’s where you’ll find so many of the songs you’ll remember from childhood. But this songbook isn’t only for kids. There are protest songs as well as sacred rounds and chants from a variety of traditions. Rise Up Singing is easy to use. The songs are indexed by artist, by culture, by holiday, and by subject. The title index includes first lines and alternate titles. And Pete Seeger’s introduction is worth reading even if you go no further. One thing that makes Rise Up Singing different from many other vocal fake books is that, except for the Sacred Rounds and Chants section, there is no musical notation to express the melodies of the songs. That leaves more room for lyrics in this portable book from Sing Out. Because the book is meant for group singing environments, there’s usually someone in the group who knows the tune. If you’re thinking of a popular or folk song, a show tune or kids’ song, it may very well be here.


Rise Up Singing

Michigan and the Federal Writers' Program

The American Guide series of books about the then 48 states (Alaska and Hawaii weren’t states at the time) was produced by the Federal Writers Project under the Works Progress Administration during the 1930’s and 1940’s. The travel guides, from Michigan to Missouri and New York to California, cover history, geography and culture of each state. The idea for the project was to employ writers such as Saul Bellow, John Cheever and Richard Wright to compose articles about the states. The set of books have historic value and although older, contain information that is current today. A complete set may be found in the Reference collection and some titles are in the circulating collection of the Central Library in the travel area.

The Michigan volume highlights many of the cities including Kalamazoo: “The two main business streets are exceptionally wide. The downtown area, centered at Main and Burdick Streets, is composed mainly of two- and three-story structures. The one ‘skyscraper,’ a 15-story bank building, looks down on peddlers hawking celery and peanuts—a sight peculiar to Kalamazoo.” Oh for some crisp celery and hot peanuts today! This history continues and may elicit a chuckle from readers but is invaluable information that should be appreciated by today’s readers as well as future readers.



Joanna L

This one puts a crick in the pump handle!

As might be expected, KPL owns a wide range of English language dictionaries, including the esteemed Oxford English Dictionary, the Random House, and the American Heritage. What many may not know is that we also have many specialized sources for word information. One of my favorites is NTC’S Dictionary of Folksy, Regional, and Rural Sayings, edited by Anne Bertram. The purpose of this volume is to catalog and provide examples of usage of words, expressions, and idioms not likely to be found in the standard repertoire of sources that one usually consults. Here are some of the entries: buffalo chip, take a look-see, like tryin’ to scratch your ear with your elbow, I’ll eat my hat, thisaway, think a heap of, sorry-lookin,’ boughten, tarnation, prolly, your eyes are bigger than your stomach, it’s raining pitchforks, get shed of it, etc. etc. Maybe it’s because my family lived for many years in the rural parts of Iowa and Michigan when they first came to this country that many phrases in this book sound very familiar to me. Or, possibly when the editor included the word “regional” in the title she also meant the Midwest! This unique work nicely fills a niche in the documentation of American speech and dialect. [Please note that I had this all written and ready to go before the review of the Strunk volume appeared!]


NTC's dictionary of folksy, regional, and rural sayings
David D.

Michigan outdoors atlas

Do you ski, hike, bike, fish, hunt or camp in Michigan? We have the guides for you! Scenic drives, harbors and wildlife viewing are included. Dividing the state north and south, we have two new reference atlases that include in maps, text and pictures, the pleasures of outdoor life in Michigan. 

Southern Michigan all outdoors atlas & field guide and Northern Michigan all outdoors atlas & field guide are two books which can be found on the atlas cases on the second floor of the Central Library.


Northern Michigan all-outdoors atlas & field guide
Joanna L

Go Guides!

Here’s a plug for the topic guides on the new KPL website. During my first post-launch visit to the site, I found that the highlighted topic guide was “Parenting.” I took a look and realized that the guide will be useful for a local committee I’m serving on.

Today I distributed copies of the Parenting guide to the group.  They were impressed to see such a variety of resources gathered together… …KPL catalog headings and website topics, books recommended by staffdatabasesnewspapers and magazinescommunity resources and websites.

The committee includes some early childhood development experts and educators, and they offered some suggestions for additional resources we could add. I’m glad the new website will be interactive so users of the topic guides can help us make them even better!


mother reading while child jumps on bed
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