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Staff Picks: Books

It’s Okay to Read

Children’s author/illustrator Todd Parr will be the guest speaker at the 37th Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar this year. Parr is the author of many wonderful children’s titles; his whimsical artwork is distinctive, and always makes me smile. His books have positive, reassuring messages about diversity, self-confidence, and acceptance. One of my favorites is It’s Okay to Be Different.

There is a Meet the Author event on Thursday, Nov. 13 at 6:30 pm at the Central Library, for all ages (free event, open to the public). The Youth Literature Seminar is Friday, Nov. 14 at KVCC’s Texas Township Campus, from 9 am - 3:30 pm (registration and fee required). Please check the KPL website for more information.

It's Okay to Read


I Love You Just Enough

On the last day of school, Heather is looking forward to a summer helping her dad on their Hazel Ridge Farm. While pulling weeds in a field, she discovers a fuzzy, helpless, and frightened baby duckling, who somehow was separated from its family.

Heather wants to help the duckling by keeping it warm and well fed. Her dad tells her that “...the hardest thing that you will have to do is not to love him too much”. After explaining these words to his daughter, she replies that “ I think I can love him just enough”.

She calls her young charge Mr. Peet due to his “peet, peet, peet” vocalizations, and puts the little wood duck into an empty fish tank with a towel, heat lamp, and a screen cover. She then begins a daily ritual of scooping up dragonfly larvae, crayfish and other little pond dwellers which she feeds to him. Mr. Peet grows and begins to explore the house and the farm, and in time teaches himself how to fly.

Summer ends and Heather returns to her friends at school, while Mr. Peet finds friends of his own. The now grown duck comes to visit less often and Heather misses him greatly, but tearfully announces that he will be okay, “...because I loved him just enough”.

This book was written by Robbyn van Frankenhuyzen, and beautifully illustrated by her husband Gijsbert, (aka Nick), both of whom actually still live at Hazel Ridge Farm in Michigan. This narrative is a true account of the wild duck fostering experiences of one of their two daughters in the 1980’s. Through this and other stories, (many of which are in the KPL collection), they relate the adventures of wildlife rehabilitation and how they have cared for many injured and orphaned animals over the years.

I Love You Just Enough is a gratifying picture book that is just right for sharing with your children as the leaves turn to their fall colors.

Also, you can visit Hazel Ridge Farm online at www.hazelridgefarm.com.


Telephone by Mac Barnett

Whenever Mac Barnett comes out with a new picture book, it's best to put it on hold and look forward to it! His new book, Telephone, does not disappoint. With beautiful illustrations by Jen Corace, we see the story of birds on a wire trying to tell Peter to "fly home for dinner". But as usually happens in the game of telephone, the message gets re-interpreted many times in ways that will have the kids laughing. In the end, the owl knows best and Peter does indeed fly home for dinner. I can't wait to read this one with KPS First Graders when they come visit this school year!

 


LibraryReads

There is a new display in the rotunda at the Central Library that we hope will become a regular fixture, helping you discover new books and find what to read next. 

LibraryReads is a project that a few librarians came up with around this time last year. They knew that librarians all over the country received books to read and review before they were published so they decided to ask these librarians to submit one title they loved that would be published in the upcoming month. They tallied up the votes and started displaying on their website, “the top ten books published this month that librarians across the country love.” 

The display will include the books that have appeared on these lists since September 2013. Use the two most recent lists that we have posted at the display to put holds on new, interesting titles that may not have even been published yet.

I find there to be an interesting mix in the books that end up on these lists: mystery, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, romance, literary fiction and nonfiction.

We hope this will become a regular stop on your trips to the library and that you will find books that you love just like librarians across the country.


Words with Wings

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes is a short story told in poetic verse. The story is about a girl named Gabriella and, although her grade and age aren’t revealed, she’s probably in junior high.  Each page is a poem with a one or two word title that captures a day in the life of Gabriella who was named after the Angel Gabriel.   Her parents are now separated, she has moved to a new school, and Gabriella uses day dreaming as a way to escape life… separation from her father and being the shy new kid in class.  She day dreams when she hears any particular word and her thoughts are carried away on wings.  For example, the word Dragon takes her riding on a dragon across the sky till the sun dives into the sea.  However, both her mother and her teacher, Mr. Spicer, tell her to quit day dreaming.   “Mom names me for a creature with wings, then wonders what makes my thoughts fly.”  When Gabriella finally does stop day dreaming her mom and Mr. Spicer know that she is unhappy.  Will Gabriella ever return to day dreaming?


I like this book because it is an effective poetry story.  It is interesting that Grimes uses two different fonts to categorize the moods of the poems.  Nikki Grimes is an award winning author and this book received a 2014 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award.  Kalamazoo Public Library owns many books by Nikki Grimes.


Stories without words

My kindergartener and I recently developed a love for wordless stories. In these books, the plot is driven by the pictures and you and/or your child describe what is happening as you turn the pages. KPL has a lot of these...you can find them in our catalog using the subject heading Stories without words. Some absolute FAVORITES are Journey and Quest, part of a trilogy by Aaron Becker. Journey (a Caldecott Honor Book) begins the trilogy with a bored little girl in a big city who draws a door on her wall and is transported to a magical land and kingdom. Quest continues the trilogy as the girl teams up with a boy she met in Journey, showing in great detail the adventures they have rescuing the king whose peaceful land has been overtaken by evildoers. You can read here how Aaron Becker uses 3D modeling to help build the kingdom, and then fills in the details. His work is so detailed that each time we read the story, we discover new things that we missed all the previous readings (and there are many)! The third one in this series can't come soon enough! We also love author/illustrator Gaëtan Dorémus, especially Coyote Run. Some other authors to note in this genre are Beatrice Rodriguez (Fox and Hen trilogy) and Arthur Geisert (Ice and The giant seed).

 


Oddball Michigan

The subtitle of Oddball Michigan is A Guide to 450 Really Strange Places. I take issue with the contention that the 450 attractions covered are 'really strange,' although I must say the Kalamazoo-area ones would probably qualify. I immediately turned to the local section and found the sites where Elvis was supposedly seen -- years after his death. The other Kalamazoo venue is the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport, listed because it was on this facility's parking lot that comedian Tim Allen was arrested by the Michigan State Police for trying to sell 1.4 pounds of cocaine. Among the other West Michigan sites included are the musical fountain in Grand Haven, Bear Cave in Buchanan, and the WZZM-TV Weatherball in Grand Rapids. For locations that open and close, further information is given -- phone, hours, cost, website, and directions.

 


Top Secret Twenty One

Janet Evanovich latest book Top Secret Twenty One has Stephanie Plum at it again. Stephanine Plum is a bounty hunter but not what you would think of as a typical bounty hunter. She gets by on being cute and lots of luck. In Top Secret Twenty One she is looking for Jimmy Poletti who is out on bail and has missed his court date. While hunting him down she keeps finding his poker buddies, one after the other, dead. She is also helping Ranger who has an old Russian enemy trying to kill him. As usual, Stephanie bumbles about and defies death a few times. You know how some hotels have a parking garage attached and there is a walkway from the hotel to the garage, well Stephanie finds herself on top of this walkway with a bad guy forcing her to cross it. Mix in 10 Chihuahuas and you have yourself another Stephanie Plum humorous bounty hunt. I have been reading Janet Evanovich for years, this is my first time listening to one of her books on audio downloaded from KPL’s overdrive. I love audio books but since I have been reading about Stephanie, Lulu, Ranger etc I have these characters in my head. Hearing a voice for Lulu that was not what my head envisioned bothered me. I and others had similar issues when the movie One for the Money came out. It was a good movie but each of us had preconceived impressions of how these people looked and talked. I think this is the highest praise we can give an author, Janet Evanovich has written her books so well that we have made these fictional characters real in our heads. I love the Stephanie Plum series although I keep thinking my goodness how inept can you be.Come on down to KPL and check it out.

 


I'm Brave!

Who’s brave? “I’m brave!” So says the storytelling fire truck in this terrific addition to the series that Kate and Jim McMullan have created about tough-talking vehicles. Not only brave, this vehicle has a personality that is ready for fire, smoke, and traffic . . . a worthy companion to the firefighters who are out there every day, keeping us safe. Bring home I’m Brave for your brave preschooler!


Tibetan Peach Pie

It is hard to believe that the iconic counter-culture writer Tom Robbins is now an octogenarian. Yet reading his rollicking new memoir, Tibetan Peach Pie, leaves little doubt that it has been a suitably wild and unconventional 82 years. Fans of Robbins, a writer who can eke out more sheer fun and joy in a single sentence than many writers can manage in their whole career, this is a must read. For those unfamiliar with Robbins, it’s never too late to love this guy, but I might suggest that you start with some of his better known novels - Still Life with Woodpecker, Jitterbug Perfume, Even Cowgirls get the Blues, etc. – and then circle back to get the full story on Robbins.


Winger

Last time I wrote about author Andrew Smith, it was to rave about how great his book Grasshopper Jungle was. Well, I'm here to tell you that his follow-up, Winger, is just as good, if not better. Winger is set in a boarding school and follows the misadventures of fourteen year-old Ryan Dean West. Our hero Ryan is a perfectly realized teen dork, all hormones and insecurity, and like Austin, the protagonist of Grasshopper Jungle, Ryan Dean has only a few things on his mind: in this case, sex, rugby, and avoiding trouble .

I'll say right now: this book destroyed me. I've yet to read another author who so completely, utterly understands what being a teenaged boy is actually like. The raging hormones? The desire for acceptance? The confusion, the attitude, the joy? It's all there, so perfectly realized. That would be enough, but then there's the other half of the book, the part that really hits hard. Suffice to say, Mr. Smith does not pull any literary punches. Where other YA authors might have softened the blow, Winger maintains an unfortunate degree of realism in how it depicts violence and also in the reactions of the main characters to that violence. Also like Grasshopper Jungle, this is not a book for everyone unless you enjoy copious swearing, raging teen boy hormones, drinking, fighting, and cartoons. But it's a book everyone should read, if only for a perfect glimpse into the mind of this 14 year-old boy.


My Teacher is a Monster!

Peter Brown authors and illustrates some of the funniest picture books around! His new title this fall is called My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) In the book, Bobby is frustrated with a mildly strict teacher who asks him to "settle down" in class. One day he goes to the park to forget his troubles and his monster of a teacher is sitting on a bench near his favorite spot! This event changes everything and suddenly it seems to Bobby and to Ms. Kirby that everyone one of us can be a monster sometimes.


Guest Cat

The Guest Cat by well known Japanese poet Takashi Hiraide, was originally published in Japan in 2001 and won that country’s prestigious Kiyama Shohei Literary Award. Unfortunately, it has taken thirteen years for it to be translated into English. But it has finally appeared; a gem of a book written in a very poetic style, with a somewhat unsettling ending.

The story’s narrator and his wife are a couple in their mid-thirties, who live and work as freelance copywriters in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo. They are somewhat isolated, feel lonely and their marriage seems to have settled into a rut.

One day a small cat appears in the garden next to their abode. It happens to belong to their neighbors’ son. A simple wooden fence separates the two properties and the cat becomes a frequent visitor.

The feline’s name is Chibi, which means “little one” and she is described as being a jewel of a cat “...with pure white fur mottled with several black blotches”. She walks quietly, rarely making a sound; except that is, when she is made to wear a bell around her neck to announce her comings and goings.

She visits the couple almost daily, gaining entrance to the cottage through a partially opened window; an uninvited yet increasingly welcome, subtle guest who breathes new life into the couple’s otherwise monotone relationship. Little by little, her visits help nurture the formation of a deeper, permanent bond between husband and wife, as well as between them and her.

It’s difficult for me to relive the ending because the resolution is so tenuous and unclear. Read it and judge for yourself. The book is only 136 pages in length. But it is a powerhouse of literary emotion!


Invisible

Invisible by James Patterson. Emmy Dockery is a research assistant for the FBI and thinks she has discovered a serial killer who uses arson to cover his tracks. The problem for Emmy is that the killer is very good at making these house fires look accidental. Also unfortunately for Emmy one of the victims was her twin sister so everyone discounts her theory thinking she is just mourning her sister. She enlists the aid of her ex finance, who is also ex FBI to look into the fires. They eventually find evidence and the hunt is on. The story is eerie and you feel Emmy’s frustrations. The author also lets us hear from the killer. The killer narrates the Graham Chronicles where we hear what the killer is thinking and what happens to a victim. This lets us the reader be on both sides on story, we watch Emmy track and try and hunt the killer down, we also hear from the killer and we are shared insight into the killers thoughts and actions. I downloaded this book from KPL as an mp3 and listened to the story. When the killer was talking, it sounded very pompously and full of self-importance. I took an instant dislike to the killer, but to be fair I wasn’t all that crazy about Emmy. Emmy was not a team player, she ignored Book’s commands and just did whatever she wanted even if that meant she might have endangered fellow agents. I was glad when Bookman finally got fed up with her and denounced her. That was almost more satisfying than them catching the killer. Come on down to KPL and check it out.


The Hidden Child

Scandanavian crime noir seems to be recognized as its own genre, and this new title by Camilla Lackberg certainly falls into that category. This is the seventh in the series that began with The Ice Princess, and features police detective Patrick Hedberg and true crime writer Erica Falck, now married and expecting their first child. Erica finds a Nazi war medal and diaries among her deceased mother’s possessions, and goes to visit one of her mother’s old friends, a historian and expert on World War 2, for more information. The man is brutally murdered soon after Erica’s visit.

Woven into the crime novel are scenes of everyday life in the small Swedish town of Fjallbacka, and characters that are interesting in their own right. Some reviews found this bothersome, but I didn’t. Even police detectives and true crime authors have real lives, running parallel to their professional ones.

If you haven’t yet discovered author Lackberg, it’s probably best to begin with her first book , The Ice Princess, although this novel can certainly stand on its own. Full of well placed clues and historical fact from the 1940’s, this kept me guessing until the end.


Rotten Ralph's Rotten Family

I am a fan of the Rotten Ralph books by Jack Gantos and Nicole Rubel. Jack Gantos has created lots of great work over the years including the Joey Pigza books and Dead End in Norvelt, for which he was awarded the Newbery medal in 2012. A common thread in all of Gantos's work is a warmly twisted sense of humor and the Rotten Ralph books are no exception. Ralph is indeed a rotten cat but his owner, Sarah, consistently shows Ralph her unconditional love. In this latest installment, Ralph sneaks back to the farm to be with his family again. Nicole Rubel's illustrations work so well with the Rotten Ralph stories that it's no surprise she and Gantos continue telling stories about Ralph and no surprise that Rubel has an extensive body of work beyond the Rotten Ralph books. Laughs abound in this latest book for newly independent readers from Gantos and Rubel.


Mister Orange

Linus Muller is the third oldest child of a family of six children living in New York City.  When Albie, Linus’s brother, enlists in World War II, Linus takes over as delivery boy at the family’s grocery store.  Linus quickly learns his delivery route and gets acquainted with his customers.  Linus dearly misses Albie, and to comfort himself, he has imaginary conversations with Albie’s created Superhero, Mr. Superspeed, who fights against Evil and the War.


One of Linus’s routine deliveries is a crate of oranges to a man whose name is unpronounceable, hence, Linus nicknames him Mister Orange.  One day Mister Orange tosses an orange to Linus, but he doesn’t catch it and he trips and falls down the stairs.  Mister Orange helps Linus up and into his apartment for first aid.  Linus is amazed to see that Mister Orange has painted his apartment walls white and bright and light and calm and with colored squares and rectangles grouped together or on their own… dancing in strong colors, bright blue, and red, and yellow… the colors of Superman!  Linus loves the paintings on the walls!


Their friendship grows and Mister Orange tells Linus that he likes Boogie-Woogie music. It is new and exciting, the perfect city music, with rhythms changing all the time.  New York City gives Mister Orange new inspiration and energy.


Mister Orange asks about Albie, who is now in Europe on the warfront.   Only three years earlier Mister Orange escaped Europe because he was afraid he would no longer have the freedom to paint, his art was in danger of being banned by the Nazis, he was scared that he would never be able to make more paintings and that no one would ever see them!  Painting was Mister Orange’s way of fighting back, of finding out how things might be better in the future.  He equates winning the war with fighting for the future, a future where people have their freedom and everyone is allowed to say what they believe and have an opinion of their own.  Mister Orange tells Linus that whenever people have their freedom taken away they always fight back and winning the war means making certain that the imagination remains free and that’s the most important thing of all!  He helps Linus understand that Albie is working just as hard for the future as is Mister Orange; Albie is fighting so that Mister Orange can continue to paint and Linus must be proud of Albie who is helping to make the future possible.  When Linus accuses Mister Orange of hiding from everything that’s real, Mister Orange explains that Imagination is a Powerful weapon, Imagination is Real, Imagination is Necessary.  Everything that exists starts with Imagination; it’s the first step in everything that humans have ever made.


Mister Orange’s character is based on Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), a famous painter who fled from the Netherlands to the United States during World War II.  Mondrian’s paintings were completely new, not the familiar and traditional styles.  He used shape, color, rhythm, to give new ideas to people all over the world. 


Kalamazoo Public Library has several Mondrian art books.  If you’re not familiar with his art, then I suggest checking out a Mondrian book. You can also use Google Images Mondrian for a pleasant revelation of his work and the inspirations derived from his art.


New Baby Books

Parents and caregivers often ask KPL staff for "New Baby" or "New Sibling" books. We have lots of great choices and new titles come out every year. Books are a great way to discuss topics with children and having a new sibling is often a pivotal moment in a child's life. We have informational texts and we have stories about new babies. My favorites are the books that don't make as much of a fuss over the newborn baby as they do over that big sister or big brother.
Maple, by Lori Nichols, tells the story of Maple as she becomes friends with her new little sister.
Pecan Pie Baby, by Jacqueline Woodson is another favorite of mine. Gia wonders if her special bond with her mom will change when the new baby arrives.
New babies are just one of many topics on which we can help you find books to share with your children. Let us know what you're looking for next time you stop in!


Chickens in the Road

This Spring I read Farm City by Novella Carpenter, one of two titles that were picked for the “Reading Together” program that the library sponsors with several other organizations in the community. The book was thoroughly enjoyable and told of the author’s attempt to become an “urban farmer,” as she lived in downtown Oakland, California. Since I liked this topic so much I decided to seek out other books where people are doing the same in going back to the land and becoming self-sustaining.

My next choice was a book entitled Chickens in the Road by Suzanne McMinn. The author was previously a romance writer who after a divorce moved with her three children to rural West Virginia where some of her other relatives had lived and she had visited the area many times growing up. She depicts her struggle in adjusting to being a full time farm owner where everything she raised, crops and animals, were either eaten by her family or sold at the market.  Of course there were many struggles along the way; a partner who stopped paying his share, building a brand new home on a rather precarious piece of land, many roads that continuously flooded, and the overwhelming amount of nonstop work. When that farm was no longer manageable, she sold it and bought one more suitable to her. Through her can-do attitude and a great sense of humor, she is now not only a successful farmer, but conducts workshops at her farm for others wanting to learn all the skills connected with farming, and she writes an almost daily blog, also called Chickens in the Road, as to what’s going on in her farm life. An extra plus is that there are many wonderful pictures of the farms and her family. This book was thoroughly enjoyable and you find yourself pulling for her to succeed. And succeed she did!


Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Raymond Chandler meets early William Gibson in Thomas Sweterlitsch’s debut sci-fi novel Tomorrow and Tomorrow. Set in the near future, 10 years after a nuclear terrorist attack has destroyed the city of Pittsburg, when technological advances, implanted devices, and the ubiquity of security camera data allow a fully immersive, virtual-reality copy of the city called “The Archive” to exist. The stories protagonist Dominic Blaxton, is a skilled researcher doing a form of insurance research in The Archive, but losing his wife and unborn child in the attack leaves him obsessed with the virtual Pittsburg and the immersion that the technology allows, along with Dominic’s drug use, makes his grief and sadness visceral. The discovery of a murder captured in the virtual Pittsburg sends the story and Dominic down a mysterious and surprising path.


Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

I took half a dozen books with me on my summer vacation this year and did not get to Maria Semple’s novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette until the ride home, partially because my wife and 19 year old son both read it during the trip. I wish I had picked it up first. I was immediately drawn into the story told partially through emails, invoices, and other documents that introduce you to Bernadette Fox, once famous architect now turned eccentric recluse, and her precocious daughter, Bee. Semple’s novel is laugh out loud funny as she pokes fun at upper middle class Seattle culture.

A huge mud slide starting in Bernadette’s yard had just destroyed the house of her neighbor who was holding a meeting to recruit wealthier families to the private school her children attended when I realized my time with the book was up and I needed to return it for the next person who had a hold on it. 

Now I find myself repeating, “Where’d you go, Bernadette?,” every day as I wait for my next turn with this book and wonder what crazy adventures are in store.


400 Extraordinary Places

This book was received in the library at the end of 2012, but for those who haven't seen it, it's worth the time. In one- and two-page summaries, '400 extraordinary places' are described. Being another fine publication from National Geographic, it's a given that the photographs are of high quality. Even if one doesn't intend to travel to any of these locations, the reader can learn about, and maybe encounter for the first time, exotic places such as Torres del Paine (Chile), Fernando de Noronha (Brazil), islands in the Adriatic Sea (Croatia), Koh Lipe (Thailand), Petra (Jordan), and the Orkney Islands (Scotland), among many others. Closer to home, the book has a couple of pages on New York City and other U.S. destinations.

 


Carla's Comfort Foods:Favorite Dishes from Around the World

I love looking at cookbooks. A new one, Carla’s Comfort Foods, caught my eye recently. The author, Carla Hall, is currently a co-host on the ABC talk show “The Chew” and is owner and executive chef of an artisanal cookie company.

Especially with fall and cooler weather approaching, comfort foods sound particularly appealing to me. The author has found inspiration from flavors from around the world, incorporated them into new takes on standbys like meats, seafood, soups and grains. She includes a section on vegetarian entrees and desserts, too. Wonderful photos add to the book, and provide incentive for the aspiring cook.

How could you not want to try Dijon Tarragon Salmon, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Black Bean Empanadas, or Salted Peanut Chocolate Pudding Tarts? Let the cooking and eating begin!


Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey

There is a farm in Costa Rica that has the most unusual crop! They grow butterflies and this book Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey tells their story!

It takes the upmost care to begin with a butterfly egg that changes into a caterpillar and then a pupae. There are so many things to consider and many things to watch out for. Their caregivers have to watch out for birds, frogs and snakes. They have to protect the environment from grasshoppers that just want to eat the plants that are needed for their habitat. The growers have lots of tricks and techniques to keep the caterpillars, and later the butterflies, fed.

This wonderful book by Lorre Griffin Burns provides us with many facts and adventures about butterfly life in a greenhouse in Costa Rica. Ellen Harasimowicz provides us with great pictures from everyday life on the farm.  This journey begins there with such great care and attention it is amazing to be able to follow along with the details of the butterfly raising process.

Check this one out. It’s a keeper!


Do less

Over the last few years I’ve come to the startling realization that I am indeed getting older. This realization has created a longing in me to use my precious time as fully and enjoyably as possible. Sifting through hideous clothes in the closet trying to find something decent to wear (and failing), sorting through endless papers stacked on my countertops and reading the Facebook statuses of distant acquaintances are things that bog down my spare time and rob me of full life enjoyment. As a cataloger at KPL, I get to see most of the new books before they go out on the shelves, and one topic that keeps jumping out at me is the minimalist lifestyle (which can be found using the term “simplicity” in KPL’s catalog). One such title is Do less : a minimalist guide to a simplified, organized, and happy life, which I appreciate because it is concise and I don’t have time to fool around. This book focuses on having more time to enjoy by decluttering many aspects of your life, even how many friends you are trying to keep up with on Facebook and how many digital pictures you take. It gives very practical tips. The best quote from the book is, “It’s so tempting to think more is better, when in face more complicates your life.”


We Were Liars

I can't stop thinking about We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. I don't want to give anything away so there's not much I can say except that this book is thrilling, heartbreaking, and easily one of the best teen books I will ever read. And there are great themes for deeper thought and discussion. If you like teen books, pick this one up and get started. I bet you won't be able to put it down and you just might start over immediately after turning the last page! 


PARROTS OVER PUERTO RICO

With exceptionally vibrant collage artwork that gives the illustrations an exciting three dimensional effect, and informative yet not over-bearing text , “Parrots Over Puerto Rico” by Susan Roth and Cindy Trumbore is the true story of the bright green and blue feathered parrots who had lived in Puerto Rico for millions of years before they almost became extinct in the last century.

Their history of survival echoes Puerto Rico’s history as well; well before humans even inhabited the island and when hundreds of thousands of these majestic birds thrived in their nesting holes up in the tall trees.

Parrot numbers started to dwindle when people came in droves and hunted them for food, when invader birds and other predatory animals were introduced into the ecosystem, when settlers systematically cut down their forest habitats, and when hurricanes ravaged whatever precious wild nesting spaces remained.

In 1937, most of the over two thousand remaining parrots lived in El Yunque, a mountainous tropical rain forest. By 1967, twenty-four parrots were found in that same rain forest; by 1975, only thirteen remained.

Luckily, people started to notice their precipitous decline. With aid from the U. S. federal government and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program was initiated. And now, after many years of effort by determined scientists, the parrot population has started to grow once more. Currently there are 300 birds in two protective aviaries, and over 150 in the wild.

My husband and I  traveled to Puerto Rico in the late 1980’s, and once again three years ago. On our first two visits, the El Yunque rain forest was on our “must see” list. It’s truly a natural treasure. And even though we didn’t see any of the parrots in the trees above us, just the possibility of getting a glimpse of their vivacious plumage was thrilling enough.

This book won the Sibert Medal in 2014, and is a Junior Library Guild selection.


The Bus for Us

It’s the first day of school and Tess and Gus are the first ones at the bus stop. “Is this the bus for us, Gus?” With each vehicle that comes around the corner, Tess asks this question and it’s answered by Gus, “No, Tess, that’s a backhoe” (or taxi or dump truck, etc.). With each page turn there’s a new vehicle, new kids join the group and even some animals wander through. Keep your sharp eyes on the Bus Stop sign, too! If you’ve got kids heading back to school, The Bus for Us is the book for you.


Oscar and the Bird: a book about electricity

I love these picture books by Geoff Waring that feature Oscar the cat. In each one, concepts like electricity, growing, physics and sound are explained in a way that is informative and engaging for young children. They are the perfect book to share to answer some of those inevitable "why" questions kids come up with and they've worked well in storytime too! The illustrations are delightful and Oscar's curiosity, entertaining. I hope Geoff continues to make more early science books like these!


Next Book from Novella Carpenter

Novella Carpenter visited Kalamazoo in April as one of two authors for 2014 Reading Together. When talking about her book Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, she mentioned her next book, Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad through the Wild. It has now been published and is in our collection.

I’ve just started it, but fans of Novella’s are sure to appreciate this new title. She continues to write in a storytelling style about her dad and why he chose a life of solitude as she contemplates having a family of her own. Her untraditional life growing up certainly influenced her untraditional life described in Farm City.

This is a good companion to Farm City, although each stands alone. 


Recovering Priceless Treasures

I stumbled upon the book Priceless:  How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures.  The founder of the FBI Art Crime Team, author Robert Wittman recalls a number of cases when he recovers stolen artifacts or artwork, working undercover convincing mobsters and corrupt collectors that he’ll pay big money for their stolen works.  It can take months, even years, of building rapport with the sellers or middlemen before setting up a sting which involves large amounts of cash, priceless works of art, and, very likely, guns or other dangerous weapons.

Wittman struggles with the widely accepted opinion at the bureau that art crime is less important than other types of investigations.  What is even more perplexing to those investigators that take this stance is that arresting those guilty of the theft or selling the stolen property is much less important than recovering the stolen works.  Regardless of this, each time something is recovered, communities celebrate the return of their lost treasures, whether they have been gone a few months or more than a hundred years.

The book starts and ends with talking about the Gardener Heist. The most valuable collection of stolen artwork in the world, the paintings were cut out of their frames in March 1990 and are estimated to be worth more than $580 million.  One painting, Vermeer’s “The Concert”, is estimated to be worth $200 million on its own!  We learn from the book that the heist is so well known and the paintings so recognizable, they could only ever be sold on the black market.

I really enjoyed reading Priceless.  Most chapters are their own little short stories.  This means the book works well for those with similar scheduled to mine that may not give them an opportunity to sit down with a book for long periods of time.  I greatly appreciate that Wittman rescues different types of art and artifacts all with the same dedication to returning them to their rightful owners.  Hope you enjoy this book as much as I did if it makes it onto your reading list!


I Kill the Mockingbird

After the sudden death of their favorite teacher, three middle schoolers conspire to get everybody to read one of his favorite books, To Kill A Mockingbird, by misshelving and hiding copies of the classic first in their town and eventually in libraries and bookstores far and wide. Lucy, Elena, and Michael publicize what they're doing with posters and social media while making the book scarce until their plan takes on a life of its own. Like Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, I Kill the Mockingbird is a fast and witty read that celebrates the love of books and reading. 

Book

I Kill the Mockingbird
9781596437425

Nikki Heat Series by Richard Castle

I watched the television show “Castle”. In the television show Richard Castle is a writer who gets to ride along with Detective Kate Becket and her team. In the television show (and I emphasize this) Richard Castle (played by Nathan Fillion) writes a book about Detective Kate Becket and calls her Nikki Heat. Someone thought hey lets write a real book about Nikki Heat and pretend it is written by Richard Castle just like in the television series. There are now 6 books in the Nikki Heat Series written by Richard Castle. Nobody knows who really writes these books. The book jacket shows a picture of Nathan Fillion but they say his name is Richard Castle. Nathan Fillion has even signed some books using his television name Richard Castle. The books have the same characters as in the show but they change the names. Richard Castle is called Jameson Rook, Kate Becket is of course Nikki Heat, Detective Ryan is Raley and Detective Esposito is Ochoa. I like that they renamed Castle as Rook. In Chess in a move called Castling, the Rook can change positions with the King. There after you call that piece a Castle. I like that they choose to use that play on words. When reading the books it is like watching the show but can get confusing. I was reading one of the books and watching the show at the same time, not exactly the same same time, and was getting a wee bit confused. In the show her mother was killed in an alley, but in the book she is killed in their kitchen. On the show during think tank sessions they toss around a little ball the size of a tennis ball, in the book they toss a basketball, I like the show version better. I downloaded from KPL and listened to these books on my mp3 player, KPL also has the print versions and digital. So whether you prefer print, digital or audio KPL has it all. Check it out at KPL.

Book

Nikki Heat Series by Richard Castle
9781401323820

Jake at Gymnastics

Jake and his toddler friends love to go to gymnastics class! They roll, tumble, stretch and bend.

The kids shown in Rachel Isadora’s illustrations are so darn sweet and their sense of joy and accomplishment is clear.

Introduce your toddler to Jake at Gymnastics and then be prepared to show your own moves!

Book

Jake at Gymnastics

Life is a Wheel

“When you move forward, even slowly, things change; when you stand still, they don’t. This is the lesson that bicycling teaches me over and over again, one that is so sensible and obvious you’d think it would be easy to remember, especially when I’m not on a bicycle.”

This is one of many wisdoms expressed in Bruce Weber’s latest book, Life is a Wheel: Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride across America. In 2011, journalist Bruce Weber embarked on his second cross-country (U.S.) bike trip. He blogged along the way, and many followed his accounts of the trip. In this book, Weber expands his story, drawing comparisons among his various bike trips and sharing life lessons learned in the meantime.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if we’re reading a blog entry or something he’s written especially for the book, but it doesn’t really matter, because his writing engages readers and keeps us moving along with him. He’s a very colorful writer. I’d like to share a meal with him, or to have encountered him along the way, while he was cycling across country.

If you're a biker or other long-distance exerciser, someone who enjoys blogs, memoirs or loving life, read this! It's a fast-paced account of a slow journey, mile by mile.

Book

Life is a Wheel
9781451695014

The Snatchabook

The Snatchabook is an entertaining rhyming story about a small winged animal who secretly flies into other animals’ homes at night and steals their story books, yes, ALL the story books in the town of Burrow Down. Soon, there are no more stories to read, no more pirates on the seven seas, no more princesses trying to sleep on peas, no more tales of dragons spitting flames. Who is stealing all the books?

A little rabbit named Eliza Brown decides that whoever it is, she’s not scared! She’ll catch the thief! Eliza baits the thief with a pile of books and she waits. When the thief arrives she shouts: “Stop stealing all our books, right now! Just give them back, I don’t care how!”

The Snatchabook hangs his head in shame. “A tear rolled from the creature’s eye, and softly he began to cry.” Then he says: “I know it’s wrong, but can’t you see--I’ve got no one to read to me!” The Snatchabook looked so sad, Eliza realized that if he just had a mom or dad to read him stories every night, then he would behave all right!

They hatched a plan to turn a wrong into a right and the Snatchabook promptly returned all the books. Now, if you take a closer look you might just see the Snatchabook, perched happily on someone’s bed...listening hard to each word said.

This book is a great read-aloud. There is an Educator’s Guide with Common Core Activities at JabberwockyKids.com.

Book

The Snatchabook: Who’s Stealing All The Stories?
9781402290824

The Girl You Left Behind

Wow! I loved this book! I want to read The Girl You Left Behind  by Jojo Moyes again immediately but I already know what happens so I don't think it would be the same. I do hope someone makes it into a movie!

If you like fast-moving, historical fiction with some mystery, you might love this book that begins in in Northern France in the middle of the First World War and features a painting, a woman named Sophie, and her family and small town. As they struggle to survive impossible conditions the story of the painting unfolds. Then the story skips forward to present day England where Liv is desperate to hold onto the painting. She risks everything in a court case that eventually ties up all the loose ends of the story from the previous century and her own story. 

This is the second book I've read by Jojo Moyes and I'm looking forward to reading more. KPL has many of her books available in both print and ebook format.

Book

The Girl You Left Behind
9780670026616

A Nelson Mandela Tribute!

How profound! That Maya Angelou’s last book would be His Day Is Done! Like Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, the “global renaissance woman”, has been a crusader for many. For me, her life has paralleled Mandela’s. She, too, has opened many doors and as she says in the book about Mandela she has enlarged many hearts with tears of pride.

Though this is a small book of poetry, it makes an awesome footprint and melts a little bit of your heart. And now we can say Her Day is Done.

Book

His Day is Done: a Nelson Mandela Tribute
9780812997019

DNA Home Kits, Walmart drugs, and good bye Doctors

I heard a story on Michigan Radio yesterday that was about the future of medicine, and it reminded me of this book. The future of health care, as imagined by this author, is basically this: people take DNA tests at home to figure out what’s wrong with them. Meanwhile, the government deregulates the pharmaceutical industry (political argument), which allows them to create a drug for every specific thing that’s wrong with people (molecular medicine). Then, armed with my detailed knowledge about what’s wrong with me, I go to Walmart and buy the exact drug that I need. And, lucky for me, there’s a generic version (economic argument)—cheap! And, the author thinks, this solves the problem of expanding health care costs—we cut out the very expensive middle-man—doctors and hospitals (which he calls “helpless care”). That’s the nutshell (oversimplified) version.

Recently I talked to a person who actually makes drugs for a large pharmaceutical corporation. I asked him “do you think drug companies are too regulated?” His answer was complex. First, he partly disagreed with this book—he said they are not too regulated. Instead of getting rid of the FDA, he said they need more people on staff; expand it. He also mentioned that the FDA needs to “get into the 21st Century,” which agrees precisely with this book. They are using outdated science (read the book for details) which slows down drug production.

book

the cure in the code
9780465050680

A Long Way Home

When Saroo was five years old, he became separated from his older brother and lost on a train in India that took him about a thousand miles from his small village. With a limited vocabulary making it difficult to properly communicate who he was and where he was from, and unable to trust most people he encountered, he spent several weeks surviving on the streets of Calcutta alone, until he eventually landed in an orphanage and was adopted by a family in Australia. Twenty-five years later, studying satellite images on Google Earth, he was able to locate his village. Saroo Brierley’s biography A Long Way Home begins with Saroo returning to his small village for the first time since he was lost as a small child, finding his tiny former home, and asking current neighbors if anyone knows his mother, brothers, or sister. Then a man says, "Come with me. I'm going to take you to your mother."

I don't know yet exactly how his story ends, as I am only halfway through the book. I am almost to the photo spread in the center of the book and I must admit I have peeked ahead. I am completely engrossed in this book and can't wait to finish it. It is just an astounding story.

Book

A long way home
9780399169281

The Word Exchange

Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words cause permanent damage. And that certainly holds true in Alena Graedon’s inventive debut novel The Word Exchange. The book is equal parts page-turning dystopian thriller and cautionary tale about the cultural costs of our society’s mass-reliance on technology, with some questions about the nature of love thrown in for good measure. The Word Exchange imagines a near future in which our mass-addiction to devices and the associated intellectual sloth creates the opportunity for malevolent corporations to corner the market on language itself, usurping the authority of dictionaries and monetizing access to word meaning. But when the plan spirals out of control and a fast moving digital virus that manifests itself physically in humans causing word flu, because it causes a peculiar form of aphasia in its victims, it is left to the stories unlikely heroine Anana Johnson, daughter of the chief editor of the North American Dictionary of English Language, the genius lexicographer Doug Samuel Johnson, to try and piece the plot together and save the world from descending into a babbling incoherent mess. This is a great read and I can't wait for more from Graedon.

Books

The Word Exchange
9780385537650

Americanah

I’m certain that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s engrossing novel Americanah will top my personal list of the best books of 2014.  Americanah follows the lives of two Nigerian students as they make their way in the world; Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love as teenagers and make a plan to spend their lives together, but circumstances lead them to places and situations they wouldn’t have imagined.  Ifemelu heads to the U.S. to study and finds herself confronted by a culture of racism and classism, while Obinze struggles to survive as an undocumented worker in London.  They are very well-crafted characters—this is one of those rare books where the characters seem utterly genuine and real. The novel offers a profound discussion of race, immigration, and homeland without being heavy-handed; it is a must read for fans of literary fiction.

Book

Americanah
9780307271082

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

A co-worker read and recommended the Teen title Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, and his description sounded intriguing. What sets the story apart and adds to the book’s mystique are old photographs that are interspersed with the text.

Sixteen year old Jacob has had to endure the sudden death of his grandfather, which occurred under decidedly odd circumstances. Jacob ventures to a remote island in Wales with his father, to try and unravel the mystery. Miss Peregrine’s orphanage does indeed contain a host of children with peculiar talents. Time travel, strange and rather horrific beings, and a strong sense of place make this fantasy hard to put down.

There is a 2014 sequel as well, titled Hollow City, which continues the adventures and which I certainly intend to read.

Book

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
9781594744761

The Husband’s Secret

If you found a letter from your spouse or partner, not to be opened until after their death and they were still very much alive, would you open it now?  OK, so you opened it and discovered a big, not-good secret, what would you do?

This is a page-turner, light summer read, but one that generates spirted discussion.

Book

The Husband’s Secret
9780399159343

American Folklife

Library of Congress American Folklife Center: an Illustrated Guide…the title sounds bland, but the book/CD set is anything but! It covers a wide cross-section of folk art and folk lore in the United States.

Most amazing is the accompanying CD. With 35 tracks in all, there are songs from all over the U.S., including a song sung by Zora Neale Hurston, storytelling, personal interviews with many different people about aspects of daily living and the impacts of war and slavery. Some recordings are over 100 years old. Altogether they demonstrate the richness and variety of cultural experience in our country. This would be a great teaching tool to help bring an American history topic to life for your students.

Book

Library of Congress American Folklife Center: An Illustrated Guide
9780844411064

Did you read today?

Do your kids go to school at MLK Westwood?  If so, I am confident that they are reading this summer!  This sign made me smile when I saw it:

kps-summer-sign-039-2014-705.jpg

We are having fun with kids at the library this summer; kids are playing the reading games and earning prizes, they are attending the wide variety of programs that are underway, and we seeing a lot of families spending time at the library.  Have we seen you here?  Kids need to be reading and writing and thinking all summer long and KPL is the perfect place to help with that.  Make sure they have plenty of books and make sure that they see YOU reading, too.  Be a good role model for the kids around you and READ!


On the Road Again - Cat in Tow

Lightweight but satisfying, Lending a Paw: A Bookmobile Cat Mystery is the first in a projected series of mystery titles by author Laurie Cass, who resides with her husband and two cats in a small community near Lake Michigan.

What appealed to me right away about this book is that the title contained three of my favorite things: Bookmobiles, mysteries and of course a cat. As readers of my previous posts might have guessed, I’m absolutely crazy fond of any literature that is feline related.

What most of you probably didn’t know is that a while back, (I won’t say exactly how many years ago), I had the great fortune of working on the KPL Bookmobile. This book brought back some great memories - our Bookmobile’s devoted staff, the travels to various stops in our community, and most of all the highly appreciative and personable patrons who frequented those stops.

Another desirable coincidence is that the story takes place in Michigan, in the little, tourist town of Chilson.

The mystery centers around likeable, conscientious and free-spirited Minnie Hamilton. She is deliriously happy about landing a job in her favorite town in the country as the assistant director and head of the bookmobile department; which in translation means that she is both the librarian and the driver.

The bookmobile itself is a persistent thorn in the side of her boss Stephen, who wishes that the vehicle simply didn’t exist. However, it was a recent purchase made possible by a generous donor, one Stan Larabee, and cannot easily be disposed of for quite some time.

Around this time, she also finds a cat. Or is it the other way around? She hopes and assumes the attractive feline already has a home, but Minnie can’t find its owner, so she ends up adopting the animal and naming him Eddie. As it turns out, Eddie plays an integral part in the beginning and at the end of this mystery. He becomes a stowaway on the bookmobile’s maiden voyage and ends up charming all the new patrons, both young and old.

While out on the bookmobile’s rounds one day, the cat escapes its confines, acts a little crazed as if searching for something and subsequently finds a dead man with a bullet hole in his chest. That man turns out to be none other than Stan Larabee, the bookmobile’s magnanimous patron; a man not always loved or respected by his family or the community.

After some of her friends and family are questioned and thought to be possible suspects in connection to the murder, Minnie makes a solemn promise to help find the killer. There are many possible suspects in the case, but one by one Minnie exonerates most of them, and then of course solves the mystery, all with the invaluable assistance of Eddie.

A fast read that has some pleasant comedic undertones thanks to Minnie and Eddie’s very special relationship. Cat lovers will no doubt look forward to the next installment in the series.

I certainly am!

Book

Lending a Paw
9780451415462

Coded Racism

When you hear the phrase "welfare queen," what do you think of? Although technically speaking the phrase itself - welfare queen - isn't racist, I think we all know it actually is. Indeed, it was meant to be, by the politician who carefully created the myth. This book is about the history of such language. Specifically, it's about how politicians use this language to gain votes by creating fear, by focusing demographically, by dividing smaller groups from bigger ones. As for the three main targets, we are talking about African Americans, Latinos, and Muslims.

Although the author mostly blames Republicans and Fox News for racial politics, he does blame the Democratic Party too (he is not too kind to Clinton, for example, and he criticises Obama's strategy when it comes to race). Turns out the insatiable thirst for votes is bipartisan. But the major theme throughout the book is how the Republican Party specifically and intentionally became the white man's party in the late 1960's, beginning with the so called "Southern Strategy," which was summarized rather brutally by Lee Atwater, a Republican strategist:

"You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.' By 1968 you can't say 'nigger' — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites."

This is a complex book on racism and politics in America.

book

dog whistle politics
9780199964277

An RCA Television?

In this book we received last fall, Smithsonian Institution Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture Richard Kurin provides a wealth of information regarding 101 objects held by that museum. At 762 pages, this publication was no small effort, I am sure. Organized by historical era, the author provides photographs and commentary on such items as the Appomattox Court House furnishings, Abraham Lincoln's hat, a bugle from the U.S.S. Maine, Alexander Graham Bell's telephone, Thomas Edison's light bulb, a Ford Model T, Helen Keller's watch, Louis Armstrong's trumpet, a World War I gas mask, Dorothy's ruby slippers, a Berlin Wall fragment, Neil Armstrong's space suit, an RCA television set, and a door from one of the fire trucks that was at the scene of 9/11 in New York City. This is a quality publication from a very fine establishment.

Book

The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects
9781594205293

Judging a book by its title... again!

While matter-of-factly performing my duties here at KPL -- NOT looking for another book to read -- I saw a book with a title that made me laugh.  Beth Harbison's Chose the wrong guy, gave him the wrong finger looks like an amusing beach read.  Alas! I have more work to do (in addition to a long to-read list), so this book won't be taken off the shelf today -- at least by me.

Book

Chose the wrong guy, gave him the wrong finger
9780312599133

Eva and Sadie and the Worst Haircut

Parents, friends and relatives – I know you can relate to this story. Who hasn’t seen a child who has given themselves or a child close to them a haircut and yes it is possibly the worst haircut ever. In-between my professional haircuts, I find myself cutting my own bangs – at best it is a hit or miss job.

What happens in this picture book is that big sister Sadie notices that little sister Eva’s hair is too long, too curly, too big – really just too out of control. So one day Sadie asks Eva if she wants her to cut her hair and surprise -- she does. Sadie wastes no time in getting the scissors and the haircut is done.

When Sadie realizes that there is a pile of hair on the bathroom floor it is bad – but Eva likes it! Eva runs to find Mom and Dad who lose their cool. Sadie realizes she won’t be cutting Eva’s hair again and she has to have a consequence. Eva has to get a real haircut. Not unlike when my hairdresser tells me she can cut my bangs in between my regular cut – hum maybe I should hide the scissors – Sadie’s parents are putting theirs where she can’t find them.

Book

Eva and Sadie and the Worst Haircut
9780062249067

Stealing Buddha’s Dinner

Recently I discovered a new author. Her name is Bich Minh Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant who came to this country in 1975, when she was just a few months old, with her family on one of the last boats out of the country before the war really heated up. She has since taught at Purdue University in the area of fiction and creative non-fiction. Her book that I found most enjoyable is, Stealing Buddha’s Dinner. It’s a memoir of her family eventually settling in Grand Rapids, and how each of them, a father, grandmother, sister, and a couple uncles adapt as outsiders and struggle to fit into a very Dutch community. The story takes the sisters from a young age through their school years and how they go off in different directions. The grandmother is the rock of the family as she hangs on to her Vietnamese customs. And the father is a hard worker, but often distances himself from the family.

This book was selected as the “Great Michigan Read” for 2009-2010. This is a program similar to our own “Reading Together” event held every year where a book is picked and the whole community reads it, but in this case there are many programs around the whole state connected with the chosen book. Not only was the story interesting, but you would like it if you are familiar with the Grand Rapids area as there are many references to the city. This book is available in print and audio at KPL.

Book

Stealing Buddha's Dinner : a memoir
9780670038329

Two Cool Cats

The World According to Bob is the sequel to the NYT bestseller A Street Cat Named Bob by author James Bowen. It is a well written and much anticipated book worthy of becoming another hit for the James and Bob duo.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with their tale, here is a quick recap. Two years prior to the writing of this second work, James Bowen was a down on his luck, recovering addict who happens to find a ginger/orange cat with open wounds on his legs and body. The two form an instant bond, and although James assumes that the cat he names Bob will return to the streets after he nurses him back to health, Bob has other plans. He steadfastly refuses to leave James’ side, following him wherever he goes about town.

As the saying goes “cats choose you and not the other way around”, and it was certainly true in this case.

The pair become inseparable, existing on the streets of London, each one helping the other heal the wounds of their mutually troubled past. James gives Bob companionship, food, and a place to crash, and in return Bob gives James new hope and a purpose in life. James learns to appreciate the minute things of life – his threadbare flat, his job selling a street magazine called “The Big Issue,” and now his newly arrived feline friend.

While the first book documents their first meeting and their lives in the early part of their relationship, this sequel delves further into what their life was like then, the people they met, (both good and evil), and the many experiences they shared along the way. It also goes into explaining how the first book came to be.

In September 2010, a reporter from the Islington Tribune interviewed James and took the famous photo of Bob perched on his shoulder. A few days later, there appeared a poignant article about James’ past and how he and Bob met, titled: “Two Cool Cats...the Big Issue Seller and a Stray Called Bob.”

Soon thereafter, a major London publisher approaches the duo about a possible book deal. James does not expect this book about himself and his stray cat to become a big hit. Rather, he thinks that it would end up being a nice little one-time windfall. But then events start indicating otherwise.

One day, completely unannounced, Sir Paul McCartney and his family stop by the street corner where they work selling the magazine to admire Bob. Instead of the little handful of people that James expected to be at the first book signing, over 300 show up, and all 200 copies available sell out in the first half hour. In addition, James and Bob are treated as celebrities with photographers and a television camera crew in attendance.

Having been translated into 26 languages, the book becomes an international bestseller. And for the first time in their lives, James and Bob become financially secure. No, Bob and James did not become millionaires, but they are able to live a comfortable existence with James enjoying having some money in the bank and even paying taxes like a true member of society. He also enjoys being able to give something back to Blue Cross, the animal charity that was so kind to both of them during their struggles in earlier years.

The first book also produced other positive windfalls. It greatly improved the relationship James had with his parents. And it also seems to have had an impact on people’s attitudes to London’s “Big Issue” sellers and the homeless in general. Many folks wrote to James to express their awareness of homeless people, and many others have stated that the book gave them an incentive to make a special point of engaging the homeless in a conversation instead of simply ignoring their plight.

The story of James and Bob seemed to connect with people who were facing difficult times in their own lives, while others expressed a newly gained strength from animals’ ability to heal human psyches.

With their account, these two cool cats touched the hearts, minds and lives of many, many others. And that may be the best windfall of all, for all of us.

Book

The World According to Bob
9781250046321

Friends with Benefits with Benefits

After hearing a great deal of positive word-of-mouth from the pop culture hoi polloi, I went out of my way to check out Sex Criminals, the brazenly-titled, tantalizingly hilarious, M-for-Mature graphic novel written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky. Volume one, entitled One Weird Trick, introduces us to Suzie, a young librarian desperate to save her workplace from foreclosure. Suzie befriends an actor named Jon, and together they each discover that the other possesses the same unusual ability that had previously seemed personally unique: they can freeze time whenever they get…romantic. As their relationship deepens and her library’s financial situation grows bleaker, they decide to do what many people would do if they could freeze time: they rob banks. But Suzie and Jon soon learn that their erotic capers may not be as easy to get away with as they think.

Not for the faint of heart, nor prude of taste, Sex Criminals is nevertheless a riotously entertaining coming-of-age caper comedy with a sci-fi twist. It’s irreverent and chockfull of pop culture references and I’d recommended it to anyone at the appropriate level of maturity who doesn’t easily blush.

Book

Sex Criminals. Volume 1, One Weird Trick
9781607069461

The Boy on the Wooden Box

Leon Leyson was number 289, the youngest on the list.  The list that would eventually mean life for more than a thousand Jews.  Leon was Number 289 on Schindler's list.  His powerful memoir, The Boy on the Wooden Box  tells his story to the young people of today what it was like surviving the Holocaust.  The reader sees this horrific time through the eyes of a child.  His youthful perspective brings a powerful message of survival and humanity.  Leon was only a boy during WWII, spending most of his years from 10-19 in Jewish ghettos, work, concentration and displaced persons camps.  The hunger, loss, pain and suffering are real.  Separated for months at a time from his family, Leon found the will to survive inside of him.  If you are a reader at 40 or a child at 10 reading this book, you will feel the struggle. You will hold your breath as the family is forced to separate.  You will wonder how evil can exist.  You will wonder if Leon ever sees the faces again of his brothers.  Share this book with your children or students. 

I think the dedication page is its own recommendation for reading this book:  "To my brothers, Tsalig and Hershel, and to all the sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, parents and grandparents who perished in the Holocaust.  And to Oskar Schindler, whose noble actions did indeed save a "world entire." - Leon Leyson

Book

The Boy on the Wooden Box
9781442497818

Started Early, Took my Dog

I’ll admit flat out that I’m a huge fan of author Kate Atkinson. In her fourth novel featuring semiretired detective Jackson Brodie, “Started Early, Took my Dog”, the author delves into the subject of missing children. Jackson is searching for the biological parents of an Australian woman; it seems straightforward at first, but soon he has more questions than answers. He is also dealing with his teenage daughter by his first wife, his former lover and their son, and a dog that he impulsively rescues from an abusive owner. Concurrently, recently retired detective Tracy Waterhouse, lonely and somewhat jaded after seeing the darker side of life for decades, sees a young girl being dragged along by a prostitute, and something snaps- Tracy offers the woman cash for the kid, and suddenly she is a parent of a child in a fairy costume. Bad people are soon pursuing them, but they don’t seem to want the child back. All roads lead to Jackson; it emerges that he and Tracy are working towards the same end in solving their separate mysteries.

Kate Atkinson takes these potentially dark events and injects them with her sharp observations and wit. Previous novels in the Jackson Brodie series are equally great reading, and her best selling novel, “Life After Life” has won several awards, including the COSTA award in 2013.

Book

Started Early, Took my Dog
9780316066730

The Big Tiny

I first heard about Dee Williams and tiny houses in the fall of 2010, when I worked at a public library in New Hampshire. Because she knew I'd lived in housing cooperatives for several years and was interested in simplicity and sustainable living, one of my coworkers shared this article from Yes!, a magazine to which our library had recently subscribed. Though fascinated with the idea of tiny house living, I couldn't imagine what life in 84 square feet would actually be like. So when I read earlier this year that Williams wrote a book about her tiny house experience, I couldn't wait to read all about it.

After I learned about Dee and her tiny house, I read Little House on a Small Planet, the only small house book I could get my hands on back in 2010. More recently, information on and interest in tiny houses has exploded - a google search for 'tiny houses' yields over 20 million results! - and I've since spent possibly one thousand hours on the internet reading about tiny houses and the people who inhabit them. I've learned that tiny housers aren't unified in their reasons for tiny living. Some people are interested in living a more sustainable life, using fewer resources and decreasing their impact on the planet. Others are attracted to tiny house living for financial reasons - it's possible to live mortgage-free in a tiny house. Still others want to downsize and simplify their life, focusing on what is truly important to them. This was Dee's motivation, after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The Big Tiny chronicles her tiny building adventure and offers insight into day-to-day tiny living. The book's tone is charmingly conversational; I felt like I was sitting next to Dee on her porch, listening to her story straight from her mouth.

If, like me, you can't get enough of tiny houses, check out the new documentary, Tiny: A Story About Living Small, which follows the process of building a tiny house and features interviews with several tiny housers, including Dee Williams.

Book

The Big Tiny
9780399166174

Going Camping?

I’m going camping this summer, and I can’t wait to be outdoors 24/7 for a few days. If, like me, camping is in you and your family’s future this summer, take advantage of the resources KPL offers as you gather your gear, plan your meals, prep the kids and decide where to go.

We have books about cooking outdoors, camping and wilderness survival skills and stories to help children get over fears of camping and excited about sleeping under the stars. We have plenty of camping directories and even a movie for beginning campers.

Are you a district resident cardholder? You can go to Zinio and read digital magazines like Backpacker or check out shows on Hoopla. (Sign in, click on the Browse page, choose Television, scroll down and find the ‘Travel around the World’ topic.) Find titles such as Ken Burns: The National Parks, and Trekking the World.

What’s your next adventure?

Book

Camping Michigan : a comprehensive guide to public tent and RV campgrounds
9780762782505

The well-loved pet (or trophy)

The title of this post is mostly a joke; our taxidermy books are probably more useful for hunters.  Whatever your reason for wanting to preserve the bodies of animals, or if you are just interested in learning for its own sake and exploring a fairly esoteric topic, we have a few books that will make for an unconventional beach read.  The title pictured here (as yet unread by this blogger) does indeed explore pet memorials among other types of taxidermy. 

Book

The authentic animal
9780312643713

Come On, Rain!

Picture books illustrated by Jon J. Muth, like Karen Hesse's Come on, Rain! or Mo Willems's moving City Dog, Country Frog, are favorites of mine. Muth has written and illustrated several lovely picture books featuring Stillwater the panda and friends. The recent picture book release Hi, Koo! is, of course, a book of haiku, and features the little panda bear, Koo, in most of the illustrations. True to form, it is subtitled A Year of Seasons. Though the Summer solstice is very near, Hi, Koo! is a book that gets at universal truths and will please all year 'round. 

Come On, Rain! is a picture book about a welcome downpour after a lengthy summer drought in the city. Moms and daughters enjoy the cooling rain after weeks of hot, dry summer weather. It's fun to read about the welcome relief of a summer rain storm whether or not the weather is hot and dry.

Book

Come On, Rain!
9780590331258

Prepare for fall movie releases with summer reading...

Film adaptations of three recent novels and one middle school classic are scheduled for release this fall. Why not take advantage of summer reading season to read, or perhaps re-read, the books that have inspired these upcoming movies:

The Giver by Lois Lowry - August 15 release

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - October 3 release

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks - October 17 release

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - November 21 release

Book

Gone Girl
9780307588364

What does spiritual but not religious mean?

According to Pew, there is a growing number of young Americans that are not affiliated with any particular religion, a.k.a. "nones." This book, a sort of spiritual memoir by Roger Housden, is one example of a "none" trying to keep his faith. Or rather redefine it.

A very short book, almost an extended poem, his faith amounts to this: beauty, nature, kindness and love. Read poetry; look at art; walk in the woods; love people. The book is more like a memoir, a Whitman nature poem, a reflection on faith as solitary, personal, open-ended - a life-journey.

Now, I sympathize with his faith and applaud his ideals, but we must admit that this kind of faith is drastically different from the faith of many other people. That's okay. (disclaimer: I didn't read the entire book so I have no room to comment, but yet here I am commenting). Is Housden merely describing his own happy, privileged, care-free life and calling it faith? Going to Starbucks, writing best sellers, enjoying art and peotry, watching the waves through his window. Sounds great to me! But what happens when you reduce faith into a few ideals? Is anything lost? Perhaps not. Where's the pot-lucks? Mr Housden has redefined faith into a solitary pursuit of truth and beauty (nothing wrong with that, he comes from a long tradition), but let’s be honest - he is getting rid of something here. Or, another way to put it: he probably got rid of his faith, kept a few things from it (truth, beauty, love, awe), and started something new and different.

If you are spiritual-but-not-religious, and you like poetry, you will like this book.

book

Keeping the faith without a religion
9781622030927

Designed in Cupertino

It’s difficult to imagine now but during the late 1980s and into the 90s, Apple Inc. was a struggling, poorly managed computer company trying unsuccessfully to compete with the Windows based PC that was quickly dominating the exploding computer market and putting Apple at deaths door. Also hard to believe is the fact that during most of that time, a time distinguished by uninspired mac models and failed device launches, Apple had Jony Ive, the industrial designer credited for the much imitated Apple “look and feel”, working in their design department. Much of the credit for Apple’s remarkable turnaround gets assigned to Steve Jobs; and rightly so. But it is specifically Job’s decision to move Apple from engineering based to a design-driven company and put his faith in the very talented Jony Ive that would lead to the string of industry changing products that eventually made Apple the most valuable company in the world. Not since Dieter Rams and the Braun Company in the 1950s has a designer’s ethos aligned so successfully with a corporation and not surprisingly Ive sights Rams (and his famous 10 principles of good design) as a strong influence on his work. But unlike Dieter Rams, for someone who’s designs have become cultural icons (just think about those white headphones alone!) next to nothing is known about the quiet and very private Jony Ive. But that has now changed a bit with the publication of Leander Kahney’s bio of Ive, Jony Ive : the genius behind Apple's greatest products. While the book doesn’t dive too terribly deeply into Ive’s personal life, it does a good job detailing his design career and outlining his close relationship with Jobs and the hard work and minute attention to each and every detail that has marked his, and Apple’s, success.

Book

Jony Ive: the genius behind Apple's greatest products
9781591846178

This is ridiculous, this is amazing

I am not much of a laugh-out-louder, but I found myself doubled-over with tears in my eyes more than once while reading This is ridiculous, this is amazing : parenthood in 71 lists by comedic blogger Jason Good, of JasonGood.net. Here Good compiles lists that many parents can relate to, including “Reasons your toddler might be freaking out” (he jumped off the sofa and we weren’t watching) and my personal favorite, “Oh, the new and wonderful new things you’ll get to do” (put someone in a Bob the Builder costume while fighting off diarrhea). There are actually some good tips that can be gleaned from several of his lists, like “Games you can play while lying down,” which if done correctly, will allow you to catch a quick nap (Put all the sunglasses and hats on Daddy) (Put Daddy in ‘sofa jail’) (Vacuum Daddy). I can particularly relate to the list “Love hurts : especially my shoulder” where Good details various injuries he’s sustained playing with and chasing around kids…brought me back to two summers ago when I injured my knee jumping on a trampoline with my daughter, then re-injured it a few months later while doing a side slide on the kitchen floor to Don’t stop believin’. I was forced to wear a knee brace for four months until the knee finally healed. Ahhhhh…parenthood has its struggles. But thanks, Jason Good, for making me see the humor in them.

Book

This is ridiculous, this is amazing

9781452129211

 


The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water

It’s okay to be different and this book is about a little crocodile (well, maybe), who has many brothers and sisters with whom he wants to play, but he cannot play with them because they all like to swim and play in the water, but this little crocodile does not like the water. He even saves up his money to buy a swim ring in an attempt to learn to swim, but, it just won’t happen. He gets very cold in the water and he begins to shiver, and then, he sneezes FIRE!

This little crocodile does not like to jump, either. However, he is VERY good at doing other things such as… flying and climbing, and something else that if I reveal it to you will give away the surprise ending! The illustrations by Gemma Merino are uproarious and simply convey the emotions of The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water.

Book

The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water
9780735841635

Under the Egg

When Theodora’s grandfather dies, he leaves her a whispered message and the responsibility to care for her drifty mother, their Brooklyn townhouse, and $463 to hold it all together.

Over the course of this layered story, Theo and her new friend Bodhi work on deciphering the message, which sends them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Jefferson Market Public Library, the Center for Jewish History.

Under the Egg is an adventure story that gives the reader terrific characters, World War II history, good guys and bad guys, and a lot of wonderful information about art.

Book

Under the Egg
9780803740013

Vintage Toys

I love attending the Circus Maximus Antique Toy Show every May and November at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center. It's such a festive gathering, and the architects and contractors certainly did a nice job on the new and renovated buildings there. Looking at this book isn't quite as good as being at the show, but there are compensating factors, such as being able to read the histories of many toys I played with as a child. Arranged by type of toy rather than chronologically, the author provides two-page narratives with photographs of toys from the 1940s to the 1990s. Here are Play-Doh, Tonka Trucks, Rubik's Cube, Frisbee, Etch-A-Sketch, and Magic 8-Ball, along with many others. I especially enjoyed being reminded of the Vac-U-Form, since my cousin John in Grand Rapids had one. I can still remember how the plastic smelled when we heated it up!

Book

Toy time! : from hula hoops to He-Man to Hungry Hungry Hippos : a look back at the most- beloved toys of decades past
9780385349123

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd is a delightful book about a quirky, mountain town called Midnight Gulch. Felicity Pickle and her family move "home" to Midnight Gulch where her mother grew up. Felicity and her sister are tired of wandering and hope their family can settle in and stay. As Felicity makes friends and explores, she discovers many secrets about the history of the town's magic and her own family. She may just find that there is still a snicker of magic left in Midnight Gulch.

Natalie Lloyd's debut novel is as enchanting as the picture of ice cream on the cover from Dr. Zook's Dreamery Creamery. She has a beautiful way with words and even seasoned chapter book readers will pick up new expressive vocabulary like "spindiddly" from this book. It's also a great choice for kids who like a non-scary mystery, which is a common request in the Children's Room.

Book

A Snicker of Magic
9780545552707

Graphic Memoirs

As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words. I love graphic novels –stories told using both pictures and words—because you can glean so much of the emotion and action of the story from the artwork. I recently read two poignant memoirs, which explore the final years of the lives of beloved parents.

In Tangles: A story about Alzheimer’s, my Mother, and Me, the beauty is in the great detail that Sarah Leavitt shares with the reader. Some of the details are frustrating and heartbreaking to read and see, as her mother gradually loses more and more of her capacity to thrive; still, the little daily challenges and special moments shared by family are what make caregiving for an ailing loved one so rewarding.

Joyce Farmer illustrates the final four years of her father and stepmother, Lars and Rachel, in Special Exits: A Graphic Memoir. Her writing and drawing style are much different than Leavitt’s, but again, you feel the full emotion of her experience supporting them in their final years.

I was struck by the role of cats in each of these books. Note p. 192 of Special Exits, where the beloved Siamese cat, Ching, is loving on her “Daddy” so much that he can’t breathe. In five cartoon boxes, author Farmer paints love and affection between cat and human, while deftly illustrating the frailty of her dying father. In Tangles, (p. 65-66) Mom adores Lucy the cat, who  actually wants nothing to do with her. Even though Leavitt admits to feeling some jealousy of her mother’s adoration of the cat, she makes little books with cards and photos about Lucy, which her mom then carries around with her. The picture of the cat hiding under the covers on Mom and Dad’s bed is simple, yet priceless.

We have quite a few other memoirs in our graphic novel collection.

Book

Special Exits: A Graphic Memoir
9781606993811

Different people. Different values. Can’t we all just get along?

Pro-lifers yell “Right to life!” Pro-choicers yell “women’s right to choose!” End of discussion, right? This book is an attempt to solve that problem. From conservatives to communists, from Jews to Jehovah Witnesses, we need a way to make decisions together — especially about public policy — if we are to get along. We need a “metamorality,” a universal language, a “common currency,” says the philosopher/neuroscientist Joshua Greene; we need an ethical code that transcends each particular one.

And his answer is…drumroll please….utilitarianism! (I can feel your excitement). A moral philosophy invented by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill in the 1700’s, utilitarianism is amazingly simple: maximize happiness and reduce suffering, as much as possible. Instead of talking about rights, principles, commands or duties, perhaps we can all agree on this one thing: happiness is good; suffering is bad.

Can we agree on that?

Probably not. That’s why the book is 300+ pages. And still, probably not. Nice try though., right?

As for me, I must say, I am convinced. This book has fundamentally changed some of my opinions. This is one of the most important books I have read this year, perhaps in my entire life. It has certainly brought together several intellectual strains that have been floating around in my head for decades now. To explain, I have always admired the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, whom I named my son after. Kant has a strict, rule based, "no exceptions" morality (never life, never cheat, never steal); in other words, your basic religious morality with a rational spin. John Stuart Mill, on the other hand, founder of Utilitarianism, I have admired from a distance. Now, finally they come together in a harmonious embrace. Which, for me, means a lot (check out my personal blog for more). In fact, I emailed the author and told him so. He emailed back right away said “that makes it all worthwhile.” Whether you hate utilitarian thinking or not, this book is amazing on many different levels: brain science, psychology, philosophy, politics, and religion. A bright, interdisciplinary guy and a good writer.

book

Moral Tribes
9781594202605

A “Get the Facts” Story!

I appreciate that Tonya Bolden took on the awesome responsibility of researching this story. It is an amazing story with a wellspring of information.

Sarah Rector was a Creek Freedman born in Indian Territory in 1902. Her grandparents had been slaves to Creek Indians and her grandfather was among the Blacks in the Company D that joined the pro-union First Indian Home Guard which was formed to fight against the confederate army.

The story that Tonya Bolden tells is about Sarah receiving an allotment of land as a child and then, as fortune has it, after her father had been struggling to pay the taxes and would have given the land away he leases it to Devonian Oil Company and oil is struck big time. Sarah becomes the richest black girl in America!

And although, oil gushes from the wells on her land, that is not the crux of Sarah’s story. Her story is what happens after she becomes the richest child of the “colored” race. Besides a new house and a car, wealth brings newspapers articles, marriage proposals, half truths, lies, assumptions, mistrust and accusations to and about Sarah’s family.

Read this very interesting, troublesome and yet comforting story to see why Tony Bolden titled it Searching for Sarah Rector: the richest black girl in America. It will yank at your heart strings and send you tumbling in so many different directions that you will want to know more. I hope that I learn from the example that Miss Bolden set by telling both sides and explaining the half truths of this intriguing story.

Book

Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America
9781419708466

Are Geniuses Made or Born?

Was Einstein one-of-a-kind? Was he original, special, unique—so unique that nobody else could have possibly come up with the theory of relativity? There will never be another Einstein. Or, was he made, a product of the time, a small part in a larger collaborative scientific environment—at the right place at the right time? There are many Einstein’s.

Of course the answer is probably in the middle, and we sometimes forget that there are many other geniuses in history and alive today. (Good Will Hunting is a great movie on the subject). Einstein does get a “special” place, “relatively” speaking; we give him more “space” and more “time” than any other genius (puns intended)—perhaps deservingly so. Look up genius in the dictionary, you see Einstein’s silly little wise grin.

The author of this book thinks that, on the whole, genius is a product of a particular culture and that major scientific advances could have been made by many different people at any given time. Nobody is that special. Science is collaborative. Einstein disagrees: “Einstein believed that ‘great men’ shaped history and that advances in the arts, in the humanities, and in science were due to the contributions of outstanding individuals who labored in the solitude of the creative process” (27). Isaac Newton particularly comes to mind here. Oppenheimer, on the other hand, a contemporary of Einstein, stressed the collective nature of science a little more.

To become an Einstein, I believe many stars must align. First, geniuses really do exist, they are different; they have an Intel Quad-Core processor, we have an abacus. My mom said life’s not fair and she’s right. Second, education and upbringing. If the flower isn’t watered, if the fire isn’t kindled, if the…you get it. Einstein was well read and widely read. “I am really more of a philosopher than a physicists,” he once said. The fact that he read Kant’s ideas on space and time has a lot to do with how he developed his own ideas. Third, a thriving culture of learning is required, especially for science types. Also, it’s very important to remember that you don’t have to be a “genius” be do great things (indeed, Einstein considered ‘moral geniuses’ like Jesus and Gandhi).

What do you think?

book

Einstein and oppenheimer
9780674028289

What's Your Favorite Animal?

What's Your Favorite Animal? looks like a new Eric Carle book. And it is. But it's also by Nick Bruel, Lucy Cousins, Susan Jeffers, Steven Kellogg, Tom Lichtenheld, Peter McCarty, Chris Raschka, Peter Sís, Lane Smith, Erin SteadRosemary Wells, and Mo Willems. Whew! Each of these Childrens' Lit luminaries expounds in words and pictures on their favorite animal. Many of these two-page spreads will make you laugh out loud. This is a fantastic choice for any fans of these Picture Book power-hitters. I like to read What's Your Favorite Animal? aloud. It's a great way to instigate a discussion about why we like the things we like.

Book

What's Your Favorite Animal?
9780805096415

Move Over Guinness: The Animals Are Coming

Natural History Museum Book of Animal Records by Mark Carwardine is a fascinating and addictive book about truly amazing animal records. It is quite comprehensive, utilizing the traditional animal classification system of groups, orders, families and species for organizational purposes.

The main goal is to “celebrate the wonders of the natural world and particularly its diversity.” For example, the box jellyfish found off the coast of Australia carries enough venom in it to kill sixty adult humans. At least seventy people have died from its stings, more so than from shark and crocodile attacks combined in that part of the country. In fact, some succumbed in as little as four minutes from the time they came in contact with the jellyfish’s tentacles.

The book also points out that quite a few of these record breaking animals are endangered and close to extinction, such as the white, black, Indian, Sumatran and Javan rhinoceroses. These rhinos hold a number of records including thickest skin on a mammal.

This volume will captivate kids with fantastic photographs and keep them reading and learning astonishing facts which are presented in a fast and fun way. A great gift for your young nature lover or a good reference volume just to have in your own book collection.

Book

Natural History Museum Book of Animal Records
9781770852693

#TFIOS

Time.  So many clichés about time. Time goes so fast….if I only had more time….time heals….time flies….time is running out.  Seriously friends....NOW is the TIME! Read The Fault in Our Stars!  The movie comes out this June, and you need to connect with the characters before seeing it on the big screen.  As a Teen Services staff member when a book comes out by John Green, it instantly becomes the top slot on my To Read list.  TFIOS fills all of my expectations from this author.  The story takes us along when Hazel, a teenager with terminal cancer, meets Augustus at a cancer support group for kids.  The typical coming-of-age story, but with a terminal twist.  You are instantly vested in the characters from the beginning.  I read this book quickly, trying to get myself to the happy ending I was sure was coming.  I laughed when they laughed and cried when they cried.  Take time to read it for yourself.

Are you already a John Green fan?  Perhaps you've already read this book.  It is not new, it was published in 2012.  If you're a teen, tell your parents why they should read it.  If you're an adult, find a teenager to recommend it to.  Then join us at the Central Library on Tuesday, June 3 at 6:30 to celebrate An Abundance of John Green.  You'll have the chance to record your own video about why someone else should read any of John Green's books!  Check out the event page for more info, a Nerdfighter video and the TFIOS movie trailer!

Book

The Fault in our Stars
9780147513731

Another Look Back at the 1960s

There are many recent books about various aspects of the 1960s – 50 years ago. I’m drawn to these books as the time when I grew up but was not old enough to fully understand and appreciate the significance of many events.

I grew up in Pennsylvania and attended the NY World’s Fair in the summers of 1964 and 65. I remember many of the major exhibits. Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Transformation of America tells the back story of the politics of the fair told against the times: the Kennedy assassination, the US and the Soviet Union, Malcolm X and racial issues, color TV, the Ford Mustang, Disney World, the Beatles.

This is a history of the mid 1960s with the World’s Fair as a reflection of the times. It is fascinating reading if you attended the fair or not.

Book

Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Transformation of America
9780762780358

The Mad Potter

The arresting photo on the cover of this book caught my eye and I was quickly drawn into the quirky world of George Ohs, who called himself The Mad Potter.

Born in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1871, George Ohs was a largely self-taught potter, making items like no one had ever seen before. It wasn’t until long after his death that the art world came to appreciate what he called his “mud babies.”

The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius tells his fascinating story and is illustrated with intriguing historic photographs.

Book

The Mad Potter
9781596438101

Grasshopper Jungle

Once in a while a book comes along and completely destroys everything you thought you knew about everything. Andrew Smith's latest book for older teens, Grasshopper Jungle, is exactly that book. Set in desolate small-town Iowa, Grasshopper Jungle is sixteen-year-old Austin's first-hand account of both the end of the world and also his teenage sexual confusion, although not exactly in that order. Where in most teenage giant monster stories the giant monsters function as a metaphor for teen angst, in Grasshopper Jungle these tropes are completely reversed to amazing effect. As Freud might say, sometimes a giant maneating mutant insect is just a giant maneating mutant insect. Grasshopper Jungle is totally dark, funny, crass, creepy, weird and awesome. It's definitely not for those with aversions to copious amounts of sex, violence, swearing, or GIANT MANEATING UNSTOPPABLE BUGS but aside from all that, Grasshopper Jungle is seriously amazing writing. My favorite book of the year so far, and one that's going to be really hard to top.

Book

Grasshopper Jungle
9780525426035

~~~~~~~~~~Wave~~~~~~~~~~

The book Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala is the London survivor's account of the Indian Ocean Tsunami that struck the day after Christmas while her family was vacationing in her native Sri Lanka in 2004. Sonali lost her husband, both precious young sons, both parents, and good friend in an instant as they were swept away, trying to escape the monstrous wave that suddenly engulfed their coastal hotel on an otherwise calm, sunny morning. Sonali, swept inland and back out again by the wave, eventually clung to a branch and survived. The book starts off with these horrifying events, then plunges into the agony and despair that is the new reality for Sonali. Numbing alcohol, wanting to die, guilt, blame, anger. As she tells the story of years leading up to the devastation, she memorializes the love of of her life, Steve, and his mouth-watering cooking, 8 year-old Vik who played cricket, 5 year-old Malli who put on shows with puppets and costumes, and long holidays with her parents Aachchi and Seeya at Sonali's childhood home in Colombo. This book is a sad, sad book...but it is also a beautiful love story.

Book

Wave
9780307962690

Requiescat in pace

Sometimes I have this craving – I have to find a book. You may see me wandering from aisle to aisle here in the library, eyes fixed on the shelves, looking for that volume that will somehow take hold of me and say “Here I am – the book you’ve been looking for your whole life.” I’m seized by these feelings often: I remember one week at university, I had just finished finals and papers for the semester, and I needed a book. Not just any book. A book that would suck me in and change me. A book that would overwhelm me and leave me in a deep breathing, inchoate sort of awe. One of the first of these books to take me over and leave me a new person was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I was very saddened to hear about this author’s death on April 17; so, in honor of his work, and to mourn the fact that there will be no more stories from his pen, here are some reflections on some of my favorite things he has written, which in many ways have spoiled me as a reader for anything less challenging or delightful.

I first encountered Marquez when I purchased his collection of novellas and short stories called Leaf Storm at a bargain bookstore in upstate New York. The story from this volume that grabbed me was “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World.” It was such a simple story, and the people in the village seemed real because the narrative made them so commonplace, so rooted to their unremarkable, hardworking and physically hemmed-in existence. The narrative made me feel sympathy for them, and then eventually to find myself among their number. The arrival of this corpse – not so very surprising; for a people who catch their living in the sea, drowning is all too common, really – changes this village and the villagers. The size of this man. As the villagers go through the familiar rituals associated with preparing the body for the funeral, they discover his differences. He is enormous. He is not from their village, or another one nearby. He is like nobody and nothing they have seen before. In the face of the mystery of this man, they have to make up some kind of life for him, a way to understand him. They create an identity for him: they give him a name, Esteban, and a history of sorts. The work to lay him to rest in his death becomes an imaginative creation of a life that somehow matches the greatness his dead body suggests to the villagers. When they hold the funeral, he is mourned as one of their own, and they have fallen in love with him. They are now his. This was a love story like one I had never read before, and I was sucked in. I was in love with Esteban, too, and shivered in the bittersweet pleasure of the story as it was told, and the sense of loss it created. 

And then, I can’t remember exactly when or why, I found myself reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. Talk about shivering in bittersweet pleasure. The thought of sitting down and opening the book even now means I must have the leisure of time. I want balmy weather, so I can open my window to feel the breeze move around me. I want light refreshments. I must be prepared for company. The characters who stride across these pages are driven: the desire for children, for revolution, for freedom, for gold, for each other; the unending hunger surges through their blood and family and tugs you along with them. They are never fully satisfied. Sometimes it comes close, but that just sharpens the coming up short. This family and this village are small and insular, but they are the whole world. Everything is shocking, yet you shake your head and enlarge your heart to take it all in, because you love these people, and you know them, because you have come to recognize the patterns repeating themselves over and over again in the house and the family. Somehow, the unspoken desires, the unknowns, the unfinished and unsatisfied elements from your life find a place here in Macondo, too, and you can sigh over them while you marvel at the events of the hundred years. 

And then there is his short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” that I read and discussed with literature students for a couple of years. It gave time to discuss the genre Marquez is best known for, magic realism, as well as other rhetorical devices like antithesis, allegory, and allusion. It’s a charming fairy tale, from one perspective, seemingly best suited for children with the appearance of angels and disobedient daughters turned into spiders. But it’s also a story about the hard work and disappointments that characterize so much of adult life, and that blind adults to the magic and inexplicable all around them. 

The library has three pages in the catalogue of books written by Marquez, some in the original Spanish; most of them are English translations. Try One Hundred Years of Solitude or Love in the Time of Cholera, both in the fiction section. Maybe you will be like me and fall in love with the people engendered in Marquez’s brain. Maybe you will be fascinated by the real history and political tragedy that gets woven into every narrative. Maybe you will long for the sultry and soporific Caribbean landscapes that somehow spread across your own mind as you enter his world. Read something, then come talk about it with me.

Book

One Hundred Years of Solitude
9780060919658

Pearl Cleage lays it all out there!

When I started reading this book I got really excited. I thought that I had a lot in common with Pearl Cleage. The similarities stopped quickly and although the timing of our first children was close there was little to compare after that. Like me she quit working but she was still very connected. How could she not be when she wrote speeches for the city of Atlanta’s first black mayor and fraternized with some very important people? She was married to Michael Lomax, who became the president of The United Negro Fund. In Things I should have told my daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs, Pearl gives her readers a very candid look into her life back in the 70s and 80s. Some of her bear-it-all details were tough for me to imagine because where I had become Pollyannaish she was making major life changes and her world was broadening while mine was narrowing. I don’t envy her and her world, I just marvel at it. She had 2 affairs with married men and still ended up happy!

Pearl says it was all worth it, even the messy parts.

Book

Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs
9781451664690

You Are Probably Too Busy to Read This Book

In today's world, when work and home life seem to intertwine and many of us are tethered to technology that keeps us constantly available, time is our most precious commodity.  In Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has theTime, Brigid Schulte takes a look at the U.S.'s perpetual time crunch and what makes us all in such a hurry.  Schulte offers extensive research regarding time, work, and play in the U.S. and the results are fascinating: it turns out time is gendered in our society.  Schulte argues that the myth of the "ideal worker" (an employee who puts in hours upon hours of face time in at work and will drop everything at a moment's notice for their employer) is detrimental to the health and happiness of individuals and does nothing at all to support families.  Women, particularly mothers, assumed to be the care givers in families, are the ones who suffer the most; they make less money, are less likely to rise to management levels within companies, and feel relentless pressure to be the perfect parent.  Schulte offers lots of data to back up her argument, and she suggests changes (including paid maternity/paternity leave, paid vacation, flexible work hours, more egalitarian household duties, etc.) that she thinks would offer better support to families and in turn generate happy, healthy, and productive workers.

I found this book extremely interesting to read despite a topic that, handled differently, could have easily been boring; it made me look at structures in our society that are taken for granted and realize that, yes, we can have more time, better gender equality, and still be a productive society.  I do wish more attention was paid to how low income families and people of color are impacted by "the overwhelm" as the author describes it-although Schulte occasionally addresses both income and race, there's plenty more that could have been discussed along those lines.  Despite that flaw, I came away from this book with the feeling that the topic of time--both work and leisure--is incredibly important to discuss and that a cultural shift in how we think about time could have a huge, positive impact on our society. 

Book

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time
9780374228446

 


Bluffton: My Summers with Buster

Vacationing on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula’s scenic west coast shoreline is a wonderful choice. More than one hundred years ago Buster Keaton’s family and their vaudeville team vacationed in Bluffton, near Muskegon. Matt Phelan wrote and illustrated a graphic novel titled: Bluffton: My Summers with Buster.

The story, told in remarkable drawings, is about a boy named Henry Harrison who lives in Muskegon year round. Henry hears about the vaudevillians and is captivated by the performers and their animals! He and the young Buster Keaton form a summer friendship and they hang out and play baseball with other kids. When summer ends, kids go back to school, but not for Buster! Buster travels around doing vaudeville acts, then returns to Bluffton the next summer. Bluffton offers a glimpse into the life of one of the world’s most well-known silent screen actors and the few summers he lived on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Go back in time and watch Buster Keaton’s black and white slapstick silent films on KPL’s Hoopla site. It’s accessible directly from the KPL catalog, just enter Buster Keaton in the search field.

Book

Bluffton: My Summers with Buster
9780763650797

A World in One Continent

A book that has as its subject the continent of North America is a bit unusual. Generally one would find separate works for the individual countries of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the various Caribbean island nations, but this book has them all. Lots of facts are included, such as: 1) Some desert plants, like the cereus, bloom at night instead of during the day to attract pollinators like bats that come out at night when the desert is cooler, 2) Ninety percent of the world's tornadoes occur in North America, although tornadoes have occurred on every continent except Antarctica, and 3) With temperatures falling to fifty below, the pines of northern Canada become stunted but still form the largest forests of the continent. Containing striking photographs, this companion to the Discovery Channel series includes narrative on North America's wildlife, weather, plants, and geography. This is an impressive book.

Book

North America : a world in one continent
9780762448425

 


It is about the lies

A search for 'Lance Armstrong' in the KPL catalog reveals many books written about the subject. There are the books that helped create the mythical Armstrong story, which goes something like - raised by a tough single mother, displayed phenomenal athletic ability at a young age, near-terminal cancer diagnosis cuts short a promising cycling career, survives cancer, a changed man - he comes back to become the world’s greatest cyclist and wins the Tour de France an utterly amazing 7 times in a row, retires from cycling to lead a philanthropic foundation that reaches millions of cancer survivors around the planet. (see: Tour de Lance or 23 Days in July) Now there are the post-federal investigation/Oprah confession books that reveal Armstrong to be a sophisticated drug cheat, a total bully, a bald-faced liar, and detail his recent plummet from hero to pariah. (see: Wheelman and The Armstrong Lie) Having closely followed professional cycling throughout the era that Lance Armstrong won 7 straight Tour de France titles; I can understand his current perspective which is basically: if everyone was cheating, then nobody was cheating. But the thing that ultimately led to his spectacular fall from grace, and what makes Juliet Macur’s new book about Armstrong, Cycle of Lies: the fall of Lance Armstrong, so captivating, is the fact that the single-minded competitiveness that allowed him to beat cancer and win bike races also fueled the ferocity of his denials and the personal attacks on those that dared to defy him. Macur, unlike most journalists outside Oprah herself, was allowed access to Armstrong and his inner circle, and uses that access to produce a nuanced portrait of how the Lance Armstrong myth formed and grew and how it ultimately collapsed upon itself so catastrophically.

Book

Cycle of Lies

9780062277220

Some Book!

Some Bugs written by Angela DiTerlizzi is a new favorite picture book! The rhyming text and the large illustrations make it perfect for storytime and it's a hit with every crowd I read it to, from preschool to first grade! Bugs do all kinds of amazing things and this book shows off those qualities. Full of action words like "buzz, build, make, take", we learn something new about bugs every time we read it. And at the end there is a full spread of bugs with their official names perfect for poring over together after reading this wonderful book! Eeach time we notice something new!

Book

Some Book!
9781442458802

Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden

Whether you are a novice or experienced gardener, “Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 plans that will change the way you grow your garden” by Niki Jabbour is just the book for inspiration. I first saw this title when there were still piles of snow on the ground here in Michigan, and just looking through the book was better than a dose of spring tonic.

73 different experienced contributors have provided plans for gardens such as “Edibles on a patio”, “Asian vegetables”, “Backyard orchard”, and “Chile lover’s garden”. And that’s just a small sample. Lavishly illustrated, if you are currently a gardener or want to be, I can almost guarantee you will find something to pique your interest here.

I love thinking about what to plant every year in my garden, and I got lots of suggestions and ideas from this book. Spring has arrived- let the planting begin!

Book

Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden

9781612120614

 



Surprise! Surprise!

Karen Joy Fowler’s new book We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves has one of the best surprise plot twists ever. I was in a hotel room reading on a Spring break trip with my kids when I reached the surprise and I had to tell them about it. After that, they kept asking me if I was going to tell mom. I swore them to secrecy, because I was going to get her to read the book. 

 
The same goes for you. I’m not going to say anything else about the book, because I don’t want to give anything away. I can tell you that it is written well and got great reviews. But don’t read them. They will give the surprise away. In fact, don’t even read the tiny summary included in our catalog when you look the book up to put it on hold, because it gives the secret away. 

 
Don’t read the jacket cover. Don’t read the blurbs. Just check it out and start reading.

Book

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
9780399162091

The Bootlegger

Clive Cussler and Justin Scott have produced another Isaac Bell adventure. This time it is “The Bootlegger” a novel of prohibition and fast boats smuggling illegal booze in 1921. When Joseph Van Zorn the head of elite Van Zorn Detective agency is shot Issac Bell investigates and when a witness is killed in a method used by the Cominterns he discovers that the Russians are involved. I like how the authors include history and the technology discoveries that occurred in this time. Issac Bell uses what scientists have learned about topedoes during the war to fashion a bomb of his own. They have to use the library to get information and not just google it. I liked that for sure. Give it a read. We have it in regular print, Large Print and on CD Audio. We have other Isaac Bell adventures also.

Book

The Bootlegger
9780399167294

Would You Kill One to Save Five? please comment

Scenario One: A trolley is about to run over five people tied to the tracks. You happen to be watching the horrible scene unfold. But, you also happen to be next to a lever. If you pull the level, the trolley switches tracks and kills one person (also tied to the tracks). If you do nothing, five people die. Those are your only options.

Do you pull the lever?

Scenario Two: Again, a trolley is about to run over five people tied to the tracks. But now there is a platform overlooking the tracks with a very large man standing on it (I apologize for the offensive nature of this thought experiment in advance). You are standing behind him on the platform. You have two options. You can do nothing and the five people die. Or you can push the large man in front of the trolley, which will stop it; but he will die. Those are the only options you have.

Do you push the large man?

Most people, it turns out, would pull the lever but would not push the large man, usually because the latter is more intentional. Interestingly, men are more willing to push the large man in front of the trolley. Military workers are more likely to push (vs hospital workers), liberals push (as opposed to conservatives), non-religious people push (vs religious) and — wait for it — psychopaths push! But there is no correlation regarding income or education and pushing.

The point, of course, has nothing to do with trolleys or large men. The point is that both outcomes are the same. One person dies and five people are saved. Yet why do we not push the large man? What else is going on here?

It has everything to do with your moral philosophy, which roughly come in two flavors: Utilitarian or Deontologist, John Stuart Mill or Immanuel Kant. Do you calculate numbers or do you follow strict rules? Does the outcome matter (save five) or does the principle matter more (do not kill)? Does the consequences of your actions matter, or just the actions themselves? Most people (me included) fall into the principle, rule-based camp (Deontology). Other people think that the means justify the end, that morality is about maximizing the best possible outcome for the greatest number of people, that sometimes by golly you have to crack an egg to make an omelet (Utilitarianism).

As for me, I would not pull the lever or push the man. What about you? Please comment below.

book

Would you kill the fat man
9780691154022

Earth Day: celebration and remembrance

Happy Earth Day, everyone! Today we celebrate the planet we live on, and to that end we have many items for you to explore, from Earth Day specific, to activity-based ways to enjoy the Earth, including camping, hiking, and gardening.

On a more somber note, this year we mark the 100th anniversary of the death of the last passenger pigeon, and a coalition has formed to highlight the importance of avoiding species extinction in the future. This effort is led by Joel Greenberg, a research associate with both the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum of the Chicago Academy of Sciences and the Chicago Field Museum. Greenberg has written a book about the passenger pigeon, A feathered river across the sky : the passenger pigeon's flight to extinction, which you can place on hold, as it is currently checked out at this writing.  Next Monday, Greenberg will address the Audubon Society of Kalamazoo, at an event which is free and open to the public.

Book

A feathered river across the sky : the passenger pigeon's flight to extinction
9781620405345

Leo Loves Baby Time

Leo and his mama go to the library every week for Baby Time . . . sharing stories, playing peek-a-boo with scarves, and singing the happy song.

Leo Loves Baby Time is a sweet story, perfectly suited to very young children, with uncluttered illustrations, few words, and a focused plot. If you like this book, also take a look at Lola Loves Stories, which is about Leo’s big sister.

Book

Leo Loves Baby Time
9781580896658

NYPD RED 2

The hazmat killer’s recent victim is found on a carousel and Zach and Kylie of the elite NYPD Red force must find him before the mayors re-election vote. The hazmat killer is killing people that the legal system was unable to bring to justice. They torture the bad guy and video tape the confession, kill him and then leave the body in a very public place. The video is then released to the internet. Kylie and Zach have a hard time getting people to help as most are routing for the vigilante. NYPD RED 2 is James Patterson and Marshall Karp’s second book in this series. While you can read this book without having first read NYPD RED, I recommend reading them in order. Kylie and Zach have a romantic history and it’s just better if you read about it in the first book as they talk about it a lot (way more than I wanted) in the second book.You can find both books at KPL, as well as thousand of others both in hard print and digital.

Book

NYPD RED 2
9780316211239

Undisputed Truth

Much like Mike Tyson’s greatest fights, Undisputed Truth, the autobiography by the controversial boxer is shocking and brutal, but despite the shock, it is hard to turn away from. Written with the assistance of well-respected coauthor Larry Sloman, Undisputed Truth offers a raw, no holds barred look at the high-flying story of Mike Tyson so far. From his incredibly difficult childhood (with shockingly little parental involvement, Tyson was left to survive on the gritty streets of Brooklyn, New York on his own and was committing armed robbery as a very young child) to training under the tutelage, and basically being adopted by, boxing coach Cus D'Amato as a teenager, to boxing world champion, convicted rapist, celebrity, drug addict, and notorious ear-biting villain, Undisputed Truth is a truly wild ride. The book does little to dissuade readers that Tyson has been anything but a truly despicable person for most of his life, but the raw and honest way that Tyson talks about his life and confronts his demons is admirable and by the end of the book you can’t help but root for him and his redemption as a human being and a sports figure.

Book

Undisputed Truth
9780399161285

A One-Way Ticket to Self-Fulfillment

In journalism, a stringer is a writer/correspondent who isn’t formally employed by any one news organization, but rather produces articles that may be shopped around to many would be publishers, and more often than not, may actually end up being bought by none. Stringers usually cover their own expenses, provide their own support and go to places where established, affiliated reporters do not. The term itself is of unsure origin. Some say that it was coined because these writers are paid by the word and therefore would tend to “string” together words to increase their payout. Others believe that it refers to these journalists’ potential employers who would “string them along” into believing that a permanent contractual relationship was to be had just around the corner from the next article that they wrote.

Making a living by writing anything professionally is tough enough. Deciding to do it by becoming a stringer takes a certain character; one that is determined to succeed and driven by a thirst for adventure and non-stop action. It is also useful to have a very high tolerance level for repeatedly risking everything in search of that exceptional, preferably exclusive, story. All of these traits are displayed in abundance by Anjan Sundaram in his wonderful first book, Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo.

In the summer of 2005, Sunderam decides to leave behind his postgraduate studies in mathematics at Yale, as well as a lucrative job offer from Goldman Sachs, and instead to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Why such an extreme exercise in life re-orientation? Although an explanation is provided, it is not very convincing. Rather it seems to be as much due to whimsy and a bad case of ants-in-the-pants as anything else. And why the Congo? Simply due to the shear coincidence that his bank teller tells him that her brother-in-law and family, whom he has never met, live there and would agree to put him up in their home during his stay.

Using his one-way ticket, he arrives and his previously calm predictable world completely disintegrates into the uncertainties of day-to-day Congolese existence; the latter occurring with the chaotic and frequently violent state of Congolese politics and social problems as a backdrop. After many mishaps and struggles along the way to becoming the journalist he sees himself as being, he lucks out by landing a position as a stringer with the Associated Press reporting on the never ending merry-go-round of political corruption and exploitation that are the trademarks of the country’s history.

Success begins to shine upon his efforts, and helps seal his commitment to his new life on the African continent. His story about the Pygmy tribes in Congo’s rain forest wins a Reuters journalism award. His Associated Press editor acknowledges that he himself also began his career as a stringer in Congo. Editor and writer form a bond. Other opportunities present themselves, and Sundaram’s writings have since appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times as well as the Chicago Tribune.

I first heard about “Stringer” when the author was interviewed by Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s Daily Show in early January of this year. However, be assured: This work is no light-hearted, comedic romp. Sundaram’s writing is crisp, searing, and bursting with visual details that make it unforgettable for the reader. (One reviewer used the word “luscious” to describe it, and I could not agree more.)

It is very rare to find a truly engrossing page-turner, much less one that is a work of quality non-fiction. This is just such a rarity.

Book

Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo
9780385537759

Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain

What do you know about “the other Ellis Island?” Between 1910 and 1940, Angel Island was the port of U.S. entry for thousands of Asians seeking a new life in America. Russell Freedman’s new book: Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain tells the story of those who passed through, those who were detained, and those who never made it any further into the U.S. before returning to their country of origin.

Especially poignant are the poems that were carved into and painted on barracks walls: “Nights are long, the pillow cold; who can comfort my solitude? . . . Shouldn’t I just return home and learn to plow the fields?” Discovered by a maintenance worker long after the facility closed, the poems have been preserved and incorporated into the public areas of this National Historic Landmark.

Book

Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain
9780547903781

Running in Kalamazoo

Though it certainly doesn't seem like it, spring - and the end of ice, snow, and freezing temperatures - is around the corner! Enjoy the warmer days and make good on your New Year's resolution to get fit by running. The Kalamazoo area is host to several races this spring: Kal-Haven Trail Run (April 5), Consumers Sunburst Run/Walk (April 26), Kalamazoo Marathon (May 4), Girls on the Run (May 22), and Kalamazoo Klassic (June 14). If you're interested in running a race, you can join a local training group through the Kalamazoo Area Runners or Gazelle Sports to keep you on track. And don't forget to check out the library's collection of resources on running!

Runner's World magazine - The most popular running periodical, available in print at KPL and as a digital magazine download through the library's Zinio portal.

The Beginning Runner's Handbook by Ian MacNeill - This is a great starter manual that provides basic information on the science and psychology of exercise, choosing shoes and clothing, technique and form, safety and injury prevention, as well as a 13 week training program with stretches and exercises.

Complete Book of Running by Runner's World - This thorough guide covers everything from nutrition to cross training, and includes a marathon training program.

The Little Red Book of Running by Scott Douglas - This small book contains 250 tips for running further, faster, safer, and more frequently.

Proceeds from the Consumers Sunburst Run are donated to the Oshtemo Friends of the Parks, which in turn helps support Oshtemo Library's Movies Under the Stars summer movie series at Oshtemo Township Park.

Book

Beginning Runner's Handbook
9781553658603

Ripper: a novel

Reviews for “Ripper: a novel” by Isabel Allende intrigued me, since this is a total departure from all of her previous work. I’m a fan of Allende and have read other novels by her, which fall more into the magical realism and historical fiction categories.

But this is a mystery, and much more besides, and it’s definitely hard to put down. The main characters are both strong and striking. Amanda, a brilliant high school senior, is something of a misfit who plays an online game called “Ripper” (as in Jack) with several other like- minded teenagers around the world, as well as her grandfather. Amanda’s parents are divorced but still very much in her life. Her mother, Indiana, is a good hearted healer who’s involved with two very different men- one a Navy SEAL with a past, and the other an independently wealthy man about town. Amanda’s dad is San Francisco’s deputy chief of homicide. When Amanda and her cyber friends start investigating a series of murders they believe are related (but no one else thinks so) things really heat up. Richly drawn and engaging characters add a lot to this fast paced thriller.

I hope that author Allende gives us more like this one!

Book

Ripper: a novel
9780062291400

Soldier Bear

This is based on a true story. It is World War II and a group of Polish soldiers who are escaping the Germans and Russians by way of Iran purchase a tiny, half-dead orphaned bear cub from a boy. The soldiers name the bear cub Voytek, which means “Smiling Warrior.” Voytek is cared for by Peter and Stanislav and Junusz and Lolek and Pavel… they explain to their sergeant that the bear is their new ‘mascot.’

The soldiers join the British army. The story follows the soldiers and Voytek from camp to camp for five years watching the many different soldiers’ reactions to Voytek. Voytek is a sweet bear. Peter is his keeper and there are a few instances where he aids the soldiers: he carries bombs, he corners a spy, and he entertains. Voytek provides comfort amid the horrors of war. The soldiers have a few other animals: Kaska, a monkey, who rides on the back of a big dog named Stalin and Dottie the Dalmatian.

Soldier Bear has been translated from the Dutch into English by Laura Watkinson. Soldier Bear received the Margaret Bachelder Award, an American Library Association Award given to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.

Book

Soldier Bear
9780802853752

Are You a Good Judge of Character?

You may know Walter Kirn from the novels and short stories he has written, but it is more likely you have heard of him because of the movies Up in the Air starring George Clooney and Thumbsucker that are based on his novels of the same name. Since I spend a lot of time reading book reviews, I know he is also a hotshot reviewer.  

 
Now he has another claim to fame; manipulated dupe of impostor and murderer Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, a.k.a. Clark Rockefeller.


Desperate for money as a struggling writer who had gotten in too deep buying a ranch in Montana, he agreed to drive a disabled dog from Montana to New York City to aid in its adoption by Clark Rockefeller, member of the immensely wealthy Rockefeller family. Kirn needed the money and was hoping to maybe find in this eccentric person a subject to write about or base a character on in a future novel. 

 
This was the beginning of a long, bizarre relationship during which Kirn actually decides not to write about Rockefeller in deference to their friendship. But this all changes when his friend Clark is brought up on murder charges and investigations start to reveal that the whole relationship has been a string of lies. 

 
You will be stunned by what Christian Gerhartsreiter was able to get away with in Kirn's new memoir/true crime book  Blood Will Out. 

Blood Will Out

Book
9780871404510

Mirage, A Novel of the Oregon Files

Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul have written another book, Mirage, filled with the adventures of the crew from the ship the Oregon. This time it’s all about invisible ships and magnetic blue beams. A Navy ship sailing out of Philadelphia disappears and somehow an inventor named Nikola Tesla is involved. Give it a read at KPL.

Book

Mirage
9780399158087

Everything but the Kitchen Sink (almost)

In this book we received just last year, Eric Chaline indicates that his survey of iconic machines goes back not "to the invention of the hand ax or wheel, but begins in 1801, with the first successful application of automation to weaving, which had until then been the preserve of the skilled artisan."  Among the 50 machines profiled with brief historical treatments and artwork are the Singer sewing machine, Underwood No. 1 typewriter, diesel engine, Kodak camera, Westinghouse AC system, Model T Ford, Black and Decker electric drill, Saturn V rocket, Magnox nuclear reactor, GE top-loading washing machine, Atari 2600, Sony Walkman, IBM PC 5150, and the Hubble Telescope. This is informative and entertaining at the same time. I was hoping to see my old friend/nemesis the Regiscope included, but didn't find it. Maybe it will be in the next edition.

Book

Fifty machines that changed the course of history
9781770850903

Who wants to be a Princess for a Day?

Zoe loves cupcakes and she loves princesses, what a combination. She loves making pink cupcakes with sparkles, and she really loves her playhouse where she has tea and cupcakes with her favorite stuffed animals. But of course there is a problem: Zoe’s older brother, Ralph, also loves cupcakes. He wants to eat them and so do all his friends – they want all of the cupcakes and Ralph never asks to eat them he just does! All the cupcakes – GONE.

But the next day, Zoe makes cupcakes and she wishes really hard about being a princess and hopes her wish becomes part of the batter. When she is done baking, frosting and decorating the cupcakes they do look magical. One bite and Zoe realizes they are sweet and sparkly - they are Princess cupcakes and Zoe has become a princess! Her playhouse is now a castle and the tea party is real, her guests (the favorite stuffed animals) can talk. While they are out exploring the magical kingdom the evil Prince Ralph steals the cupcakes, but Zoe plans a special surprise for him. And as the day ends so does the magic.

The next day Zoe works very hard making green cupcakes. Again she wishes very hard for some special magic. When Ralph and his friends rush in for cupcakes something amazing happens. Hum – little green frogs – but Zoe says not to worry – cupcake magic only lasts for a day.

The last page includes the recipe for pink cupcakes and frosting. A fun activity for reader and listener to share after the story ends.

The story and illustrations are just right for a little princess imagination. The cover art with lots of pink, sparkles and a crown on Zoe’s head will surely call to young readers who can never get enough stories about princesses.

Book

Pink Cupcake Magic by Katherine Tegen, illustrated by Kristin Varner
9780805096118

King for a Day

Looking at the illustrations in this picture book, I get some reassurance that we might yet see spring here in Michigan!

A boy in Pakistan competes in Basant, the annual kite festival; whoever captures the most kites becomes “king” for a day.

The story is full of excitement and the artwork adds lovely details, combining to present an exuberant celebration of wind and flight.

Book

King for a Day
9781600606595

Kant was like Copernicus but way cooler

Copernicus threw us for a loop by putting the sun at the center and us off to the side. Kant (pronounced like “font”) changed the way we perceive the world by putting the mind at the center and the external world off to the side. For us to perceive reality and know about it, reality must conform to our minds—not the other way around.

What? Let’s back up. In the 1700s there were two major schools of thought. One, the so called empiricism of Locke and Hume: that the external, physical world is “out there,” that when we are looking at a tree we are pretty much looking at an “exact copy” of the tree that exists outside our perception of it; in other words, our eyeballs are windows to reality and our senses/mind represent things accurately. On the other hand, the so called idealism of George Berkeley: that the external, physical world is a baseless assumption, that we don’t really need it, that all the things we perceive are actually “in our mind” so to speak, impressions directly implanted by God (cut out the middle man!—matter). Sure it sounds odd, but consider: when we are dreaming it seems like there is an external reality “out there”—but there’s not, it’s all in our head.

The genius of Kant at age 47 was to bring together the two schools of thought; both are right and both are wrong. Yes there is a reality, an external world that exists completely separate from our perception of it (separate from dogs’ perception of it, whales’ perception of it). But the mind recreates reality, filters reality, represents reality in a particular human way (space and time are even filters of the mind!). By the time our minds go to work on it, who knows what’s really out there—we know nothing about what’s out there. That’s how Kant blew everyone’s mind. He suggested that when we refer to “reality,” we are really talking about the world as we perceive it. When we refer to the external world, we are really talking about the unknowable, unperceivable; metaphysical speculation, God, freedom, beauty—stuff like that. The point of his book, as he says, was to “do away with knowledge in order to make room for faith.”

Kant shook my world and I hope he shakes yours. Check out my book display on the 1st floor of the downtown, Central Library—IgeekPhilosophy. (Also, follow my personal blog at jesusmeetskant.blogspot.com which of course is not affiliated with KPL).

book

Critique of Pure Reason
9780140447477

Cheers for a Dozen Ears

Can fruits and vegetables be beautiful? Yes they can! Set in August when's it's "steamy hot", Cheers for a Dozen Ears is a colorfully illustrated counting book that celebrates a family's trip to the farmers' market. This book will make you hungry for fresh tomatoes and beans, watermelons, peaches, and more. I could see using this book to build excitement about visiting the market and the farmers who bring their produce for sale to we lucky consumers here in Kalamazoo. A trip to the market is ripe with opportunities to see text and numbers in action. Why not start with this cozy counting read-along?  

Cheers for a Dozen Ears

Book
9780807511305

Introducing... Isabelle

Isabelle, a young dancer, is the newest girl in the American Girl series. Isabelle by Laurence Yep is the first book in the series, 2 others: Designs by Isabelle and To the Stars, Isabelle have also been published.

The first book, Isabelle, sets up the characters, her family, friends and the setting. Isabelle is excited about starting her first year at the Anna Hart School of the Arts, a prestigious school for the arts in Washington D.C. She can’t help comparing herself to her older sister, Jade, who also attends Anna Hart and is an amazing ballerina. Actually all the kids at Anna Hart are exceptionally talented. Isabelle questions her dance ability and wonders if she can navigate the new school.

As Isabelle prepares with her class for the Fall Festival, she continues to doubt her own ballet ability. What she doesn’t doubt is her desire and sense of style for designing Jade’s and her own costumes for the program. As the Fall Festival draws closer, Jade gives Isabelle some spot on tips for her dancing that allows for her to finally give the performance she has been dreaming of. And Jade and her both have amazing costumes as well. Both Jade and Isabelle are noticed by a professional Director and dancer and are asked to perform in the Nutcracker – a dream come true.

Fans of American Girl will enjoy this new series. The books are fun and read quickly.

Book

Isabelle
9781609583712

Marie Curie

I have this vague recollection of learning about Marie Curie at some point, knew she had won the Nobel Prize, and knew she had worked in the area of radium and cancer treatment. That was about all I knew.

Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science’s First Family is a joint biography of Marie and her daughters Irene and Eve. Their struggles against the extraordinary prejudice towards women in science are described, along with their tours of the US to raise $50,000 to buy radium for research, and the health effects of their work.

Its not all science… the relationship between Marie and her daughters, Marie’s near nervous breakdown over a love affair, and Irene’s blindness about Communist regimes are all described.

This very readable book was written with the cooperation of Irene’s daughter who provided access to family letters and journals.

Those interested in science, women’s struggles in the sciences, mother / daughter relationships, the 1920’s would enjoy this book.

Book

Marie Curie and her daughters : the private lives of science's first family
9780230115712

Early Bird

It won’t surprise you to learn that Early Bird likes to wake up early. Then she “stands as tall as she can,” and she “takes a deep breath of fresh morning air.” Then we follow her through pages of simple shapes and solid blocks of color as she makes her way to the garden where she finds . . . the Early Worm!

There’s much more to this book than one might expect: strong action words and design elements that support the story line, plus a sweet surprise at the end.

Book

Early Bird
9781250043276

One Tapir, Two Tapirs, Three Tapirs, Four...

Have you heard of an animal called the tapir, but have little or no idea what it looks like, much less what it’s up to on our fair earth? Well, The Tapir Scientist is just the book to correct this unfortunate state of affairs! With text by Sy Montgomery and photographs by Nic Bishop, it explores the world of this unusual looking creature, whose closest living relatives happen to be the rhinoceros and horse.

The focus is upon the field investigation work of Pati Medici, an animal conservation scientist who is one of the founders of the Institute for Ecological Research in Brazil. It is dedicated to helping endangered animals such as tapirs survive.

The tapir actually existed in prehistoric times and surprisingly, its appearance has not changed much over 12 million years. What has changed is where they live. Once roaming all over Europe, Asia and both North and South America, their natural habitat has shrunk to parts of South and Central America, as well as Southeast Asia. It is South America’s largest mammal, and there are four distinct species all of which are endangered.

tapir-photo-by-sy-montgomery-160.jpg

Tapirs are rather solitary, nocturnal animals who are difficult to see, much less count, capture, study and track as Pati and her team sets out to do. However, they persevere knowing that their work is crucial, since tapirs play a major role in propagating forest plant life. Being fruit loving herbivores, they eat, digest and then let’s just say “plant” seeds from one area to another. Without them, forests and all the animal life found within may very well disappear.

This book is part of a series by the Montgomery and Bishop team called “Scientists in the Field.” Author Sy Montgomery has taken on many challenges in the past including swimming with piranhas and chasing gorillas among other things. Nic Bishop is a renowned nature photographer. His photos have captured many animals in their full, natural glory. Fun fact: Nic used to live in the Winchell area of Kalamazoo for many years before relocating to New Zealand.

KPL owns a number of titles in the “Scientists in the Field” series, including The Tarantula Scientist, Snake Scientist and Quest for the Tree Kangaroo, as well as a few others. Both author and photographer have won many awards, and their works have been noted as being distinguished examples of the best science books for youth. (Although as an animal loving adult, I too found it to be engaging.)

With it’s lively, information laden text and beautiful pictures, The Tapir Scientist is a wonderful Brazilian animal travelogue!

Book

The Tapir Scientist
9780547815480

He Said, She Said

This is a high-school love story with a subplot about protesting arts funding cuts at their high school. The chapters bounce back and forth between Omar “T-Diddy” Smalls and Claudia Clarke, newspaper editor. They are both seniors at West Charleston High School in South Carolina. T-Diddy was born in the Bronx, but was sent to live with his uncle Albert two years ago to avoid trouble with the law. T-Diddy is the star quarterback of the Panthers and he is pumped by the defeat of their Powerhouse rivals: Bayside Tornadoes.

Although Claudia is turned-off by playas like T-Diddy, she soon realizes his clout with his social media skills at bringing classmates together to protest Arts cuts. T-Diddy is dedicated to restoring arts funding to their school and so is Claudia. They realize the power of collaboration. Their Principal, Dr. Brenda Jackson, aka Cruella, supports the cuts made by the school board, including the drama guild, the poetry club, the choir, and the marching band, library closure three days a week, and several teachers and staff lay-offs. However, these cuts become unacceptable to T-Diddy, Claudia, and the rest of the student body.

As Omar and Claudia spend more time together, their young love blossoms. Omar’s Uncle Albert supports their protests and provides knowledge he gained during the Civil Rights Movement.

This is definitely a worthwhile read for all teens and reinforces the power and strength of togetherness.

Book

He Said, She Said
9780062118967

A star for Mrs. Blake

I saw A star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith on a recommended list, and I’m so glad that I did. Historical fact skillfully blends with fiction to make a story that’s hard to put down.

It’s the story of five very different women, brought together in 1930 by a single shared experience- each of them had a son who was killed in World War I. That heartbreaking fact made each of them each a “Gold Star Mother”, an actual United States government designation. Thousands of women all across the country were offered the chance to travel to Europe to visit the final resting place of their sons, with all expenses paid by the United States.

In Smith’s novel, the five “Gold Star” women who are the focus couldn’t be more different. Cora, the youngest, is a librarian from rural Maine. Then there is Minnie, wife of an immigrant Russian Jewish chicken farmer; Katie, an Irish maid from Massachusetts; Wilhemina, the emotionally fragile wife of a banker, and Bobbie, a rich socialite from Boston. Joining hundreds of other Gold Star women, they travel by ship to France, where unexpected experiences and chance meetings will change their lives forever.

I did a little research and discovered that in 1929, Congress passed legislation that allowed mothers and widows of sons who died in service between the years of 1917 and 1921 the right to make a “pilgramage” to Europe to visit the resting place of their son. By 1933, when the project ended, almost 6,700 women out of an eligible 17,389 had made the trip.

It’s a fascinating story, and well told. For a change of pace, also try author April Smith’s mystery series featuring FBI agent Ana Gray. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed in those, either.

Book

A star for Mrs. Blake
9780307958846

Who Did It?

About twenty years ago, I stumbled on a documentary called Paradise Lost: the Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. It told the story of the investigation into the murder of three eight year old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas and the subsequent conviction of three teenagers, casting doubt on whether the teenagers were guilty of murder or just guilty of wearing black, listening to heavy metal music, and enjoying horror films. 

 
Over the years, the documentary filmmakers who made the original Paradise Lost have produced two other films:  Paradise Lost: Revelations and Paradise Lost: Purgatory. These documentaries and other information about the case convinced some high profile people like: Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins, Johnny Depp, and Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson to lobby for the release of these teenagers.
After a bizarre plea deal, they were released on August 19, 2011 after serving over eighteen years for crimes they possibly didn’t commit.

 
Now, Damien Echols, who was on death row for those eighteen years, tells his story in Life After Death. Watch the documentaries and read his book and decide who you believe.

Book

Life After Death 
9780399160202

 


The People's Car!

In the 1950s and 1960s it was not unusual to see lots of Volkswagen Beetles around the Kalamazoo area. One that I remember with fondness was owned by two of my esteemed colleagues, FDC and GO, long past the time that the car was in its heyday. I always enjoyed seeing that car go by. Today there is the New Beetle in colors that vary quite a bit from the original Type 1. About six months ago KPL acquired a well-documented history of the VW Beetle. I particularly liked looking at the ads that are interspersed throughout the text. Anyone interested in automotive history or advertising practices of the mid- to late 20th century would appreciate this fine effort.

Book

The People's Car : a global history of the Volkswagen Beetle
9780674050914

Isa Does It Again

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a familiar name to many vegans; she’s written a number of vegan cookbooks, including the classic Veganomican, an essential recipe collection and culinary guide for those who avoid cooking with animal products, and she has a popular website focusing on vegan baking and cooking, Post Punk Kitchen. Her latest cookbook endeavor is Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildy Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week, and let’s just say I’m in love. Isa Does It is chock full of over 200 delicious and easy-to-make recipes, highlighted by beautiful photos and charming illustrations. As with all her recipes that I’ve made, I’ve found them to be fairly quick (between a half-an-hour to an hour to make) and layered with complex flavors. This is a great cookbook for people who aren’t vegan, too; as a vegetarian, I find I’m occasionally disappointed by vegan cookbooks because they use a lot of uncommon ingredients or dairy replacements that I wouldn’t want to buy. Isa Does It relies on fairly common ingredients, making it a great choice for not only vegans, but also for vegetarians and for omnivores looking for ideas for “Meatless Mondays.”

Book

Isa Does It

9780316221900

The Last Human

I was browsing the first floor rotunda at the Central Library and discovered a cool display of science themed books. The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans caught my eye. Extinct humans? I'd never really thought about it that way, but later species of hominids we know about from fossil records were other branches on the tree of human evolution. From the earliest hominids to Homo sapiens, each of the chapters in this large format illustrated book profiles one human species. I enjoyed the vignettes at the beginning of each chapter that take the reader into the world of these species finding food, making art, finding food, making stuff, finding food, and so on. It's fascinating to consider how some of these species coexisted in time until one, the last human, outcompeted them all.

This fascinating book is based on an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. If this topic interests you, you might also enjoy the Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins site.

Book

The Last Human
9780300100471

 


Courage Has No Color

Recently, I’ve come across some fascinating non-fiction books for kids. I’ve just finished Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone.

Full of wonderful photos, this book tells the story of the men who served in the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion out of Fort Benning, Georgia. These soldiers became America’s first black paratroopers and author Tanya Lee Stone uses their story to explore the role of African Americans in the military. This is a great addition to the literature of World War II.

Tanya Lee Stone also wrote Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, another book that sheds light on a little-known aspect of American history.

Book

Courage Has No Color
9780763651176

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Isn't that a great title? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson's latest teen novel and it is incredible as usual! I think this statement about Anderson from a New York Times  review by Jo Knowles says it better than I ever could:

“Beginning with the publication of her award-winning young adult novel Speak in 1999, Laurie Halse Anderson has written with honesty and grit, bravely shedding light on such once-taboo topics as rape, eating disorders, suicide and addiction. In doing so, she has helped build the current landscape of contemporary young adult literature. Anderson writes the hard truth, stirring debate and discussion among both fans and objectors, and ultimately creating long overdue conversations about the real issues teenagers face every day.”

Kids and teens need to see themselves and their stories reflected in literature, even the hard stories. And they need to see the stories they may never personally experience portrayed in literature as well. In The Impossible Knife of Memory, Anderson writes with depth and authenticity about the sometimes devastating effects of war and PTSD and about the raw, reality of loving a parent who struggles with addiction. This book will change lives in that wonderful way that literature can. I am honored to have read it and I don't regret for a moment sobbing my way through it. 

Book

The Impossible Knife of Memory
9780670012091

Another Search for Meaning Out of the Dark Wood

I’m not a typical reader of memoirs but something about the description of Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding drew me in. The first thing readers will notice is Lynn Darling’s wonderful voice and the tone of the prose— frank, witty and poetically profound. Next, you’ll find out that the book is about the second act of a woman’s adult life, both the joys and obstacles to finding pleasure and wisdom in her pre-Golden Years. With her college age daughter having flown the coop and her husband having died a decade earlier, 50-something Darling decides to take flight from familiar comforts in an attempt to locate her “essential self” by living off the grid in rural Vermont. Favorably compared to other books with similar themes of personal exploration (Eat, Pray, Love, Wild and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to name but a few), Darling plummets deep into both the real and the metaphoric woods of her being, seeking out answers to life’s household, ontological questions.

Book

Out of the woods: a memoir of wayfinding
9780061710247

 

 


Inside Out and Outside In

Vermont based, veteran children’s book author/illustrator and artist Lizi Boyd’s latest literary effort is a wordless picture book that is deceptively simple. Inside Outside incorporates cool, slightly hidden, die-cut page openings through which readers can catch glimpses of what’s transpired and what is yet to come. This device is used to slyly, yet gently tie in the future and the past to the present, underscoring the continuity of the passage of time.

By means of bright, sharply colored drawings set in a predominantly muted, light brown background, Boyd tells the story of a seemingly self-sufficient young boy doing inside and outside activities over the course of one calendar year. Inside overlaps outside, and outside overlaps inside with each turn of the page, until we come full circle to the initial season once more.

With a collection of animal friends lending a helping wing, paw or claw, the young boy proves that there is no room for boredom no matter what time of year it is. Together they read, make crafts, fly a kite, plant a garden and engage in more activities than I could list here.

This book is great for a “one-on-one” reading session. That way both child and caregiver can pour over the intricate illustrations that show plenty of action both obvious and hidden, and share in the mutual delight brought about by their discovery.

Lizi’s dogs both agree.

dogs-reading-598.jpg

Book

Inside Outside
9781452106441

The Truth of Me

From the prolific author of Sarah, Plain and Tall, comes another bittersweet story featuring a young boy named Robbie. Robbie, is an only child; it is summer and his friends Jack and Lizzie are at summer camp. Robert’s parents are musicians who are in the Allegro Quartet. His aloof mother is a violinist and his father is a violist and pianist. They are off on a two month summer tour without Robbie who is staying with his Grandmother Maddy. Maddy and Ellie, his dog, are his two best friends.

Maddy’s house sits on a hill bordered by woods. Maddy’s friends are Henry, who is a doctor and a very good cook. Maddy also has many animal friends who live in the woods, even a bear! One night, Robbie and Maddy camp in a tent on a hill in the starlit woods, but then, Maddy gets hurt! What is he to do?!!! Robbie sends a written message to Henry and stuffs it in Ellie’s collar. Will Ellie find Henry and deliver the message? There is a bear in the woods and Robbie cannot leave his grandma! Read this exciting story and find out!

Book

The Truth of Me: About a Boy, His Grandmother, and a Very Good Dog
9780061998607

A Librarian with a Statistics Degree?

Yes, I studied actuarial science before getting my library science degree, which statement probably prompts most of you to think, “I didn’t even know those two sciences existed.” But I bring this up, because I am currently enjoying reading/listening to three books on three completely different subjects, but where numbers and statistics play a big part: 

 
The Big Short by Michael Lewis


Triumphs of Experience by George Vaillant


The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong by David Sally


Lewis’ book The Big Short is a well- known bestseller that explains the financial meltdown of 2008. It is fascinating and infuriating and may leave you swearing like a Wall Street bond trader (bond trader is worthy of replacing sailor in that cliché).


In Triumphs of Experience, Vaillant tells the story of the Harvard Grant Study, a longitudinal study that started in 1938 and has followed almost three hundred men of which the survivors are in their 90s now. The study was started as an attempt to, “transcend medicine’s usual preoccupation with pathology and learn something instead about optimum health and potential and the conditions that promote them.” The conclusions are interesting as well as the different factors they study over time that they think might lead to optimum health and the changes in the definition of optimum health. 

 
Sally’s book The Numbers Game is to soccer what Moneyball (written by Michael Lewis who wrote The Big Short) is to baseball. As he crunches the numbers, he comes up with conclusions like launching corner kicks into the box hoping to score a goal is less valuable than just retaining possession with a short safe pass and that the team that takes the most shots on goal actually loses slightly more than half of the time. 

 
Isn’t it great that libraries have books to please all sorts of tastes? 

Book

The Numbers Game

9780143124566

 


Unwrapping the Mystery of Salinger

J.D. Salinger is famous for two primary reasons (there are plenty of secondary reasons as well). First, he authored one of the most successful and critically acclaimed books written over the past 70 years (The Catcher in the Rye) and secondly, because he vanished from the public eye at the height of his fame, leaving several generations of devoted acolytes and the media to restlessly ponder the reasons behind his retreat into extreme privacy. Shane Salerno and David Shields have co-authored the gossipy, oral history called Salinger (a book based upon a documentary film) with the goal of cobbling together an assortment of viewpoints from those who knew him best. Ex-girlfriends, army buddies, fellow writers, family members, and various muses line up to break their collective silence to share their intimate memories and insights. It's a fascinating look at one of America's most significant writers and provides some new perspectives on both his creative output and his complicated private life.

Book

Salinger
9781476744834

Some Good, Some Not

Here I go again. The library's non-cook is writing about a cookbook. But, the historical aspect of this book is what attracted me to it. There are 100 recipes here, one for each year from 1901-2000, included by 100 different chefs. To give the readers of this blog a flavor (pun intended) of what's in this book, I'll list a few of the recipes: 1909 - Baked Alaska; 1910 - The Comet Coupe (in honor of Halley's Comet that year); 1932 - "The Sun Also Rises" Punch; 1945 - Original Brain Tapioca Ambrosia (not the brain one thinks with, but because of the invention of the ENIAC computer); 1952 - Geraldine's Maryland Crab Soup; 1976 - Firecracker Fourth of July Beef Ribs (to commemorate the U.S. Bicentennial); 1979 - Meatball and Potato Pizza. Some of the 100 sound delicious; others I would never consider touching. But I think that's how it would be for anyone looking at any recipe book, not just me. Clever and fun idea - yes. Good photos - yes. Bon appetit - maybe.

Book

The way we ate : 100 chefs celebrate a century at the American table
9781476732725

From Norvelt to nowhere

Reading a book by Jack Gantos can be a wild and crazy ride, in a good way- you never know what’s coming up next. That’s one of the things I like about his books. He doesn’t talk down to kids, either, or try to sugar coat the world. And he’s funny.

His book for kids and young adults, “Dead End in Norvelt”, won the Newbery Award. Now Gantos has written a sequel, “From Norvelt to Nowhere”. Twelve year old Jack lives in a small Pennsylvania town, with his mom; it’s the Cuban missile era. Jack’s mom arranges for him to accompany slightly mad old Miss Volker to New York City. She’s ostensibly going to pay homage to Eleanor Roosevelt, but Jack and Miss Volker are also on the track of an elusive murderer. And that’s just the start of this road trip story, filled with eccentric characters and lots of action.

Book

From Norvelt to nowhere
9780374379940

A Story from the Great Migration

This is the Rope is about a young girl finding a rope that later becomes part of an African American family’s journey north to a better life. Jacqueline Woodson does a fantastic job of sharing a migration story through a rope. She transforms a simple rope that tied things on the roof of the car into an essential part of the family’s move. This rope moved to New York City with the grandparents and then to the parents and on to the granddaughter who used it to play jump rope. It held flowers while they dried in the sun, diapers that blew in the New York City breeze and then more things on the roof of the car as the granddaughter was driven off to college.

This is a Rope is a great feel good story!

Book 

This is the Rope: A story form the Great Migration
9780399239861

Books with a Year Focus

Books focusing on one year are not uncommon, but there seems to be a rash of them lately, almost like a new emphasis in publishing.

Earlier this year, I read One Summer: America, 1927 – Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Al Capone…. what a summer, what an interesting time in our history.

I recently read and blogged about Ready for a Brand New Beat with a focus on the summer of 1964.
Now I’m reading The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America.

As I browsed our new nonfiction shelves yesterday I noticed Chicago’s Greatest Year, 1893; Constellation of Genius: 1922; and Japan 1941.

Just an observation for what it is worth on a cold, snowy day…

Book

One Summer: America, 1927
9780767919401

Lost Cat, Found Cat, an All-around Great Picture Book Cat

Slipper the cat lives a life of feline luxury in the house of her elderly owner, Mrs. Fluffy Slippers. Unfortunately, all this suddenly disappears when Mrs. Fluffy Slippers moves and during the ensuing commotion the cat is accidently left behind.

Slipper’s immediate reaction is to try to chase down the moving van. But after a while of hard running, she ends up lost and forlorn. After a cold, scary night out in the woods, she decides that she will need to adopt a new owner and so the search begins.

This book, depicted from the cat’s low-to-the-ground perspective, shows Slipper perusing different owner candidates in various settings by initially evaluating their footwear. She first encounters a farm resident, Ms. Muddy Boots, who is quite welcoming. She offers Slipper a fish which is quickly devoured, but the sight of the woman’s charging dog turns the cat off the prospect of living there.

Other rejects include Mrs. Iron Shoes, a rider on a horse with rather large hooves, Mr. Cowboy Boots who rides a large truck which emits too much noise and unpleasant smells, High Tops, an adolescent who is too full of energy and Mr. Big Boots, a motorcyclist who is nice enough to give the cat a lift into town, but whose driving habits Slippers finds to be too terrifying. Finally, in the sea of shoes of passersby, she spots Miss Shiny Shoes, and decides that this young girl would be ideal as her new owner.

The girl brings the cat home and introduces it to her grandmother who just happens to be ....!

Well, you’ll just have to read the book for yourself to get to the surprise ending. Let’s just state that as the saying goes, the rest is history. Slipper’s life once again was very, very good indeed, and (need I say), everyone lived happily ever after.

Lost Cat is author and illustrator C. Roger Mader’s first children’s book. It is a charming tale with wonderfully realistic, pastel illustrations that are sure to be a purr-fect anecdote for any young cat lover!

Book

Lost Cat
9780547974583

Books on Music: Louder Than Hell

Ever wonder what life is like for the average metal musician? If Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal is to be believed, it involves massive substance abuse, anonymous and degrading sex, and tons of questionable behavior- and that's the good parts. Combing through hundreds of interviews with musicians, roadies, managers, groupies and journalists, Louder Than Hell paints a simultaneously fascinating and horrifying portrait of one of the most-loved and most-hated music genres- heavy metal. While this book definitely isn't for everyone- the amount of booze and bloodshed can be stomach-turning at times- the sheer amount of music history on display is impressive. Authors Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman spent 25 years interviewing everyone from Alice Cooper and Lemmy Kilmister, Dave Mustaine and Chino Moreno, Trent Reznor and Nivek Ogre- and if any of those names mean anything to you, and if you like your music loud, heavy and excessive, then you're probably the right audience for Louder Than Hell.

Book

Louder Than Hell
9780061958281

Dream Animals: a bedtime journey

I'm always looking for whimsical, even fantastical, yet calming bedtime books. That's a tall order sometimes. I want a book that sends little ones off to dreamland with peace and the promise of happy adventures. Dream Animals: a bedtime journey by Emily Winfield Martin is just such a book. The illustrations of beautiful feathered, finned, and furred friends who wait to carry children to the adventures in their dreams, inspire the imagination. And the lovely prose is calming. A great book to relax with before bed! 

Book

Dream Animals: a bedtime journey
9780449810804

Notes from the Blender

I like teen books. They’re clever, easy to read, and they usually end well, even if the story gets messy in the middle. Here’s what I liked, especially, about Notes from the Blender:

It’s told in two different voices: a boy and a girl (unrelated) whose single parents have hooked up and gotten pregnant. Suddenly Declan finds he’s going to be step-brother to his biggest crush. Popular, beautiful Neilly, whose parents divorced when her father came out, now finds herself estranged from her mother, yet oddly open to making friends with Declan, one of the least cool kids in school.

There are four positive gay characters in the story, including Neilly’s father and his fiancé. Neilly likes her new stepdad-to-be, and she proudly defends her father’s sexual orientation.

Declan’s lesbian aunt is minister at the Unitarian Universalist (UU) church he attends. The way the adults in the church are portrayed is pretty realistic of UU communities. Unitarian Universalism doesn’t get much press in our culture, but teens who are UU’s deserve to have their church show up positively in novels. He has a close relationship with his aunt and her partner, which deepened after his mother died.

Declan’s dad gets to be a real man with feelings, grief and awkwardness, who generally communicates well with Declan (even though he botched the chance to tell Declan about his new love, before there was a baby on the way.)

Authors Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin also paired up for A Really Awesome Mess in 2013.

Book

Notes from the Blender
9781606841402

Ready for a Brand New Beat

If you grew up to the music of the ’60s or grew up in Detroit or both, you are likely to relate to Ready for a Brand New Beat: How ‘Dancing in the Street’ Became the Anthem for a Changing America.

The question asked is… can a song change a nation? In 1964 “Dancing in the Street” was recorded at Motown’s Hitsville USA by Martha and the Vandellas. Martha Reeves arranged her own vocals and the song was released with the expectation it would be an upbeat dance song.

Ultimately it became a sort of anthem for the summer of 1964: Mississippi Freedom Summer, Vietnam War, free speech movement, and the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The song took on a new meaning for many and was eventually recorded by more than 30 artists or groups.

A good dance song or an activist anthem for the changing times…. either way, this is an interesting look at the mid-1960s.

Book

Ready for a Brand New Beat: How ‘Dancing in the Street’ Became the Anthem for a Changing America
9781594487224

Looking forward to...

Among some upcoming fiction titles about to be ordered:

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick - "The newest from The Silver Linings Playbook author Quick is a quirky coming-of-age story about an earnest, guileless 38-year-old man with a dyspeptic stomach." (Publishers Weekly) Need I say more?

Winter People by Jennifer McMahon - ""McMahon has developed a subgenre of psychological mysteries that pit female characters with humanizing strengths and vulnerabilities against old secrets posing present dangers, forcing them to confront mystery and legend in creepily seductive settings. This mystery-horror crossover is haunting, evocative, and horrifically beautiful..." (Booklist) Haunting and evocative might be just the ticket for these long winter nights.

The Martian by Andy Weir - "Looks like sf, reads like a thriller. Mark Watney has just become the first man to walk on Mars, and now he's preparing to die there, his crew having left him behind because they assume he's dead after a vicious dust storm." (Library Journal) I don't consider myself a sci-fi fan, but this sounds fascinating.

These will appear in the catalog soon!


Erik the Red Sees Green

Redheaded Erik has always tried to do his best, but lately he wonders why everything seems to be going wrong. In soccer he passes the ball to the other team and in class he can’t see what has been written on the chalkboard. His Mom thinks he needs to sit closer to the chalkboard or try to be more organized. When Erik creates a self-painting in art class, he paints his hair green. That can’t be right! Erik has always been a red head. That’s when they discover that Erik might be color blind.

Color blindness, also known as Color Vision Deficiency (CVD) affects a significant percentage of our population. After Erik’s parents take him to the Dr. they are better able to help him cope with his CVD. Letting Erik’s teachers know that many shades of brown, green, gold and orange look very similar to him is the first step to helping him. Color coding at school makes it hard for Erik and other kids who have CVD. Working with the teachers and staff to make changes in paperwork and text books make it easier for Erik to read his school work. Sometimes just writing the color on the color coded items makes all the difference in Erik being able to differentiate between his assignments. For example if the teacher writes on a green chalkboard with yellow chalk, Erik can’t read the board. If the teacher writes on the green chalkboard with white chalk he can read what has been written on it.

The book includes an “All about color and vision” section to be shared and to help readers understand more about color vision deficiency.

It is nice to see a picture book on this topic. I encourage families and care givers to read and share this book.

Book

Erik the Red Sees Green
9780807521410

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Have you ever browsed the non-fiction shelves for good books for your preschooler? You should! There are more and more wonderful books about real things that are perfect for very young kids. One of my favorites is Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley and Nic Bishop. The words are just right for a very young child and the photographs are superb.

This is a book I go to over and over, whether it’s for storytime or sharing at home or to recommend to another parent. The next time you’re at the library, ask us to show you some of our favorite non-fiction books.

Book

Red-Eyed Tree Frog
9780590871754

Old Mikamba Had a Farm

Everyone knows the children’s rhyme – “Old MacDonald had a farm” – and who doesn’t love making the animal sounds and singing E-I-E-I-O as a chorus. There are many picture books of this classic rhyme and I enjoy a good farm animal storytime with Old MacDonald. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a new book, Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora.

Old Mikamba watches over a wide variety of animals on his game farm in the plains of Africa. Kids will discover a whole new set of fun animals and their sounds all followed by the familiar E-I-E-I-O. On this farm there is a baboon with an OOH-HA-HA here and an OOH-HA-HA there. Other animals like the elephant BARAAA-BARAAA, the zebras WHINNY WHINNY, the warthog SNORTS and the hippo GRUNTS all along with Farmer Mikamba and the many E-I-E-I-O’s. So much fun to see and hear the African animals.

Rachel Isadora, a longtime favorite illustrator of mine, uses bright oranges, yellows and greens of Africa. Old Mikamba is in traditional dress including his hat and sandals. Her collage work of the animals is a wonderful introduction to the African wildlife. Go ahead and sing your heart out with the animal sounds and E-I-E-I-O’s. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Book

Old Mikamba Had a Farm
9780399257407

A Very Big Deal

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that Ron Burgundy: Let Me Off at the Top! My classy life & other musings, the new book by legendary fake news anchor Ron Burgundy, is by far the best movie tie-in fake biography of a fictional character that I’ve read this year. The book not only presents the rich, dare I say majestic, life story of Mr. Burgundy, but also offers readers the kind of practical advice that only comes from a life lived at top speed without brakes. That is, the life of a local TV news anchor. Burgundy’s tips on parenting, like instilling confidence in a ten-year-old by teaching them to drive on the freeway, along with his essential “rules for living through a prison riot” are priceless, pure Burgundy and worth their weight in gold. As the man himself says in the introduction to Let Me Off at the Top!, this book is a gift. If you are a silly person looking for a very silly read, it is a very nice gift indeed. Stay classy.

Books

Ron Burgundy: Let Me Off at the Top!
9780804139571

A Fan's Ultimate Guide to Wes Anderson

If I was forced into compiling a list of my favorite film directors, Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom) would be number five or six, perhaps even four given my mood. Regardless, he’s one of my go-to directors when I want to laugh, cry (well, not really) and be intellectually moved and artistically impressed. So I was pleased as punch to find out that a new, beautifully conceived book about Anderson and his singular cinematic vision was coming out this winter. The coffee table-sized book is a kitchen-sink assortment of analysis, interviews, and references to those touchstones which have inspired the director. The Wes Anderson Collection is a fan’s must-have tome. You can view a Q and A with the author here.

Book

The Wes Anderson Collection
9780810997417

Inventing the American Guitar

If you’re interested in American guitar history, you’ll want to explore this comprehensive new work about C.F. Martin and his contemporaries’ early technical developments in guitar design and manufacture. In a relatively short period of time before 1865, C.F. Martin and other builders developed and incorporated significant refinements, most notably an X-braced top capable of withstanding the higher string tension to which a steel-stringed guitar would be subjected. While Martin may or may not have invented X-bracing, his guitars were to the first to exploit this bracing system on a large scale.

Of course, folks in Kalamazoo get pretty excited about that other well-known granddaddy of the American guitar, Orville Gibson, who famously applied violin building techniques to mandolins and guitars. Arched-top mandolins and guitars? Yep, invented right here in Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo is rightly proud of the stack and factory on Parsons Street where luminaries such as Lloyd Loar, Thaddeus McHugh, Ted McCarty, and others ran with Orville’s early ideas and made industrial design and musical instrument history.

From a business history standpoint, these two icons of American guitar manufacture are very different. Orville Gibson sold his nascent business and patent to a small group of Kalamazoo industrialists in 1902. Gibson Guitar relocated its headquarters to Nashville in 1981. The Heritage Guitar Company continues to build in the Parsons Street building today. C.F. Martin & Company, still located in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, remains a family owned business more than 175 years later.

Your Kalamazoo Public Library has lots of great books on guitar history. This new work is definitely worth checking out. I like it because it focuses on little-known technical history before the American Civil War – no dreadnaughts to be found here. The full color plates of many of the very earliest C.F. Martin instruments in this large format book are truly gorgeous to behold.

Book

Inventing the American Guitar
9781458405760