RSS Feed

Staff Picks: Books

Squid for President!

Jokes about presidential candidates are just too easy this time around so I’m going to skip that part and get right to Aaron Reynolds new picture book President Squid. It is true that no giant squid has ever been president before, but this might be the right time. Squid wears a tie, lives in a big house (a sunken cruise liner), is famous (he’s in a book), does all the talking, and likes to boss people around so he thinks he is perfect for the job. Will he be the fifth president carved into Mt. Rushmore? If you aren’t already having enough fun during this year’s presidential race, check out President Squid for even more laughs. 

 
Speaking of storybook characters running for president, stay tuned for our mock election this Fall where each library location will nominate and campaign for one for president. Of course, Washington Square’s nominee, Dora the Explorer, will win!


Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride

 Summer is the perfect time for light reading, so I have another graphic novel to tell you all about! Lucy Knisley, an artist with a knack for turning her personal experiences into entertaining graphic memoirs, is back with Something New! Literally—that’s the name of the book

 

Knisley has written about the important role of food in her life, and some of her exciting travel adventures, but this time she’s covering her experiences grappling with the beautiful and incredibly stressful task of getting married. This lovely memoir includes many fun components, such as, a section on to buy, or DIY, how she and her husband met, and wedding traditions from around the world. I’d recommend this to book to anyone, whether they’re married, engaged, or single, because honestly, it’s just fun going on this wedding journey with Lucy Knisley.

Looking for more books by Lucy Knisley? Be sure to check out some of her other titles here. 


The Poisoning of Michigan

The environmental history of Michigan in the twentieth century (and beyond) has been one characterized by intermittent disasters with wide-ranging implications for the health and well-being of its citizens. One need only examine the Environmental Protection Agency’s maps of Superfund sites (specially-designated toxic waste remediation locations) in Michigan to better understand the current scope of the problems.

We have seen recent examples play out over the last year including the Flint water crisis and the discovery of water contamination stemming from a decommissioned Air Force Base in Oscoda. Citizens of Kalamazoo will be well-aware of the Allied Paper Mill / Portage Creek / Kalamazoo River Superfund PCB remediation process that has dominated the environmental consciousness of Kalamazoo and Allegan counties since the early 1990s - not to mention the subsequent Enbridge oil spill.

As alarming as these scenarios have been, the effects and general contamination produced by each could be described as relatively localized, at least in comparison to a 1973 disaster which resulted in the poisoning of the general population (approximately 9 million individuals) of Michigan through compromised dairy products. This is the subject of The Poisoning of Michigan by Joyce Egginton.

Egginton begins by summarizing the broad strokes of the accident, which began at the Michigan Chemical Corporation where a variety of industrial chemicals were produced. Among these were Nutrimaster, an additive for livestock feed which was shown to increase milk production in dairy cows and have other beneficial effects, and Firemaster, a polybrominated biphenyl (a type of chemical very similar to PCBs) that was being used at the time as a top-notch industrial fire-retardant. The chemicals were nearly indistinguishable to the naked eye, and a paper shortage had led to some extremely questionable techniques being implemented to label the 50-pound brown paper bags in which both Nutrimaster and Firemaster were shipped.

The outcome of this unconscionable confluence of circumstances was that in the Spring of 1973 a truck driver delivered several thousand pounds of Firemaster to the largest agricultural feed plant in Michigan where it was unknowingly combined with livestock feed, dispersed to more than 5,000 farms all over the state and fed to a variety of farm animals for nearly a year before being positively identified.

Egginton goes on to discuss in great detail the efforts of a handful of individuals, including a dairy farmer with a chemistry degree, who worked to pinpoint the cause of what followed: cows lost weight precipitously, milk production plummeted, chickens were born with tumors, animals in general refused to eat and perished. Similar outcomes awaited humans who consumed the products produced by those animals to the degree that a measurable decline in the athletic prowess of Michigan sports teams was noted during the years of peak contamination. All of this took place within an atmosphere which Egginton describes as one characterized by bureaucratic denial, industrial indifference, and the isolation of the afflicted.

Even when viewed alongside such well-known environmental disasters as Love Canal, which would be brought to light five years later, the degree of contamination stemming from the accident remains unparalleled in the United States. Occasionally the event is revisited by the media, and the ongoing effects are measured and discussed, but proportional to its impact, it seems to have become a little-known chapter in the environmental and agricultural history of Michigan.


Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed A Neighborhood

Mira loves to "doodle, draw, color, and paint" so her room is filled with vibrant pictures that she created herself.  Her neighborhood, on the other hand, is dull and gray.  Until the day a muralist moved in.  Together the two of them set off to paint the town.

Based on a true story, this picture book is about the East Village neighborhood in San Diego.  It tells the story of a community that Rafael and Candace Lopez brings together and the creation of the Urban Art Trail.  Lopez (who is also the illustrator of the book) along with community leaders, teachers, artists, and residents worked together to turn their neighborhood into a walkable piece of art.  This picture book is an inspiring story with wonderful illustrations that young children will love.


Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida

I was just on MelCat, minding my own business, when a message caught my eye. It flashed across the banner on the homepage, and it said "No Flying, No Tights". When I clicked on it, a site full of librarians' recommendations for anime, manga, graphic novels, and other non-superhero related materials opened up. SWEET!

http://noflyingnotights.com/ 

I am always hunting for new titles in these categories. I read about Tokyo Ghoul, and placed a hold through MelCat for the first volume of the manga series. Manga are Japanese comic books. They read from right to left. This supernatural title features flesh-eating ghouls trying to blend into human society to avoid ghoul investigators and stay safe among their own often violent, territorial peers. People know about ghouls; their existence isn't a secret, so they have even more reason to protect their true identities. The main character, Ken Kaneki, unwillingly becomes a part of this dark underground world, and it changes his life forever. Since reading the first volume, I've already received and began reading the second one, and requested the third. The series was made into an anime show, but I can't vouch for it. However, I do highly recommend the manga to teen and adult horror fans. Enjoy!


What Should I Read Next?

Full Disclosure: I haven’t read The Grownup by Gillian Flynn yet, but it’s on my list of books to read next. I discovered The Grownup while using our new database, NoveList, to find reading recommendations based on books I love. NoveList is an online resource that makes it easy to find books to read; it offers read-alike recommendations, reading lists, and an “appeal” feature that helps readers determine why they enjoy a book and whether a particular book will fit their style. I looked up my favorite book that I’ve read this year: Mr. Splitfoot, a contemporary gothic novel by Samantha Hunt. It was atmospheric, unsettling, and full of great character development. I wanted more! NoveList gave me list of ten recommendations based on that title, and due to its description, The Grownup appealed to me the most. Why did NoveList recommend The Grownup based on my love of Mr. Splitfoot? According to the recommendation, “These books are Creepy and Compelling, and they share: the genre 'Gothic fiction' and the subject 'Swindlers and swindling'.” All right, I’m sold.

NoveList is accessible with your library card on our website.


School's First Day of School

 Everyone is just a little bit nervous on the first day of school, even the brand-new school building.  “A sign above the door read, FREDERICK DOUGLASS ELEMENTARY.  ‘That’s a good name for me,’ thought the school.”  On this first day, some kids learn about rectangles, some cry, some are bored, some play on the jungle gym.  “So that’s what that is for,’ thought the school.”  Be sure to take a look at this book before school starts . . . School’s First Day of School is a reassuring story about new beginnings for everyone. 

 


When the Science Industry Goes Wrong

We like to think of science as the most objective, most unbiased, most pristine and humble profession; slowly but surely delivery us a progression of facts and knowledge and theories that explain them. Well, yes and no. Unfortunately science is composed of human beings, people and institutions that suffer the same imperfections, motivations, and errors of judgment. And greed and money (didn't someone say that money is the root of all evil?).

This book is a hoot. The writer not only exposes bad science and - probably more importantly - bad interpretations of science by the media - but he does so in a hilarious, entertaining way that will make you feel less dumb when you're finished. He clearly explains concepts in statistics that most people don't understand.

Oddly, a met a random library user in the stacks last week. She was looking for this book. I said: I'm reading that book! So I (finally) returned the book and let her have it. Enjoy random reader!


Lane Smith’s “There Is a Tribe of Kids”

Lane Smith’s picture book titled: There Is a Tribe of Kids is both curious and educational, plus, it’s a reference book. Patrons have traditionally asked librarians questions such as: what do you call a group of this or that, whether it be animals (animal aggregations), or some other group. Familiar animal aggregations are: a school of fish, a flock of geese, pack of dogs, you get the idea. In Smith’s book, a lone child takes us on a journey from animal group to animal group and eventually to a group of children. Lane Smith’s illustrations are truly amazing and full of antics and delightful detail. Lane Smith has written and illustrated many children’s books, and Lane received a Caldecott Honor Award for Grandpa Green. He was named an Eric Carle Artist for “lifelong innovation in the field of children’s picture books” in 2012!

 


The ZER0ES are my Hacker Heroes!

Ever since the advent of the personal computer there have been stories about hackers. Super-intelligent misfits that can bring down big business and corrupt governments with a few keystrokes have become Robin Hood-like heroes in both books and movies. These types of stories are filled with enough techno-thrills, espionage and intrigue to make for great summer reads even for the biggest techno-phobe. Chuck Wendig’s Zer0es is the story of five “criminal” hackers who are captured and given a choice to either work on a special government project or rot in a jail cell. Our hacker heroes, dubbed “the Zeroes”, soon discover that the work they are doing has caused the “awakening” of a digital demon that wants to protect the world by enslaving the population! Reading Zer0es was like watching a big budget summer blockbuster. It was chock full of action, conspiracy, big explosions, monsters, and lots of hacking! No need to plug into to enjoy Zer0es!