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Staff Picks: Books

Life Reimagined

This title and its subtitle--The science, art, and opportunity of midlife--caught my eye as soon as I read about it. This is a book that speaks directly to me and one that I expect will provide countless pearls of wisdom. Written by a veteran NPR commentator who spent two years talking to psychologists, biologists, neurologists, and sociologists about this phase of life—midlife—that, as she puts it, “has gotten a bum rap. It has suffered guilt by association, linked inextricably to the ‘c’ word: crisis.” Instead, what she learns during her intense exploration is that midlife is, in fact, a time of great opportunity. Chapters address such topics as brain research; the importance of friends and even long-term romance; dealing with inevitable medical conditions; and finding a purpose. Library Journal Review declares that “This work is a joyous reminder that the middle years can be satisfying, resilient and significant.”

I can’t wait to jump in!

Samira and the Skeletons

Today, Samira learned that there is a skeleton inside her!  Yes, a real skeleton with bones and everything.  Her teacher says, “Just look at your lovely teeth!  That’s your skeleton peeping out of your mouth.” Yikes!   This is a terrible situation . . . that skeleton even goes to gym class with her, where Samira has to “run here, run there, jump and hop around and climb and do a somersault—with a body full of bones!”  Samira and the Skeletons is a great blend of humor and science; you can find it in the “Growing Up” neighborhood of picture books.


Another great Sally Spencer mystery!

A young mother is found dead, one of her children is missing. DCI Monika Paniatowski has just returned to work after maternity leave. Her nurturing disposition makes her vulnerable and the plight of the children sends her in directions she wouldn’t normally go.

Thicker than Water is another great mystery by Sally Spencer. Monika has become as likable as Inspector Woodend once was. The story is engaging and suspenseful. I couldn’t put it down. 

The Princess and the Pony

For a story that's laugh-out-loud funny, adventurous and definitely not your typical princess story, check out Kate Beaton's, The Princess and the Pony. The story features a princess who wishes to be a great warrior wishing for a strong, heroic pony for her birthday. What she gets instead is a small, round-ish pony. Booklist calls it "the perfect combination of heartwarming and hilarious." It's a book that adults love to read and kids love to hear read!

Lonnie Johnson -- inventor of the Super Soaker!

If you have kids (or were ever one), chances are, you’ve encountered a Super Soaker water gun. Well, I just found out who invented it! In the book Whoosh! by Chris Barton, you will learn about Lonnie Johnson, an African-American NASA engineer and inventor who accidentally invented the Super Soaker while trying to solve a problem with refrigerators and air conditioners.


Green Island

Green Island is a sweeping story of Taiwan from 1947 to 2003 told through the lives of three generations of the Tsai family.

Dr. Tsai is a respected, wealthy doctor. When he speaks out after the February 28 Massacre, the anti-government uprising, his life and that of his family is changed forever.

The story is told from the perspective of his youngest daughter, born as the story begins. As she grows up and eventually moves to California, she is still witness to her father’s legacy and a husband who also speaks his mind. The family scars have lingered.

This is a moving, well-written story of family, betrayal, and survival. It is also a good introduction to the Chinese Nationalists who were overthrown by the Chinese Communists after World War II and Chiang Kai-Shek.

This story stayed with me long after I finished reading. To me, that is a true compelling story.


One Terrific Tree

Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book is a visually stunning children’s rhyming book that has a wise, all-seeing owl tell the tale of a forest tree as the seasons change. Sitting inside the tree’s trunk, the owl first portrays winter, where “...all is still, gripped by winter’s icy chill”. Soon thereafter, snow is seen melting and a family of foxes, together with some bear cubs come out to play. As spring progresses, the leaves are growing, a breeze is blowing, the squirrels are scampering here and there, and the forest is covered with fragrant flowers.
Next, summer arrives and the sun shines intensely. The bees and birds enjoy the warm days and when come the nights, the stars shine bright. Fall follows with it’s changes. The weather turns cooler, ripe fruit tumble off an apple tree, autumn leaves turn red and gold, and animals gather and store food for the inevitable arrival of winter.

The seasons have all come and gone,
Snow has fallen, sun has shone.
Owl sees the first new buds appear,
And so begins another year

A winning, poetic book that is guaranteed to astound,
Preschool children all the year round!

If it's not one thing, it's your Mother

Don’t you love reading or listening to something you never want to end? Ok, sure, it’s not fun when it finally does, but it’s cool that it was so good you didn’t want it to be over. Ah, well, such is life! And such was the case for me with listening to If It’s not one Thing, It’s your Mother. Julia Sweeney reads her own writing, and she puts such life into her thoughts, her storytelling, other people’s voices. She’s funny, thoughtful, compassionate, honest.
Apparently she wrote this book in the space of a month. (How does somebody do that?!) During that time, her daughter and husband were both away on other ventures. She starts off relishing the time to herself and by the end, can't wait one more minute till they’ve returned. In between, we (dear readers) hear about how she became a single mother, how later she and Mulan and her husband,Michael, became a family, how she juggles career decisions with other life issues…and just other cool life stuff.
Truth be told, it was the funny title which drew me in. Then it was Sweeney’s funny, interesting way of writing and narrating her essays which kept me engaged. Until, sadly, the book ended.

A Book of Memories

Sam Savage’s economically crafted novella It Will End with Us is a Proustian study of both the lyric truths of memories and their opaque, wildly fictive nature. While the book is far more accessible than the work of the author of the epic Swanns Way, the books of David Markson or Samuel Beckett, as I read this slim gem of a book, I couldn’t help but recognize certain devices or stylistic flourishes that echoed their focus on literature as a means of excavating the inexpressible experience of remembrance. The book's story is told from the perspective of an elderly woman writing/thinking through her fragmented recollections of growing up in the South (likely in the 1940’s or 1950’s). It’s a poetic book organized by the woman’s vignettes of memory that touch upon the significant and the mundane with equal importance. I had never heard of Savage before picking up the book in the library’s New Book Rotunda but I’m glad I gave it a chance.

Teens' Top Ten Nominees!

Calling all Teen readers! The nominees for the 2016 Teens' Top Ten award were just announced and there's a lot of great books to read! The Teens' Top Ten is a "teen choice" list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in fifteen school and public libraries around the country, and they've made their choices. It's a long list this year- there's a ton of great titles to choose from, including titles by Marcus Sedgwick, Scott Westerfeld, Holly Black, and many more! You can find a PDF of the nominees here, and voting will happen later this summer. Get started reading today!