Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

Reading Together Discussion

Last night I enjoyed a warm discussion of Rick Bragg’s books led by my co-workers Joanna Lundberg and Ruth Wilson. Nearly everyone who came had read all three books. One reader said, “I finished the first book and was so glad there were two more.”

If you haven’t attended a discussion and would like to share your thoughts about the books, you can fill out a reply postcard. If you didn’t get one of these cards when you purchased or borrowed your book, stop by your library or bookstore and fill one out.


Here is a sampling of what some of our readers have written:

"It was interesting reading, told in a way that held your interest. Also telling of the possibilities one can achieve if one really wants to – a certain amount of good fortune does help."
—Anonymous reader

"Fascinating story. Great author. Anxious to read the rest of the trilogy."
—A member of the Y Read Book Group/Kalamazoo County Family YMCA

"Excellent. Easy to read. Draws you in to the family, setting, society."
—Anonymous reader

"I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of Rick’s remembering his childhood, learning of his father. Great writing, without degrading it by profanity, etc."
—Anonymous reader

"Delicious. I was so taken with it that I bought a copy for a friend who is in cancer treatment. He, too, is a newspaper “guy” and grew up in Maryland mountains, one of 9 children. The book also made me understand the feelings of people in the community in which I grew up in East Tennessee."
—A reader in Richland

"It was an excellent book. At first I thought it was another memoir written by another journalist writing about growing up in hard times. It was much more than that. I cried when he won the Pulitzer and how he and everyone else congratulated his mother. It was very moving. The book was very honest and made me look back at my own childhood."
—A reader in Schoolcraft

"Loved the descriptive humor of personalities in Southern vernacular. Appreciated the honest examination of character encased in wit."
—A reader in Kalamazoo

"So much feeling it was hard to put down. I’m the middle of three sons and have relatives in Georgia, so the pages came alive."
—A reader in Kalamazoo

—Three readers from Kalamazoo


Reading Together Book Discussion

Alphorns Announce the Arrival of Spring

Everyone at Storytime with Mr. Steve & Friends last night experienced quite a treat.  Alphorn players clad in lederhosen kept appearing from all over the mountains and valleys of the Van Deusen Room. Once they found their sheep, they gathered together to play a couple of songs for us on these traditional Swiss instruments that the shepherds use to signal to their friends and call their sheep and cattle. John (Johann) Griffith led us in a song about cuckoo birds and the coming of Spring, with the alphorns supplying some cuckoo bird sounds.   

We practiced stomping in puddles while I read The Rain Stomper by Addie Boswell and found out what happened to Millie the cow who likes to hide and scare the mail carrier in Millie Waits for the Mail by Alexander Steffensmeier.

After some dancing, we pretended to hike up the Alps (with the help of a cable car halfway through) to a beautiful mountain meadow and lake where we all found alphorns to play. 

We finished the evening with some parachute games and then making kites since this weekend kicks off National Kite Month


Join us for the next Storytime with Mr. Steve & Friends on Thursday, May 14 at 6:30 pm.

Also, don't miss "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" performed by the Kalamazoo Junior Dance Company on Tuesday, April 21 at 6:30 pm.

See you soon.


Alphorn players
Steve S

Family fun with Sid (the Rock) Ellis

The Alma Powell Branch would like to thank Sid (the Rock) Ellis for a fun-filled family puppet show.

Sid shared humorous stories about Anansi the spider, the king of the jungle, a hippo, an elephant and other jungle creatures. The adults and kids of all ages enjoyed Sid’s performance.

Thanks Sid, for a great show!

Visit the KPL Flickr photostream for more photos of this and other library events.


Sid (the Rock) Ellis

Peter Ruei from the Lost Boys of Sudan

For Black History Month, the Alma Powell branch was honored to present Peter Ruei of the Lost Boys of Sudan on February 18 and February 25.

On February 18th, Peter and his friends shared stories from their past. They talked about being children during a war that brought tragedies and opportunities.


And on February 25 Peter told the audience of how he fled Sudan. Peter talked about running for his life when he was barely old enough to walk, he talked about becoming a refugee in Ethiopia, and he told us about forgiveness and opportunities. Not many have experienced the true tragedies of war nor can we see the losses it brings as a time to grow in faith and mercy. These are the concepts Peter shared with us.


Check out our books and DVDs about the Lost Boys of Sudan.


Lost Boys of Sudan

Three levels of fun at the March Art Hop!

Once again the library participated in the quarterly extended Art Hops sponsored by the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. The featured artist was Eana Agopian who was on the 1st Level to display and discuss her mixed media style of art. The Kalamazoo Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra entertained a large crowd of fans in the rotunda area on the 2nd Level. Finally in the Van Deusen Room on the 3rd Level, singer-songwriter Jess Yoakum performed her beautifully crafted folk songs on both guitar and piano.

Almost 500 attended the event, but even if you missed it you can check out the video below. Don't miss our next Art Hop event on June 5th.


Jess Yoakum
Kevin King

Francine Prose at KPL

Hearing a great writer read their own work can be something very special, and Francine Prose’s reading at the Kalamazoo Public Library on March 12th certainly qualifies. Prose who was in Kalamazoo as part of the Spring 2009 Gwen Frostic Reading Series, read to large crowd at the Central Library through a partnership with Western Michigan Universities Creative Writing Program.

National Book Award finalist and multiple award-winning, novel, short-story and nonfiction writer, Prose’s ability as a writer is without question. But to hear her read a newly completed short story, Prose admitted to finishing the story only a week earlier, about a jeweler in Nazi Germany and his weird and fascinating encounter with a cross-dressing, morphine addicted Hermann Göring, Nazi leader and commander of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force), in her own voice and with the intended pace was truly special.

Francine Prose at KPL

The story was strange, satirical, haunting and contained such a well constructed plot twist that it nearly gave every one of the 100 people in the audience whiplash. What a treat it was to hear Francine Prose read and what an honor it was for the Kalamazoo Public Library to host her.


Francine Prose at the Kalamazoo Public Library

Remembering the Freedom Riders

The civil rights movement was a time of intense conflict, but also a time of great courage. On February 23, we were privileged to host a program about the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Rides.

We hosted two Mississippi natives for the program. Miller Green, now living in Chicago, was arrested in a Jackson bus station. Eric Etheridge is an author whose book is Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders.

Late in 1960, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawed segregation in interstate bus terminals. On May 4, 1961, there were 13 people who made the first Freedom Ride to test the compliance of bus stations with the ruling. This, and subsequent rides, encountered increasingly violent resistance. Though there were Freedom Rides across the South, the campaign’s primary focus became Jackson, Mississippi. More than 300 Riders were arrested there, photographed, and convicted of breach of peace.

In 2004, journalist Eric Etheridge, a Mississippi native, ran across the mug shots of some 328 Freedom Riders arrested in Jackson. Etheridge decided to publish the photographs and, where possible, include new photos and stories of the Riders.

Green shared stories of his arrest on July 6, 1961 at the Trailways terminal in Jackson, and his harrowing experiences in jail. After his release, Green worked on voter registration and civil rights issues in Mississippi, and moved to Chicago where he has lived since 1963.

He also talked about his childhood friend, Bobby Joe, a white boy. Miller and Bobby Joe were the only children in their Yazoo City neighborhood, and played together constantly. “We were in each other’s houses, eating at each other’s tables, together all the time,” he said. One day, when the boys were around 6 years old, Bobby Joe’s mother received an anonymous letter criticizing the parents for allowing the boys to play together. At this point, both families agreed it would be too dangerous to let them continue playing.

From that point on, the boys would stand across from each other, on opposite sites of the street, and talk. Each boy would play alone, imagining the other was with him. “It left a scar,” Miller said, putting his hand on his chest.

See also: Authors@Google: Eric Etheridge, June 24, 2008 


Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders

Fairies and Giants and Bears, Oh My!

This month’s surprise guest for Storytime with Mr. Steve & Friends was Lisa WilliamsReading Together coordinator at the Kalamazoo Public Library. She shared her piano playing talents, leading us in story songs that my mom used to play when I was a child. 

The kids danced like fairies in a forest, stomped around like giants, and looked for cozy places to hibernate, pretending they were bears just like I used to do in my living room along with my brothers and sisters.

Ms. Lisa also proved adept at balancing bean bags on her head, but fell one short of tying Ms. Waneta’s record of 12 set last month. 

In addition to the dancing, I read

We sang songs and once again broke out the giant parachute. This time we pretended that we were looking for a bear as we circled with the parachute, crossing a river on stepping stones and hiking around mountains. Finally, imagining the parachute was a cave, all the kids scampered like bears under the chute.


For our craft time, everyone got to decorate a set of fairy wings to take home for more imaginative play until we meet again on Tuesday, March 24 at 6:30 pm at the Central Library.


Storytime with Mr. Steve and Friends
Steve S
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