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Staff Picks: Books

A graphic novel telling the true life story about Nat Love

A publisher friend asked Nat Love to write his story. He lived an interesting life at an important time in American history. He was born a slave but was fortunate enough to be on a plantation where he was treated kindly. It was well after the war when his family found out they were free but, farm life was tough and they all had to pull together to make a living. Everyone had to do their part. That’s when Nat started wrangling. He became a cowpuncher, learned to shoot and became a real cowboy. 

This was easy reading and very interesting. I enjoyed it.

The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook

Full disclosure, I am far from a vegetarian. But I do like good food, have passing interest in eating healthier, and I’m a big fan of everything that America’s Test Kitchen does, so when I saw that America’s Test Kitchen had released a new cookbook, The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook: a fresh guide to eating well with 700 foolproof recipes, I put my bias for animal products to the side and checked it out. There are recipes here to suit any mood, time, or flavor interest, and having them vetted by the impossibly thorough cooks at ATK means that you can basically turn to any random page and find something great. What I truly love about this cookbook is the “why this recipe works” section that is included with each recipe and offers the home cook some pointers about technique, ingredient selection, or intangible things that the ATK testers discovered are helpful in executing the recipe as designed. I’ve only made one of the recipes so far, a curry lentil soup, but I’m happy to report that it was easy to follow, the tips offered made total sense, and the soup itself was delicious.

Click, Clack, Peep!

As all of the farm watches an egg – they hear nothing. Then a CRACK! Each animal answers ….crack /moo? Crack/baa? And so on until out pops a baby duck.

Baby duck laughs, waddles, and plays all the while peep, peep peeping. The animals yawn, peep. The chickens sing a lullaby, more peeping. That baby duck won’t sleep! The cows and the sheep try peep, peep, peeping. All the animals go outside to sleep but they can’t – too much peeping. Finally, Duck takes off his headphones and puts them on sleeping Farmer Brown. Duck puts baby duck in a bucket, covers her in a blanket and takes her outside. All the while baby duck keeps peeping. Duck climbs into the tractor, buckles their seatbelts and backs out of the barnyard. And you guessed it… Duck drives back and forth – peeping continues until finally little duck falls asleep. When Farmer Brown wakes up he doesn’t hear any animals but he sees Duck and little duck on the tractor sound asleep. Duck drove all over the farm – he was not a good driver - but mission accomplished!

Kids will love the animal antics while parents and caregivers will laugh at the premise. And really who hasn’t tried that age old trick of taking the baby for a car ride in hopes of having them go to sleep.

I love the Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin combo of stories and illustrations. They are so child pleasing but with that added adult humor which is so much fun to find in picture books. Enjoy sharing this book over and over again.


Follow the baby whale as she experiences her first day of life in the sea . . . “Breathe, little whale!”  After a day of play, making friends, singing, and exploring, the baby ends up with her mama: “Most of all, love and be loved.”  Breathe is a lovely story to share with your own small person.




Why Women are Better than Men

Oxytocin, a bizarre unsuspecting hormone expressed during sex and breast feeding, has been heavily linked to empathy, trust and - in a word - being a good person.

Okay. So what. Well, here's the problem. Women have it. Men don't (generally speaking). This explains why women tend to be less violent, more giving, and more empathic than men. Sorry, men, we simply cannot ignore these statistics.

Of course there is much more to the story than that. But this book, which absolutely blew my mind, tries to explain how and why oxytocin forms the building blocks of morality. For me, a student of religion, philosophy, and the intersection between them and science, this argument was fascinating. I highly recommend this book. This is one of those books that I will never forget

Drum Dream Girl

In 1932, a 10-year-old Chinese-African-Cuban girl broke Cuba's traditional taboo against female drummers. She performed with her older sisters as Anaconda (great band name), Cuba's first "all-girl dance band". Written by Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael LopezDrum Dream Girl shows how a young person who loves rhythm hears it everywhere she goes - in the whir of parrot wings, woodpecker beaks, and her own heartbeat. Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriago, Drum Dream Girl tells the story of how Millo's love of rhythm and drumming could not be denied. This is an inspiring book for young and old about honoring your dreams and breaking barriers.

Lucky Cat...Lucky Family

The Good Luck Cat: How a Cat Saved a Family, and a Family Saved a Cat is a heartfelt  memoir written by Lissa Warren, who in addition to being an author, is also an editor and publicity director residing on the East Coast. This chronicle revolves around Ting-Pei, Lissa’s family’s Korat cat. The Warrens’ had always been a cat loving family. Ting’s feline predecessor, Cinnamon, had lived with them for over 19 years, when kidney disease finally claimed her.


So in 1996, when Lissa’s father Jerry retired, had quadruple bypass surgery, and needed a companion to help him pass the time during recovery, Ting was adopted. Despite the fact that she weighed a mere seven pounds, Ting was a kitten full of vim, vigor, and a pronounced mischievous streak. Using her abundant intellect and winning personality, she quickly established herself as a prominent member of the Warren clan. Being on very friendly terms with everyone, she especially bonded with the father, and was an integral part of his daily life right up to the time of his death due to a heart attack in 2008.


Not too long after that loss, Ting begins to act strangely; stumbling, swaying back and forth and just staring into space for prolonged periods of time. A visit to the veterinarian reveals that Ting had become “syncopal”. These episodes of semi-loss of consciousness were being caused by a lack of blood reaching the brain as the result of cardiomyopathy; a condition where there is a weakening of the heart muscle thereby decreasing it’s ability to pump.


Ting’s prognosis is grim unless she has a pacemaker implanted; a common procedure for humans, but not so much with cats. However, neither this knowledge nor the rather high cost involved, daunts Lissa, and she transports Ting to Boston where the procedure is completed.


After surgery, Ting recuperates at the Boston clinic for about a week, and after a few more weeks at home, recovers completely. As of the book’s publishing date, she was still doing fine at 19 years of age!


Unfortunately, three years after Ting’s pacemaker implantation, Lissa was diagnosed with MS. Once more, Ting becomes a valuable support.


This book focuses on Ting and how she changed the lives of Lissa’s dad and Lissa herself. It is also a moving tribute to a family’s power to love, rejoice, deal with illness, grief, fear and accept their own fates.

The Lego Neighborhood Book

I never got into Legos as a child. For some reason, Legos were an item I just didn't happen to beg my parents to buy for me. I had Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys, yes. Legos -- no. But I became interested in them when I saw the wonderful exhibits here at KPL by some very talented people. Earlier this week I happened to spot this 2014 book by Brian and Jason Lyles and was amazed at some of the patterns that could be constructed using these plastic blocks. This book on Lego villages has everything figured out, right down to the fire hydrants. And this is only one book on the topic. KPL has many others from which to choose, in the children's, teen, and adult areas of the library.

What is a Juggalo?

I was inspired to search out other Jon Ronson books after reading and really enjoying The Psychopath Test. I found Lost at Sea, a collection of journalistic investigations into eccentric people, belief systems, extraordinary projects, and human tragedies. Although I loved The Psychopath Test, I was not prepared for how many times I would laugh out loud while reading Lost at Sea at lunch in our staff room. 

As Ronson interviews people on a special cruise with psychic Sylvia Browne, or adherents to a new religious movement in England that involves speaking in tongues, or attendees at a Neuro-Linguistic Programming Conference, he is always skeptical but not mean or snarky. Many times he asked just the question that was in my head, but he did not badger people if they did not fully answer his question. I also liked that he did not completely remove himself from the possibility of believing in the things he was investigating. 

I was disturbed by the obsessive research and collecting of the filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and enjoyed learning of a town in Alaska called the North Pole where the letters sent to Santa arrive and the townspeople try to answer some of them.

Oh yeah, and the collection starts with a bang, focusing on Michigan’s own Insane Clown Posse and the interesting message they had for their fans, the juggalos, after twenty years of aggressive, offensive rap music.

International Cooking @ KPL

Peru : the cookbook is one of the most beautiful books I've seen come across my desk here in the cataloging department at KPL. The recipes inside are as beautiful and mouth-watering as the rainbow-colored cover. If you are adventurous in the kitchen and like to try cooking foods from other cultures, check out KPL's international cooking section, call number 641.59 (2nd floor). The numbers are further divided out by country/region.

Some popular ones are:
French, 641.5944
Italian, 641.5945
Greek, 641.59495
Chinese, 641.5951
Japanese, 641.5952
Indic, 641.5954
Middle Eastern, 641.5956
African, 641.596
Mexican, 641.5972
American, 641.5973
African-American, 641.59296

To find in the catalog, search the subject heading “Cooking” with a comma, then the region -- for example, "Cooking, French" or "Cooking, Japanese."