Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

Will Edmondson’s Stones

One night in the early 1930’s, Will Edmondson heard God talking to him.  “‘Will, cut that stone, and it better be limstone, too.’ So I found some pieces of limestone—old curbs, sills, steps—things no one wanted. And I began to cut on the stone with an old railroad spike and a chisel and file. I’se just doing the Lord’s work. It ain’t got much style.”

Working in his yard in Nashville, Tennessee, William Edmondson worked at carving tombstones, then expanded to sculpting stylized animals and people. Classified as “primitive,” the sculptures are now housed in museums and private collections.

Will’s story is told through a series of 23 poems, four of which are in his own words. The real joy of the book, though, is in the photos (some by Edward Weston and Louise Dahl-Wolfe) of Edmondson and his work. The black and white photos show the power and simplicity of the artist and his art.


I Heard God Talking to Me: William Edmondson and His Stone Carvings

Classic Tales for Children

While volunteering at the Party in the Park this afternoon, I began to reminisce about the children’s books that I was read to as a toddler. There were several books that stood out and I wondered if the library continued to collect them. Not surprised, many of these timeless classics are still in print and collected by libraries everywhere. I’ve moved on to philosophical treatises and exceedingly more daunting books embedded with legalese but I suspect that these books are still as educational and entertaining today as they were in the early nineteen seventies. Remember to read to young children as they will come to recall with great pleasure the books that helped them to engage in the broader world, beyond the walls of home or the classroom. Some of my favorite books as a youngster were:


Richard Scarry's Favorite Storybook Ever

This Week in Science History May 27

May 25, 1889 Russian-born American pioneer aircraft designer Igor Sikorsky was born. Sikorsky designed, built, and flew the first successful multiengine airplane in 1913. He also built military aircraft for France and Russia before moving to the U. S. in 1919 and becoming a citizen in 1928. He is best known for his development of the first successful helicopter in the Western Hemisphere in the late 1930s.

May 26, 1951 astronaut Sally Ride was born. Ride was the first American woman to orbit the earth as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in June 1983. She served as a mission specialist on a second mission in October 1985 as well. After the January 1986 Challenger accident, she joined the Presidential Commission investigating the accident. Dr. Ride, who obtained her Ph.D. in physics in 1978, has always been an advocate for improved science education and has written a number of science books for children. You can check them out in our Library Catalog

May 28, 1897 Jell-o gelatin was introduced in the U.S. Jell-o was created by Pearl B. Wait, a carpenter and cough medicine manufacturer. It was his wife, May Davis Wait, who named the jiggly wiggly dessert “Jell-o”. Although a popular well-known food product now, sales were poor for Wait so he sold the business to his neighbor Orator F. Woodward for $450. Woodward launched an advertising campaign in 1902, in the Ladies Home Journal and his sales eventually reached $250,000

May 28, 1892 the Sierra Club was organized in San Francisco, California. Naturalist and conservationist, John Muir, was elected president and the Sierra Club began with 182 charter members. The Club is America’s oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization and works to protect our communities and the planet.


Sally Ride:A Space Biography


Eleanor, Quiet No More

"Do something every day that scares you."  Those words are on the endpapers of this striking new biography of Eleanor Roosevelt.  For young readers, this beautifully-illustrated book combines Roosevelt's own words with biographical details to show a lonely child who grows into a strong, wise woman.  Don't disregard this book because it's shelved in the Children's Room!  It's a lovely piece of writing and artwork.  This thoughtful book ends with Roosevelt's words:  "I have never felt that anything really mattered but knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed and had done the very best you could."



Eleanor, Quiet No More: The Life of Eleanor Roosevelt

(Not So) Beautiful Losers

Denis Johnson’s latest fiction title Nobody Move stands in stark contrast to his previous effort, the epic and National Book Award winning, Tree of Smoke. A lean, darkly funny, noir crime story set in contemporary Northern California; Nobody Move is fast paced, violent and full of edgy dialogue from a cast of crooks, junkies and perpetual losers. Those familiar with the sprawling and complex Vietnam War story that was Tree of Smoke will quickly see this as a wild departure from that book, yet each title stands on their own as verification of Johnson’s talent and range as a writer.


Nobody Move



Islands in the Stream

Many of our patrons are surprised to find out that KPL has a very nice selection of printed music. A brief examination of the 780s on the second floor will demonstrate the wide variety of vocal and instrumental music in our inventory. One series I think is very well done is known as the Decade Series, which, as the name implies, includes popular songs from the 1920s, 1930s, etc. These will work for voice, keyboard or piano, guitar, as well as for a variety of other instruments. A bonus is that they are all indexed in the library’s catalog record, making it much easier to find a particular song. Since KPL owns 15 of the volumes in this series, I have taken them home and played them on my keyboard and used them as trial copies to see whether I wanted to purchase them for myself at a store. Anyone needing songs for an anniversary, a high school reunion, a special birthday, or just for entertainment will find plenty of ideas here at KPL.


More songs of the seventies : piano, vocal, guitar
David D.

This Week in Science History May 20

 May 18, 1980 Mount St. Helens erupted in Washington State. Although the volcano had been quiet for a period of time, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey report that Mount St. Helens is the most active volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range. The cataclysmic eruption began with a 5.1 magnitude earthquake at 8:32 a.m. on the 18th, and within 15-20 seconds the largest landslide on earth in recorded history took place as the volcano’s summit and bulge slid away from its top. The eruption blasted ash and gas more than 15 miles up into the atmosphere. 520 million tons of ash were blown eastward across the U. S. by the prevailing winds and the Spokane area experienced complete darkness.

May 19, 1885 Jan Matzeliger began the first mass production of shoes in the U. S. in Lynn, MA. A shoemaker by trade, Matzeliger emigrated from Dutch Guiana (now Suriname) when he was 18 where his father was a white engineer and his mother a black slave. He found a job in a shoe factory in Philadelphia and worked hard to revolutionize the shoe making process. Shoes were tediously hand-made before this, and Matzeliger developed a shoe lasting machine which would attach the sole to the shoe in 1 minute! He had obtained a patent for this machine in 1883.  Sadly, Matzeliger died in 1889 at the young age of 37 from tuberculosis but his invention made shoes available for the first time to ordinary people at a reasonable price and provided more jobs for workers.

May 20, 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope sent its first photograph from space. It was an image of a double star 1,260 light years away. The Hubble was named after American astronomer Edwin P. Hubble and is a large space-based observatory which has revolutionized the area of astronomy and has provided unprecedented clear deep views of the universe for scientists. The Space Telescope is about the size of a large tractor-trailer truck. It has circled the Earth more than 97,000 times and provided more than 4,000 astronomers access to the stars not possible from here on Earth. Coincidentally, the final mission to the Hubble to make much needed repairs and upgrades is currently in the home stretch. The crew will return to Earth Friday May 22 from its successful mission and the Hubble is expected to remain another 5 or more years in space. Check out the NASA website for updates on the mission.  


The Universe in a Mirror:The Saga of the Hubble Telescope and the Visionaries Who Built It

Getting Away From It All

Runner is a Thomas Perry book featuring a character, Jane Whitefield, who has been out of print for about 10 years. Well, she's back! This book is in the mystery/detective/pulp fiction genre, with a twist. Jane is more a facilitiator, a protector of those who have a need to disappear and change their identity for very good reasons. You'll learn everything you've always wanted to know about setting up an alternate identity: what you'll need in the way of falsified documents, credit history, and plastic; also how to handle yourself in terms of personal security and weapons acquisition. Jane takes care of emerging situations and ensures the "Runner" makes a clean getaway. Not for the faint of heart. Jane has a tendency for overkill when it comes to eliminating the pursuit, killing off 8 of the bad guys in the last 6 chapters alone. Admittedly, all that is done to a high standard of inventiveness and sophistication, but be aware at its core Runner is a pretty violent book.






Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking

I've heard it said cookbooks are not about recipes. Often, we are more interested in sharing an interest in people and the various cultural aspects food represents in our lives. Reading Morimoto is the next best thing to going out for sushi. This book has some stunning photography. As a woodworker I also admire the simple pine trays and bento boxes featured in the illustrations. If you like the Japanese influence at all, you'll love this book.


Morimoto: the new art of Japanese cooking

El Sol

Chicago based musician Jim Gill closes each and every family play session with his version of the traditional Russian folk song “May There Always Be Sunshine”. Most everyone loves the sun. Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm’s Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life is a feel good celebration of sunshine with the science to back it up.

This companion to Bang’s My Light illuminates the way the sun provides the energy that plants need to create food for themselves and – directly or indirectly - for all the food that animals consume. The first person text in the voice of the sun itself explains the wonder of photosynthesis and respiration in kid friendly language to accompany Molly Bang’s radiant illustrations. Bang and Chisholm, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor of Ecology, describe plants’ and animals’ symbiotic exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide and how the food chain links back to photosynthesis and the sun. Plants provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat. Animals give back carbon dioxide in trade along with seed distribution. These are fun and fascinating cycle of life concepts to share with young people of nearly any age.

Four pages of notes at the end of the book expand on the brief text in the body of the book for those who want to dig deeper and for parents like me who might struggle to answer questions that come up after sharing this book with a child. I love the way Living Sunlight celebrates sunshine while at the same time providing real science content about the connection between sunlight and life on earth.


Living Sunlight
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