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Staff Picks: Books

Back in the Day Bakery: Made with Love

Cheryl and Griffin Day own a bakery in Savannah, Georgia and their second recipe book, Back in the Day Bakery: Made with Love, is full of customer favorites and family recipes.  While they lean toward Southern favorites, I think that west Michigan peaches will work just fine in their peach pie recipe! 

 

 

 


Siege Winter

I am a fan of historical fiction, so when Ariana Franklin’s newest title Siege Winter arrived, I looked forward to reading it. And with good reason, as it turns out.

The story takes place in 12th century England, around 1140, when King Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Matilda, are fighting over control of the country. Their armies and supporters battle it out, and a castle located on the Thames is considered to be a strategic location for both Stephen and Matilda. The castle, Kenilworth, belongs to 15 year old Maud, married against her wishes to a much older man. The story revolves around a long, brutal winter of siege, when mercenaries, soldiers, and a truly evil monk all scheme to achieve their own ends.

Sadly, author Ariana Franklin died while writing Siege Winter; the book was completed by her daughter. Franklin is also the author of a wonderful series set in medieval Cambridge, where an Italian woman doctor acts as a sort of medical sleuth. The first in that series is Mistress of the Art of Death, and I highly recommend that series.


How We Got to Now

This 2014 book by Steven Johnson is subtitled Six Innovations That Made the Modern World. Those six are each described in chapters which are entitled glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light. Various inventions are recalled under each heading. For example, the chapter on cold discusses the development of refrigeration and the chapter on clean covers advances in public health. The illustrations and photographs by themselves make this book worthy of examination. One of my favorites is the reproduction of the old Clorox ad on page 153. Available in four formats: e-book, digital audiobook, compact disc, and print.


It’s Time For Global Reading Challenges

April is the accumulation of school team work for Global Reading Challenges here at Kalamazoo Public Library.

In March, 4th and 5th graders who participated in the school challenges showed off their skills for reading and remembering facts from 10 specifically selected titles. After reading, studying, and determining their team strategy each team met their challenge with a battle of other teams at their school. Each school then had 1 team, the team with the most points, selected as their school’s representative team that advances to the Branch Global Reading Challenge.

Oshtemo Branch Library will host our Branch Global Reading Challenge on Monday April 20, 2015 at 7 pm in the community room. Three schools will be represented:

  • Razzle-Dazzle Readers from Martin Luther King – Westwood Elementary
  • Radical Readers from Prairie Ridge Elementary
  • Candy Lollipops from Heritage Christian Academy

The teams will again battle for the chance to advance to the City-Wide Challenge. There each branch library, including Central will have one team. Teams will battle one last time for the chance to become the 2015 Global Reading Challenge Champion. Last year’s Challenge (2014) was won by the Crazy Cougars from Prairie Ridge Elementary. Can Oshtemo’s team do it again?

As you can imagine each Battle is a bit more intense. Same 10 books but not the same questions – each battle requires the questions to be more challenging, more specific in nature – just plain harder! If you have not participated by being in a challenge, being a coaching, being the parent of a team member or a family member you should think about coming to watch this great program. You will be amazed at the skill these students have for remembering the smallest detail from the 10 books.

Join us for some fast paced competition!

Visit our website for more information


Guardians of Ga'Hoole

Want to hook a young reader on a fantasy series? Try out the Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. 15 books of classic good vs. evil in a land run by owls. Owlet snatching, moon blinking, chaw building, battle claws, trees, weather, flashbacks, ceremonies, maps, sorcery, polar bears, nest maid snakes….it’s all in this series! Fun fast paced chapters that always end on a cliff hanger. Each book leaves you rushing to get the next one. Readers will find many correlations to human social psychology and politics using real owl science. This has been a fun series to read aloud with my tween. The movie is a fun tie in too, check it out!


I'm afraid you shouldn't read this Dave

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, Oxford University Philosophy Professor Nick Bostrom’s exploration of the complexity of potential consequences of introducing a machine with superhuman intelligence into our world. The book first defines and explores possible paths to an “artificial intelligence” that surpasses human capability, and then goes on to speculate on the, mostly catastrophic, consequences of doing so, and finally discusses ways that humanity could better orchestrate the inevitable development of a super intelligent technology that would not necessarily result in our total subservience to our new machine overlords or lead to a quick and utterly efficient snuffing out of humanity in toto. All of this, while sounding like a complete fantasy, is handled by Bostrom with a seriousness and rigor that forces it out of the realm of sci-fi and into a realization that this is exactly where technology is headed and we better hope that those who are pushing us toward better and better AI are taking heed. The stakes could not possibly be higher.


101 Two-Letter Words

For someone who loves books and reading, and is inflicted with an incurable case of curiosity, working in a library is often both a blessing and a curse. I read hundreds of book reviews every year, I see tons of books every day, and I talk about books with patrons, coworkers, and friends incessantly. On top of those sources, my love of bookstores and the existence of the internet means there are untold book discoveries to be made. All those books lead me to seek out even more books, and there's really no hope I'll ever get to all the titles that catch my eye. Earlier this week, while working in the 400 Dewey range of adult non-fiction (the section for language) I stumbled upon a newer book called 101 Two-Letter Words by musician Stephin Merritt, front man of pop band the Magnetic Fields. It's a little book of short poems, one for each of the two-letter words allowed in Scrabble. I recently started playing Scrabble again, so this book was a happy discovery. Merritt's poems make memorizing the two-letter words easier and more enjoyable. Here are a few poems:

AI
The ai, a threatened three-toed sloth
Found only in Brazil,
munches on leaves and sleeps in trees.
I hope it always will.

QI
Qi, in Chinese medicine:
vitality, or breath;
say it "chee," as in "Say cheese!"
Its opposite is death.

SH
"Sh," says the librarian,
"people are trying to read.
And turn that goddamn cellphone off,
before I make you bleed."

The book is illustrated by Roz Chast, whose graphic memoir Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, appeared on numerous best of 2014 lists and was a National Book Award finalist. 101 Two-Letter Words persuaded me to finally pick up her book and reminded me that the library's digital magazine service, Zinio, now offers access to the New Yorker, which Chast works for as a cartoonist. My to-read pile continues to grow!


A Happily-Ever-After Story

In these times, it’s rare to find a story, whether written for kids or adults, that has an unabashedly “...and they lived happily-ever-after” ending to it. That’s not surprising since we live in a cynical period, where to show any interest in a tale soaked through with unrealistic happiness sometimes feels like an unpardonable sin. Well, I fear that I have committed just such a sin by falling in love with Cat & Dog, a picture book written and illustrated by Michael Foreman. And it feels great!

The story is very simple. Homeless mother cat finds a dry place under a highway bridge to curl up with her three kittens. Next morning, she sniffs out a fish delivery van and tells her youngsters that she will be back soon with breakfast. But the van drives off as soon as the cat jumps inside.

While mom is away on her accidental adventure, a scruffy old dog comes sniffing around and ends up befriending the feline brood. Before long they are all asleep in one cozy heap together. Mom returns with stories of the seaside; fish, fresh salt tinged air and of the very nice van driver who finds her in the back and returns her to her kittens.

At the end of the tale, all agree that they should move to the seaside which, thanks to the good graces of the fish van driver, they then do. The van driver also lets them all move into a shed he owns by the harbor, and together they watch the wonderful aquatic world that lays before them at the end of a pier.

This is a touching story with beautiful watercolor illustrations; (the kittens’ facial expressions are especially endearing). It is a heartwarming, gentle tale of new found friends and salvation, that should appeal to young children and all other human beings willing to temporarily suspend reality in the pursuit of joyful feelings.


Hello, I'm Johnny Cash, by G. Neri

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” is how Johnny started every concert.  J. R. Cash grew up poor and hungry and he never forgot his roots.  When he was three years old he sang for the first time during the family move from southern Arkansas to Dyess, Arkansas, to farm 20 acres of New Deal land.  His momma played a beat up ‘ol guitar and he sang gospel songs.  The sounds of the guitar comforted J.R.   When he was five years old he began listening to the battery powered radio his daddy bought him while his older brothers and sisters helped farm cotton.  J. R. remembered and could sing all the songs he heard and pretty soon the neighbors stopped by to hear him belt out a tune with his tiny voice.  Throughout his childhood J. R. kept singing and helping the family.  His older brother Jack was his best friend and they became spiritual brothers, too, when J. R. accepted God.  Throughout his youth he always dreamed of becoming a famous singer:  “he felt the music calling like a voice from the middle of the earth, full of mystery and power, reaching up and grabbing hold of his heart.”  His brother Roy told him to follow his gut.  “Someday, you’re going to be somebody.  The world’s your apple, and you’re going to peel it.” 

I like the simplicity and style of this biography.  The text layout on each large page is three columns.  Every big page has an important theme in bold print with an illustration on the accompanying page, keeping it inviting and realistic for children.

At the end of the book are pages devoted to Historical Events in Johnny’s Lifetime; More About Johnny Cash; and a Discography of some of his recordings and compilations.

 


Trigger Warning

In the introduction to this short story collection, Neil Gaiman wonders, “Are fictions a safe place?” and then, “Should they be safe places?” Certainly, many of his works explore dark and upsetting themes, and this collection is no different. However, there is also kindness inherent in these stories and some characters even have happy endings. I see this as a reflection of the real world, where there is always a mix of good and bad.  

As a storyteller, Gaiman’s mastery lies in his ability to create an immersive world, which then opens for the reader, encouraging them to follow along on an adventure within that world. His short stories deliver all of that depth and engagement in bite-sized pieces, and can be enjoyed in the little bits of free time life offers, or in one satisfying binge session on a lazy Saturday. This book also includes the background of how each story came to be, what inspired it, and perhaps Gaiman’s underlying purpose or intention. Some readers may prefer to imagine that great works are created by geniuses far removed from society, but I take comfort in the idea that even great authors are just people too.