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Staff Picks: Books

What Elephants Know

What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein is an engrossing read that has garnered effusive praise from numerous reviewers including animal advocate Jane Goodall. It has also won the South Asia Book Award. Dinerstein is a wildlife scientist currently serving as the director of biodiversity at RESOLVE, an organization devoted to wildlife preservation solutions. Earlier in his professional career he spent a great deal of time in Nepal, studying both elephants and tigers. Both Nepal and these two particular species are central to this novel.

It is told in first person by the narrator, Nandu,, who survives being abandoned in the Nepalese jungle by being cared for by a pack of wild dogs or dholes. He is rescued by an old man , Subba-sahib, the owner of an elephant stable used by the king for tiger hunt expeditions. Nandu comes to see the old man as his father and a sweet protective female elephant, Devi Kali, as his mother.

The book's main focus is on Nandu, now age twelve,who is very fond of animals and treats them all with respect.By saving a tigress during a royal hunt, Nandu brings upon himself both praise from the king and scorn from his entourage. The latter hatch a plot to close down Nandu's father's elephant stable, but Nandu tries to save the day with a plan of his own.

This book is a quick-paced fun informative read for all animal lovers from fourth graders to adults.I'ts just that good and that important.

The Kalamazoo Public Library is sponsoring a visit by author Dinerstein scheduled in mid October, not to be missed.


ONE BABY BUNNY WITH TICKLISH EARS SO FUNNY

Tickle My Ears is a very sweet and simple interactive board book for toddlers. Young readers help a little rabbit prepare for bed by getting him into his pajamas, fluffing his pillow, tucking him in, etc.

A book with expressive, irresistible illustrations and words by Jorg Muhle, it is meant to be read and reread for the delight of every young child.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of our very smart bunny named Patrick, who lived in our household about seven years . He died in late April from kidney failure at the age of ten. Patrick, you will never be forgotten!


TIDY TO A FAULT

Author and Illustrator Emily Gravett has done it again! In "Tidy", she introduces us to Pete the Badger, who happens to be a cleanaholic. Pete was born to clean, scour, tidy up anything and everything; a daunting task if one lives in a forest. No tidying challenge is too big for Pete and he soon gets carried away resulting in a disaster for the forest and its inhabitants.

Luckily, Pete and his friends set things right and Pete learns a valuable life  lesson. Too much of a good thing may not be good after all!

This rhyming book is pure fun and the illustrations are delightful. It also effectively delivers a subtle message about preserving the environment. After all, as the saying goes "you don't know what you've got 'till its gone".


Dewey the Library Cat

I always thought library cats only existed in myths, until I read this book about Dewey Readmore Books, the library cat who had lived in the Spencer Public Library in Iowa for 19 years. 

Dewey was left in the library's drop box one cold winter night, when the temperature was only minus 15 degrees outside. Since then he had become the king in the library. He brought light and laughter into the little town. Patrons went to the library just to see him and spend time with him. He had attracted media from all over the world. 

I enjoyed reading this book as the author Vicki Myron, former director of the Spencer Public Library, shared how Dewey comforted her during her life's biggest challenges. I thought about how we all have different difficulties in life, but when we look back, most of the time we would see the small blessings surrounded us. 


Animal Cuteness Overload

Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World In Poetry and Pictures by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore , with captivating poetry by Newbery Award winning author Kwame Alexander, observes the natural beauty, diversity and fragility of the animal world.

This mesmerizing and amazing book features more than forty unique full-color animal photographs accompanied by lively haikus, each set against a solid black or white page. The message here is simple: it's steadfast focus is on the conservation of the "natural" in the planet we all live on.

Although officially a children's book, this brilliant collaboration between photos and text will certainly please anyone interested in nature and the animals that inhabit it.


Olivia's Birds

Olivia's Birds: Saving the Gulf was published in 2011 when its author and illustrator, Olivia Bouler, was just 11 years old. When Olivia learned of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, she offered to donate her paintings of birds to anyone who donated money to the Audubon Society; she helped to raise over $150,000 for recovery efforts. The book offers interesting facts about birds, but what really stands out are Olivia's beautiful illustrations. Her book also includes kid-friendly tips on how to preserve our planet.

 


For the Love of Bunnies and Books

Bunny's Book Club by Annie Silvestro is all about a Bunny's love of books! It all starts one day when he happens to hear a librarian reading outside to local kids. Bunny realizes right away that books could take him to faraway places where he can experience adventure and excitement!

When summer ends, story time moves inside the library, a place that Bunny didn't think he was allowed to enter. But one night his longing for books gets the better of him, and he decides to venture over to the library. But alas it is locked! What to do? Being an ingenious rabbit, he leaps at the bar of the book return, lands inside the slot and through it into the confines of the library itself. He gets very excited seeing all the books that are available. Bunny spends the night exploring the various sections of the building, picking up tomes of interest along the way. With a towering stack of books, he makes his way back to his burrow ready to read his newly found treasures. This behavior becomes a habit, and he returns night after night. Pretty soon he invites some of his animal buddies to join him in exploring the wonderful world of books. Somehow, all the animals are able to fit through the book return, even Bear but only after a good deal of squeezing and wriggling.

One particular evening, all the animals are so immersed in their book finds inside the library, that they don't notice or hear a librarian arriving to work early. Not knowing what to expect, Bunny and his friends are delighted that she points out that the library has strict rules and the first rule of business is that "every book lover must have one of these"- a library card. Each animal receives a shiny, new card allowing them to borrow books legitimately, as long as they are returned.

Back inside the confines of Bunny's home, they inaugurate Bunny's Book Club as proud founding members.

This is a truly whimsical story with lively and attractive illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, that is sure to please kids and even adults. It's very pro-library, pro-books, and pro-book club to boot. What's there not to like?

Although, I own a pet bunny named Patrick, adopted from the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary on St. Patrick's day six years ago, he is not much into books or reading. Being only four and one-half pounds, he makes up for his small stature with a very big assertive personality. He also happens to be very smart and as a result, he rules the roost in our house that he shares with three large male cats. Basically,whatever Patrick wants he eventually gets by manipulating both cats and humans who cohabit  in our house. In the past five or six months, nine year old Patrick or Patricio, as we sometimes fondly call him, has become quite cat-like in his behavior and tastes. He started to use the cats' litter box, sleeps in their cat beds, likes to sneak in a few cat kibbles for a snack and actively seeks out the cats for play time. He hasn't eaten Timothy Hay for years now and instead has trained his humans to purchase fresh greens for him three times a week. His favorites are cilantro,parsley, mint, and the super food for both humans and apparently bunnies- kale!

As my husband is fond of saying in referring to him, "What a guy!"

 

 

 

 


Feline Piano Composer and Player

Based on a true story, Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed by Leslea Newman with illustrations by Amy June Bates is a real winner for both music lovers and cat enthusiasts.

The book introduces us to Moshe Cotel, a composer for the piano who lives in a very busy and loud city. But far from it being a distraction, Moshe uses the urban noise as the starting off point for his numerous compositions.

One day, while on his usual afternoon walk around the neighborhood, he hears the forlorn "mew" of a tiny, lost kitten. He picks up the black and white tyke, names her Ketzel, and brings her back to his apartment.

Shortly thereafter, a letter arrives in the mailbox from the Paris New Music Review announcing a piano competition contest with one stipulation: No piece may be longer than sixty seconds!

Moshe exclaims that creating a musical work of such brevity is impossible, so he places the letter aside, not giving it another thought. On the other hand, the next day he decides to give it a try. From the outset, he is completely stymied by the task. Whatever he starts, he cannot finish. He takes his failures so hard that he temporarily stops playing the piano.

One day Ketzel creeps across the piano keys with all four paws much to Moshe's auditory delight. He proclaims Ketzel to be a musical genius who has composed the unbelievable: A piece for piano with a distinct beginning, middle and end that lasts only twenty-one seconds! So he names the solo composition "Piece for Piano: Four Paws", and sends it off to the contest judges.

A few weeks later, he receives a letter saying that although he didn't win a prize, the submitted work does merit a certificate of special mention, which comes with an invitation to attend a concert where the piece will be played.

Moshe sneaks Ketzel into the concert hall in his vest pocket and every time the young pianist chosen to perform the work mentions Ketzel by name, the kitten responds with a loud, emphatic MEOW!

Animals are forbidden from entering the concert hall but after Moshe reveals that Ketzel is the actual composer of the piece, both are allowed to remain. Several encores later, "Piece for Piano:Four Paws" turns into musical history.

Ketzel becomes quite famous and receives a royalty check in the amount of nineteen dollars and seventy-two cents which purchases many cans of yummy cat food.

An engaging tale, wonderfully reminiscent of Nora, the piano playing cat of YouTube fame!

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Rocky, a wonderful cat companion of one of my colleagues, Keith.

 

 


Snowman Goes From Being Lonely to Being Perfect With a Little Love and New Friends

The Most Perfect Snowman, written and delightfully illustrated by Chris Britt, is about a simple,lonely snowman named Drift, who has arms made out of sticks and a nose and mouth made of coal.

He dreams of wearing some splendid items of clothing like a hat, scarf, mittens and of possessing a pointed carrot nose. like so many other more stylish snowmen, who would often ridicule his plain looks. 

One day three children come upon Drift and much to his delight share with him a scarf, hat, mittens as well as a pointy carrot nose. Upon donning his new togs, the kids proclaim him to be a perfect snowman and all spend the rest of the afternoon in fun play.

Once darkness begins to set in, the kids say goodbye and head home.During the night ,a blustery blizzard blows most of Drift's clothes away. All is not lost because he befriends a scared, cold and hungry tiny bunny who asks for his help to survive. Sure enough, Drift gives the bunny his scarf for warmth  and his carrot nose to relieve his hunger. With these acts of kindness and generosity, he proves that he truly is the most perfect snowman!

 


Oliver and Ollie

Although the book, Oliver the Cat Who Saved Christmas: The Tale of a Little Cat with a Big Heart by Sheila Norton is a work of adult fiction, it nevertheless reads like a true story. This despite the fact that the narrator is the main feline character himself. Set in the English countryside, it's a heartwarming tale of an orange young cat who at the start of the volume leads the good life with his best friend George., who owns the village pub called The Forester's Arms.

One night after last call, a fire breaks out in the pub which destroys the establishment and turns Oliver's entire world upside down. During the mayhem and confusion of the conflagration, he is separated from George. Over the course of a few episodes, he has brushes with danger, is adopted by other humans more than once, considerably brightens the life of one reclusive girl he meets, and in the end..., well you better read it for yourself.

This story is told in Oliver's own voice displaying the feline perspective. All in all, Oliver is a very special cat who seems to bring happiness and good cheer wherever he goes, and to all he meets.

My husband and I are also proud owners of a cat named Oliver; Ollie for short. We found him seven or so years ago while taking a walk on a college campus near some tennis courts. Although we were never certain of this, it appeared as if he had been thrown from a car sometime ago. My husband spotted the little grey animal that at first sight looked like a dead baby possum. Upon closer inspection and the creature's sudden but slight head movement he realized that what he had in front of him was a very dirty, exhausted kitten , fighting to stay alive. After retrieving a cat carrier from home, we drove the kitten to the local cat hospital. There, the veterinarian told us that our foundling would probably not have survived another twenty-four hours if we hadn't gotten to him, since he was very dehydrated and hadn't had a meal in days.

While being treated at the vet's, he ate voraciously and drank lots of water. After close to two weeks, he was ready for a good new home. Since I visited him daily at the clinic, I grew very fond of this cat who just also happened to be a very determined talker. He seemed to want to tell me every detail of what terrible plight had befallen him and I fell in love with the little guy. After convincing my husband that our family was the only one for this kitten, we named him Ollie and he joined our other two cats and bunny.

Ollie is a very special cat; he enjoys gabbing with us every chance he gets and is a real sweetheart.

Happy holidays to all!