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Staff Picks: Books

Separated @ birth : a true love story of twin sisters reunited

This book was sooooo up my alley! Separated @ birth is about Anaïs and Sam, two young Korean women adopted and raised in France and New Jersey, respectively. Both have adoption papers from South Korea listing them as single births, so they never had any reason to think they were anything but. Until Anaïs’s friend finds a picture of actress Sam online, and the resemblance cannot be denied. Using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, the two young women with identical birthdates get in touch with each other…then they plan a Skype session, which both are nervous yet eager for. Check out the book to find out how their story continues! If you like this book, you may also like Identical strangers: memoir of twins separated and reunited (which I blogged about a couple years ago).

 


It’s Okay to Read

Children’s author/illustrator Todd Parr will be the guest speaker at the 37th Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar this year. Parr is the author of many wonderful children’s titles; his whimsical artwork is distinctive, and always makes me smile. His books have positive, reassuring messages about diversity, self-confidence, and acceptance. One of my favorites is It’s Okay to Be Different.

There is a Meet the Author event on Thursday, Nov. 13 at 6:30 pm at the Central Library, for all ages (free event, open to the public). The Youth Literature Seminar is Friday, Nov. 14 at KVCC’s Texas Township Campus, from 9 am - 3:30 pm (registration and fee required). Please check the KPL website for more information.

It's Okay to Read


I Love You Just Enough

On the last day of school, Heather is looking forward to a summer helping her dad on their Hazel Ridge Farm. While pulling weeds in a field, she discovers a fuzzy, helpless, and frightened baby duckling, who somehow was separated from its family.

Heather wants to help the duckling by keeping it warm and well fed. Her dad tells her that “...the hardest thing that you will have to do is not to love him too much”. After explaining these words to his daughter, she replies that “ I think I can love him just enough”.

She calls her young charge Mr. Peet due to his “peet, peet, peet” vocalizations, and puts the little wood duck into an empty fish tank with a towel, heat lamp, and a screen cover. She then begins a daily ritual of scooping up dragonfly larvae, crayfish and other little pond dwellers which she feeds to him. Mr. Peet grows and begins to explore the house and the farm, and in time teaches himself how to fly.

Summer ends and Heather returns to her friends at school, while Mr. Peet finds friends of his own. The now grown duck comes to visit less often and Heather misses him greatly, but tearfully announces that he will be okay, “...because I loved him just enough”.

This book was written by Robbyn van Frankenhuyzen, and beautifully illustrated by her husband Gijsbert, (aka Nick), both of whom actually still live at Hazel Ridge Farm in Michigan. This narrative is a true account of the wild duck fostering experiences of one of their two daughters in the 1980’s. Through this and other stories, (many of which are in the KPL collection), they relate the adventures of wildlife rehabilitation and how they have cared for many injured and orphaned animals over the years.

I Love You Just Enough is a gratifying picture book that is just right for sharing with your children as the leaves turn to their fall colors.

Also, you can visit Hazel Ridge Farm online at www.hazelridgefarm.com.


Stories without words

My kindergartener and I recently developed a love for wordless stories. In these books, the plot is driven by the pictures and you and/or your child describe what is happening as you turn the pages. KPL has a lot of these...you can find them in our catalog using the subject heading Stories without words. Some absolute FAVORITES are Journey and Quest, part of a trilogy by Aaron Becker. Journey (a Caldecott Honor Book) begins the trilogy with a bored little girl in a big city who draws a door on her wall and is transported to a magical land and kingdom. Quest continues the trilogy as the girl teams up with a boy she met in Journey, showing in great detail the adventures they have rescuing the king whose peaceful land has been overtaken by evildoers. You can read here how Aaron Becker uses 3D modeling to help build the kingdom, and then fills in the details. His work is so detailed that each time we read the story, we discover new things that we missed all the previous readings (and there are many)! The third one in this series can't come soon enough! We also love author/illustrator Gaëtan Dorémus, especially Coyote Run. Some other authors to note in this genre are Beatrice Rodriguez (Fox and Hen trilogy) and Arthur Geisert (Ice and The giant seed).

 


Oddball Michigan

The subtitle of Oddball Michigan is A Guide to 450 Really Strange Places. I take issue with the contention that the 450 attractions covered are 'really strange,' although I must say the Kalamazoo-area ones would probably qualify. I immediately turned to the local section and found the sites where Elvis was supposedly seen -- years after his death. The other Kalamazoo venue is the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport, listed because it was on this facility's parking lot that comedian Tim Allen was arrested by the Michigan State Police for trying to sell 1.4 pounds of cocaine. Among the other West Michigan sites included are the musical fountain in Grand Haven, Bear Cave in Buchanan, and the WZZM-TV Weatherball in Grand Rapids. For locations that open and close, further information is given -- phone, hours, cost, website, and directions.

 


Tibetan Peach Pie

It is hard to believe that the iconic counter-culture writer Tom Robbins is now an octogenarian. Yet reading his rollicking new memoir, Tibetan Peach Pie, leaves little doubt that it has been a suitably wild and unconventional 82 years. Fans of Robbins, a writer who can eke out more sheer fun and joy in a single sentence than many writers can manage in their whole career, this is a must read. For those unfamiliar with Robbins, it’s never too late to love this guy, but I might suggest that you start with some of his better known novels - Still Life with Woodpecker, Jitterbug Perfume, Even Cowgirls get the Blues, etc. – and then circle back to get the full story on Robbins.


Winger

Last time I wrote about author Andrew Smith, it was to rave about how great his book Grasshopper Jungle was. Well, I'm here to tell you that his follow-up, Winger, is just as good, if not better. Winger is set in a boarding school and follows the misadventures of fourteen year-old Ryan Dean West. Our hero Ryan is a perfectly realized teen dork, all hormones and insecurity, and like Austin, the protagonist of Grasshopper Jungle, Ryan Dean has only a few things on his mind: in this case, sex, rugby, and avoiding trouble .

I'll say right now: this book destroyed me. I've yet to read another author who so completely, utterly understands what being a teenaged boy is actually like. The raging hormones? The desire for acceptance? The confusion, the attitude, the joy? It's all there, so perfectly realized. That would be enough, but then there's the other half of the book, the part that really hits hard. Suffice to say, Mr. Smith does not pull any literary punches. Where other YA authors might have softened the blow, Winger maintains an unfortunate degree of realism in how it depicts violence and also in the reactions of the main characters to that violence. Also like Grasshopper Jungle, this is not a book for everyone unless you enjoy copious swearing, raging teen boy hormones, drinking, fighting, and cartoons. But it's a book everyone should read, if only for a perfect glimpse into the mind of this 14 year-old boy.


My Teacher is a Monster!

Peter Brown authors and illustrates some of the funniest picture books around! His new title this fall is called My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) In the book, Bobby is frustrated with a mildly strict teacher who asks him to "settle down" in class. One day he goes to the park to forget his troubles and his monster of a teacher is sitting on a bench near his favorite spot! This event changes everything and suddenly it seems to Bobby and to Ms. Kirby that everyone one of us can be a monster sometimes.


Guest Cat

The Guest Cat by well known Japanese poet Takashi Hiraide, was originally published in Japan in 2001 and won that country’s prestigious Kiyama Shohei Literary Award. Unfortunately, it has taken thirteen years for it to be translated into English. But it has finally appeared; a gem of a book written in a very poetic style, with a somewhat unsettling ending.

The story’s narrator and his wife are a couple in their mid-thirties, who live and work as freelance copywriters in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo. They are somewhat isolated, feel lonely and their marriage seems to have settled into a rut.

One day a small cat appears in the garden next to their abode. It happens to belong to their neighbors’ son. A simple wooden fence separates the two properties and the cat becomes a frequent visitor.

The feline’s name is Chibi, which means “little one” and she is described as being a jewel of a cat “...with pure white fur mottled with several black blotches”. She walks quietly, rarely making a sound; except that is, when she is made to wear a bell around her neck to announce her comings and goings.

She visits the couple almost daily, gaining entrance to the cottage through a partially opened window; an uninvited yet increasingly welcome, subtle guest who breathes new life into the couple’s otherwise monotone relationship. Little by little, her visits help nurture the formation of a deeper, permanent bond between husband and wife, as well as between them and her.

It’s difficult for me to relive the ending because the resolution is so tenuous and unclear. Read it and judge for yourself. The book is only 136 pages in length. But it is a powerhouse of literary emotion!


Invisible

Invisible by James Patterson. Emmy Dockery is a research assistant for the FBI and thinks she has discovered a serial killer who uses arson to cover his tracks. The problem for Emmy is that the killer is very good at making these house fires look accidental. Also unfortunately for Emmy one of the victims was her twin sister so everyone discounts her theory thinking she is just mourning her sister. She enlists the aid of her ex finance, who is also ex FBI to look into the fires. They eventually find evidence and the hunt is on. The story is eerie and you feel Emmy’s frustrations. The author also lets us hear from the killer. The killer narrates the Graham Chronicles where we hear what the killer is thinking and what happens to a victim. This lets us the reader be on both sides on story, we watch Emmy track and try and hunt the killer down, we also hear from the killer and we are shared insight into the killers thoughts and actions. I downloaded this book from KPL as an mp3 and listened to the story. When the killer was talking, it sounded very pompously and full of self-importance. I took an instant dislike to the killer, but to be fair I wasn’t all that crazy about Emmy. Emmy was not a team player, she ignored Book’s commands and just did whatever she wanted even if that meant she might have endangered fellow agents. I was glad when Bookman finally got fed up with her and denounced her. That was almost more satisfying than them catching the killer. Come on down to KPL and check it out.