Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
I have just finished reading A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen, a true account of the author’s remarkable relationship with his best friend, the feline Bob. At the time of their first meeting, Bowen is a struggling street musician, who has to carry the additional burden of trying to shake off a heroin addiction problem. Day to day survival on the streets of London was his only preoccupation.
One gloomy March evening, James notices a ginger cat curled up on a doormat outside a ground floor flat. Having always had a soft spot for cats, and seeing the same cat on several subsequent occasions, James decides to give him a little loving attention; something which the poor puss seems to crave. Upon closer inspection, the cat appears to be a real beauty with memorable, piercing green eyes. But its obvious that just like James, he too has been somewhat down on his luck of late. His coat is in poor condition, thin with bald patches in places. And one of his back legs, which the cat holds in an awkward manner, is clearly in need of medical attention.
James tries to find the cat’s owner, but no one wishes to claim or take responsibility for him. So James makes up his mind to transport him back to his own threadbare flat. He offers the tom some milk and a bit of tuna mashed up with biscuits which is enthusiastically wolfed down in no time. After the meal, the cat settles in a comfortable spot near the radiator moving only when James goes to bed, whereupon he wraps himself up into a ball by James’ feet. James is pleased with his new company; something he hasn’t had a lot of recently. And the cat seems to enjoy what must be very fine accommodations compared to what he had experienced in recent times, and with the added bonus of a gentle soul and kindred spirit for a flat mate.
At first, James attempts to heal the animal’s abscessed leg with a home remedy. This does not work, and he ends up taking the cat to see a local vet. After paying twenty two pounds for the visit out of the total thirty he has to his name, he decides to name the cat Bob, after a favorite character in the Twin Peaks series called “Killer Bob”. Although James enjoys Bob’s company, he doesn’t want to form a close bond with the feline, because he plans to return him back to the streets after he is healed and neutered.
Following the neutering operation, James tries to implement his original plan to set the tom free, but Bob would have none of that. He becomes James’ shadow, following James wherever he goes, often by sitting on his shoulder and looking out the window of a double-decker bus as they travel around London.
James was a guitar playing busker in Covent Garden. Ordinarily, no one would exchange a look with James, much less try to engage him in conversation. He was just another grubby London panhandler that most people don’t see; a person to be avoided and even shunned. But with Bob by James’ side or on his shoulder, people would stop and broad smiles would break out on their faces. Seeing James in the company of the cat softened him in the eyes of the public. Coins and pounds were dropped into his guitar case, sometimes even before he began playing his guitar. Bob was indeed a charmer and that first day busking with the feline was the most lucrative of James’ career up to that point. With time, people started to bring Bob tidbits of food, homemade knitted sweaters, and even asking to purchase Bob who was definitely not for sale. The cat gave the man back his dignity and identity as well as a chance to get back on life’s right track. In James’ eyes, Bob was truly priceless.
James has now lived with Bob for several years, and they are still going strong. James believes in karma – that what goes around, comes around. And he believes that Bob came into his life at an exact, crucially important moment. Bob became the best mate who guided James towards a different, more productive way of living. He states in the last two lines of the book, “Everybody needs a break, everybody deserves that second chance. Bob and I had taken ours...”
Anyone who loves cats or animals will be drawn to this feel good book, about the power of love between a man and an animal. Bob is one remarkable cat who did save James’ life. This read will put a smile on your face and maybe produce a few tears of joy as well.
Long live Bob, James and the human/animal spirit!
Follow Street Cat Bob on Twitter, Facebook, and his blog.
A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life
How is climate change affecting wildlife? That's the question A Warmer World considers. Of course there are many more questions around climate change that could be at the top of human civilization's priority list. How will climate change affect low-lying coastal communities? How will climate change affect the availability of fresh water? How will climate change affect the availability of food for humans? Since climate change will affect children to a greater extent than it will affect people who are adults now, it makes sense for parents and caregivers to educate our children about what's happening and why. Children and animals have this in common: they didn't create this problem but will need to adapt to it.
A Warmer World
Today while maintaining the shelves to the high standard of orderliness to which you have become accustomed, I found this book: Killer librarian by Mary Lou Kirwin, and I immediately wanted to read it. However, duty called (sadly, my duties do not include dropping everything to read every fun book I run across while at work) and I am adding yet another title to the list. This happens a lot, and the list is long. I plan to check this out some day when I want a quick and easy read, as it looks to be the sort of cozy mystery to curl up with on a lazy afternoon, and finish by bedtime with no fear of nightmares.
While I was listening to a Sunday news program and looking at today’s Sunday newspaper both brought to my attention that on this Tuesday (10/8/2013), Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, I Am Malala will be released. You will remember that one year ago, Malala was shot by the Taliban.
Masked Taliban gunmen boarded her school bus and shot her in the head and neck. Malala was targeted for her activism. She spoke out about education for girls and against the Taliban faction that controls many parts of Pakistan. The Taliban believe that girls and women should be restricted to their home to serve their husbands and family. Malala’s father started and ran the girls school that she attended.
When Malala was 11 years old, she started speaking out for girls’ education. She gave speeches and wrote blogs for the British media. Malala wrote about the war around her between the Pakistani military and the Taliban. She was supposed to be silenced by the gunmen. But Malala lived and she is sharing her story through her recently published book.
All this reminded me of a book I read earlier this year by Deborah Ellis. My Name is Parvana, is the sequel to the book, The Breadwinner.
In My Name is Parvana, Parvana is now fifteen. She remembers the horrors of the last 4 years of her life. She remembers her struggle to survive while she is separated from her family, her home and the life she had known. This story picks up with Parvana being reunited with her Mother and sisters. They have been living in a village where her Mother has finally been able to open a school for girls. Attending school has been Parvana’s dream but her dream doesn’t last. Her story tells of the hardships they all face when starting the school, trying to keep the school running and the girls safe when the war in Afghanistan is far from over. Both the girls and the school are targeted and Parvana’s story is not unlike Malala’s. Both girls’ show unbelievable strength and courage. Life is hard and sometimes it is so hard you cannot understand how either of these young girls carry on and survive.
My Name Is Parvana, is a story that will long stay with you. It is such a strong story, you will be reminded of these brave young women often. Both books, The Breadwinner and My Name is Parvana should be on your reading list.
My Name is Parvana
The best picture books are written for everyone, child to adult. Rosie Revere Engineer is a book that all ages will enjoy. I picked it up on a whim this summer because I thought it looked like another great title encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). That's a topic close to my heart. I recently sat down to read it to my preschooler and I got a little teary-eyed. This is a book that kids will love for it's great rhymes and charming story. But it goes so much deeper than that.
Rosie Revere Engineer is for anyone who has tried and failed and tried again. It's for anyone who likes to make stuff. It's a wonderful book for encouraging girls (or any child) to be anything they want to be, including makers, scientists, and engineers. It's so good for all of us to be reminded that the best things we make often take multiple tries to get right.
For more great titles encouraging girls to be smart, confident, and courageous, check out the booklists on the A Mighty Girl website. We have many of their suggested titles at KPL!
Rosie Revere Engineer
All a book needs is the word pizza, and it will be on my list to read. The author/illustrator duo from Dragons Love Tacos is back with another scrumptious tale; this time involving a funny raccoon that shares my love of pizza. In Secret Pizza Party we follow a raccoon on his quest to eat his favorite food. Raccoon loves pizza so much, he thinks it could be art, I totally agree. I recently had the chance to read this book in a local 2nd grade classroom. They loved it! Broom-bots, secret handshakes, parties, pizza and fun, all wrapped up in a great book. Lots of hands went up after the reading with eager children waiting to tell me that they too love pizza. One insightful reader even said the book had a “Dick Tracy” feel. Check it out, grab a pizza and enjoy!
Secret Pizza Party
“A dark night. Fox breaks into the henhouse. He reaches in. He grabs a chicken!!! He stuffs it in his pocket. Fox runs!”
Uh oh. When fox gets home and pulls that chicken out of his pocket he gets a big surprise. Outfoxed has comical illustrations that add a hilarious angle to this picture book.
Last month in this spot I wrote about This Is Not My Hat, the 2013 J. Klassen book that won the Caldecott Award. I had seen a picture of the cover in The New York Times Book Review. Even though I don't fall into the recommended age group of 4-8 years, I wanted to read more by Mr. Klassen. Checking the KPL catalog, I discovered I Want My Hat Back. This one, written two years earlier in 2011, is about a bear who lost his hat but, after conversations with lots of other animals, remembers that he had seen it on a rabbit and recovers it. Both text and illustrations make this pleasant reading for children (and others such as myself who might enjoy taking a three-minute vacation from their usual reading patterns).
I want my hat back
Do you have small children who are fascinated by different kinds of vehicles? Are they ready to learn to count? If so, this highly original, very well designed book was made just for them.
Night Light by Nicholas Blechman presents numbers one through ten in a series of riddles asking the young reader to identify what vehicle might possess the number of lights depicted on a totally blacked out page. For example, “2 lights, hovering in flight?” The lights are seen through die cut holes in the opposing page. As that page is turned, a very vibrantly colored scene is revealed depicting the vehicle in question, in this case a flying helicopter. And the holes through which the “lights” were seen revert to ....
Well, let’s just leave those surprises for when you see the book on your own!
Visually appealing and wonderful crafted from beginning to end, I just loved this minute volume. It is certain to shine some brightness into any little one’s day!
1. The Tolstoy Connection: After reading The Kingdom of God is Within You, he admired the late Leo Tolstoy who became a radical Christian of non-violence and love. Indeed, Gandhi started a community that was named after Tolstoy. Gandhi also read Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and was very interested in the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.
2. He was obsessed with making clothes. Not only to be self-reliant, but as a way to free India from the British textile industry.
3. He had a guilt-complex about sex. Imagine the very young Gandhi at his father’s death bed. Lust, he says, pulled him away to his 13-year-old wife. His father dies as he indulges the pleasures of the flesh. He was not there at the most important, most sacred moment of his father’s life. This haunts him his entire life. Of course this doesn’t fully explain why he took an oath of celibacy (apparently his wife was okay with that), or why he would sleep next to young women simply to “test” his faith, or why he abstained from alcohol, drugs, fancy dress, fancy food, fancy everything. It was a religious virtue for him, a tradition he got from the Gita and the Gospels. He loved disciplining his body; fasting made him giddy.
4. He was a Christian. Well, actually he was a Hindu, Christian, Moslem, Jew, etc—a religious pluralist. “The Sermon on the Mount went straight to my heart,” he said. But he was very partial to the teachings of Jesus, so much so that his fellow Hindus would accuse him of being a secret Christian (they were missing the whole point obviously). In the mud hut he lived in, he had one thing on the wall: a picture of Jesus that said “He is our Peace.”
5. At times, he was not a very good husband and father. A lot of this has to do with the fact that he was forced to marry at a very young age. He was controlling, jealous, and cruel. He left his family for long periods of time, both for professional and spiritual pursuits (many religious figures have this issue unfortunately). He was a task-master, raised the bar way too high for his sons, and treated them just like everybody else in terms of affection. His eldest son became a drunk that would slander his father in the papers. Yet he loved them all, just as he loved all Indians, all people. Just as he even loved the person who shot him in the chest three times, as he gasped his last breath: “Oh, God.”
And that’s the whole point of Gandhi; it's not about the flaws and pecedillos, it’s what you already know about Gandhi. Like Jesus, Mother Theresa, and St. Francis of Assisi, he really loved people as much as he possibly could. That's his legacy.
Gandhi the man, his people, and the empire