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Staff Picks: Books


Swoosh  Crackle  Chug  Beep --

These are a few of the onomatopoeia words that imitate sounds associated with the objects or actions referred to in this children's book called Snow Sounds (An Onomatopoeic Story) by author & illustrator David A. Johnson. I was pleased to find he adds this definition to the outside back cover. This is one of those delightful random picks that I spotted based on the eye-catching artwork. The 30 pages of watercolor art take us on a journey starting with the hush of snowfall as child and cat snore and purr sleepily the morning of December 23. The story goes back and forth from inside the house to what’s happening outside the house. As the first county plow clears a main road it is still very dark outside and the artist depicts the quiet early morning with muted and speckled blues and grays. It is his use of white as with the headlights, house windows, the tree with lights in the front yard and, of course, the snow that makes the scenes and the progression of morning come alive. Eventually the paths are all cleared and it’s time to get on the bus for school. Mom rushes out to her son getting on the bus as he’s forgotten to take a little gift to school with him. A big smile on his face, it looks like it's going to be a good day. The last page reveals the gift but I think the gift is really for us. Grin grin.


Snow Sounds


The sub-genre of science fiction known as Steampunk seems like such a rich environment to write in, it hardly needs anything more to make it even better. That hasn't stopped Scott Westerfeld from doing just that, however. Westerfeld's new teen novel Leviathan takes the brass, gears, and steam and adds on an assortment of biological weapons to create an world as exciting as it is bizarre.

Leviathan sets up an alternate history that, at first glance, seems very much like our own. On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated, setting off a chain of events that eventually leads to the First World War. So far, pretty similar- but in Leviathan's universe, the warring factions are split between the mechanized Clankers and the flesh-and-blood Darwinists. Naturally, the names are a giveaway to the types of technology each side prefers. The Clankers build hulking steam-powered war machines, which vary in size from a small car(bristling with machine guns) to a walking aircraft carrier. On the other side, the Darwinists prefer to use genetic engineering to create their biological weapons such as the title creature, a blimp-sized mixture of whale, jellyfish, lizards, and all sorts of other creatures into a living flying fortress. Westerfeld is no stranger to biological tinkering, having examined similar themes with his Uglies series, and his descriptions of the Darwinist creations are particularly effective (and, it must be said, somewhat revolting). The dual storyline splits between Alek, a fictional son of the Archduke's who escapes from Austria in the nick of time; and Deryn, a British girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to join the Darwinist air force. When the two sides meet in the middle of the Swiss Alps, Westerfeld expertly merges the two storylines and manages to keep the story moving forward at an explosive pace. The first in a four-part series, Leviathan easily leaves readers wanting more and will appeal to all teen sci-fi fans.



My 2009 Favorite

The book that meant the most to me this year was actually first published in 1992.

When my father was dying of lung cancer last spring, it seemed like every book I touched had something to do with serious illness and/or dying, even when there was nothing in the description to warn me death might be part of the contents. At first I resisted. I'd stop reading a book if I even sniffed sadness or death. After a while, I gave into it, figuring maybe I needed a way to process my grief, and to know that I wasn't alone in this experience of supporting a loved one to the other side.

About that time, a friend told me about Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs and Communications of the Dying, by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley. Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. Written by two hospice nurses who have witnessed the dying process of many patients with terminal illness, Final Gifts describes how dying people can develop a sense of what is happening to them, communicate this to their loved ones and take control of how and when they go. Callanan and Kelley give several case histories to illustrate what they describe, and the book reads easily. It helped me approach Dad’s dying experience with a broader spiritual understanding, more hope and less confusion. It also gave me the courage to keep trying to communicate with him, when what he said was often confusing, and after he became unable to talk with us. I recommend Final Gifts to anyone with a loved one who has (or had) a terminal illness. 


Final Gifts: Understanding the special awareness

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help

One of my Best of 2009 titles is The Help , a debut novel by Kathryn Stockett. This historical fiction novel takes place during the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s and is an exploration of the southern culture of black maids raising the children in white families. There are 3 narrators. Eugenia is a naive white girl, a budding social activist who is home from college with a journalism degree. She doesn't subscribe to the racist attitudes that surround her and she decides to write a book about the experiences of maids in the community. Abileen is a black maid who has raised 17 white children and shares her experiences with Eugenia, and Minny, also a maid, is a sassy tell-it-like-it-is backtalker who constantly loses jobs.

This book offers a unique point-of-view perspective. The 1960s is a free South but still has the conditions of black servitude a century after the Civil War. It reveals the power of white women who trust black maids to raise their children yet despise them and can control their lives-even ruin them. This is also a story that runs the full gamut of emotions without being melodramatic. It is one of that small group of books you read where you get to the end of the book and you don't want it to end. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will thoroughly enjoy this book.


The Help

Niagara Falls Setting

The Day the Falls Stood Still is an epic love story in one sense. It is set in the Niagara Falls area during World War I, and centers on a family who has fallen on hard times, a disgraced father, and a resulting tragedy.

The setting, however, is the “real” story to me. It is loosely based on a historical figure and details the history of the falls during the beginning of hydro-electrical power. It outlines the struggle between those wanting to preserve the falls, the environmentalists of the day, and those wanting to harness the falls for electricity. The argument for development is based on progress and jobs in a depressed economy, along with industrial greed.

This first novel by Cathy Buchanan is a satisfying combination of history and a good, almost old fashioned, family story set against the backdrop of Niagara Falls.


The Day the Falls Stood Still


Olive Kitteridge

Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge is a "novel in stories". It is in fact, a series of 13 stories. The novel is set in Crosby, Maine a similar Northeast setting as Strout's other titles Abide With Me and Amy and Isabelle. Olive is a junior high teacher who lives in Crosby with her husband, Greg a pharmacist, and son, Christopher. Not all the stories focus on Olive and her life as they are centered on the town of Crosby, but she is the link. We accompany Olive through close to 30 years as she struggles through this thing we call life and all its challenges with love, bad communication, aging, raising children, depression, lonliness, and loss.

This is a novel about how we think life is going to be and then the harsh realilties of what really plays out. It asks the questions do we ever really know someone and do we ever really know ourselves? Strout's mastery is in how she writes about and through the layers of human emotions and interpersonal relationships, about the universal message of what it is to be deeply human in all its messy imperfections. Short stories are something readers either love or hate. Either way, I encourage you to try this book as it keeps you reading into the next and the next story. Olive Kitteridge is another one of my Best Fiction of 2009 titles!


Olive Kitteridge

Last Minute Shopping Ideas

Of course, the best and most economical way to enjoy these wonderful nonfiction books would be to use your library card (or buy one for a non-resident user) but if you're engaged in some last minute holiday shopping, try these for the friend or family member who loves to read books about history, science, cooking, philosophy, current events, memoir, or poetry.


The Dawn of the Color Photograph by David Okuefuna



Heroic Measures

I read this novel several weeks ago.  Some books are pretty much gone from your mind as soon as the last page is read.  However, "Heroic Measures: a Novel" by Jill Ciment is one of those books that I find myself thinking about still.

The action is telescoped into a long winter weekend in New York City, and the plot is simple.  Alex and Ruth Cohen, a couple in their 70's, have set up an open house to try and sell their apartment, where they have lived for all 45 years of their married life,  Ruth is a retired English teacher, and Alex an artist, whose current project is illuminating the pages of their fairly lengthy FBI files from years ago.  Childless, Ruth and Alex have an aging dachshund named Dorothy, whose legs suddenly won't function, and Dorothy requires immediate veterinary attention.  At about the same time, a tanker truck jackknifes in the Midtown tunnel, and speculation grows that it's a terrorist plot to blow up the tunnel and create havoc in the city.

Alex and Ruth set out on foot with Dorothy to reach the animal clinic, in a city snarled in traffic because of the tanker truck stuck in the tunnel. Residents are afraid and unsure, despite(or possible because of) ongoing sensational TV coverage. The apartment open house goes forward, with a variety of potential buyers parading through.

Various subplots run parallel to one another, weaving intricately together to show many different points of view.  The story has humor, which sounds amazing given the serious plot elements, and it has wonderful, unforgettable characters.

This is a quick read, a jewel in a small package. I'll be searching out more books by this author.


Heroic Measures


Digging up the past!

 In Stillwater, Mississippi, the much beloved Reverend Lee Barker has been missing for 19 years. Some people say he just got in his car and drove away. But most of the townspeople suspect that his widow and stepchildren murdered him and buried his body somewhere on the farm. Why would they suspect Grace? She would have only been 13 years old! How could she have had anything to do with it? They also suspect his gold digging widow, who, after all, was not good enough for the righteous reverend. And then there was Clay, the rebellious teenager, who now carries a big gun and waves a big fist trying to keep people from digging up the past.

Well, I don’t want to give too much away! Dead Silence is the first book in Brenda Novak’s trilogy. Dead Giveaway and Dead Right completes the series.


Dead Silence



You Can Hear It!

More and more, books themselves are more than just books. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Can You Hear It? is a book with a CD in which works of music are paired with works of visual art in ways that offer the opportunity to enjoy each work more fully. The Hiroshige print Chrysanthemums, which features a hovering bee, illuminates a recording of Flight of the Bumblebee. A movement from Copland’s Billy the Kid accompanies a Frederic Remington painting. The text of Can You Hear It? invites the reader/listener to look for elements in the works of art and, at the same time, to listen for particular motives or allusions within the sound recordings. Listen for a bit of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” within Saint-Saëns’s “Fossils” from The Carnival of the Animals. That piece of music is offered in juxtaposition with The Calavera of Cupid by José Guadalupe Posada. The end result is that both works are expanded.

Can You Hear It? is a little bit Music and Make Believe, a little bit art appreciation, and a lot of interesting fun. You’ll hear the familiar and, most likely, something new. The sailor/composer Rimsky-Korsakov experienced keys as colors. The key of C for him was white (not surprising, I suppose, if you look at the piano keyboard) while B major was a “gloomy dark blue with a steel shine”. Synesthetic or not, there’s a certain purity in listening to music without including any visual programming. You can paint your own pictures in your mind. On the other hand, since many people use music as a kind of background dressing anyway, there’s a kind of potentially rewarding discipline in choosing the visual foreground in a very intentional way. Either road you choose, you'll find lots of good material here.


Can You Hear It?

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Although author Abraham Verghese has written a number of nonfiction titles, Cutting for Stone  is his debut fiction novel. Dr. Verghese, a physician living in the United States, was actually born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where part of this novel takes place. Cutting for Stone is a compelling novel about what is broken- family ties, sibling relationships, and trust. It is a sweeping epic-type story from India, to Ethiopia and New York. A good portion of the story is narrated by Marion the identical twin of brother Shiva. The boys were born from a secret union of Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a beautiful Indiana nun, and British surgeon Thomas Stone.

Dr. Verghese's has great insight into the medical world and his impeccable research comes through in all aspects of this novel. As he writes about Ethiopia and its culture, he will draw you in to this exotic place and setting. The story of this family grips you with the terrible hardness of life with its twists and turns as these twins face the past, present and future figuring out what family, destiny, and love really mean. It is a fascinating coming-of-age, coming-to-terms-with-life page turning read, and one of my Best of 2009 titles.


Cutting for Stone

Rough Country A Virgil Flowers Mystery

Another Virgil Flowers mystery. John Sandford seems to have exhausted his Lucas Davenport character is now using Virgil Flowers as the main character. Virgil is hard nosed like Davenport but is also a hippie and has a collection of T-Shirts sporting various 80's bands and he always winds up sleeping with one of the women he encounters. In this mystery Virgil is off fishing and gets a call to that a woman has been shot at a nearby resort. The resort caters to lesbians and a lot of other sexual things go on. Course this is an area that Virgil excels in and all the women desire him with his band tshirt and long blonde hair. He does solve the murder but really it's more reading about his interactions that trying to guess who did it.  


Rough Country

Fired Up

The girl with the dragon tatto, who played with fire, Lisbeth Salander, is an unlikely and in some ways unlikable heroine. She’s also unforgettable, as are the first two installments of the “millennium trilogy” in which she appears. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Swedish author, Steig Larrson, have redefined the intelligent page-turner/thriller genre, at least for me.

Salander, a diminutive, anti-social, computer hacking wizard, has emerged from an abusive childhood with a rage that keeps her untrusting and elusive. Larsson pairs her with Mikhael Blomkvist, a magazine publisher whose penchant for investigative reporting embroils him in Stockholm’s underbelly and thrusts him to the brink of personal and professional disaster. With nothing in common and linked only by a business arrangement, Salander and Blomkvist find a toxic chemistry and a quirky loyalty that endures through nearly 1,000 pages of racing plot twists. Dark secrets, missing persons, murder, corporate greed, perversion, retaliation and retribution, among other action elements, leave the reader breathless.

Steig Larsson died unexpectedly at fifty shortly after submitting all three manuscripts to his publisher. In an article in the December, 2009 issue of Vanity Fair, “The Author Who Played with Fire,” Christopher Hitchens suggests the possibility of foul play. Larsson was a “crusading journalist” and a known anti-Nazi, and he made some sinister discoveries while researching his trio of books. Even Hitchens concedes there isn’t much overt evidence, but the specter of murder is intriguing and fits somehow with the series’ tone. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest will be released in the US next May. I and many other Larsson fans may not be able to wait. Perhaps we'll pursue the paperback import that appears to be available now!


The Girl Who Played with Fire

Does Twilight Really Mean Dusk?

Having just recently finished Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, I’m finding the concept of vampirism and changes and things quite fascinating. One thing I learned was that a group of either related or unrelated vampires living together is called a coven. I always thought that the term coven referred only to witches. A quick check of Webster’s Dictionary cleared that one up quickly. So, then I learned that “coven” in its Latin form, “convenire” became the source of today’s English word “convene.”

That being said, Meyer’s four books, beginning with Twilight, and moving through New Moon and Eclipse and then Breaking Dawn, comprise a tale of romance beyond any human expectation or experience. The story of Bella Swan’s move to a small town in Washington state to live with her father and her almost immediate love affair with Edward Cullen has spawned a movie or two, bumper stickers (I drive like a Cullen), dolls, sticker books…you name it, and it’s probably out there.

Author Meyer will definitely make her mark on you when you read her latest series. I only wish I could tell you the whole story here! But, that would spoil it for you! Take the step, read what nearly all ‘Tweens, Teens and Young Adults are reading: the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer.



The Power of Literacy

My recent interest in the Civil War era found me thinking about an African American literature class I took in college, and how much of an impact the slave narrative of Frederick Douglass had on me (and especially Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man). Not only does this tale put the reader directly into the shoes and plight of the American slave, but teaches us the power of words, the power of language, and the power of knowledge--things that Douglass cherished and used to gain his freedom and indentity:

"Whilst I was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, I had gained from my master. Though conscious of the difficulty of learning without a teacher, I set out with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trouble, to learn how to read" (Chapter 5).

Douglass became one of the most powerful orators of his time.


Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave

Immigration Reform

Before the most recent presidential election, immigration reform was a hot topic. Now it seems to have taken a back seat to economic stimulus and healthcare reform. Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America explores the issues surrounding immigration reform by telling the story of four girls with ties to Mexico growing up in Denver, Colorado. Two of them are U.S. citizens and two are in the U.S. illegally.

Helen Thorpe, a journalist and wife of Denver’s Mayor John Hickenlooper, follows these girls lives from their high school years up through graduation from college, showing how immigration policy affects their lives differently. Hearing the stories of these four smart, resourceful, highly-motivated Latinas is a great way to brush up on the immigration debate that will surely return.


Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America

The Year of the Flood

I really enjoyed Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale  a number of years ago so I was excited that her newest title The Year of the Flood  was recently published.  The Year of the Flood is a dystopian novel like Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake, another novel of Atwood's. She likes to make her readers work and whether you think of Atwood's writings as adventure romance, or science fiction there is another way to look at them. What if? What if a world perceived as science fiction becomes reality? How does one survive catastrophic isolation? What happens when society breaks down?

In The Year of the Flood, the enviroment has been decimated, and nature has become bizarre genetic-spliced life forms. The three narrators in this book Ren, Toby, and Adam One are associated with God's Gardeners, a group which appeared in Oryx and Crake. There has been a "waterless flood" and these three characters have been islolated and do not know who or what has survived. Each must venture out of isolation in order to survive. Atwood had created an overarching story to make this book unique in that it can be read as a companion or parallel book to Oryx and Crake. If you have never read any of Atwood's titles, you can jump right in with The Year of the Flood and then go back to check out Oryx and Crake.  They are thought-provoking reads!


The Year of the Flood


Literary Resolutions for 2010

In addition to my personal resolutions for 2010, I’ve developed a strategic plan, albeit sans a rigidly enforced timeline, for crossing out book titles that have been languishing on my ever-growing “I’ll get to that one at some point before I die” list. Here is a small sampling of my literary resolutions for 2010:

  •  Read The Known World by E.P. Jones.
  • Avoid books where discourse analysis, intertextuality, heteroglossia, and dialectical materialism appear multiple times. Been there, done that.
  • Finish The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen…a book started and stopped, started and stopped, started and stopped too many times to recall.
  • Stop judging books by their covers, unless that cover is adorned with Fabio.
  • Polish off the greatest trilogy of the 20th Century: Samuel Beckett’s  Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable.
  • Read at least one book considered part of the Science Fiction canon. I'll take suggestions.
  • Compose an entire Mexican dinner while following directions from a cookbook owned by the library. Rick Bayless maybe?
  • Read at least one book from one of author David Long’s many lists.
  • Tackle the well-received Collected Stories of Lydia Davis.
  • And of course, eagerly anticipate and then read Don Delillo’s forthcoming book Point Omega.


The Known World

Breaking News

Martin Fletcher is an NBC news foreign correspondent. He began covering the news when first hired as a cameraman in 1970. His career has spanned 4 decades and sent him all over the world, but most notably the Middle East. He is currently stationed in Tel Aviv, where he has been since 1982.

Breaking News is the story of Fletchers attempt to cover the people behind the headline making events. He takes us into wars, tragedies, and natural disasters, all the while helping us to see that these are not just sound bites but the lives and stories of very real people. One of the most gut-wrenching stories in the book is his account of filming a Somali refuge dying of starvation. He filmed her last minutes on earth, and he shares how conflicted he was to be a voyeur at such a moment, but how he hoped that this story might make the world take notice of the tragedy of the famine. This book is a must read for students of history or broadcast journalism majors, but it is just as much an important read for anyone who watches the nightly news and just flips the remote. Fletcher calls you to watch and listen to the news with a different perspective and makes you care about people half-way around the world through his thought-provoking and mesmerizing writing style.


Breaking News – Martin Fletcher


 The first two paragraphs of a short essay published on by Bernard Beckett, the author of Genesis, were intriguing enough to prompt me to give this slim science fiction novella a look:

“When I tire of my computer it's considered quite acceptable, environmental issues aside, for me to bin it, bury it, or rip out its innards and convert the shell into a fish bowl. It is considered less acceptable for me to do any of these things to my still functioning cat. And that feels much as it should be.

Yet my computer routinely beats me at chess, while my cat struggles to use a cat door. Whatever we believe sets the animal apart from the machine, with each passing year it becomes harder to believe that processing power is the defining factor. And that's the apparently harmless thought at the heart of Genesis.”

While intriguing, the premise of Genesis is nevertheless well trodden sci-fi fodder – the nature of consciousness, man vs sentient machine, distant future dystopian societies – yet the pacing and style of the novel, set in the far off future and narrated by Anax, a historian and potential applicant to “The Academy”, provide a fresh take on some well worn but always absorbing concepts.



See’s Shanghai Girls

One of the books I particularly enjoyed reading this year was Lisa See's Shanghai Girls. See's two previous books Snow Flower and the Secret Fan  and Peony in Love  focus on China, its culture, and women and she continues these themes in her newest title. Shanghai Girls is an historical fiction book which takes place from 1937-1957. It begins in Shanghai where sisters Pearl and May are having the time of their lives. They are modern, beautiful, carefree, independent calendar girls. That is until their father sells them to pay a debt and war begins. Their struggle to escape and survive takes them on a life changing journey to California where they experience Angel Island. 

See is a master at place and setting and her novels have a grace about them as you are transported to another world and culture. Her overarching subject in her writing is the exploration of the way woment live in other cultures, and women's destinies which are out of their control. She particularly shines in her explorations of relationships between women within the constructs of society and her strength is in writing a universal story. Shanghai Girls also presents a unique WWII perspective from the point-of-view of Chinese immigrants living in the U.S. during the war. If you are taking a look back at 2009 to see what books you missed reading, I highly recommend this title. It's one of my top picks in the best of 2009.


Shanghi Girls

Talking Head on a Bike

Bicycle Diaries is a travelogue bound with a genuine curiosity to explain the dynamics of human relations by mapping both the metaphysics and the concrete environments of some of the world’s most famous cities from the perch of a bicycle seat. Most of Byrne's reflections, compiled over years of touring the world with his band (Byrne famously fronted the band The Talking Heads), are quirky meditations on why and how cities are organized the way they are. Byrne’s interests are eclectic and show a breadth of both historical knowledge and depth of analysis not often found from inside the inner thoughts of a punk rock troubadour. Don’t be surprised at how easy it is to travel along with Byrne as he translates the language of the city into a fresh and smart examination of what makes us human. Byrne suggests the ways in which cities evolve are often concrete reflections about what and who we value as a society. His attentive gaze focuses on the subtleties and nuances of how cities are transformed by various forces including market economics, gentrification and the transformative influence of artists.

Lastly, he discusses what particular cities do well and what others miserably fail at in providing for a useful public transportation infrastructure or bike-friendly accommodations. It should come as no surprise that he advocates for the establishment of more bicycle lanes and city routes friendly to bike commuters. Having lived in New York City for over thirty years, some of Bryne's most interesting musings center around the ways that New York City has changed over the years. Overall, there's enough in Bicycle Diaries for the bicycle enthusiast, the urban theorist, the Talking Heads fan, and the generally curious.


Bicycle Diaries



Energetic illustrations perfectly complement this fun story of a summer thunderstorm.  Ann Arbor author Shutta Crum's expressive words lead us from the hot stillness of a summer day through stormy drama and right up to the perfect surprise at the end.  It's been fun to follow Shutta's career as she's moved from working as a children's librarian to becoming a respected writer for kids.  Browse our shelves for more of her terrific books!




Safe Passage

I love finding little hidden jewels in our nonfiction collection! One of these marvelous jewels is a book entitled Safe Passage: the remarkable true story of two sisters who rescued Jews from the Nazis. This is a reprint of a 1950 memoir entitled “We Followed Our Stars” and it is the story of Ida Cook and her sister Louise as they recount the efforts they made to save Jews from Nazi concentration camps. Passionate Opera fans, they became involved with the suffering of Jewish friends in Europe on frequent forays from their home in London to the continent to listen to Opera performances. During the course of the war, they made many trips, using forged documents, to save Jews – and listen to Opera! They often smuggled jewels out of Europe to fund the release of Jews, and even purchased a flat in London to house recently saved Jews.

One of the really unique aspects of this book is the charming, optimistic, no-big-deal attitude of the sisters, who felt that the opportunity life gave them to travel to Europe and savor the Opera was as much a blessing to them, as was their unwavering efforts to save as many Jews from the concentration camps as they possibly could. In 1965 they were honored as Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Israel. This book is a delightful read!


Safe Passage

Mistaken Identity

Mistaken Identity; two families, one survivor, unwavering hope written by Don and Susie VanRyn and Newell, Colleen & Whitney Cerak with Mark Tabb, is the true story about Laura VanRyn of Grand Rapids, Michigan and Whitney Cerak of Gaylord, Michigan, two young college students who attended Taylor University in Indiana.  Their story is both tragic and redemptive.  On April 26, 2006, Whitney and Laura were traveling, along with other students and staff in two university vans, back to campus after working at a banquet when, suddently, one of the vans was struck by a semitrailor that crossed over the center median of I-69 near the Marion, Indiana, exit.  "The van was carrying five students and four food services employees.  Of the nine people in the van, five had died."  Laura was taken to Parkview Hospital in Ft. Wayne, Indiana...unconscious, in critical condition, broken bones and a very serious head injury.  Unfortunately, Whitney was pronounced dead.

The events following this tragic day for the Cerak family and the VanRyn family are tremendous loss and eventual triumph.  It is emotional, tender, loving, prayerful, but most of all, overflowing with their unwavering faith and strength in Jesus Christ.  The book is well written; it takes the reader on a chronologically documented reality of their circumstances and the struggles faced by the victims' families, friends, communities, university, and medical personnel.

Perhaps you remember the national media events of this story:  after five weeks of hospitalization and therapy it was discovered that Laura was the student who died in the accident and Whitney is the student who survived, a consequence of mistaken identity.  The powerful ordeal of faith and forgiveness is highly recommended not only because of its geographic proximity to Kalamazoo, but also because of the tremendous love, inspiration and respect gleaned for the VanRyn and Cerak families.


Mistaken Identity


Science vs. Religion, or Science and Religion?

This is a must-read for anyone confused or curious about the historical relationship between science and religion. For most, especially modern Americans, the accepted story is that these two cherished disciplines have always been at war, and still are; that the rise of one is the fall of the other; that they are a divorced couple who should  never have been married in the first place. In an era of Richard Dawkins and the Intelligent Design movement, this story is hard not to accept.

The editor and contributor of this collection of essays calls this story "the greatest myth in the history of science and religion," argues that it is propagandist in nature, recognizes that several sub-myths are related to it; and proceeds to "dispel the hoary myths that continue to pass as historical truths" in chronological order, beginning with the murder of Hypatia and ending with creationism in America. As you will read, some are partly true, some completely false, and many simply need to be qualified and amended.

Nowadays it may be hard to find a general-audience book that is not biased to either science or religion, but with a twenty-five numbered cast of specialists on science and/or religion who convincingly have "no...scientific or theological axes to grind" (half are agnostic/atheist, the other being members of various religions), I think we have found one.

Galileo Goes to Jail


Fantastic Mr. Fox

I am really looking forward to seeing the movie Fantastic Mr. Fox, both because I’m a fan of director Wes Anderson and a fan of stop-motion animation.  The movie is based on the book of the same title by Roald Dahl, author of such children’s classics as The Witches and Matilda.  I imagine that Wes Anderson’s penchant for quirky characters and minutely-detailed  sets will pair well with Roald Dahl’s odd sense of humor.  My only question is: should I read the book or see the movie first?



Fantastic Mr. Fox

Lit: A Memoir

Mary Karr described her Texas childhood in The Liar’s Club, her adolescence in Cherry (also available in audiobook form), and now her descent into alcoholism, her stay at the “Mental Marriott,” and her resurrection in Lit.

I thought I had read enough memoirs of a hard life, dysfunctional family, drugs, and alcohol, but since I liked her writing in the first two memoirs, I wanted to know what followed.

This is more than a story of alcoholism and the effects on a marriage. It is about coming to terms with family, a needy self, a spiritual longing, and rediscovering your writing voice.

She is a masterful storyteller of her fight for survival during her late teen, college, early career, and motherhood years. This one stands alone or as the third in the memoir series.


Lit: A Memoir

Bargains Galore!?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a bargain just as much as the next guy, but all of the consumer anticipation and retailer hype over the looming Black Friday shopping extravaganza has me considering my recent reading of Ellen Ruppel Shell’s book Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture and taking a closer look at how much things cost and why they cost that much. In the book, Shell, a contributing editor for The Atlantic, examines the history and intricate market forces that go into the price we pay for the stuff that we buy. Sounds a bit dry, I know, but Shell’s well researched and thorough examination of price is anything but, and follows the winding historic path that has led from a time when goods were scarce and quality was paramount to our current marketplace where, in Shell’s assessment, quality means very little, price is king, and profit margins have grown so incredibly thin that innovation is a luxury that very few companies can afford. My reading tastes don’t often veer into the economics section of the library, but I was glad that they did for this title.


Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture

The Lightning Thief

After being asked several times recently for “The Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan, I realized that generally I was being asked for the book by the same audience- 4th-6th grade boys. So I decided to read it, to see what makes this title (first in the series) so popular.

I was immediately caught up in the fast paced story, which is a blend of fantasy, myth, and monsters. It’s a winning combination. Twelve year old Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of school (again). How can he stand by and watch his scrawny best friend be bullied, or not defend himself when his algebra teacher turns herself into a monster and tries to kill him? It turns out that Percy is the son of Poseidon and a mortal woman. As he discovers his heritage, he loses his mother and finds himself in real danger, along with his new friends Grover, a satyr, and Annabelle, a daughter of Athena. The Greek gods are still very much alive and well in the modern world. They are feuding over Zeus’ lost thunderbolt, and Percy and his  friends depart on a quest across America to retrieve it. Along the way, in addition to the non-stop action, issues are also raised about trust, family, and the environment. 

Now I know why kids have been requesting these fast moving, humorous adventure stories- (what one reviewer called “an adventure quest with a hip edge.” ) They’re good reads.


The Lightning Thief

One of the Best of 2009

Pat Tillman was a famous, professional football player who enlisted in an elite troop of army rangers after the September 11th attacks. Tillman sacrificed a large salary that would have made him millions and committed to a three year stint that would ultimately take him to both Iraq and Afghanistan. That is what most Americans knew of Pat Tillman prior to learning about his death in 2004.

Tillman’s death atop a rugged mountainside in Khost Province, a region of Afghanistan near the Pakistani border, was more than just a routine death by enemy soldiers but rather a troubling story of friendly fire that unfolded amidst a military cover-up. Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, takes the reader alongside Tillman as he emerges from the crude stereotypes often rendered of professional athletes and shown to be a dynamic subject full of humane depth and internal contradictions. As much as the book focuses on Tillman's rise to football fame and the scandal surrounding his death, lay history readers will glean great insights about the country of Afghanistan, its recent history, and the often under discussed topic of wartime fratricide.

Join me and several other librarians on December 3rd at 6:30pm as we talk about some of the best books of 2009. This program will provide helpful lists of recently published books, albums and movies that might be great holiday gifts.


Where Men Win Glory: the odyssey of pat tillman

The Day-Glo Brothers Brighten Up Our Lives

I’m always happy to discover wonder in subjects that I know little about – like visual art. Ellen Stoll Walsh’s  Mouse Magic makes color theory fun and offers readers the chance to experience how we perceive color. Complementary colors, the ones opposite each other on the color wheel, appear to jump around when juxtaposed. Cool!

The last year has seen some other entries into the “picture books about color and the way we perceive it” mini-genre. An Eye for Color  is the story of Josef Albers. After immigrating to the United States in the early 1930s, Albers spent many years systematically studying color relationships until he produced Interaction of Color, a now classic text that demonstrates what he learned in his disciplined explorations. We perceive what we can objectively say is the same color in very different ways depending on the environment the color is situated.

The Day-Glo Brothers is the surprisingly interesting story of how Bob and Joe Switzer developed Day-Glo paint. I know, I know - it doesn’t sound that interesting. Why check this book out? Because Chris Barton shares a great piece of American industrial history and a compelling family story. From one brother’s desire to light up his magic show and the other brother’s need to make money to pay his medical bills after a workplace accident, the Switzers developed something we see every day – those shockingly bright greens, oranges and yellows. Brighten up your own day with picture books at the library.


The Day-Glo brothers: The true story of Bob and Joe Switzer's bright ideas and brand-new colors

Stand the Storm

Gabriel Coats, his mother, Sewing Annie, his fiancée, Mary, and his sister, Ellen buy their freedom after great suffering, and open a tailor shop and laundry in Washington, DC, just before the Civil War. Not surprisingly, their master tries to regain control of his former property and the family is forced to pay for their “freedom” again and again.

Stand the Storm is an uplifting love story of men and women attempting to free themselves from slavery. The strength of the story lies in the character development and the exploration of their relationships with each other during a time when former slaves fought for their lives almost on a daily basis.

I realize I knew little about slaves who had bought their freedom before the Civil War. This is a compelling story of injustice and sadness, yet also with joy and hope.


Stand the Storm

All the World

This is the time of year when folks in the book business start thinking about "Best of . .. " lists.  What are the best novels?  Best cookbooks?  Best graphic novels?  Best books to share with your dad?

Here's one from my list of Best Picture Books . .. it's called All the World, written by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee.  From morning to night, we follow a group of related people in their neighborhood.  Spare, poetic language leaves room for the detailed, softly-colored illustrations. 

Take a look and see if it deserves a place on your "Best of 2009" list.



All the World

Yes to History, Maybe to Romance

I found Gifts of War, Mackenzie Ford’s first novel, an enjoyable historical fiction/romance that combined a World War I history lesson (including an amazing “you are there” description of the “Christmas Truce”) with interesting romantic intrigue. It’s a moral tale, exploring unintended consequences without being too preachy.  Ever hear of an “Alice band?” If not, it’s something you’ll be compelled to check out on Wikipedia as you read the book.  I enjoyed the book, but prefer tidy, though not necessarily always happy endings – you’ll understand if you read it. I also found it somewhat difficult to like the main characters. See what you think. I would definitely try another book by this author. Despite my reservations I thought this was an intriguing story.


Gifts of War

It’s an Aardvark-eat-turtle World!

It’s amazing how many hot topics Paula Danziger brings up in It’s an Aardvark-eat-turtle World! This 132 paged easy-to-read teen book is full of social issues such as divorce, remarriage, step-sisterhood/step-parenting, interracial marriage and more. Rosie tells the story of how her mother married her best friend’s dad. Exciting, huh? Well, no! From then on Rosie’s and Phoebe’s life is never the same. The two best friends could no longer stand each other. What was cute before becomes a big pain. Rosie sees now when she finally has her “real family” that it’s not her “dream family”. She and Phoebe went from “best friends, best sisters and best roommates” to thinking family and friendship takes too much work. But they later decide that it’s all worth it.

Some of Paula Danziger’s other books at KPL are The Cat Ate My GymsuitThe Divorce Express, and This Place Has No Atmosphere. 

 It’s an Aardvark-eat-turtle World



When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me has it all: great characters, a wonderful puzzle at its core, a great ending, and tons of heart. Twelve-year-old New Yorker Miranda is a latchkey child; a term that Miranda’s mom says “reminds her of dungeons and must have been invited by someone strict and awful with an unlimited childcare budget”. In the evening, Miranda’s mom is practicing to be a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid. Miranda and her friend Sal have been friends since daycare. Sal stops hanging out with her after he is randomly punched in the gut by a bigger kid on the way home from school. Miranda knows from the mysterious notes she begins to receive that her friend may be in danger.

In kind of the same kind of way that The Higher Power of Lucky references Are You My Mother?, When You Reach Me references A Wrinkle in Time. Both of the books in the books are a bit like characters and are, for a time, like security blankets for the characters that carry them around. And speaking of the Newbery, I wouldn’t be surprised if When You Reach Me walks the hall and snatches the trophy. It’s the story of friendship and much more.


When You Reach Me

The Road Home

The author of Three Day Road, Joseph Boyden, teaches writing at the University of New Orleans, where my brother is also on the faculty. Boyden's Canadian heritage comes through dramatically in this first novel as does his knowledge of World War I trench warfare, acquired through research and his grandfather's first hand accounts of battle. Three Day Road braids the stories of Native Canadian friends, Xavier Bird and Elijah Wiskeyjack, who enlist in the Canadian Army and become snipers on the western front, and an elder aunt, Niska, who retrieves her broken nephew at war's end. The journey by canoe to their northern wilderness village, Moose Factory, is the metaphorical three day road of the title. As the canoe glides through calm waters, Xavier and Niska, a prophetic Cree healer, share their wrenching stories in alternating voices and in stark contrast to the peaceful surroundings.  This book brought to mind other favorite novels of war, All Quiet on the Western FrontJohnny Got His GunThe Things They CarriedThe Captain, and Beach Red. The weaving of rich Native cultural traditions into stark scenes of battle, however, offers a fresh telling of timeless tales. Three Day Road won the Books in Canada First Novel Award in 2005 and was a selection of the Today Show Book Club the same year.  In 2006, it was shortlisted for Canada Reads, a unique literary competition sponsored by the CBC. 


Three Day Road

The Help

I have always gravitated toward books set in the sixties, specifically those having to do with the Civil Rights Movement, perhaps because I was at such an impressionable age during that time.  Regardless, I've recently added another to my list of favorites, The Help, a debut novel by Kathryn Stockett.  Set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, the story is told in alternating chapters by two African American maids and the young white woman who has decided to write a book that anonymously chronicles their lives along with those of several other black maids in the city at that time.  Central to their story, for instance, is the irony of being entrusted to care for the children of their employers while at the same time being relegated to use a separate bathroom for fear of diseases thought to be carried by black people.  Strong characters, regrettably accurate accounts of race relations in the South at that time, and good pacing made this an especially captivating and fast read.  I look forward to more by this author.   

The Help


No Future

After reading a New York Times Book Review cover story about the new Margaret Atwood novel, The Year of the Flood, I promptly placed the title on hold and then began reading 2003’s Oryx and Crake which is related to the new one but not necessarily a continuation. I admit that I have not read much of Atwood’s clearly impressive body of work, but I am blown away by the very compelling Oryx and Crake. If you love dystopian/end of the world/speculative fiction as much as I do, or just enjoy first class storytelling, it doesn’t get much better than this environmentally devastated, gene spliced nightmare world that Atwood so vividly imagines.


The Year of the Flood

Female Friendship

I just finished reading two books that center around the theme of the importance of friendship in the lives of women. I listened to The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow and read Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan. Girls is nonfiction that follows eleven childhood friends from Iowa as they mature and grow over forty years. Midwesterners will surely relate to the small-town adventures and tribulations the girls face, as well as the strong bonds created by the close-knit community. Commencement (a novel) begins when four very different girls meet their first year of college and remain friends after graduation. The books' approaches are very different but both succeed in illustrating the tight relationships women have with one another.


The Girls from Ames

Local Authors Nominated for National Book Award

Congratulations and good luck to National Book Award finalists Bonnie Jo Campbell and David Small, both of whom spoke at the library about their newest works, American Salvage (fiction) and Stitches (Young People’s Literature). Award winners will be announced on November 18th.


American Salvage

The Frightened Man

London in the early 1900’s is the setting for the first book  in a promising new series by Kenneth Cameron.  Jack Denton, an American in his fifties, is living in England after moving from the United States. He wrote best selling crime novels in the States, and achieved notoriety there after tragic events in his own life.

Now in England, Jack is approached by a terrified man who claims to have witnessed a murder by Jack the Ripper.  Jack discounts the tale, until a young woman is discovered murdered, and he begins his own investigation.  Scorned by the police and hampered by them as well, he encounters London’s dark side as he tries to uncover the truth.

Well drawn and quirky characters add much to this story, and so do the descriptions of London as a great city in the midst of industrial growth and change.  You can almost feel you are there, walking down a wet, dimly lit alley….


The Frightened Man




A New Voice from No Man’s Land

A refreshingly bold and astute essayist, Eula Biss’ critical inquiries on race relations, globalization and cultural identity have found their way into her recently published and award-winning Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays. Unburdened with academic theorization or political heavy-handedness, these short yet heady pieces are revelatory for their power to penetrate the opaque surfaces of subjects not often discussed with any kind of attentiveness to nuance within the broader, public discourse. Her prose flows with ease and the way in which she ponders the intersections of American culture and history reminds me of the work of another great ruminator, Joan Didion.


Notes from no man's land : American essays

The Problem of Evil

Theistic minded people have wrestled with this question ever since people have started believing in a Deity: why does evil exist? In philosophy, this has been termed the "problem of evil," and formally reads: if a) God is all good, b) God is all powerful, and c) God created the world; then d) why does evil exist in the world?

Is this the best of all possible worlds? Is evil necessary for free will? Can we not understand the transcendent ways of a totally transcendant God? In this book not only does Nadler give us three unique answers to the problem of evil, but he wraps these answers nicely into three philosophical gaints of the 17th Century--LeibnizMalebranche, and Arnauld. We enter not only into a philosophical and theological debate, but into the lives and times of these thinkers.


The Best of All Possible Worlds

Rush Home Road

Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens follows the progress of healing between Sharla Cody, a neglected five-year-old mixed girl, and Addy Shadd, an 80-year-old woman with her own heart-wrenching history.  Their reluctance toward getting to know each other dwindles when the love both of them long for slowly appears as Addy’s story unfolds and Sharla’s mother disappears.  Addy turns Sharla from a malnourished, over-weight child into a respectable healthy girl while recalling her past.

Addy grew up in Rusholme, a Canadian border town settled by runaway slaves in the 1800’s, but the story begins in 1978 in a Chatham, Ontario trailer park.  Intimate details remind her of her rape by a close family friend, a young brother who died, her lover, husband, deceased children, and the many people who betrayed her while historic events like the Underground Railroad, and the Pullman Porter Movement, outline her recollection and reflect some of the hardships suffered.  The author beautifully weaves together all these details into a well-crafted and compassionate story.  The words “rush home” will not only ring in Addy’s ears but in our hearts.


Rush Home Road

Have a Little Faith

Mitch Albom is one of my favorite authors. He is most well-known for his bestseller Tuesdays with Morrie, but he has written many other great books as well. My favorite was The Five People You Meet in Heaven.  Albom is one of those authors who can go from writing fiction to non-fiction with the same great storytelling skills.

Have a Little Faith: a True Story is the nonfiction account of Albom's attempt to get to know his Rabbi, in order to be ready to give his eulogy someday. Over a period of years Albom travels from his home in Detroit to his Rabbi's home in New York.   At the same time Albom develops a relationship with an innercity Detroit pastor who is a reformed drug dealer and has set up a congregation in a decaying abandoned church. The parallels are heartwarming and touching.

This is a book that leaves you feeling like you know Mitch Albom personally. It's inspiring and a great story at the same time.  The kind of work only a man of Albom's talent and skills can pull off.


Have a little faith: a true story


The life of Zora Neale Hurston

In Jump at the Sun on Audiobook Kathleen McGhee-Anderson does an excellent job of conveying the vitality, power and pride of Zora Neale Hurston’s personality. By listening to the audio version I made more of a connection with Zora Neale Hurston. Through Ms. Anderson’s voice I could almost see Zora’s eagerness and determination to live her life her way. But Zora was ahead of her time. The heartbreaks and failures did not seem to dim the light in Ms. Anderson’s voice as she communicated Zora’s spunkiness regardless of her adversities. Listening to Zora Neale Hurston’s story it is hard to understand how someone with her talents, gifts and ambitions died broke and unappreciated. A. P. Porter in the book Jump at the Sun said “Being needy didn’t make her humble.” 


Jump at the Sun

Crazy For the Storm

Norman Ollestad's memoir Crazy For the Storm was the perfect book for my long plane ride over Labor Day weekend, which included seven layover hours.  Ollestad tells the story of how a small charter plane with his dad, his dad's girlfriend, the pilot, and him crashed into the Sierra mountains during a blizzard when he was 11 years old.  He is the only one who survives.  The book alternates between chapters about his harrowing descent of the snow and ice covered mountain and his adventurous life up until that fateful day.  The book is definitely a page-turning thriller, but it is also full of psychological meat, as Ollestad tries to cope with his parents' divorce, his mom's new, sometimes abusive boyfriend, his dad's expectations for him, and being a boy very much thrust into an adult world at an early age. Now come to think of it, maybe reading a book about a plane crash wasn't the perfect thing for a plane ride, but it did keep my interest hour after hour and left me wanting to tell everyone about the book. 


Crazy for the Storm


Census 2010 will be Here Soon...

I always thought statistics were boring, until I started working on the Central library Reference Desk and learned how often people need statistical information.  Our patrons request statistics for such varied reasons as backing up business plans for small business loans, assessing community needs for grant applications, and protesting environmental racism in specific Kalamazoo neighborhoods. 

Some of the helpful resources I’ve discovered include the:

Statistical Abstract of the United States, published annually and detailing nationwide statistics on a wide variety of topics, such as “Out-of-pocket Net prices of Attendance for Undergraduates,” “Number of emergency and transitional beds in homeless assistance systems nationwide,” and “Carbon dioxide emissions;”

County and City Data Book: A Statistical Abstract Supplement, which is useful for identifying local data, and

American FactFinder, an electronic portal to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.

We can thank the U.S. Census Bureau for the availability of many of the stats we provide at the Reference Desk.  Read more about what data the Census collects and how it is used, then learn how data will be collected in the 2010 Census.


Statistical Abstract of the United States

My Kid Likes it and I Do Too

Sometimes, when I’m reading one of the hilarious Horrid Henry books to my daughter and Horrid Henry does something particularly horrid, I just have to exclaim, “Horrid Henry is so Horrid!” And then my daughter says, “I like him.” She was also captivated by Rotten Ralph. Rotten Ralph and Horrid Henry have a lot in common. They’ve both done their part to foil weddings, for instance. There’s something compelling for children in stories about kids (or cats) who are really really bad. Sometimes it’s the way they compare to "normal" kids. Horrid Henry has a brother named Perfect Peter. Peter is sort of the straight man for Henry’s practical jokes and is himself an exaggeration of a goodie two shoes character. When Perfect Peter, who subscribes to Best Boy magazine, tries to get back at Henry, hilarity ensues. Henry really is horrid and his horridness leads him to do things that are way beyond what most kids would do. And kids love it. With illustrations by Tony Ross, you can’t go wrong. These “blue dot” books are a transition from easy reader style books to chapter books for kids who are reading. Many of the books with the blue dot on the spine at KPL also make great read-alouds.  


Horrid Henry


The Graveyard Book

As a children’s librarian, I like to read the new award winners.  So when “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman was announced as the Newbery Award winner for 2009, I was curious to read it, since I’d read his “Coraline”.   (which was  made into a film in 2009).

Set in modern day Britain, “The Graveyard Book” begins with the murder of a toddler’s parents and sister by a methodical killer.  Strong stuff for a children’s book, for certain.  The baby manages to escape, and wanders into a graveyard, where he is taken in by a loving  couple named the Owenses, who have no children.  They are ghosts, and long dead, as are the other inhabitants of the graveyard who help to raise the child over the years.  It turns out that Bod (short for “Nobody”)  was the killer Jack’s  real target, and Jack is still out there, searching.

For older children grades 5 and up, or tween  readers, this is an suspense and action filled story  with ghosts, ghouls, and hints of vampires.


The Graveyard Book

I Couldn’t Do It

Fahrenheit 451 has to be one my all time favorite books.  The concepts and theories proposed in this novel first published in 1953 are fascinating in that they take on a different twist with each new technological advance that happens in our society. Take the seashell or thimble radios presented in the novel, for instance. Who, in the 1950s or even 1960s, would have imagined that MP3 players would have people listening to music, podcasts, and news constantly through earbuds today?! From the irony of Montag’s job to the realities that have come to fruition out of Ray Bradbury’s fiction to Clarisse’s character:  I love this story!

That being said, I thought I’d try the graphic novel version of this story. Never having tried reading a novel presented this way, I figured that trying a story I loved would help me overcome any resistence I had to stories shown as strips of images that resemble comic books. Nope.  Didn’t work. Couldn’t make it through the first 10 pages. I flipped through it a few times but couldn’t manage it. Maybe it was that I chose a story I loved. Or, maybe I just discovered I prefer my own imagination to pre-created pictures instead.


Fahrenheit 451:  The Authorized Adaptation

Renovation DIY

As we’re not Dean Johnson and Robin Hartl, my partner and I required lots of technical advice with our recently completed home renovation. The word “completed” here of course means we’re living with a few loose ends. Renovation by Michael W. Litchfield continues to be a very, very useful resource as we wrap up. Now in its third edition, the book offers information on structural carpentry, masonry, foundations and concrete, electrical wiring and plumbing. While formidable projects involving these subjects are definitely covered in the book, I think they’re best left to the pros. Litchfield, founding editor of Taunton's Fine Homebuilding Magazine also covers drywall, trim carpentry, painting, wall paper, hanging cabinets and more including how to inspect a house. With accessible text and plenty of great photographs of real projects in progress, you get a sense of how complicated a project really is before you jump in. Got a few renovation DIY loose ends around your house? Take a look at more books on “That Old House” in the first floor rotunda this month at the Central Branch library.



The World Book at Your Fingertips

Did you know that KPL subscribes to over 70 databases?  Our databases provide access to information that goes well beyond the walls of the library; information about most anything is available, from engine repair to health issues and everything in between.  You can use the databases in house, but some can even be used at home if you have internet access and a library card.

One of my favorite databases is World Book Online.  You may be familiar with the print encyclopedia, but the electronic version offers a multimedia experience that print version can’t compete with: interactive maps, primary sources, videos, pathfinders, and even a timeline builder make this database worth checking out.  World Book Online has three different versions: Kids, Info Finder, and Reference Center.  The Kids version includes encyclopedia articles, science project how-to’s, maps, and educational games among many other child-friendly research tools.  World Book Info Finder is designed with middle-to-high school aged students in mind; included is a biography center, videos, world newspapers, and current events.  Reference Center is for the adult user with computer tutorials, a citation builder, government information, and many other research tools.  Take a look at it today; you might be surprised what you can find.

If you would like help navigating our databases, stop in at the reference desk or your neighborhood branch for assistance.


World Book


The Family Man

Henry Archer answers the phone one day.  That call, from his hysterical ex-wife, leads him to a reluctant involvement in her widowhood, to the coat-check girl at the hair salon, to his ex-stepdaughter (who is the coat-check girl), to movie star shenanigans, and to a new lover.  Complicated?  Yes.  Funny?  Yes.  Also tender and charming.



The Family Man

The Multitude of Religions

Some people say we are living in a "pluralistic age." What does that mean? Religious pluralism is the view that all religions have some truth to them; that all religions are valid paths to the same transcendent reality. This is one position, among many, to the variety of religious experience.

John Hick's Interpretation of Religion is, in my experience, one of the best arguments for this position. Drawing on a vast knowledge of the major religious traditions and texts, and a relevant philosophical understanding of the distinction between the world of experience and the worldbeyond experience (via Kant), Hick suggests that because religious concepts are beyond experience, it makes sense that they are so different and varied and experienced in different ways.

On a more relevant note, KPL does not have this book; however, KPL does have this book because of the great service we have in MeLCat. See the director Ann's new blog to see how you can stand up for such a crucial service to Michigan libraries.


An Interpretation of Religion

This Week in Science History August 26

Aug. 24, 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius erupted in Italy. The cities Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried in tons of volcanic ash and pumice, and an estimated 20,000 people perished. The cities remained buried for centuries and were incredible archaeological time capsules when they were discovered.

Aug. 24, 2006 Pluto was declassified as a major planet by the International Astronomical Union, the authority on all matter planetary. According to a July 27, 2009 article by Steve Battersby in the NewScientist, after days of arguments at the general assembly of the IAU in Prague delegates voted for a new definition of the term “planet” that excluded Pluto. Pluto was downgraded to a new category of dwarf planet. The decision caused public outrage as astronomers pointed out that only 4 percent of the IAU’s 10,000 members took part in the vote! Many astronomers hope that future discoveries concerning our solar system as well as a better definition of the status of “planet” will bring about greater understanding and a reinstatement of Pluto as a planet.

Aug. 27, 1883 Mount Krakatoa an island volcano in what is now Indonesia erupted. The violent explosions from the eruption destroyed two thirds of the island and huge deadly tsunami waves that swept across the region killing an estimated 36,000 people. The Krakatoa volcanic eruption was one of the largest recorded in history and had a huge global effect. The explosion was heard in Australia and the shock wave was registered by barometers in England. 


Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883


Finger Lickin’ Good (apologies to Kentucky Fried Chicken)

 Finger Lickin Fifteen, the 15th offering from author Janet Evanovich that features the less-than-proficient bond enforcement officer Stephanie Plum, is laugh-out-loud funny!

All of the familiars are back:  Ranger, Lula, Grandma Mazer, Morelli, Connie, and Uncle Vinnie, plus the usual collection of parents, dogs, and others that make up the whirlwind around Stephanie Plum. Evanovich adds more characters, unique to this novel. Stanley Chipotle, of the Chipotle Barbecue Sauce fame, is the first of the unfortunate newbies to lose something important…his head! As in decapitated! Lula witnesses the deed, and becomes a target, a problem that plagues her throughout the story.

With Stanley out of commission, Grandma Mazer, Lula, and Connie band together to “create” their own prize-winning barbecue sauce so that they can enter the contest and WIN a lot of money! Expect the expected: disastrous results with the sauce experiment.  Picture ribs cooked to within an inch of their “lives,” chicken broiled beyond recognition, even to someone with Cajun blackened cooking skills; a blown up barbecue grill…the list goes on!

Some of the review journals think that Evanovich has run her Stephanie Plum character way past her prime. I don’t happen to think so. Finger Lickin’ Fifteen is one of the best Plum tales so far. Be prepared to laugh long and hard at the antics in this one!


Finger Lickin’ Fifteen

Prize-winners abound at KPL!

So, summer’s almost over, and you’ve given up on "beach reading," as the weather seems set on staying cool. Now, you say, you’re looking for some deeper, brain-challenging reads to get in the mind-set for “back to school?”

Have you noticed that you can access lists of award-winning books from KPL’s catalog? For example, you could find the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners, all the way back to The Magnificent Ambersons, by Booth Tarkington, published in 1918 (when this prize was named Pulitzer Prize for the Novel.)  Or choose to place a hold on the most recent winner, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge.

To find your way to the lists, simply go to the catalog, see the lists of award-winners on the left, under “Recommended Reading,” and choose a category. We have all our holdings posted in reverse chronological order. At the bottom of the lists, you’ll see “More recommended reading lists.” Go ahead, click on it, and see how many more categories of award-winning books you can access at your local library!


Olive Kitteridge


Temeraire Series

Adventure on the high seas and action galore in the 18th Century await you.  There is only one catch…Temeraire is a dragon.  Naomi Novik has created an alternate reality where dragons are real.  His Majesty’s Dragon introduces you to Temeraire and from there you are hooked.  History buffs who enjoy the Napoleonic wars will love the tight plotting and believable characters with a slight twist – dragons as Air Corps.  I can’t wait for the next in the series due out in October.    The series in order includes:  His Majesty’s DragonThrone of JadeBlack Powder WarEmpire of Ivory, and Victory of Eagles: a novel of Temeraire.


His Majesty's Dragon



A Truth Seeking Adventure

For me, Siddhartha is one of those books that had a profound effect on me the first time I read it. Hesse is a master of philosophy and religion, both East and West; a master of putting a world-view into a character; and a master at condensed, meaningful prose--he includes everything essential, and leaves out the rest. Siddhartha is the story of a man devoted to seeking truth and wisdom at all costs. He becomes a wanderer. He finds himself contemplating, challenging, and encorporating the eastern philosophy and religion that he is born into; he learns from every mode of life and every person that he comes across. About the human potential, Siddhartha says:

"...the potential Buddha already exists in the sinner; his future is already there. The potential hidden Buddha must be recognized in him, in you, in everybody."

And after all of his searching, we find this lesson:

"Here is a doctrine at which you will laugh. It seems to me, Govinda, that Love is the most important thing in the world. It may be important to great thinkers to examine the world, to explain and despise it. But I think it is only important to love the world, not to despise it, not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration and respect."



Our National Parks

Many incredibly unique and special places in the United States have been preserved through our national parks. The Library currently has a great display about our national parks on the first floor to pique your curiosity. Did you know that there are 58 national parks and 333 national monuments and historic sites in the U.S. (wow)? The birth of the idea of our national parks to preserve, manage, and protect these places and the evolution of the parks system is fascinating to read about, and the Library has many wonderful materials and resources available for you to explore. For instance, check out the library catalog for more information on President Theodore RooseveltJohn Muir, and Gifford Pinchot who were all instrumental in the creation of the national parks. Want some travel information to visit the parks? Check out KPL’s travel collection. Oh, and the Library also has guides and pamphlets for various Michigan National Parks and Forests as well as handbooks and pamphlets for many U.S. National Parks and Forests up in the second floor’s reference shelves. We have the magazine National Parks, too. Maybe once you look into our national parks and reserves, you want to learn more about conservationenvironmentalism, or the United States National Parks Service. Yes, we have information on those topics as well. Oh and FYI, well-known film director Ken Burns has completed a documentary on our national parks titled The National Parks: America’s Best Idea which will be airing in September on PBS and the KPL has an order in place for this also. It looks like a fabulous series. Happy Exploring!  


The National Parks: Our American Landscape


Worlds Deadliest Catch!

I'm a big fan of the TV show "World's Deadliest Catch" - about crab fishing in the Bering Sea.

I love the show for many reasons, not the least of which is that my son is a salmon fisherman in Alaska, fishing in the Bering Sea!  While salmon fishing is not as hazardous as crab fishing, he has still had his brushes with death.

Time Bandit: Two brothers, the Bering Sea, and One of the World's Deadliest Jobs  is a fascinating look at the industry from the fisherman of one of the boats profiled on the TV series. If you have watched the show, than you have seen the authors - Andy and Jonathan Hillstrand - at work.

As he says in the book "On the Bering Sea, every fisherman knows what kills. We understand that, for whatever reason, if we enter the water unprotected, we are dead. A crewman will be irretrievably wounded by hypothermia in four or five minutes,,, the cold will numb his extremities....we are not afraid of the sea; we are terrified of the water."

So if you want to live vicariously the life of a Bering Sea fisherman - than delve into this book and enjoy!


Time Bandit: Two brothers, the Bering Sea, and one of the worlds deadliest jobs

Any Lost Fans?

Fans of the TV series Lost are fanatical not only because the show keeps you constantly guessing and hungry to watch the next episode, but because there are deep philosophical themes  peppered throughout. Who is John Locke, and how does he relate to the 17th century philosopher that heavily influenced our constitution? And then he becomes Jeremy Bentham, founder of utilitarianism, which makes more sense insofar as the character will do anything that the island demands ("Boone was a sacrifice the island demanded"). My favorite, however, is the character Desmond Hume representing David Hume's idea that the self is nothing but a loose connection of memories and sensations. Further, what does Rousseau have to do with the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau? And of course you can't have an epic drama without the age-old struggle between fate and free will, the relationship between faith and reason, and...smoke monsters coming from the forest.


Lost and Philosophy

The Story Sisters

Alice Hoffman’s new book, The Story Sisters, is true to form for the author – mystical and strange with compelling characters and complicated relationships. Their “stories” bump up against reality and the author’s imagery creates a beautiful, haunting, sad tale, but the reader ultimately recognizes the possibility of redemption through love. 

Although I found The Story Sisters a little more difficult to read than some of Hoffman’s other books, it was worth the effort. If you are not familiar with her work and want to try her out you might want to read one of her earlier novels first, try Practical Magic (made into a movie in 1998, starring Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock and Stockard Channing) or Turtle Moon. They are also beautifully written and also intriguing with elements of magic, but are not so dark.


Story Sisters

Amazing Little Guys

Each spring I anticipate the arrival of the first “scout” hummingbird at my feeders. They are such amazing little things – they fly incredibly fast, stop dead in mid-air, travel incredible distances when migrating, are beautiful and seem to be totally fearless.

Now is when the action is hot and heavy at the various feeders (have to provide more than one since they are very territorial) with the addition of the babies who are learning how to survive.

To learn more or see amazing pictures of these little guys, check out our books on hummingbirdsEnjoying Hummingbirds is an especially helpful primer.  If you are intrigued, try visiting It’s a wonderful website where you can learn how to attract, feed, watch, study and track their migration north in the spring.



Enjoying Hummingbirds

This Week in Science History August 12

Aug. 9, 1896 well-known Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget was born. Piaget was recognized as incredibly gifted by the time he was 11 and is famous for his theory of the 4 levels of cognitive development in children. He believed a child goes through 4 separate stages that are universal to all children and that his/her understanding of the world changes as a result of age and experience. The focus of his research was consistently “how does knowledge grow” and he influenced many fields of study.

Aug. 10, 1889 American inventor Charles Brace Darrow was born. Darrow developed the popular board game Monopoly. He issued a patent for the game in December 1935 and assigned it to Parker Brothers who successfully marketed it. How many of us have spent countless hours playing this game trying to land on Park Place and pass Go to get that $200?

Aug. 10, 1846 President James K. Polk signed an Act of Congress establishing the Smithsonian Institution.  The generous benefactor, James Smithson a British scientist, drew up his last will and testament and named his nephew as beneficiary. He stipulated that if his nephew died without heirs, which he did, the estate should go to the United States of America, “to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men”. There were 8 years of sometimes heated debate before this Act of Congress was signed by President Polk.


Monopoly: The World's Most Famous Game--And How It Got That Way



Math Mystery

If you like math mysteries, you might like The Unknowns. The kids in The Unknowns are not from Hyde Park. Diaphanta Smith, known as Lady Di, lives right next to a nuclear power plant in a town named only for its location: Adjacent. “Think of hundreds of beat-up mobile homes next to a power plant. A nothing kind of place…” But Lady Di and her best friend Tom Jones dread going off-island to Tri County Middle School in the fall. Kids from Adjacent get teased a lot. They hope something will happen to end the boredom of summer and to take their minds off starting at a new school. Then they discover that their friend, Ms. Clarke, is missing. But Ms. Clarke, who always helped Lady Di and Tom with their math homework, has left behind some clues in her trailer. The clues lead to other clues as the two solve problems along the way. Corrupt power plant operators, a little geometry, some really capable and interesting characters, and lots of action in the hidden tunnels beneath the surface of the island equal a thrilling good read.


The Unknowns

American Salvage

Kalamazoo writer Bonnie Jo Campbell’s newest book is a collection of short stories titled American Salvage. It’s one of four books published this year by Wayne State University’s new Made in Michigan Writers Series.

American Salvage is thoroughly Michigan. Campbell’s stories are set in and around her Comstock stomping ground. The book’s cover art is a moody photograph by Kalamazoo artist Mary Whalen portending that something bad may be about to happen.

And bad things do happen in Campbell’s stories. The beating of a tow truck driver left for dead in the snow is the subject of “King Cole’s American Salvage.” At her KPL appearance on August 5, the author was asked by a guest why she writes about such tough subjects as methamphetamine abuse, alcoholism and criminal behavior when these stories can be hard to read. Another audience member responded that she appreciated how Campbell addressed grim topics because they provide an honest reflection of society.

Campbell said that as a writer “You cannot otherwise digest these things going on around you. I write about what bothers me most.”

To illustrate how a writer might respond to a grim event, Campbell used “King Cole’s American Salvage.”  The story was based on a real incident that occurred in Comstock. Campbell first read an essay that featured the real names and facts of the incident. Then she read from the short story, explaining that it was her way of exploring the motivations and circumstances of the characters. Campbell’s third treatment of the story showed the driver’s beating distilled into a short and vivid poem.

In its starred review of American Salvage, Booklist said “Campbell’s busted-broke, damaged, and discarded people are rich in longing, valor, forgiveness, and love, and readers themselves will feel salvaged and transformed by this gutsy book’s fierce compassion.”



American Salvage

Now It’s Dark

I am a big fan of the filmmaker David Lynch, whose dark, surreal films are admittedly not everyone’s cup of coffee, but those who respond to his work almost inevitably become Lynch completists and develop a need to know everything they can about where these dark dreamlike works of art come from. So after watching Lynch’s latest film, the somewhat baffling INLAND EMPIRE, I was happy to find Greg Olsen’s exhaustive examination of Lynch and his work Beautiful Dark available through MelCat. For nearly 700 pages, Olson satisfies any Lynch fans need to know with great detail about and interpretation of each of Lynch’s film projects. Olson outlines the ties between Lynch’s artistic and personal lives in a way that gives a very complete picture of Lynch and his unique artistic vision.


Beautiful Dark

This Week in Science History August 5

August 5, 1930 astronaut Neil Armstrong was born. Armstrong was the first U.S. astronaut to walk on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969. After serving as a Navy pilot in the Korean War, he joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (which later became known as NASA) as a civilian test pilot. After his Gemini 8 mission and Apollo 11 missions, he worked as a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Armstrong was also a member of the commission that investigated the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster.

August 6, 1945 the first atomic bomb used in World War II was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The bomb, code-named "Little Boy", was dropped from the U.S. Air Force B-29 bomber, The Enola Gay.

August 7, 1903 archaeologist and anthropologist Louis Leakey was born. Leakey believed that Africa was the most significant area to search for evidence of the origin of humans instead of China or Java.  He and his wife, Mary made many important fossil discoveries during their expeditions to eastern Africa together and were responsible for great advances in the field of anthropology. In 1962, Leakey found fossil remains in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania of Homo habilis which he believed to be the first member of the true human genus as well as the first toolmaker.


The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki



A Rollicking Adventure

Daniel Wallace's third book, Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions, captivated me, as did the film adaptation, Big Fish, directed by Tim Burton. So when Daniel Wallace said Hannah Tinti’s The Good Thief was the best book he’d read in a very long time, and he wished he had written it, I picked up on the endorsement. In order to appreciate Big Fish, the reader/viewer has to suspend disbelief. Elements of the fantastic, woven into The Good Thief, may have held special appeal for Mr. Wallace, but there are multiple reasons to like this book.

It’s an old fashioned adventure tale set in late 19th century New England. Part coming of age story, part gothic yarn, part Victorian odyssey, The Good Thief sports colorful characters, vivid settings and rollicking escapades. Ren is a one-handed, good but wayward twelve year old. He's plucked from St. Anthony’s orphanage by a man claiming to be his long-lost older brother. When the rescuer’s true intentions emerge, Ren must learn to navigate an underworld of scoundrels and con-artists, while seeking the truth about his mysterious past.

Critics have said the writing is reminiscent of Robert Louis Stevenson. Ideally, I think The Good Thief should be read aloud, around a deep woods campfire, encircled by dark shadows and eerie night sounds.

The Good Thief


Seven Keys for Seven Brothers for Seven Locks

Author Paul Haven’s second novel for young readers is titled The Seven Keys of Balabad.  Balabad is a middle-eastern, war-torn nation that is said to have been the birthplace of an international secret society known as the Brotherhood of Arachosia.  Balabad is also the rumored hiding place of the grandest riches in the world; grander ones have never been known, heard of, or seen.

Enter Oliver Finch, a New York City kid whose dad is a journalist for a newspaper; whose mom is an art historian/curator; and whose friends are all back in the Big Apple, while Oliver is stuck in this unfamiliar, odd-customed place with no TV, video games, or pizza.

Oliver does make a couple of friends, and they get involved in an international intrigue that involves the seven keys of Balabad, which originally belonged to the good King Agamon, and each of which was given to one of Agamon’s sons.  The sons were long-ago scattered to all corners of the world, where their descendents remain to this day.  The theft of a 500-year-old carpet, the Secret Carpet of Agamon, begins a recall of each of these seven keys.  Agamon’s relatives are not the generous sort, it seems, and they all want whatever the keys unlock for themselves.

A native carpet-seller, Mr. Hagi, and a couple of other people are kidnapped; Oliver and his friends get involved; and the fun begins!

The Seven Keys of Balabad is a quick read with lots of excitement on each page.  Enjoy!


The Seven Keys of Balabad

The World Is a Very Big Place

Kalamazoo Public Library has many resources with which to find geographic information. Some of my favorites are the online ones, such as the U.S. Board on Geographic Names site provided by the U.S. Geological Survey. Others are good for finding maps, such as MapBlast and MapQuest. There are also many atlases and maps available in print form at the library. One volume I have turned to frequently since learning about it in library school is Merriam-Webster’s Geographic Dictionary, which contains a mass of data on land and water features as well as political entities. When looking for a quick, brief description of a geographic term or place, this dictionary is a good place to start, even at its age of 12 years. I received the second edition of this as a gift in 1973 and still become addicted to it when I pick it up. One entry that recently caught my eye was the one for Lake Char-gog-ga-gogg-man-chaug-gaug-ga-gogg-chau-bu-na-gun-ga-maugg. This is the official name of what is sometimes, and probably more usually called Lake Webster, near Webster in southern Worcester County, Massachusetts.


Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary

Who can they tell?

Learning to Swim: a memoir pulled at my heart strings! All of us would prefer not to have to talk about child abuse. But it is something that is eating away at our society and we can not ignore it.

The reality is that child abuse is a prevailing monster that grows with silence. Ann Turner does an excellent job of conveying a child’s anxiety of wanting to tell and the fear of telling.

This memoir might help a child speak the unspoken words.

Find more info at the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute and Childhelp.


Learning to Swim: a memoir

This Week in Science History July 29

July 28, 1907 American manufacturer and inventor of Tupperware, Earl S. Tupper was born. Tupper struck out on his own in 1938 after working for a DuPont owned plastics plant in Massachusetts. He purchased some used molding machines and tried making products with DuPont’s polyethylene but found it was too rigid for his ideas. Using samples without the company’s fillers (because they made the plastic too rigid) and the concept of how a paint can lid works, Tupper created a plastic bowl that “burped” out some of the air in it to provide an airtight and watertight seal. He patented his seal in 1949. He tried selling his products in department stores which didn’t go very well when, Brownie Wise, who had been selling Stanley Home Products at house parties teamed up with him to sell his Tupperware at house parties. It was a very successful venture for both Tupper and Wise. Tupper sold the business in 1958 for $16 million.

July 28, 1858 fingerprints are used as a means of identification for the first time. William James Herschel, a magistrate in Nuddea, India requested that a local businessman make a handprint on the back of a contract. Herschel’s idea with the print was to frighten the businessman from repudiating his signature. He noted after collecting a number of these that the impressions varied and that individual identification could be made with them.

July 30, 1863 American inventor and automobile manufacturer, Henry Ford, was born in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford incorporated the Ford Motor Company in 1903, and by 1908 was manufacturing the reliable economical Model T. He revolutionized the automobile industry with his use of precision manufactured parts designed to be standardized and interchangeable and his use of the continuously moving assembly line. Half of all cars being driven in America by 1918 were Model T’s.


The People's Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century





The Codes Behind the Craft

We know that analysis of many great works of art has revealed they employ what’s known as the “golden mean,” a geometric ratio said to produce aesthetically pleasing results. Well, what ratios lead to delicious results?

Michael Ruhlman new book Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking uncovers the relationships that define basic recipes.

The book doesn’t provide do-this-or-else directions, nor does it offer The Ultimate version of anything. Instead, Ratio shows the basic governing relationships of a recipe so that you can see how to go from cake to muffins to crepes, and then wing it.

Each section in Ratio covers a different food group and includes recipes as well as opportunities for variation. Doughs and batters are first. The ratio for pie dough is 3 parts flour :  2 parts fat : 1 part water. The book’s basic pie dough recipe is known as pate brisee, the all-purpose classic. Repeatedly folding and rolling this dough will increase its number of layers and make it perform like puff pastry. Adding sugar and it’s a pate sucree to be used in some sweet pies and tarts.

Other sections are devoted to stocks; meat-related ratios such as sausages, mousseline and brine; fat-based sauces (mayonnaise, vinaigrette, hollandaise); and custards. There’s a recipe for standard mayonnaise as well as an “instant” version using an immersion blender instead of a whisk.

Ruhlman says that “Ratios liberate you — when you know the ratio and some basic techniques, then you can really start to cook.” Though his book contains recipes, he likes to think of it as “an anti-recipe book, a book that teaches you and frees you from the need to follow.”



The Terminator and Philosophy

Many of us loved the Terminator series that was recently finished with Terminator: Salvation (with the possibly exception of Terminator 3). We knew these films had some hints of philosophical themes, especially time travel and artificial intelligence; but what Terminator and Philosophy shows us is that it has many more deep issues than we were aware, ranging from morality, marxism, and fate, to Descartes, CamusHobbes and Hegel.

What is a person? What makes a person different from other living things?... from machines? Could the machines in Terminator be considered people? From the T101's perspective (Arnauld), he seems just as human as Sara and John Conner. After all, he can do almost anything they can. This resembles a theory of personhood brought forth by Alan Turing, who thought that if a machine could "trick" you into thinking it was a person, then the machine is a person. From Sara's perspective, machines are nothing but soulless fakers that carry out pre-determined commands. This resembles Rene Descartes' idea that a person is defined by having a soul, or "inner principle" of thought, which has private conscious experiences. And John Conner seems to hold a middle position of understanding, shown by his constant attempts at teaching the T101 how to be a person.

Is it right to commit a wrong for the greater good?...or are there some things you simply cannot do? Here we explore the moral theories of Benthem and Mill's utilitarianism and Kant's deontology. Sara, especially in her plot to kill Dyson and Skynet, agrees with utilitarianism that sometimes the "end justifies the means." But John, like a good Kantian, sees that murder is never justified--"you just can't go around killing people!".

Among other themes are the Marxist idea that technology, when only backed by greed and profit, will lead to the conclusion of capitalism and the destruction of our race; and the conflict over fate and free will, and whether the future can actually be changed; and Hegel's idea that history is determined by the unfolding of the "Gist," or mind.


Terminator and Philosophy

Frankie Landau-Banks

Inspired by P.G. Wodehouse's love of wordplay and her Cities, Art, and Protest class (where she learned the importance of the concept of a panopticon), Frankie shakes the foundation on which her boarding school, Alabaster, is set.

Frankie Landau-Banks is the 15-year old main character in a very fun teen novel entitled The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.  Her family calls her Bunny Rabbit which is one of the reasons for her insistence that she can make her own decisions and that she is NOT to be underestimated!  The other is her boyfriend, Matthew Livingston and his friends:  The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. 

Frankie's desire to be one of the "boys"--not in a tomboy sort of way, but in a girls-are-equal-to-boys-and-clubs-should-have-no-exclusionary-rules way--is what gets her mind reeling and her adrenaline flowing.  She's definitely not a glass ceiling type of girl!  But, despite her creativity and determination in breaking the good ol' boy barrier, her teenage emotions for her boyfriend surface.  What results is a wild ride with Frankie and her schemes! 

I'm not sure whether I ended up really, really liking Frankie or being irritated by her.  Admire, maybe?  Envy?  I'm not sure.  Of course, I'm judging her with the eyes of an adult rather than a teenager.  Having read this book 25 years ago would definitely have changed my perspective of her fiesty personality.  But, maybe its a good thing I read it now;  I can't imagine the trouble I might have found for myself with Frankie as a role model!


The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks


An interactive cookbook on CD

One of the newest cookbooks in our collection won’t be found in the second floor stacks, but in our audiovisual department on the lower level. Kalamazoo area chef and food historian Channon Mondoux has written Celebration at the Sarayi: Reliving a Feast in the Palace of Suleyman the Magnificent. This electronic cookbook brings to life the beautiful and sumptuous cuisine of 16th century Ottoman Turkey.

Mondoux’s years of research — including an ongoing study of the Turkish language — has resulted in 72 recipes for appetizers, main courses and desserts, including qatlami boregi, a tasty feta-walnut pastry that was popular with guests at the program and book signing on May 21. Video clips enhance some of the recipes. For instance, you can see how to stuff grape leaves with lamb and plums for etli yaprak dolmasi. Audio narration, notes and historic images further enhance the book, making this more of an experience, than merely a collection of recipes.

About the format: This is not an audiobook, nor is it something to load on a Kindle or Sony Reader. The entire book is in Adobe PDF on a CD. All you need is a computer with Adobe Acrobat Reader version 9.0., which is a free download. This will work on Macintosh or Windows platforms.

Here’s a video from Mondoux’s program at KPL on May 21:  


Celebration at the Sarayi: reliving a feast in the palace of Süleyman the Magnificent

Red and Me: My Coach, My Friend

 If you’re a basketball fan, you’ll enjoy this inspiring book about the personal relationship and friendship between Bill Russell and his coach Red Auerbach.  Through their thirteen years of building a sports dynasty together, they won eleven championships in thirteen years.  Russell writes how Auerbach produced results and developed great ball players where each man gave his all, and gained back even more.

Bill Bradley said this about Russell, “Bill Russell knew his personal power and how to use it.  In that sense he was his father’s son, inspired by independence, self-confidence and strength he had observed growing up.  Russell would say that his father always had “a plan,” meaning he was always a step or two ahead of everyone else.  In basketball; Russell demonstrated the same gift and thus reconceptualized the game.  Defense had once been an afterthought; Russell saw it as the key to offense and builder of team morale.”   Russell’s account of his friendship with Auerbach is a lesson in mutual respect and understanding that grew and matured over the years.  I’ve always felt that Bill Russell is a man of great integrity, and after reading this book, my belief is reinforced.


Red and Me: My Coach, My Friend 


Today in Science History July 21

 July 19, 1865 surgeon and philanthropist, Charles Horace Mayo, was born. Mayo was one of the founders of the Mayo Clinic which is regarded as one of the foremost medical treatment and research institutions in America. Mayo specialized in surgery of the thyroid and nervous system. The concept of medical specialization was, in fact, developed by this group of medical pioneers. The private practice of this group became the not-for-profit Mayo clinic in 1919. The Mayo Clinic of today is a not-for-profit medical practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of virtually every type of complex illness.
July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon. While Michael Collins orbited above, Armstrong and Aldrin established “Tranquility Base” on the moon. Armstrong’s famous proclamation “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” took place at 10:56 ET as he stepped on to the lunar surface. I remember watching this historic event when it took place. Even though it took place late in the evening for my younger brothers and me, our parents let us stay up to watch it because it was such a significant history-in-the-making event for the United States!
July 24, 1897 American aviator Amelia Earhart was born. During World War I, she served in a nursing corps in Canada. Earhart learned to fly in 1921 in an open-cockpit plane in California and became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic alone establishing a new record in the crossing of 13 hours and 30 minutes. She also became the first woman to fly the Pacific Ocean, crossing from Hawaii to California in 1935 and set a speed record flying nonstop from Mexico City to New York City that same year. Sadly, Earhart and her navigator mysteriously disappeared on a June 1937 flight around the world en route from Lae, New Guinea to little Howland Island. The fate of Earhart remains a mystery to this day and makes for exciting reading.


Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon


Kant: The Copernicus of Philosophy

Immanuel Kant was one of the most influential philosophers of all time. An 18th century thinker, Kant is found in a unique forked path in the history of philosophy, coming after the Modern period of DescartesLockeBerkeley, and Hume; and coming before what would be called the German Idealists of Hegel and Fitche. Kant's ideas about science, metaphysics, perception, the soul, God, and morality would become revolutionary.

Perhaps his most revolutionary idea, coming from the Critique of Pure Reason, was what he called a Copernican revolution in philosophy. Copernicus shockingly changed our perspective of the universe and our place in it. Likewise, Kant changes our perspective as knowers and perceivers of the world. Instead of our minds having to conform to the world in order to gain knowledge of it, Kant thought that the world had to conform to our minds in order for us to know it. Thus, space and time, and several other organizational concepts, were filters in the human mind--filters that the outside world had to pass through for us to know it.

His ideas about morality were more impressive and practical. He asks: how can morality be objective and universal? He answers: only if it is based in reason (the rational mind) and only if it can be reduced to laws that our own minds can see the truth of. He reduced all moral laws to an abstract version of the golden rule, which reads: only decide to do those things that could be made unversal laws for everyone. If you cannot do this, then what you're about to do is wrong.

I recommend this book with a serious warning. Kant is the hardest philosopher to read due to his technical vocabulary and its awkward tranlation from German to English. If you have little experience with reading philosophers of a similar time period, I recommend Kant: A Very Short Introduction.


Basic writings of Kant

Walter Cronkite: A Reporter’s Life

Forty years ago this week, the world watched together as mankind landed on the surface of the moon for the first time. And for my own family, and of course millions of others, it was the voice of Walter Cronkite who led us there. As a kid, naturally, I was excited. My father had kept meticulous scrapbooks of all the space program events, and had even taken us on a family vacation to visit (then) Cape Kennedy. I remember watching my father shed tears of disbelief as Cronkite told us that the Eagle had landed. It seemed that a new world of possibilities was opening right before our eyes.

In A Reporter’s Life, Cronkite himself summed it up rather well. “That first landing on the moon was, indeed, the most extraordinary story of our time and almost as remarkable a feat for television as the space flight itself. To see Neil Armstrong, 240,000 miles out there, as he took that giant step for mankind onto the moon’s surface, was a thrill beyond all the other thrills of that flight. All those thrills tumbled over each other so quickly that the goose pimples from one merged into the goose pimples from the next.” (The library also stocks an audiobook version of A Reporter’s Life (read by the author), and lots more.)

And as we look back on our first explorations into other worlds, it seems ironic that the very person who took us on that amazing journey and would have perhaps celebrated this anniversary as enthusiastically as anyone, has himself left this world for another.

Plenty has (and will be written) about Cronkite’s professionalism and the personal-ism he brought to his craft. Indeed, television journalism as we know it might have been very different were it not for his pioneering leadership. In a CBS News Saturday Early Show tribute this morning, many of his colleagues remarked that Cronkite insisted the evening news program he first pioneered was to be about accurate reporting rather than celebrity entertainment.

But for me as a kid growing up in rural America and watching the news each evening to see what the rest of the world was doing, it was Cronkite’s enthusiastic optimism that I remember and treasure most. Indeed, there was plenty to be worried (even scared) about during the sixties and seventies, but for me at least, Cronkite’s positive outlook guided our family through it (and even attempted to make sense of it) all.

One of my personal favorites was the Emmy award-winning CBS series The 21st Century (1967-70). In a weekly news magazine format, Walter brought us stories about fascinating inventions and new developments, and provided us with an optimistic glimpse of what the world might look like in what then seemed like the quite distant future. Today, that seemingly distant future is here and many of those fascinating ideas are indeed a reality.

“And that’s the way it is…”


A Reporter's Life

This Week in Science History July 15

July 12, 1895 American inventor, architect and engineer, Buckminster Fuller, was born. He spent much of the early 20th Century working to improve human shelter. He looked for ways to apply modern technological shelter construction, to make shelter more comfortable and efficient, and more economically available to more people. Fuller developed the geodesic dome, the only large dome that can be set on the ground as a complete structure. Many entertainment complexes and multi-purpose arenas are geodesic domes. Fuller held over 2000 patents and is considered an American visionary. Doing “more with less” was his credo.

July 12, 1861 African-American inventor, agricultural chemist, scientist, and educator, George Washington Carver was born. Carver discovered over 300 uses for peanuts as well as hundreds of uses for soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes. The item list of his recipes for and/or improvements to includes: adhesives, axle grease, bleach, chili sauce, fuel briquettes, buttermilk, ink, instant coffee, linoleum, mayonnaise, meat tenderizer, metal polish, plastic, pavement, shaving cream, shoe polish, synthetic rubber, talcum powder, and wood stain to name a few. He developed a crop rotation method which revolutionized southern agriculture. Carver freely gave his discoveries to mankind and didn’t patent or profit from most of his products. In fact, he only applied for 3 patents. He was an incredibly gifted, generous, and fascinating man to read more about!

July 18, 1635 English physicist, Robert Hooke, was born. Orphaned at the age of 13, Hooke was an important scientist of the 17th Century. He discovered the law of elasticity called Hooke’s Law, invented the balance spring for clocks, and either invented or improved various meteorological instruments such as the barometer, anemometer, and hygrometer. Hooke had a wide scope of research which included physicsastronomychemistrybiologygeologyarchitecture, and navel technology. In 1662, he was appointed the Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society, London. In 1666, Hooke served as Chief Surveyor and helped rebuild London after the Great Fire.    


George Washington Carver


The Poetry of Trauma and Exile

Simply put, the poetry of Paul Celan is not an easy art to grapple with nor should it have been, for Celan was a poet of cultural and geographic exile, victimized by the brutality of the Second World War (losing both parents to prison camps). Celan, a survivor of the Holocaust, wrote some of the most hauntingly powerful verse of post-war Europe, often with the aim of trying to reconcile the psychologically grating problems associated with his use of the German language while retaining his Jewish identity. Celan always felt like an outsider and his poetry reflects his lifelong struggle with the kind of irreconcilable dualities that bestows great poetry with its power to name terror and redeem its voiceless victims. Celan’s poetry echoes many of the kinds of thematic concerns and influences that mark the work of his European contemporaries (Theodor AdornoE.M Cioran, Maurice Blanchot, Edmond Jabes, Jacques Derrida e.g.), including his fellow Parisian exile, Samuel Beckett.

Widely known for his much anthologized poem Death Fugue, Celan set about crafting a body of work distinct for its cryptic abstraction, monosyllabic gasps, references to Jewish symbolism and themes of trauma and human dislocation. Celan's poetry is heartbreakingly expressive even as it reduces language to its sparest essentials. His influence can be seen in the work of poets working today, including Michael PalmerRita DoveSharon Olds and Adrienne Rich.


Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan

This Week in Science History July 7

July 6, 1885 French scientist Louis Pasteur and his colleagues injected the first rabies vaccine into a 9 year old boy severely bitten by a rabid dog 2 days earlier. The immunization was successful and Pasteur’s rabies immunization procedure was rapidly adopted throughout the world. An interesting side note, the boy, Joseph Meister, grew up and became caretaker of the Pasteur institute until he was 64.

July 7, 1930 construction began on the Boulder Dam later named the Hoover Dam. The Dam located in Boulder City, Nevada was completed in 1935. The Dam is a multipurpose reclamation project on the Colorado River and is used to control floods, store water for irrigation, provide generation of hydroelectric power, and provide fish and wildlife habitat. It has been rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) as one of America’s seven modern civil engineering wonders.

July 10, 1925 the famous Scopes monkey trial began in Dayton, Tennessee. John Scopes was a local general science school teacher and the focus of the case was on the teaching of evolution in schools. William Jennings Bryan squared off against Clarence Darrow in this well-known court case and the trial ran 12 days with a reported carnival-like atmosphere. The trial ended with a verdict of guilty and Scopes was fined $100. The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Dayton Court 1 year later on a technicality and dismissed the case. The court commented “Nothing is to be gained by prolonging the life of this bizarre case”.


The Hoover Dam

Shanghai Girls

After reading other books by Lisa See, I was eager to try Shanghai Girls.  This historical novel, which begins in the 1930s, tells the story of two sisters who are forced into arranged marriages to brothers to compensate for their father's debts.  They leave Shanghai and travel to Los Angeles to meet up with their husbands, who have traveled ahead. 

Not surprisingly, there are tragedies, family secrets, heartbreak and redemption along the way.  At the heart of the book, though, is the unbreakable bond between the sisters.  This is a fascinating look at Shanghai on the verge of war and Los Angeles from the eyes of immigrants. 


Shanghai Girls

The Food of a Younger Land

What we eat says a mouthful about where we come from, who we think we are and even who we want to be.

Behind every lesson of who conquered whom are tales of ingredients adopted and utensils borrowed. For every settler’s tale, there was a beloved skillet or a box of seeds — clutched in fear, homesickness and hope — that came on the journey.

That’s why I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Mark Kurlansky’s newest book, The Food of a Younger Land. Once upon a time, America did eat local. This book is “a portrait of American food — before the national highway system, before chain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation’s food was seasonal, regional and traditional.”

Kurlansky has compiled some of the writings collected through the Federal Writers Project, a federal stimulus program undertaken by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression (the one in the 1930s). For America Eats, writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Eudora Welty documented in poetry, prose and recipes everyday meals as well as special gatherings. These reports were snapshots of cultural history and economic conditions across the United States. America Eats began in 1939 but was abandoned due to the war and never finished.

The book is divided into the same regions used by the Federal Writers Project: Northeast, South, Middle West (I wish we still used that description), Far West, Southwest.

In the description of a New York Literary Tea, it is pointed out that tea is generally not served. Martinis and Manhattans hold court, with a nod to scotch if absolutely necessary.

New York Soda-Luncheonette Slang and Jargon are decoded in five pages. (Luncheonette: another word gone by the wayside). “Twist it, choke it and make it cackle” refers to a chocolate malted milk with egg.

There is a description for making Hickory Ta-fulla, a Choctaw dish in which corn grits are cooked in a milk made from hickory nuts soaked in water.

Zora Neale Hurston’s heretofore unpublished piece is “Diddy-Wah-Diddy,” describing a mythical place with good food in abundance, particularly barbecue. “Even the dogs can stand flat-footed and lick crumbs off heaven’s tables,” she wrote.

Eudora Welty’s contribution is a pamphlet written for the Mississippi Advertising Commission. “Mississippi Food” is thought to be her only piece of food writing. The recipes and accompanying notes document how to make such things as whole jellied apples, eggs stuffed with spinach, and lye hominy. The ingredients for lye hominy are merely dried corn, oak ashes and salt, but it’s the cooking that is an all day effort, something I witnessed as a child.

From the Far West is “Depression Cake,” an essay about how a young woman’s desperate and resourceful experimentation led to a successful eggless, butterless cake for a July 4 gathering. Except for the bacon drippings, we’d call that cake vegan today.

Filled with descriptive writing and long lost traditions, The Food of a Younger Land is a fine way to rediscover our culinary roots.


The Food of a Younger Land

Dolls, Dolls, and More Dolls

I’m not sure if Mr. Steve has blogged about these Doll family books before, but I’m going to ladder up on his comments if he has, and if he hasn’t, okey dokey!

There are three books about the Doll family (their last name is Doll) that have lived and still live, in a 100-year old Victorian doll house in Kate’s room at the Palmer’s house in “Anytown USA”.  By this, I mean that their story could happen anywhere and at any time. The Dolls (father, mother, aunt, uncle, nanny, sister, brother, and baby) all are porcelain with cloth bodies.  They are dressed in 100-year old clothes, which are beginning to show wear, as are the Doll family themselves. Titles in the trilogy by author Ann M Martin include The Doll PeopleThe Meanest Doll in the World, and The Runaway Dolls.

To begin at the beginning, these dolls have all taken the “Oath” which requires them to always be on the watch for humans and to avoid PDS (permanent doll state) at all costs. As you might expect, the dolls all talk, think, and walk around; after hours, of course. Annabelle Doll makes friends with the daughter of the Funcraft family that move in to Kate Palmer’s messy little sister’s room (her name is Nora). 

The adventures that follow the Funcrafts’ arrival are exciting, realistic in a fantastical sort of way, funny, and sad all at the same time. Such extraneous characters as Mrs. Robertson, Mean Mimi, The Captain (a lecherous cat that loves to play with dolls), and a couple of human-type children all add in to this mix of wonder for anyone who has dolls/played with dolls or who loves a good fantasy with just the right ingredients mixed together to make a real treat! Especially enjoyable are illustrations by Caldecott Medal winner Brian Selznick.

I couldn’t put the books down once I had started them!


The Runaway Dolls

Maisie Dobbs

One of the most enjoyable series of books I have read in a long time evolve around the character of Maisie Dobbs. Set in post-WWI England, Maisie is a private investigator/psychologist. Each of the six books chronicles events involving the Great War and how its aftermath plays out in the lives of either Maisie or one of the people  she is called upon to investigate.

The books are well written, and include much detail about life in England in the late 1920’s. There is good character development and enough plot to keep you riveted until the end.

One of the best ways to “read” these books is by listening to the audiobook versions. They are narrated by Orlagh Cassidy, who has the ability to project feeling and life into every one of the books characters. In addition her lovely English accent, her calm voice has the ability to transport you into Maisie’s mind and heart.

Titles in this series include: Maisie Dobbs, Birds of a FeatherPardonable LiesMessenger of TruthAmong the Mad, and An Incomplete Revenge.


Maisie Dobbs

This Week in Science History June 24

June 26, 2000 representatives of The Human Genome Project announced it had assembled a working draft of the human genome-the genetic blueprint of human beings. Two major tasks were involved in this accomplishment. Large fragments of DNA had to be placed in the proper order to cover all the human chromosomes, and the DNA sequencing of the fragments had to be determined. Although the draft contained some gaps and errors, it represented 95% of all genes. This was a phenomenal accomplishment in the world of genetics.

June 26, 1900 the Yellow Fever Commission was formed by Surgeon-General George M. Sternberg to fight the cause and spread of the deadly disease. Dr. Walter Reed who had previously investigated typhoid and malaria outbreaks was appointed officer-in-charge. While yellow fever is now known to be caused by a virus, it was believed at that time to be spread by direct contact with an infected person or things like the infected person’s clothes.

June 26, 1819 for all the cycling enthusiasts out there, the first U.S. patent for a velocipede, a predecessor of the bicycle, was issued to William K. Clarkson, Jr. of New York.  Unfortunately, fire destroyed the patent record at the Patent Office in 1836 so very little else is known. It was not until 1866 that the first U.S. patent was issued for a bicycle. Check out the Bicycle of America Museum site for a great timeline on the bicycle and an alphabetical index.


Bicycle: The History


Discovering New Reads

One of the many joys of working in a library is learning about new reads through the books patrons ask about. Not long ago, my co-worker heard about Wesley the Owl : The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and his Girl  from a patron, and she passed the recommendation along to me, knowing how much I love nature.

Stacey O’Brien adopted Wesley, an injured barn owl, at the tender age of four days.  Wesley’s wing was so damaged he would be unable to fend for himself in the wild, so O’Brien became his “mother” and lifelong friend. The book reads like a memoir of, and tribute to, the owl’s life. The author provides fascinating details about the biology of barn owls, weaving her own life as a student researcher at Caltech, and beyond, into the story.  The bond between owl and human is so strong that, at one point, O’Brien recounts how keeping Wesley alive saved her life.

Many thanks to our patrons, who keep asking for new reads and inspiring our staff!


Wesley the owl : the remarkable love story of an owl and his girl


Rise Up Singing

May Erlewine’s great song “Rise Up Singing” celebrates the restorative power of singing. Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook collects words, chords and sources for 1200 songs from many folk traditions as well as the commercial music industry. This venerable print resource is organized by topic from America to Work. My favorite topical section is Play. That’s where you’ll find so many of the songs you’ll remember from childhood. But this songbook isn’t only for kids. There are protest songs as well as sacred rounds and chants from a variety of traditions. Rise Up Singing is easy to use. The songs are indexed by artist, by culture, by holiday, and by subject. The title index includes first lines and alternate titles. And Pete Seeger’s introduction is worth reading even if you go no further. One thing that makes Rise Up Singing different from many other vocal fake books is that, except for the Sacred Rounds and Chants section, there is no musical notation to express the melodies of the songs. That leaves more room for lyrics in this portable book from Sing Out. Because the book is meant for group singing environments, there’s usually someone in the group who knows the tune. If you’re thinking of a popular or folk song, a show tune or kids’ song, it may very well be here.


Rise Up Singing

Hardboiled Noir

There is something about the prose of Raymond Chandler that I just absolutely love. His gritty, hardboiled brand of Los Angeles noir is pitch perfect and seamless in its ability to create unsentimental evocations of the shadowy streets of 1940’s Hollywood. Chandler’s stories have an effortless flow to them and are filled with an endless array of period-specific idioms, tough guy-catch phrases and infectious dialogue imbued with timeless black humor. Next to Samuel Beckett and Woody Allen, few writers have given us so many humorous one liners about the darkness of the human condition. 

In his best work, readers will explore the lives of con artists, hardnosed cops, troubled damsels, various forms of organized crime, Hollywood starlets, and of course Chandler’s infamous protagonist, the caustic yet cool private investigator Philip Marlowe. Chandler is the most imitated and influential detective novelist of the twentieth century who along with Dashiell Hammett paved the literary road for the likes of Elmore Leonard, Walter Mosley, Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly and many others who have followed.


Stories and novels, 1933-1942

I Love It When You Talk Retro

Retrotalk and retroterms. These words are used by Ralph Keyes to describe the subject of his 2009 book I Love It When You Talk Retro. The main point of this volume is to give histories of words and phrases, the full meaning of which cannot be grasped unless one understands their origins. Keyes gives example after example, such as Ma Bell as the nickname for the phone company. We still say we answer the phone’s ring, we dial a number, and then hang up when we are finished with the call, even though with modern phones we have actually done none of these things. There’s a section on phrases that have appeared because of their connection to the office environment, such as rubber stamp, red tape, and pink slip. Animals are also a source for language such as a lame duck, a sitting duck, and a dead duck, as well as the goose that laid the golden egg, pecking order, and putting on the dog. For a time of amusement and enlightenment, this one’s a winner.


I Love It When You Talk Retro

This Week in Science History June 17

June 16, 1884 Coney Island began operating the first commercially successful gravity-powered American roller coaster. Starting at a height of 50 feet on one end, passengers rode a train downhill on undulating tracks over a wooden structure 600 feet long until its momentum died. The ride cost 5 cents. Roller coasters and amusement parks have come a long wild way since that first roller coaster ride.

June 17, 1870 George Cormack, the co-inventor of the breakfast cereal Wheaties, was born. Cormack, a health clinician accidentally invented the cereal in 1921 when he spilled a little of the bran gruel he was making for his patients onto a hot stove and it sizzled into a crispy flake. Being a cereal lover myself, I was fascinated by how Cormack created his cereal. He tested 36 varieties of wheat before he perfected his flakes. Incidentally while we are on the subject of breakfast cereal, Lester Borchardt, of General Mills invented Cheerios June 19, 1941 to provide a more convenient alternative to oatmeal. Originally called Cheeri Oats, this cereal almost didn’t get created.  Borchardt and his team were working on a machine to puff cereal but his boss wanted him to stop work on the machine. Borchardt insisted on continuing and voilà, 2 months later Cheerios were created. He also invented Kix. Borchardt lived until he was 99 and ate Cheerios everyday-hmmm. As the mother of 3, his finger food cereals were a life saver for me when my children went through the toddler stage!

June 17, 1837 Charles Goodyear obtained his first rubber-processing patent (U.S. No. 240). At the time, india-rubber would melt in the summer heat but Goodyear devised a treatment with metallic solutions that resolved this problem. His discovery, which came to be known vulcanization strengthened rubber, vastly improved rubber’s application in a variety of industrial uses, one of which was automobile tires. Although his process revolutionized the rubber industry, he was unable to profit from his discovery and died a poor man.


Roller Coasters: United States and Canada


Audiobooks for Kids and Families

Summer has arrived, and for some families that means car trips with the kids. The dreaded  question “Are we there yet?” has been asked by generations of young (and not so young) travelers.

These audiobooks can help make the miles seem shorter, and they’re stories the whole family can enjoy. These selections are suitable for all ages of children, though will probably be best enjoyed by school age kids in grades 3 and up.

John Grogan has written a children’s version of his popular story about his dog, Marley. “Marley: a Dog Like No Other” is the tale of yellow Lab Marley from puppyhood to adulthood, a dog with a wonderful personality and boundless energy who tries so hard to be good. Animal lovers will enjoy this one.

elijah-of-buxton-100.jpgIf you and your children like historical novels, a good choice is “Elijah of Buxton” by Christopher Paul Curtis. This Newbery Award winner tells the story of Elijah, born free in Canada’s Buxton Settlement, where his parents landed after escaping from slavery. Elijah journeys across the Detroit River into America on the trail of a thief who has stolen a friend’s money, and witnesses firsthand the treatment his parents fled.

chasing-vermeer-cover-100.jpgMystery, adventure, art,  and puzzles within puzzles await listeners of “Chasing Vermeer” by Blue Balliett. Set in Chicago’s Hyde Park, sixth grade outsiders Petra and Calder become friends as they try to figure out who stole a missing Vermeer painting. That’s the plot in a nutshell, but this story is more than just the sum of its parts - it also encourages thinking about coincidence and possibilities, in a fun way with a good story.

Check out your library for other great listening, for all ages!  We’re happy to make suggestions.


Marley: a Dog Like No Other

Debut author thrillers!

I'm always on the lookout for new entertaining authors, because I live in fear that I'll run out of good stuff to read. Fortunately, I just found two debut authors who I hope will continue to write the kind of fine thrillers they achieved with their first books. Running from the devil, by Jamie Freveletti features a strong female lead character, a chemist named Emma Caldridge, who is trying to right a wrong forced upon her by her company. On the way, her plane is hijacked over Colombia. Sixty-eight of her fellow surviving passengers are kidnapped by guerrillas - only Emma escapes. She silently trails the group, hoping to find a way to contact the American authorities with their whereabouts. The thrilling part of the story is that she has to track the group through the jungle, using her chemical, botanical and athletic skills to stay alive. Her knowledge is amazing, but believable. Moving along to the second book: Even, by Andrew Grant (who by the way is Lee Child's brother - Child is the author of the Jack Reacher series). David Trevellyan is the hero in Grant's book, a member of British naval intelligence. His curiosity about a dead body in a New York City alley leads him to jail as a scapegoat for the murder, where he is confronted by a really big and mean cellmate - who finds out the hard way what it means to cross Trevellyan. The story is a riveting action-adventure in the mode of Jack Reacher. Both of these characters face insurmountable odds, but are triumphant against the bad guys. Please, Ms. Freveletti and Mr. Grant -- write more books!


Running from the devil

When I Lay My Isaac Down

Have you ever wondered how you would handle a catastrophic family event?  As the mother of five and the grandmother of seven, I have contemplated if I would have the strength to cope with such an occurrence.

When I Lay My Isaac Down is the story of how one woman coped with the most devastating news of all – that her only child had been accused of cold-blooded murder.

This book was recommended to me by one of our Oshtemo patrons who found it immensely compelling, as did I – not because we expect to have such a tragedy in our families – but because of how eloquently the author shares the process of coping with unspeakable pain, and helps the reader learn how to use resources within themselves and to call upon faith in God who can redeem even the most unspeakable pain.

The author, Carolyn Kent, has gone on to write a follow-up to this book A New Kind of Normal which carries on the theme of how to carry on, when your life has been changed forever.


When I Lay My Isaac Down

Listen to Cory Doctorow

The smart, funny, and wonderfully thought provoking essays included in Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future by bloggerjournalistscience fiction author and copyright critic Cory Doctorow entertainingly summarize complex issues into an easily understood handful of paragraphs that are so well reasoned and argued that it may just change your mind on some of the subjects presented. Addressing subjects as widely scattered as the problems with Digital Rights Management, the finer points of The Singularity, or why Facebook's popularity won't last, Doctorow is brilliant and convincing. No matter what side of the issues discussed you fall on, Cory Doctorow’s understading of the future of the future and his passionate opinions are worth listening to. 


Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia O'Keeffe is one of the most recognizable and beloved artists of the 20th Century. An icon of American modernism, her work, like fellow masters PicassoMatisse, and Van Gogh, are etched upon our collective consciousness through the ubiquity of her unique imagery. From calendars to stationary, her poetic and erotically charged depictions of the human body, Southwestern landscapes, and her inimitable floral paintings have struck a visual chord with the general public for almost a century. If you’re fan of her work or simply looking to support a downtown cultural institution, check out the Kalamazoo Institute of Art’s newest exhibit Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Times: American Modernism. Be sure to visit the library afterward and explore our vast collection of art books that detail the rise of America’s embrace of modernist concerns, subjects, forms, and techniques during the early 1920’s. You may also find as a result of the exhibit’s broad and illuminating treatment of O’Keeffe’s contemporaries that there are lesser known artists that appeal to your artistic interests and sensibilities. Find out more about those artists closely associated with O’Keeffe and her New York/New Mexico circle in addition to those from other modernist schools and movements. The following are helpful histories that map the various modernist art movements from 1910 to 1945.

Art in the Modern Era 

Modern Art, 1900-1945: The Age of Avant-Gardes

Modernism: The Lure of Heresy 


Georgia O'Keeffe and New Mexico : a sense of place

This Week in Science History June 9

June 8, 1955 Tim Berners-Lee, the English computer scientist who invented the World Wide Web was born. Berners-Lee graduated from Oxford and took up a fellowship in 1984 at CERN the European Particle Physics Laboratory. He proposed a global hypertext project, while there, which would allow people to work together by sharing knowledge in a web of hypertext documents. The World Wide Web site was made available in August 1991 to the Internet at large. He is currently the Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) a Web standards organization, whose goal is “to lead the Web to its full potential, ensuring its stability through rapid evolution and revolutionary transformations of its usage”.

June 9, 1913 British scientist Patrick Steptoe was born. Steptoe, with Robert Edwards, perfected in-vitro fertilization of the human egg. Steptoe volunteered as a naval surgeon during WWII and was captured by the Italians when his ship sank. Following the war, he set up a private obstetrics and gynecology practice and pioneered a new fiber-optic device called a laparoscope. He teamed up with Edwards in 1966 to help women with blocked Fallopian tubes, a major cause of infertility, and developed a way to fertilize human eggs in the lab.

June 10, 1943 Laslo Biro received a patent for the ball point pen. Biro invented the pen with quick drying ink in 1938 while he was a journalist in Budapest, Hungary. He escaped the Nazis in 1940 and travelled to Argentina. While there, Henry Martin, an Englishman on a mission for the British government, saw the invention and recognized its value for air crews. Martin acquired the rights and began a small scale production for the Royal Air Force and Biro began commercial production under his patent in 1945 by the Eterpen Company in Buenos Aires. An interesting history of an invention used by millions of people everyday and taken for granted.

June 11, 1910 the famous French oceanographer and marine biologist Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born. Originally, Cousteau was interested in flight school after graduating from college and entering the French Navy. Just before he obtained his wings however, he was in a near-fatal car accident and broke both his arms. To recover his strength, he swam in the Mediterranean Ocean and the path to his well-known career began. Just a few facts about Cousteau that you may not know, he co-invented the aqualung which made SCUBA diving possible. He founded the French Navy’s Undersea Research Group, and he inventively modified a WWII wooden hull minesweeper into his research vessel, Calypso. There are many quotes by Cousteau but one I like in particular is “From birth man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free”.


The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World


Visiting our national parks

Since the time of Teddy Roosevelt, our country has been blessed with natural areas being set aside as “national parks” for all the citizens to enjoy. One park, in particular, I have enjoyed visiting since childhood, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’ve hiked with family and strangers on many of the trails observing the abundance of wildflowers and wildlife as well as hearing about the sacrifice many families in the area gave to create this wonderful area, the most visited national park. Strangers in high places: the story of the Great Smoky Mountains by Michael Frome tells the story of the creation of the park, its varied terrain, and the people who worked so hard to make privately owned land into a national park. Cades Cove: window to a secret world by Bill Lea is a pictorial look at the cove in the park that people hike, bike and look for deer. It’s a beautiful and serene area. Day and overnight hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park lists the hikes and backpacking areas of the park.

The library loans many books and videos about special places in our country, stop at the library or one of the branches and check out our collection before you take that summer vacation.


Day and overnight hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Yes, We Might Have No Bananas!

I don't think there has been a time when I've seen any toddler without a banana at snacktime or breakfast.  An easily portable, very nutritious snack, the banana is one fruit many people cannot live without.  Yet, at some point, they may have to.

Bananas are unlike other fruits in that they have no seeds.  They are clones of each other.  (Actually, there are some varieties of bananas in Africa, India, and Asia that have seeds, but our good old Cavendish banana with its sugary goodness is barren.)  So, what that means is that when disease hits, it strikes them all.  The banana as we know it (and we haven't known it for very long--a little over one hundred years in North America or Europe) will soon be no more.  That is, unless the researchers fervently trying to hybridize a new variety of banana that is disease resistant AND tasty can be found.  Biotechnologists are trying their hardest to keep your cereal from losing its best friend.  You don't mind some fish DNA in your morning snack, do you?

In reading Dan Koeppel's book Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World, I was introduced to much more than just banana trivia, although there was plenty of that, too.  (Quiz:  who actually coined the term banana republic?)  In fact, if Shakepeare had bananas during his time, he might have truly written a tragedy about them!  Wars, suicides, corruption, manipulation of a species--you name it, the world of the banana has it all.

So, the next time you peel that little yellow beauty, savor its goodness.  Consider the people that have been killed in the name of it and the scientists working hard to create new fruits.  Then picture the colorful gal with the fruit on her head singing I'm a chiquita banana and I've come to say, Bananas have to ripen in a certain way, When they are fleck'd with brown and have a golden hue...


Banana:  The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World


The Restless Dreams of Youth

“The suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth,” sang Geddy Lee, lead singer of my favorite band Rush when I was a teenager growing up in a Chicago suburb.  This is not the case in Shaun Tan’s new book of mini-surreal masterpieces, Tales From Outer Suburbia.  In these suburbs, there is a water buffalo that answers questions in an empty lot, a dugong (manatee type creature) that appears on someone’s lawn, ICBMs in everyone’s backyard, and a man wandering around in a diving suit. 

I checked this book out originally for my eleven year old son, Vance.  He rejected it without even reading a word.

I decided to read it because Shaun Tan is making waves in the children’s publishing world with interesting books that have phenomenal illustrations like The Arrival which appeared on numerous “best of” lists.  I found the stories from Tales From Outer Suburbia to be a little too bizarre at first, but my compulsion to finish books that I’ve started carried me through until I slowly became enchanted.  The stories feature physical manifestations of the hopes and fears of the people who live in these suburbs and they wove their way into my psyche and released strong feelings of wonder, healing, and letting go. The strange story lines somehow open you up and leave you thinking about them long after you have read them.  

I especially identified with a story about two brothers who have a map of their suburb and decide to walk to where the map ends to see what is there.  It reminded me of a 10 mile hike my brother and I took to complete the hiking merit badge.  We weren’t going to get “out in nature” anytime soon, so we just decided to walk around our Chicago suburb (which, oddly enough, included a stop at the public library to pick up some 8mm films).  The experience did have a surreal feeling and it completely changed the way I felt about where I lived.  Walking gives you such an intimate connection with your surroundings and it empowered me, as I went to places I had only gone with my parents up to that point. 

I was so struck by the book that I gave Vance another try.  However, this time I asked if I could read him the extremely short stories before he went to bed.  He agreed and loved the stories and I got to have the nice experience of reading aloud to him that I hadn’t had in several years and to talk a little bit about what it is like to have an older brother who is always right.


Tales From Outer Suburbia



Meet Rex and his evolutionary neighbors!

What a fun book! It’s great for reading out loud! It’s great for learning new things about frogs and dinosaurs! It’s full of great sounds and onomatopoeias like “bloop, bloop, bloop”! The School Library Journal Review says that Kurt Cyrus’ Tadpole Rex is an “exciting blend of science and literature that children will appreciate”. The pictures are very descriptive and fun to share. In this book Tadpole Rex grows, metamorphosis, hides and survives in the mud.

Read this and see why Kurt Cyrus says a tadpole has an inner tyrannosaur Rex. You will find so much to learn and discuss!

Tadpole Rex



This Week in Science History June 3

June 2, 1930 astronaut Pete Conrad was born. Conrad, who joined NASA after serving as a U.S. Navy pilot, was the third man to walk on the moon during the Apollo 12 mission. He was also a crew member for Gemini 5, Gemini 11, and Skylab 2 missions as well as the Feb. 1996 record-breaking flight around the world in a Lear jet. Sadly, Conrad died at the age of 69 of injuries from a motorcycle crash. He had a great passion for speed and flying.

June 2, 1889 for the first time, electricity was made available by a hydroelectric power plant to consumers a significant distance away. The Wilamette Falls Electric Power Co. power plant was linked to Portland, Oregon by a 13 mile power line. Although this was not the first hydroelectric power plant, what made this plant unique was its use of alternating current electricity. This made it possible for long-distance transmission of electricity which was a problem with direct current electricity.

June 2, 1928 Kraft Velveeta Cheese was invented. What would we do without this cheesy creation from Kraft? My nacho dip just wouldn’t be the same!

June 3, 1864 Ransom Eli Olds, American inventor and automobile manufacturer was born. Olds designed the three-horsepower, curved-dash Oldsmobile the first commercially successful automobile which was produced by a progressive assembly system. Olds grew up in Lansing, Michigan where he worked in his father’s machine and repair shop, and experimented with small steam engines. He drove Lansing’s first automobile, an experimental steam vehicle, a distance of one block. Olds eventually produced a vehicle that could do 18 miles an hour on level ground and seated four people.  


Rocket Man: Astronaut Pete Conrad's Incredible Ride to the Moon and Beyond



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

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


Masterpiece Theatre is now showing Wallander, a BBC detective series based on novels by Swedish writer Henning Mankell.

A skillful Kenneth Branagh brings depth and subtlety to Kurt Wallander, creating a complex and sympathetic character that offers deep empathy for crime victims as he despairs an increasingly violent world. (Branagh just won a best actor award from the Broadcasting Press Guild Television and Radio Awards.) The BBC is said to hope this character-driven series will become a signature piece like Inspector Morse or Prime Suspect.

KPL has Henning Mankell’s novels in its collection and I’ve added the Wallander series to my list of books to read. If you’ve read them, I’d love to hear what you think.



Put on Your Cricket Whites

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill echoes the plotline of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s modernist tragedy The Great Gatsby but instead of the roaring twenties, Netherland is set mostly in post-9-11 New York City and whereas Fitzgerald’s fated protagonist was a rich and enigmatic entrepreneur of shady repute bent on both lost love and the American Dream, finding only a doomed fate instead, O’Neill’s Jay Gatsby is a Trinidadian obsessed with the game of cricket who meets our story’s narrator, Dutch banker Hans. Hans is holed up in the famous Chelsea Hotel after his British wife and young son return to England after the September 11th attacks. Sullen from the failure of his marriage and feeling estranged from his adopted home of New York City, Hans meets the seductive and charming Chuck Ramkissoon, a man who exudes the sort of idealism and entrepreneurial zeal that only an immigrant can bring to the Big Apple. Where does it all go from there? You’ll just have to find out.

One of the New York Time’s Best Books of 2008, Netherland doesn’t disappoint. I was instantly hooked by the fluid, picturesque prose and O’Neill’s ability to interest me in an uninspiring subject like the game of cricket (which really only serves to connect the life trajectories and events of the characters). This is a novel that touches upon those familiar, universal subjects that meaningful literature seeks to address in one way or another—politics, identity, family. Characterized as a 9-11 novel like so many before and so many to follow, Netherland never tries to be something larger, more self conscious than it is—a great read. I was pleased to learn that President Obama was reading this novel in his spare time.



“We gather together” ...the real Mayflower

Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower: a story of courage, community, and war brings to life the many interesting and often temperamental personalities who were an essential part of America's beginning. Miles Standish, the testy military officer of the Pilgrims and the wily Wampanoag leader Massasoit forged a sometimes tenuous working relationship that would contribute to the survival of both of their peoples through the difficult times ahead. Philbrick vividly tells of the combination of optimism and despair the Pilgrims felt after two deadly months at sea as they first gazed upon the starkly beautiful New England coast. His comprehensive and thoughtful portrayal of the sophistication of the Native American cultures first encountered by the Pilgrims provides the reader with an understanding of our history that has too often been overlooked in our history books. Mayflower was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in history.


Mayflower: a story of courage, community, and war

This Week in Science History May 13

Polar bears were a topic of discussion May 11 on NPR's Morning Edition program. U.S. biologists are studying polar bears as an environmental barometer concerning the effects of global warming. The threatened species depends on sea ice for survival, and biologists are studying polar bears living in the Chukchi Sea a remote part of the ocean between Alaska and Russia. They want to learn as much as they can about the bear population before their habitat disappears. Although many of the bears appear healthy at this time, their habitat is melting at an alarming rate and biologists are trying to figure out how to help the bears deal with the impending climate crisis.    

May 13, 1729 American glassmaker William Henry Steigel was born. Stiegel emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania in 1750 and established iron forges. He saw a need created by the patriotic boycott of British imports. Having already made window glass and bottles, he built a glassworks which was later called American Flint Glassworks and imported Venetian, German, and English glassmakers to produce glass tableware. Although Stiegel’s pieces were not signed, his use of the high-quality colors of blue, green, and purple became his signature. He also produced crystal-clear glassware. 

May 16, 1988 a report was released by U.S. Surgeon-General C. Everett Koop declaring nicotine to be as addictive as heroine or cocaine.  In the tobacco plant, nicotine serves as the plant’s natural defense against insects, and is more poisonous than strychnine or arsenic in its pure form. This natural insecticide’s chemical structure is so amazingly similar to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that it fits many chemical “locks” in our brains permitting it direct and indirect control over the flow of more that 200 neurochemicals. Nicotine also fits the “locks” in our adrenal system which impact mood and a number of fight or flight neurochemicals. It only takes about eight seconds after the first puff of a cigarette for the nicotine to reach the brain.


Face to Face With Polar Bears



How Far Would YOU Run?

 The on-going series “On the Run” by Gordon Korman is one of many well-kept secrets in children’s literature.  Currently five books, with one more on the horizon, the series’ titles are Chasing the Falconers; The Fugitive Factor; Now You See Them, Now You Don’t; The Stowaway Solution; and Public Enemies.

Aiden and Meg Falconer, 15 and 11 years old, are caught in a false arrest situation involving their parents, who are facing life in prison and who are PhD criminologists hired by the CIA to help identify international terrorist sleeper cells, and who get falsely accused of treason.  As minors, Aiden and Meg are sent to a juvenile detention center to await their fate, which is the outcome of their parents’ trial.  A daring escape from the detention center begins the chase…and the running.  Brother and sister flee rural Nebraska and end up running across the country, from state to state, while being chased by the FBI and a horrible criminal named Hairless Joe.

The kids’ adventures are believable, fast-paced, and not entirely legal.  But, how far would YOU run to save your Mom and Dad?

Great reads for ages 9 and up.  Summer’s coming…I hope you will have lots of time to check out your library and READ!


Chasing the Falconers

French Two Ways

I love French restaurants and could not resist delving into these new cookbooks. Both feature chefs who rose to prominence early in their careers.

Joel Robuchon has been called the “Chef of the Century.” His restaurants span the globe and he holds more Michelin stars than any other chef. Robuchon is credited with helping French cuisine find itself after a period of nouvelle dalliances known for extravagance as well as excessive minimalism. Robuchon returned focus to France’s heritage, celebrating authenticity, respecting ingredients and honoring regional specialities.

The Complete Robuchon features some 800 recipes designed for the home cook – more like a Joy of Cooking for French Food. The straightforward and unpretentious recipes include not only basic sauces and stocks, soups, meats, fish and fowl, but desserts, jams and preserves. If you’re looking to make famous dishes such as cassoulet or beef bourguignon, you’ll find them here, along with the lesser known pan fried lamb kidneys or roasted strawberries with green peppercorns, pepper cookies, and herbed ice cream (yes, it’s a dessert).

While Robuchon could be called an Impressionist, Jean Francois Piege is more like a mid-career Picasso. In 2004 at the age of 34, Piege took the helm at Les Ambassadeurs in the luxury hotel Crillion. His approach is one of interpreting and reassembling. Piege once said that if he were not a chef, he would be a designer. Piege’s interpretation of an everyday dish — tomato with mozzarella and basil — arrives in the shape of a tomato, with mozzarella filling two half-spheres of slow cooked tomato and tomato sorbet, all drizzled with basil oil. Crillon at Home contains 41 fashion forward recipes from Les Ambassadeurs as well as 41 recipes for comfort food, dishes that Piege says he cooks at home (a mildly spice duck breast in fig leaves, for instance). The gorgeous color photography is necessary because, although the recipes do contain rich detail for the often intricate compositions, you need a photo to know how it should look.

If The Complete Robuchon reacquaints you with French cuisine, then Crillon at Home might cause you to play around in the kitchen. Bon appétit!


The Complete Robuchon

Down the Rabbit Hole

The Plimpton Prize winning author Jesse Ball’s spiraling new novel The Way Through Doors is a dizzying piece of literature, yet the authors obvious talent with language and contagious sense of the absurd propel the novel out of the mere experimental and, if you are willing to forgo a linear plot and reality based fiction, into a truly wonderful reading experience. The novel follows municipal inspector and pamphleteer Selah Morse as he searches for a beautiful amnesiac young woman’s history after witnessing her being run down by a taxi. The book joyfully wanders in and out of interconnecting sections, some allegorical and some just strange, the stories within stories dissolving into one another often before the reader even realizes. This is a clever trick of a novel that I believe overcomes its intentionally confusing style with the strength of the writers skill.


The Way Through Doors

This Week in Science History May 6

Here are some highlights from this week in science history. To learn more about these intriguing science topics, just click on the underlined words in blue print to access the library catalog. I hope they pique your interest!

May 5, 1847 the American Medical Association was organized. Founded by Nathan Smith Davis, the AMA was the first permanent national U. S. medical society to be organized. Davis established the AMA to “elevate the standard of medical education in the United States”. Its mission is “to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health”.

May 6, 1856 explorer Robert Peary was born. Peary’s claim to fame is his famous polar expedition which reached the North Pole April 6, 1909.  There is controversy, however, over this claim. Frederick Cook claimed he reached the North Pole in 1908.  Most geographers accept Peary’s claim as the first to arrive, though. Peary is also credited with discovering the largest meteorite during a northern Greenland expedition in 1891.

May 6, 1856 the Austrian father of psychoanalysisSigmund Freud was born. Freud revolutionized the field of psychotherapy with his belief that dreams and “mistakes” may have meaning, and his emphasis concerning the role of unconscious and nonrational functioning. Interestingly, Freud took three years longer than normal to complete medical school because he was so engrossed in neurological research that he neglected the prescribed courses. He was an intensely driven scientist/doctor devoted to studying and understanding the area of emotional disorders.

May 6, 1937 while landing at the naval air station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, the dirigible The Hindenburg burst into a terrifying ball of flames. It had departed Frankfurt, Germany 2 ½ days prior and had just crossed the Atlantic Ocean. The giant majestic zepplin filled with hydrogen quickly turned in to an inferno in only 34 seconds. Thirty-five people tragically lost their lives as Herb Morrison a reporter from WLS Radio in Chicago who happened to be covering the event cried out the now famous words, “Oh the Humanity!”.    


Freud the Man: An Intellectual Biography


How to Be Alone

How to Be Alone is a collection of essays composed by the author of the award-winning novel The Corrections. These pieces, mostly written and published before Jonathan Franzen became a house hold name in 2001 are a varied mixture of concerns, subjects and nagging ruminations that are sutured together by a common thread punctuated by the title’s allusion to the problem of living in our hard-wired, fast-paced, technology-saturated, consumer society. In How to Be Alone’s most talked about essay titled Why Bother?, Franzen asks of us, as though he knows the answer but wants desperately the medium to lament the decline in reading, curiosity, critical thinking and other vital social values and skills, does the social novel have an affective relevance within a culture where it must compete for attention and value with the inane banalities of reality television celebrities, babbling cable news pundits, tabloid sensationalism and a nation of information consumers whose capacity to read beyond headlines or pay close attention for more than a sound byte continues to decline by the power and influence of popular culture, the mass media, television and the internet?

Franzen is an intelligent and engaging novelist who grapples with questions concerning the artist’s role in today’s consumer society and the social meaning and impact of the rapidly eroding borders between private and public life. One of the last essays reflects upon Oprah having selected The Corrections for her book club and the mini controversy that followed. Highly recommended.


How to be alone

This Week in Science History Apr. 29

Here are some highlights from this week in science history. To learn more about these intriguing science topics, just click on the underlined words in blue print to access the library catalog. I hope they pique your interest!

Apr. 27, 1791 American inventor and artist Samuel F. B. Morse was born. Morse is famous for developing the world’s first practical telegraph system. Although the New York Herald eulogized Morse as “perhaps the most illustrious American of his age”, he felt his life was a failure. He was an artist, inventor, and art teacher who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of New York City and Congress. After he developed the Morse Code and perfected the electric telegraph, he battled with domestic and foreign competitors and lawsuits.

Apr. 28, 1947 anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl led a crew of six on a voyage bound for Polynesia on a balsa-wood raft named the Kon Tiki. Heyerdahl believed that Polynesians could have originated in South American and he wanted to utilize the technology and materials of pre-Columbian times to demonstrate that the voyage across the Pacific Ocean was possible. The Kon Tiki, an old name for the Inca sun god, Viracocha, reached the Tuamotu Islands 101 days later.

Apr. 30, 1665 the Great Plague hit London. Also know as the Black Death from the telling lumps in the victim’s body and the inevitable death, the Plague was carried by fleas which lived as parasites on the Black Rats which infested the city. While the disease had existed in Britain since its appearance in 1348, this time it struck swiftly and spread at a horrifyingly fast rate. It ravaged London throughout the summer of 1665 with 8,000 people dying each week by September. It is estimated that between 75,000 and 100,000 died.

May 1, 1931 the Empire State Building was dedicated by President Herbert Hoover. Located New York City at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, the Empire State Building had 102 stories and was the first skyscraper higher than 1,250 feet. The building was completed in an unbelievably fast one year and 45 days. It was the world’s tallest skyscraper until 1954.   


The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time


Michigan and the Federal Writers' Program

The American Guide series of books about the then 48 states (Alaska and Hawaii weren’t states at the time) was produced by the Federal Writers Project under the Works Progress Administration during the 1930’s and 1940’s. The travel guides, from Michigan to Missouri and New York to California, cover history, geography and culture of each state. The idea for the project was to employ writers such as Saul Bellow, John Cheever and Richard Wright to compose articles about the states. The set of books have historic value and although older, contain information that is current today. A complete set may be found in the Reference collection and some titles are in the circulating collection of the Central Library in the travel area.

The Michigan volume highlights many of the cities including Kalamazoo: “The two main business streets are exceptionally wide. The downtown area, centered at Main and Burdick Streets, is composed mainly of two- and three-story structures. The one ‘skyscraper,’ a 15-story bank building, looks down on peddlers hawking celery and peanuts—a sight peculiar to Kalamazoo.” Oh for some crisp celery and hot peanuts today! This history continues and may elicit a chuckle from readers but is invaluable information that should be appreciated by today’s readers as well as future readers.




The Bellini Card: a novel

This is the third in a series by an Edgar winning author, and it does not disappoint. The novel begins in  Istanbul in the 1840’s. Yashim, the eunuch detective from the previous novels, is charged by the Ottoman sultan to travel to Venice to find  a missing portrait by the artist Bellini. However, Yashim devises a plan so that  his  friend, the irrepressible Polish ambassador  Pawleski, goes instead. Disguised as a rich American art connoisseur, Pawleski  finds his life in danger as he attempts to untangle the web surrounding the portrait. Wonderfully evocative, Venice in the mid 1800’s  comes to life, along with the richly drawn characters. The first two novels, “The Janissary Tree”  and  “The Snake Stone,” are also well worth reading.


The Bellini Card: a novel

Behind the Books

You may never have heard of Barney Rosset but his mark on 20th century literature is an indelible one in large part because of his courageous stand against the censorship of books and his unwavering championing of the works of some of literature’s most important writers. Rosset is best known for his owning and operating of Grove Press, an important publisher during the 1950’s and 60’s of some of literature’s greatest avant garde pioneers, including the work of Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot), Jean Genet, Eugene Ionesco, Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, and Kenzaburo Oe. In 1957 Rosset launched the influential magazine Evergreen Review which brought to the attention of readers those involved with the Beat Movement (Jack Kerouac, Hubert Selby Jr., Allen Ginsberg e.g.) and the emerging counterculture of the 1960’s. Aware of the importance of literature as a galvanizing force to bring about new ideas and creative experimentation by way of the First Amendment, Rosset famously fought several cases of censorship (notably the work of Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence) during his time as publisher. Rosset was recently recognized for his work as a leader in publishing by the National Book Foundation and appeared as the subject of a recent NPR piece discussing his long career.


Last Exit to Brooklyn

Holocaust Remembrance: A Trio of Books

Tuesday, April 19 was Holocaust Remembrance Day. The period of World War II has always interested me. I didn’t experience it, but I can read nonfiction works by and about people who did, or I can read novels that introduce me to new situations, people and emotions, all helping me understand, even a little, what it must have been like.

In the last year, I read a handful of books set during the Holocaust. I shared them with friends who enjoy good writing; these friends shared the titles with other friends. Now I’d like to offer three of them to you.

Suite Francaise
About the author Irene Nemirovosky, a New York Times reviewer said, “She wrote what may be the first work of fiction about what we now call World War II. She also wrote, for all to read at last, some of the greatest, most humane and incisive fiction that conflict has produced.”

This is a book that almost wasn’t published. Irene Nemirovsky was a Ukrainian Jew who had lived in France since 1919. She was arrested on July 13, 1942 by French policemen enforcing German race laws. Her crime was being a “stateless person of Jewish descent.” She was taken to Auschwitz where she died. Her husband Michael Epstein worked for her release from prison, but was shortly sent to Auschwitz where he died, too. Their daughter Denise was hidden and survived, along with a manuscript that she did not so much as read until the late 1990s.

Published in 2007, Suite Francaise features two novellas along with biographical information, including some correspondence by Michael Epstein as he sought information on his wife's whereabouts. It also includes Nemirovsky's plans for two other novellas which never were written.

What is chilling about this book is that so much of what Nemirovsky wrote must have been from first-hand observation. “Storm in June” recounts the experiences of a few people fleeing Paris as the Germans invade. She captures a full range of human responses — how, really, might you and your neighbors react to such circumstances? Sometimes it's not pretty. “Dolce” tells about the uneasy adjustments taking place in a small village under German control.

Knowing what happened to the author and her husband makes them all the more compelling.

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel
The fairy tale of a brother and sister lost in the forest is re-told with Poland as the backdrop. It’s near the end of the War. A Jewish brother and sister, renamed Hansel and Gretel by their parents, are hastily dropped off in a dense forest as their parents are being chased by the Nazis. The children wander around and happen upon the hut of an old woman (“the witch” she is called by the villagers). Magda takes them in, but is she a good witch, or a bad witch? I won’t divulge any more because I hope you’ll read it for yourself. As with all fairy tales, this story contains moments of beauty and horror.

The Book Thief
Australian Markus Zusak has written a highly imaginative story about a little girl growing up in Germany during the war. The book’s title refers to a nickname given to Liesel by her foster father. Though illiterate at the beginning of the story, Liesel is fascinated with books and her father teaches her to read. Liesel finds comfort in her books and gives comfort to the townspeople as she reads to them in a bomb shelter. She also gives comfort to Max, a young Jewish man her foster parents are protecting, with whom she forms a deep friendship. Zusak’s vivid writing shows the best and worst of humans, but this book really is heartwarming. It’s a sweet portrait of a little girl who keeps moving forward as everything around her falls apart.

 Suite Francaise

Let's Take a Trip

Lately, I seem to discover poetry and other commentaries about literature and/or books and how important each is to us. The April 2009 issue of Bookbird, a magazine published by the IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) folks, contains a short poem by J. Patrick Lewis, a poet from Westerville OH. Here it is:

     Books are thieves of hours.
They kidnap the mind;
The body is left behind.
But books are always
Caught read-handed
And released
After serving many
Arresting sentences.

What a tribute to books! And, to literature. Imagine yourself on a journey, taken vicariously through a favorite book. See yourself caught up in the moment, and forgetting such everyday things as eating and showering. See yourself in a far-away place, returning home after a glorious journey that would not have been possible without the trip taken with a book!

The Library has many books by J. Patrick Lewis, including The Bookworm’s Feast: a Potluck of Poems and Please Bury Me in the Library. These may be found in the Children’s collection, along with Mr. Lewis’ other titles.

Drop by soon and enjoy your feast or journey with these and other delectable choices from the poetry collections in Children’sTeen, and Adult areas.


The Bookworm's Feast: a Potluck of Poems

Cutting for Stone

Every once in a while, you find a book with the power to transport you to another place and time.  Cutting for Stone is just such a book. 

The characters are fully developed and fascinating.  The plot is full of human joy, as well as grief and suffering.  The time frame covers a period of more than 30 years, allowing the reader to see the characters as they grow and change and confront the confluences of historical upheavels and  their own personal destiny.

The author, Abraham Verghese is a doctor, and the plot of this book revolves around an English doctor in Ethiopia, who becomes the father of twin boys who grow up to become doctors. It’s the story of their birth, his rejection of them, and the lives they all weave separately, and eventually intersect,  that captures you from the first paragraph.

 As someone who prefers a good nonfiction book, I have to admit that this fiction account is so well written and developed that it goes on my list of all-time favorite reads.  You will not be disappointed.



Cutting for Stone



I’m determined to have a healthy, abundant garden this year, and due to my two beagles running around the yard, I want to leave chemicals out of the equation.  Trying to learn all the secrets of organic gardening at first seemed overwhelming to me, but I decided to start slowly and explore topics one at a time.  Composting was the first organic gardening topic on my list.  The aptly named Compost by Clare Foster is a simple beginner’s guide to understanding the compost pile.  The book gives a brief description of the science behind decomposition and then delves into all the materials suitable for the process.  Foster details various techniques for achieving the best, least-smelly compost pile possible, and does so in a clear, concise manner perfect for a beginner.  I’m confident my garden will benefit from this book, not to mention the fact that I look forward to making fewer trips to the garbage can!



This Week in Science History Apr. 21

Here are some highlights from this week in science history. To learn more about these intriguing science topics, just click on the underlined words in blue print to access the library catalog. I hope they pique your interest!

Apr. 20, 1928 British astronomer Gerald Hawkins was born. Hawkins was an established astronomer at Boston University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory who determined that Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain in Southern England was a sophisticated ancient astronomical computer. Although others had speculated on the importance of Stonehenge, Hawkins performed an intense study which he published in the journal Nature in 1963. He found astronomical alignments among 165 points of Stonehenge purely associated with the sun and moon. He used a computer to show that a pattern of alignments with twelve major lunar and solar events existed. Whether you consider Stonehenge an ancient observatory, astronomical calendar or calculator, the construction of it was an impressive engineering feat and it is shrouded in mystery!

Apr. 21, 1902 Marie and Pierre Curie successfully isolated one gram of radioactive radium in the laboratory in Paris. Marie and Pierre shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in physics with French scientist A. Henri Becquerel for their groundbreaking investigations in radioactivity. Marie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. The scientific partnership of Marie and Pierre achieved world renown and Marie would go on to win a second Nobel Prize. More about Marie at a later date she is a science topic all her own!

Apr. 22, 1970 the first Earth Day was celebrated in the U.S. to encourage environmental awareness and responsibility. Its mission is to safeguard the nation’s water, air and soil from pollution. The global theme for Earth Day 2009 is “The Green Generation”. The first Earth Day in 1970 is considered by many to be the birth of the modern environmental movement.


Earth Day

As indoor as indoor photography gets...

...and if you think the puppy photo on the cover is amazing, wait until you see the fetal elephant!  In the womb: animals by Michael Sims takes you on the journey of baby animals you normally don't get to see -- in the womb, from conception to birth.  This book is based on a National Geographic program that used 3-D and 4-D ultrasound on animals for the first time on television.  Animals highlighted are: dog, kangaroo, elephant, dolphin, penguin, wasp and shark. Plenty of interesting text accompanies the extraordinary photographs, highlighting each animal's unique prenatal path and including facts like "the fetal sand tiger shark will fight to the death in the womb."  To find out what enemy the fetal sand tiger shark must fight off from within the womb, read the section called Domestic violence. 


In the womb