RSS Feed

Staff Picks: Books

Lonnie Johnson -- inventor of the Super Soaker!

If you have kids (or were ever one), chances are, you’ve encountered a Super Soaker water gun. Well, I just found out who invented it! In the book Whoosh! by Chris Barton, you will learn about Lonnie Johnson, an African-American NASA engineer and inventor who accidentally invented the Super Soaker while trying to solve a problem with refrigerators and air conditioners.


Green Island

Green Island is a sweeping story of Taiwan from 1947 to 2003 told through the lives of three generations of the Tsai family.

Dr. Tsai is a respected, wealthy doctor. When he speaks out after the February 28 Massacre, the anti-government uprising, his life and that of his family is changed forever.

The story is told from the perspective of his youngest daughter, born as the story begins. As she grows up and eventually moves to California, she is still witness to her father’s legacy and a husband who also speaks his mind. The family scars have lingered.

This is a moving, well-written story of family, betrayal, and survival. It is also a good introduction to the Chinese Nationalists who were overthrown by the Chinese Communists after World War II and Chiang Kai-Shek.

This story stayed with me long after I finished reading. To me, that is a true compelling story.


One Terrific Tree

Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book is a visually stunning children’s rhyming book that has a wise, all-seeing owl tell the tale of a forest tree as the seasons change. Sitting inside the tree’s trunk, the owl first portrays winter, where “...all is still, gripped by winter’s icy chill”. Soon thereafter, snow is seen melting and a family of foxes, together with some bear cubs come out to play. As spring progresses, the leaves are growing, a breeze is blowing, the squirrels are scampering here and there, and the forest is covered with fragrant flowers.
Next, summer arrives and the sun shines intensely. The bees and birds enjoy the warm days and when come the nights, the stars shine bright. Fall follows with it’s changes. The weather turns cooler, ripe fruit tumble off an apple tree, autumn leaves turn red and gold, and animals gather and store food for the inevitable arrival of winter.

The seasons have all come and gone,
Snow has fallen, sun has shone.
Owl sees the first new buds appear,
And so begins another year

A winning, poetic book that is guaranteed to astound,
Preschool children all the year round!

If it's not one thing, it's your Mother

Don’t you love reading or listening to something you never want to end? Ok, sure, it’s not fun when it finally does, but it’s cool that it was so good you didn’t want it to be over. Ah, well, such is life! And such was the case for me with listening to If It’s not one Thing, It’s your Mother. Julia Sweeney reads her own writing, and she puts such life into her thoughts, her storytelling, other people’s voices. She’s funny, thoughtful, compassionate, honest.
Apparently she wrote this book in the space of a month. (How does somebody do that?!) During that time, her daughter and husband were both away on other ventures. She starts off relishing the time to herself and by the end, can't wait one more minute till they’ve returned. In between, we (dear readers) hear about how she became a single mother, how later she and Mulan and her husband,Michael, became a family, how she juggles career decisions with other life issues…and just other cool life stuff.
Truth be told, it was the funny title which drew me in. Then it was Sweeney’s funny, interesting way of writing and narrating her essays which kept me engaged. Until, sadly, the book ended.

A Book of Memories

Sam Savage’s economically crafted novella It Will End with Us is a Proustian study of both the lyric truths of memories and their opaque, wildly fictive nature. While the book is far more accessible than the work of the author of the epic Swanns Way, the books of David Markson or Samuel Beckett, as I read this slim gem of a book, I couldn’t help but recognize certain devices or stylistic flourishes that echoed their focus on literature as a means of excavating the inexpressible experience of remembrance. The book's story is told from the perspective of an elderly woman writing/thinking through her fragmented recollections of growing up in the South (likely in the 1940’s or 1950’s). It’s a poetic book organized by the woman’s vignettes of memory that touch upon the significant and the mundane with equal importance. I had never heard of Savage before picking up the book in the library’s New Book Rotunda but I’m glad I gave it a chance.

Teens' Top Ten Nominees!

Calling all Teen readers! The nominees for the 2016 Teens' Top Ten award were just announced and there's a lot of great books to read! The Teens' Top Ten is a "teen choice" list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in fifteen school and public libraries around the country, and they've made their choices. It's a long list this year- there's a ton of great titles to choose from, including titles by Marcus Sedgwick, Scott Westerfeld, Holly Black, and many more! You can find a PDF of the nominees here, and voting will happen later this summer. Get started reading today!

Mr. Splitfoot

As I neared the end of Samantha Hunt’s novel Mr. Splitfoot, I became upset to realize that I would soon finish it. I love this book; it encompasses everything that makes a great novel: flesh-and-blood characters, atmosphere, page-turning plot, and—most important to me—a literary tinge with incisive writing. I’m still sad I finished it.

One of the blurbs on the back of Mr. Splitfoot comes from Charlotte Bronte, speaking through a medium: “It’s intriguing because a person will know there’s something two-sided.” Bronte is right; this book is about duality. At the core are the relationships between life and death, mother and daughter, community and isolation, mainstream society and the fringes, earth and space. It’s a dark, gothic novel, a ghost story, set in the backwoods and small towns of New York. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes weird books that are both thrilling and multifaceted.

Trombone Shorty

Some of my favorite words in Trombone Shorty are in the author's notes at the end. Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews writes: "The only reason I succeeded as a musician was because I practiced every day. Practicing was easy to do because I loved playing music so much!" Troy Andrews's award winning picture book autobiography is illustrated by the great Bryan Collier. The focus of the story is on the well known trombone player's childhood in the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans and how Andrews started playing and, of course, got his nickname. I guarantee this book will lift you up as it captures the joy of making music so perfectly! Until then, you can listen to Trombone Shorty's Say That to Say This, via KPL Hoopla, with just a few clicks.


 When my brother and I were kids, we loved Gordon Korman books. I think I must have read “No coins, please,” “I want to go home!” and “This can’t be happening at MacDonald Hall” a dozen times each. Well, 30 years later, Korman is still cranking out great books. I figured he must be pretty old by now, but I Googled him and the picture looked pretty young. Turns out he wrote his first book (This can’t be happening at MacDonald Hall) when he was TWELVE! No wonder.

Korman’s brand-new book, Slacker, sounds right in line with the hilarious plot lines I remember from 30 years ago. After his house almost burns down while he’s caught up in a video game, slacker Cameron Boxer’s parents make him join a club NOT involving video games. Cameron instead creates a fake community service club to fool his parents and teachers while he and his friends just continue gaming. Kids end up taking the club seriously and Cameron is stuck being president and having to actually do stuff. The more he tries to get away from the responsibilities of the club, the deeper Cam is pulled in and the more he ends up accomplishing. This book is funny, good for reluctant readers, and has a positive message about helping others.


Absolutely One Thing

 Charlie and Lola are heading to the store with Mom, who says they may choose one thing.  “One thing each, or one thing between two?” asks Charlie.  That leads to a meandering view of math from Lola’s understanding of it.  How many socks will twenty-seventeen ladybugs need, and how many are a squillion?  Not so much a math concepts book, but a playing-around-with-math book.   Any book about Charlie and Lola is great, and Absolutely One Thing does not disappoint.