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Staff Picks: Books

Tent Camping in Michigan

It’s the time of year when our camping gear comes out of storage and we start to think about where we will explore Michigan this summer. For years, one of my favorite resources has been the Best Tent Camping Michigan guide. 

I always research any travel destination online and in print books. KPL has so many helpful resources for planning your next adventure in Michigan, or anywhere else.


During World War II, two disadvantaged groups got to serve their country as aviators. One group was the Tuskegee Airmen, composed of African American males. The other group was the WASPs: Women Airforce Service Pilots. Unfortunately, neither group welcomed black females. If you want to be inspired by black female aviators, read up on Bessie Coleman, Janet Harmon Bragg, and the contemporary superstar Vernice Armour.

In her nonfiction book WASPs: The Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II, author Vera S. Williams outlines the origins of the program, detailing the roles of General "Hap" Arnold, Jackie Cochran, and Nancy Love. She also describes the lifestyle, duties, and accomplishments of the women and gives other relevant historical information. Some of the women's main jobs (all of them domestic) were towing targets in the air for target practice, testing new and repaired aircraft, ferrying planes from factories to bases, and simulating situations to help the male cadets prepare for combat. To my delight, the book draws on some great sources to tell the story of the WASPs. Passages from interviews that the author conducted, photographs, newspaper clippings, and transcripts of songs fill its pages. The variety of sources and the direct writing style make this book both fascinating and accessible to all kinds of readers.

I immensely enjoyed reading this text, and that is really saying something, because nonfiction can be difficult for me to get through. It was nice to delve deeper into this subject to get the full story. If you are curious about one of the ways that women served their country during World War II, check out WASPs: The Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II by Vera S. Williams.

Steamboat school : inspired by a true story, St. Louis, Missouri 1847

Steamboat School is wonderful picture book that highlights yet another little known Black History fact.  It tells the story of the courageous and determined Reverend John Berry Meachum who ran a school on a steamboat that sailed up and down the Mississippi River. The story begins with young James, a free black growing up in Missouri during the 1840s.  While attending Reverend John’s school in the basement of a church, with only candle lights to see, James comes face-to-face with the harsh reality of the 1847 Missouri law which made it illegal to educate any Blacks (slave or free) in the state.  Author Deborah Hopkinson and illustrator Ron Husband have create an inspirational must-read with Steamboat School.

Who Squeezed the Sasquatch?

Don't Squish the Sasquatch is my go to choice right now to read aloud with kids of all ages.  While boarding an empty bus, Señor Sasquatch lets the driver know that he hopes it doesn't get too crowded because he does not like to get squished.  But what else could happen when the bus goes on to pick up Miss Elephant Shark, Mr. Octo-Rhino, Miss Goat-Whale, and Miss Loch Ness Monster Space Alien?  The combination proves to be explosive.

How will they revive Señor Sasquatch?

Kent Redeker's silly story mixed with Bob Staake's goofy illustrations just beg for you to ham this one up.  Check this one out and start practicing your Sasquatch voice.  

I just found out that there is a sequel: Don't Splash the Sasquatch!  Don't get in my way as I run to get it or you might get squished.

Rad Women

Rad Women Worldwide and Rad American Women A-Z tell the stories of women who did amazing things, some well-known and, maybe more importantly, some not so well-known. From Angela Davis to Zora Neale Hurston, Rad American Women A-Z came first and focuses on American women. Rad Women Worldwide focuses on forty women from all around the world who moved beyond boundaries. From punk rockers to polar explorers to authors, organizers, athletes, artists, and more, both of these great collections of biographical profiles feature amazing cut-paper illustrations by Miriam Klein Stahl. Both are great for all ages but reside in the library's Children's and Teen materials collections. Check them out if you are interested in being inspired and learning some real-life amazing stories!


Olivia's Birds

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


Fancy Party Gowns

This book is about Ann Cole Lowe, the fashion designer who designed and made Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress

She was once the best-kept secret in the society because she was a black woman. 

This book tells you about the inequality in the society back then, and more importantly, how Ann overcame her obstacles.

She was commissioned to make Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding gown and all the dresses for the wedding party. She had been working hard for months, then just ten days before the wedding, a water pipe burst and flooded her store. Most of the dresses were destroyed. Yet, she did not give up and was able to recreate all the dresses in days. 

This book inspired me. When the society treated black people very unfairly, Ann focused only on what she loved to do and what she could do. She did not give up because the society told her to. She showed the world her talents and that with determination and hard work, every one can accomplish great things, no matter your race or skin color.

For the Love of Bunnies and Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Piecing Me Together

Jade’s mother tells her to take every opportunity that becomes available to her, but she also knows the word opportunity is laced with coded messages. When the opportunity to join Woman to Woman is put in front of her, Jade is not interested. Until she finds out that completing the program means getting a scholarship to college. Paired up with a mentor that doesn’t seem to have her life together any better than Jade, wondering why her white friend can’t see that sometimes it IS about race, and wanting more out of this so-called opportunity, Jade begins to learn more about herself, her place in the world, and that if she wants to see change, she needs to speak up for herself and others.

This book was so amazing. From the very beginning I was hooked. Jade’s voice is clear and strong, and, as the story progresses, I love that her character development is subtle, yet major. Finishing it, I felt inspired. I have a feeling this book will be making its way into my personal collection very soon.

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read

 Nick and his cats, Verne and Stevenson, love to do things together.  Stevenson might be the tiniest bit grumpy, but he still goes along with things. . . until Nick decides to teach his cats to read.  Verne proves to be a quick learner, especially with words like fish.  But Stevenson wants nothing to do with books or flash cards.  Nothing!  But then Nick finds out that Stevenson likes pirates; he even has a stash of pirate drawings under the bed.  This changes things!  Check out The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read to see what happens next.