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Staff Picks: Books

The Scraps Book; Notes form a Colorful Life

The Scraps Book; Notes from a Colorful Life
By Lois Ehlert

Lois Ehlert is a “go to” author for preschool picture books, children really like her books. Lois is an artist and a writer and she has a passion for the importance of early literacy. She uses an art technique called collage which means she cuts out scraps of paper, fabric, real objects, painted objects, photographs, and then she assembles and glues them into place onto a background resulting in an image. KPL has many of Lois’ books.
Children love to identify exactly what “part” is used in making a picture, such as, what is the snow girl’s mouth made from? What is the snow boy’s nose made from? Lois finds her ideas for books from the world around her… gardens, shopping at the market, watching fish at an aquarium, a squirrel who ran into her home… Lois finds free art supplies from Mother Nature when she goes for walks… “I keep my eyes open. An idea may be close by. “
After Lois writes a story, she sketches out the entire book to decide what to illustrate on each page. Not only does Lois write a story, but she also has very appealing artwork for youngsters.  Lois relays that her mother shared many colorful fabric scraps, buttons, lace, ribbons with Lois and her dad gave her woods scraps and taught Lois how to paint, saw, and pound nails. Lois was given an old table for doing her artwork and she even took it to college with her! Lois grew up in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, and now lives in Milwaukee. This is a great line from her biography: Why did I choose to be an artist? I think it’s the other way around. Art chose me.


I'll Give You the Sun

I read so many great books that it's hard to have a favorites list. But if I ever made a list, I've no doubt this book by Jandy Nelson would be on my list for all time. I'll Give You the Sun is an achingly honest book about family, love, betrayal, reconciliation, loss, and imagination. It's the kind of book that I wish I had read when I was a teen. I honestly picked up because I liked the cover. Little did I know that I would weep and laugh as I read it and come to love it so much, that I've recommended it to everyone I know who reads teen literature and many who don't. Early this year, it was the Printz Award winner for excellence in young adult literature. I can't recommend it enough. Great storytelling. Compelling characters.


Landline

Georgie McCool (yes, that’s her real name) is a writer for a successful sitcom living in L.A. with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create her dream t.v. show—but she needs to have the first few episodes written within the week.  And it happens to be Christmas week.  Ever the workaholic, Georgie skips a family vacation to Omaha, much to the dismay of her husband Neal.  Georgie’s inability to get a hold of her husband after he leaves town makes her wonder if he’s left her for good.  It isn’t until Georgie makes a call from the landline in her childhood bedroom and reaches Neal 15 years in the past that she realizes what she’s potentially lost.

The plot of Landline sounds like a cheesy romantic comedy, but Rainbow Rowell has a talent for creating believable characters with realistic dialogue.  I’ve found it to be an enjoyable read thanks to the very relatable characters.


A graphic novel telling the true life story about Nat Love

A publisher friend asked Nat Love to write his story. He lived an interesting life at an important time in American history. He was born a slave but was fortunate enough to be on a plantation where he was treated kindly. It was well after the war when his family found out they were free but, farm life was tough and they all had to pull together to make a living. Everyone had to do their part. That’s when Nat started wrangling. He became a cowpuncher, learned to shoot and became a real cowboy. 

 
This was easy reading and the graphic novel version was an interesting way to tell a true story. I enjoyed it.

 

 


The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook

Full disclosure, I am far from a vegetarian. But I do like good food, have passing interest in eating healthier, and I’m a big fan of everything that America’s Test Kitchen does, so when I saw that America’s Test Kitchen had released a new cookbook, The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook: a fresh guide to eating well with 700 foolproof recipes, I put my bias for animal products to the side and checked it out. There are recipes here to suit any mood, time, or flavor interest, and having them vetted by the impossibly thorough cooks at ATK means that you can basically turn to any random page and find something great. What I truly love about this cookbook is the “why this recipe works” section that is included with each recipe and offers the home cook some pointers about technique, ingredient selection, or intangible things that the ATK testers discovered are helpful in executing the recipe as designed. I’ve only made one of the recipes so far, a curry lentil soup, but I’m happy to report that it was easy to follow, the tips offered made total sense, and the soup itself was delicious.


Click, Clack, Peep!

As all of the farm watches an egg – they hear nothing. Then a CRACK! Each animal answers ….crack /moo? Crack/baa? And so on until out pops a baby duck.

Baby duck laughs, waddles, and plays all the while peep, peep peeping. The animals yawn, peep. The chickens sing a lullaby, more peeping. That baby duck won’t sleep! The cows and the sheep try peep, peep, peeping. All the animals go outside to sleep but they can’t – too much peeping. Finally, Duck takes off his headphones and puts them on sleeping Farmer Brown. Duck puts baby duck in a bucket, covers her in a blanket and takes her outside. All the while baby duck keeps peeping. Duck climbs into the tractor, buckles their seatbelts and backs out of the barnyard. And you guessed it… Duck drives back and forth – peeping continues until finally little duck falls asleep. When Farmer Brown wakes up he doesn’t hear any animals but he sees Duck and little duck on the tractor sound asleep. Duck drove all over the farm – he was not a good driver - but mission accomplished!

Kids will love the animal antics while parents and caregivers will laugh at the premise. And really who hasn’t tried that age old trick of taking the baby for a car ride in hopes of having them go to sleep.

I love the Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin combo of stories and illustrations. They are so child pleasing but with that added adult humor which is so much fun to find in picture books. Enjoy sharing this book over and over again.


Breathe

Follow the baby whale as she experiences her first day of life in the sea . . . “Breathe, little whale!”  After a day of play, making friends, singing, and exploring, the baby ends up with her mama: “Most of all, love and be loved.”  Breathe is a lovely story to share with your own small person.

 

 

 


Why Women are Better than Men

Oxytocin, a bizarre unsuspecting hormone expressed during sex and breast feeding, has been heavily linked to empathy, trust and - in a word - being a good person.

Okay. So what. Well, here's the problem. Women have it. Men don't (generally speaking). This explains why women tend to be less violent, more giving, and more empathic than men. Sorry, men, we simply cannot ignore these statistics.

Of course there is much more to the story than that. But this book, which absolutely blew my mind, tries to explain how and why oxytocin forms the building blocks of morality. For me, a student of religion, philosophy, and the intersection between them and science, this argument was fascinating. I highly recommend this book. This is one of those books that I will never forget


Drum Dream Girl

In 1932, a 10-year-old Chinese-African-Cuban girl broke Cuba's traditional taboo against female drummers. She performed with her older sisters as Anaconda (great band name), Cuba's first "all-girl dance band". Written by Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael LopezDrum Dream Girl shows how a young person who loves rhythm hears it everywhere she goes - in the whir of parrot wings, woodpecker beaks, and her own heartbeat. Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriago, Drum Dream Girl tells the story of how Millo's love of rhythm and drumming could not be denied. This is an inspiring book for young and old about honoring your dreams and breaking barriers.


Lucky Cat...Lucky Family

The Good Luck Cat: How a Cat Saved a Family, and a Family Saved a Cat is a heartfelt  memoir written by Lissa Warren, who in addition to being an author, is also an editor and publicity director residing on the East Coast. This chronicle revolves around Ting-Pei, Lissa’s family’s Korat cat. The Warrens’ had always been a cat loving family. Ting’s feline predecessor, Cinnamon, had lived with them for over 19 years, when kidney disease finally claimed her.

 

So in 1996, when Lissa’s father Jerry retired, had quadruple bypass surgery, and needed a companion to help him pass the time during recovery, Ting was adopted. Despite the fact that she weighed a mere seven pounds, Ting was a kitten full of vim, vigor, and a pronounced mischievous streak. Using her abundant intellect and winning personality, she quickly established herself as a prominent member of the Warren clan. Being on very friendly terms with everyone, she especially bonded with the father, and was an integral part of his daily life right up to the time of his death due to a heart attack in 2008.

 

Not too long after that loss, Ting begins to act strangely; stumbling, swaying back and forth and just staring into space for prolonged periods of time. A visit to the veterinarian reveals that Ting had become “syncopal”. These episodes of semi-loss of consciousness were being caused by a lack of blood reaching the brain as the result of cardiomyopathy; a condition where there is a weakening of the heart muscle thereby decreasing it’s ability to pump.

 

Ting’s prognosis is grim unless she has a pacemaker implanted; a common procedure for humans, but not so much with cats. However, neither this knowledge nor the rather high cost involved, daunts Lissa, and she transports Ting to Boston where the procedure is completed.

 

After surgery, Ting recuperates at the Boston clinic for about a week, and after a few more weeks at home, recovers completely. As of the book’s publishing date, she was still doing fine at 19 years of age!

 

Unfortunately, three years after Ting’s pacemaker implantation, Lissa was diagnosed with MS. Once more, Ting becomes a valuable support.

 

This book focuses on Ting and how she changed the lives of Lissa’s dad and Lissa herself. It is also a moving tribute to a family’s power to love, rejoice, deal with illness, grief, fear and accept their own fates.