RSS Feed

Staff Picks: Books

Poverty can't be Solved and other Myths

Philosopher Peter Singer makes a compassionate, practical and moral case that we all should be giving more to end extreme poverty - the 1/3 of people living on 2 dollars/day. But first we have to get past the myths, barriers, and excuses that we tell ourselves.

Poverty can’t be Solved 

Wrong. 28 billion would do the trick (that’s the cost of education, sanitation, and healthcare for all according to the book and the website). To put that into perspective, if all Americans gave 3 dollars—that’s a billion already. Skip the latte tomorrow—there’s another 4 dollars you could donate. Moreover, the annual income of the richest 100 people could end poverty four times over. Finally, if the richest nations of the world gave 1 percent of their income—that would end poverty too.

We Need to Fix the Deeper Issues First

Yes, that’s correct. The organizations that fight extreme global poverty (like Oxfam) agree. They fix the deeper issues. They are not dropping bags of money from airplanes.

Charities Take Your Money 

Instead of helping poor people, your money goes to “administrative” purposes instead, right? Wrong. Not if you pick good charities. This book shows you how.

Government Should Do It

Government’s clearly don’t give enough to solve the problem, and America is actually near the bottom of the list in terms of percentage of national income, as opposed to gross amount. In 2006 we gave only .18% for example. Governments could give more, and so could we.

I Give Locally

That’s great, but 1/3 of the world lives in extreme poverty. Can you imagine living on less than 2 dollars a day? It’s all about perspective. This is not the Ice Bucket Challenge here (no disrespect; that was a great and successful campaign). But children are dying on a daily basis from routine, preventable diseases. The people that live in the United States, generally speaking, are much better off.

I Need to Save for my Future

Young people (including me) are especially guilty of this. The truth, of course, is that you can invest in many things.


Learn Something New Every Day

Learn something new every day? This isn't a new concept for librarians, for whom daily enrichment goes along with the profession. But, this book presents a unique way to acquire new ideas. Subtitled '365 Facts to Fulfill Your Life,' author Malesky presents a half-page (sometimes even shorter) anecdote or story about some little-known event or concept for each day of the year. Classed in the 031 category, this book isn't really history, science, or the arts, or any one discipline, but all of the above and then some. When I checked the entry for my birthday, I found 'The Land of Fire,' in which the author talks about Tierra del Fuego, a region which today is divided between Argentina and Chile. Anyone wanting to experience a potluck of random ideas presented in an entertaining manner should check out this quirky volume.

If I Ever Get Out of Here

It's 1975 and Beatles-obsessed Lewis Blake is entering 7th grade, expecting it to be mostly the same as last year—invisible to his classmates, even though he's the only Native American in a class of white kids. His life begins to improve when he meets George Haddonfield, a student from an Air Force family, who's equally enthusiastic about the Beatles. George takes a quick interest in Lewis, and invites him to his family's home on base. But Lewis doesn't want to return the invitation—his family lives in stark poverty on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation, and he's afraid that if George witnesses these circumstances he'll end their friendship. Author Eric Gansworth skillfully renders how it feels to be a young person on the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, with little hope of moving up. But Lewis' isn't a story of despair. If I Ever Get Out of Here follows the progression of Lewis and George's friendship, showing how the friendship expands their understanding of the world and themselves.

Fans of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian will find much to appreciate in If I Ever Get Out of Here. In addition to a similar plot and setting, Gansworth imbues his novel with a comparable sense of warmth and humor. If you're looking for more stories about characters finding their place in the world, try Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Peña or Luna by Julie Anne Peters.   


Separated @ birth : a true love story of twin sisters reunited

This book was sooooo up my alley! Separated @ birth is about Anaïs and Sam, two young Korean women adopted and raised in France and New Jersey, respectively. Both have adoption papers from South Korea listing them as single births, so they never had any reason to think they were anything but. Until Anaïs’s friend finds a picture of actress Sam online, and the resemblance cannot be denied. Using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, the two young women with identical birthdates get in touch with each other…then they plan a Skype session, which both are nervous yet eager for. Check out the book to find out how their story continues! If you like this book, you may also like Identical strangers: memoir of twins separated and reunited (which I blogged about a couple years ago).


It’s Okay to Read

Children’s author/illustrator Todd Parr will be the guest speaker at the 37th Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar this year. Parr is the author of many wonderful children’s titles; his whimsical artwork is distinctive, and always makes me smile. His books have positive, reassuring messages about diversity, self-confidence, and acceptance. One of my favorites is It’s Okay to Be Different.

There is a Meet the Author event on Thursday, Nov. 13 at 6:30 pm at the Central Library, for all ages (free event, open to the public). The Youth Literature Seminar is Friday, Nov. 14 at KVCC’s Texas Township Campus, from 9 am - 3:30 pm (registration and fee required). Please check the KPL website for more information.

It's Okay to Read

I Love You Just Enough

On the last day of school, Heather is looking forward to a summer helping her dad on their Hazel Ridge Farm. While pulling weeds in a field, she discovers a fuzzy, helpless, and frightened baby duckling, who somehow was separated from its family.

Heather wants to help the duckling by keeping it warm and well fed. Her dad tells her that “...the hardest thing that you will have to do is not to love him too much”. After explaining these words to his daughter, she replies that “ I think I can love him just enough”.

She calls her young charge Mr. Peet due to his “peet, peet, peet” vocalizations, and puts the little wood duck into an empty fish tank with a towel, heat lamp, and a screen cover. She then begins a daily ritual of scooping up dragonfly larvae, crayfish and other little pond dwellers which she feeds to him. Mr. Peet grows and begins to explore the house and the farm, and in time teaches himself how to fly.

Summer ends and Heather returns to her friends at school, while Mr. Peet finds friends of his own. The now grown duck comes to visit less often and Heather misses him greatly, but tearfully announces that he will be okay, “...because I loved him just enough”.

This book was written by Robbyn van Frankenhuyzen, and beautifully illustrated by her husband Gijsbert, (aka Nick), both of whom actually still live at Hazel Ridge Farm in Michigan. This narrative is a true account of the wild duck fostering experiences of one of their two daughters in the 1980’s. Through this and other stories, (many of which are in the KPL collection), they relate the adventures of wildlife rehabilitation and how they have cared for many injured and orphaned animals over the years.

I Love You Just Enough is a gratifying picture book that is just right for sharing with your children as the leaves turn to their fall colors.

Also, you can visit Hazel Ridge Farm online at

Telephone by Mac Barnett

Whenever Mac Barnett comes out with a new picture book, it's best to put it on hold and look forward to it! His new book, Telephone, does not disappoint. With beautiful illustrations by Jen Corace, we see the story of birds on a wire trying to tell Peter to "fly home for dinner". But as usually happens in the game of telephone, the message gets re-interpreted many times in ways that will have the kids laughing. In the end, the owl knows best and Peter does indeed fly home for dinner. I can't wait to read this one with KPS First Graders when they come visit this school year!



There is a new display in the rotunda at the Central Library that we hope will become a regular fixture, helping you discover new books and find what to read next. 

LibraryReads is a project that a few librarians came up with around this time last year. They knew that librarians all over the country received books to read and review before they were published so they decided to ask these librarians to submit one title they loved that would be published in the upcoming month. They tallied up the votes and started displaying on their website, “the top ten books published this month that librarians across the country love.” 

The display will include the books that have appeared on these lists since September 2013. Use the two most recent lists that we have posted at the display to put holds on new, interesting titles that may not have even been published yet.

I find there to be an interesting mix in the books that end up on these lists: mystery, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, romance, literary fiction and nonfiction.

We hope this will become a regular stop on your trips to the library and that you will find books that you love just like librarians across the country.

Words with Wings

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes is a short story told in poetic verse. The story is about a girl named Gabriella and, although her grade and age aren’t revealed, she’s probably in junior high.  Each page is a poem with a one or two word title that captures a day in the life of Gabriella who was named after the Angel Gabriel.   Her parents are now separated, she has moved to a new school, and Gabriella uses day dreaming as a way to escape life… separation from her father and being the shy new kid in class.  She day dreams when she hears any particular word and her thoughts are carried away on wings.  For example, the word Dragon takes her riding on a dragon across the sky till the sun dives into the sea.  However, both her mother and her teacher, Mr. Spicer, tell her to quit day dreaming.   “Mom names me for a creature with wings, then wonders what makes my thoughts fly.”  When Gabriella finally does stop day dreaming her mom and Mr. Spicer know that she is unhappy.  Will Gabriella ever return to day dreaming?

I like this book because it is an effective poetry story.  It is interesting that Grimes uses two different fonts to categorize the moods of the poems.  Nikki Grimes is an award winning author and this book received a 2014 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award.  Kalamazoo Public Library owns many books by Nikki Grimes.

Stories without words

My kindergartener and I recently developed a love for wordless stories. In these books, the plot is driven by the pictures and you and/or your child describe what is happening as you turn the pages. KPL has a lot of can find them in our catalog using the subject heading Stories without words. Some absolute FAVORITES are Journey and Quest, part of a trilogy by Aaron Becker. Journey (a Caldecott Honor Book) begins the trilogy with a bored little girl in a big city who draws a door on her wall and is transported to a magical land and kingdom. Quest continues the trilogy as the girl teams up with a boy she met in Journey, showing in great detail the adventures they have rescuing the king whose peaceful land has been overtaken by evildoers. You can read here how Aaron Becker uses 3D modeling to help build the kingdom, and then fills in the details. His work is so detailed that each time we read the story, we discover new things that we missed all the previous readings (and there are many)! The third one in this series can't come soon enough! We also love author/illustrator Gaëtan Dorémus, especially Coyote Run. Some other authors to note in this genre are Beatrice Rodriguez (Fox and Hen trilogy) and Arthur Geisert (Ice and The giant seed).