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Staff Picks: Books

So Bad It's Good

It seems like a month does not go by without a new movie based on a comic book being released. We’ve seen it all – iconic good guys to teams filled with lovable losers. This summer superhero movie fans will be treated to something a little different, a group of super-villains tasked with saving the world called the Suicide Squad. In the late 80’s DC Comics launched the Suicide Squad title during a time in which comics were taking a gritty turn. What could more gritty than a dysfunctional team of supervillains forced to go on covert missions for the government? If they survive, they might get an early parole. If they try and escape an implant in their body explodes. I was a huge fan of the comic because the drama between villains who were struggling with their own morality and the pure evil ones was mesmerizing. It seemed like every issue included either a gruesome death or an internal struggle. Great stuff.

A few years ago, when DC Comics rebooted their entire universe, the Suicide Squad returned. The current “team” is pretty much what the movie is based on. When I discovered that I could read the first five collections of the new series on Hoopla, I was thrilled. In no time at all I devoured all five volumes and rediscovered that almost 30 years later, that even a group of psychopathic, super-powered people can save the world once or twice.

The Secret Museum

This book was recommended to me by a relatively new colleague, but one who evidently has been around long enough to know what books I like! A statement on the cover says, 'Some [museum] treasures are too precious to display.' This pretty much sums up the content of the book, which author Oldfield introduces by saying, 'Usually there is more hidden away than there is on display. There are all sorts of reasons why. As the seed of my idea grew into a seedling, I began to unearth some of these reasons.' Included in this book are a Gutenberg Bible housed at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York, the Buckingham Palace switchboard kept by the Museum of London, a piece of Newton's apple tree held at The Royal Society of London, and the original draft of Robert Burns' 'Auld Lang Syne' at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, Scotland. Discovering the stories behind these artifacts is a delight.

I Heart Homebrewing

When it comes to making beer at home - a.k.a. homebrewing - this is the best book in the universe. It's approachable, easy to understand, entertaining, and very calm (the author's favorite phrase is "Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew.") Charlie Papazian was homebrewing before it was cool, and he understands the science but doesn't take it too far. The hobby of homebrewing can be stressful for beginners. What equipment do I need? What process should I use? Do you really need to do that? This book answers all these questions in a practical, no-nonsense way.

Turns out, making beer at home is not that hard at all. Don't be scared.

The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk

Kabir and Surishtha Segal have capture the true spirit of India in this refreshing re-telling of a classic nursery rhyme.  The vibrant illustrations of Jess Golden brings to life the tuk tuk, a three-wheeled motorized taxi used in India.  As passengers "bobble-bobble-bobble" their way around town, young readers are introduced to poppa-doppa-doms, a slumbering sacred cow, the Festival of Diwali, and a decorated elephant spraying water on everybody.  As a bonus, the authors have included a glossary of words used in the story.  I can't wait to build a story time around this book!  I'm sure the kids are gonna love it.

Check out Simon and Shuster's trailer and jump on the tuk tuk!

Nina Simone

My last blog was about the newest Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie. As I mentioned in that blog, there was music in it by Nina Simone. I enjoyed the music and became curious about what else I could find out about Nina Simone. So, I started digging. The biography written by Nadine Cohodas called PrincessNoire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone tells her disturbing, but yet captivating story.

Nina Simone was born Eunice Waymon in Tyron, North Carolina. Her mother, Kate, was a housekeeper in the home of Katherine Miller. Mrs. Miller saw talent in the young Eunice and offered to pay for a year of piano lessons. Eunice did well the first year and her lessons were continued. At age 11 her piano teacher, Mrs. Mazzanovich, (or Miss Mazzy, as they later call her) and Mrs. Miller planned a recital at the Lanier Library. Eunice walked gracefully to the piano bench and took her seat with the practiced elegance that she had been taught. But, when she looked out at the audience she saw that they were moving her parents to the back of the room. She spoke up and said if they expected her to play then they better move her parents back up front where they could see her. It has been said that her parents were embarrassed by the ruckus she caused.

Mrs. Miller and one of her acquaintances arranged for Eunice to attend the Allen School in Asheville, N.C. Allen School was founded by Women’s Home Missionary Society in1887. It was established to provide a better education for blacks. When it was realized that Eunice’s skills were already too advanced for the music staff at Allen, Miss Mazzy arranged private piano lessons with the well-known pianist, Grace Carroll. At Allen School proper dress, behavior and decorum was expected and Eunice was a model student. She joined the Allen chapter of the NAACP and was the club treasurer. She graduated in 1950. 

She spent a summer semester at Julliard and later applied to Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.  The whole family moved to Philadelphia for her support. That was one of the reasons her rejection from the Curtis Institute was so devastating. She would have been one of the first black females to attend Curtis, but instead she had to look for work to help support her family. This is the part of young Eunice’s life where Nina Simone was born.

Nina Simone had a hard but interesting life. When she saw an injustice she caused many more ruckuses. If you would like to learn more read Princess Noire: the Tumultuous Life of NinaSimone. We also have in our collection a video called Nina Simone live at Ronnie Scott’sand we have several of her DVDs.


Everything, Everything

One of my favorite books of 2015 was Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. I don't buy into that whole "don't judge a book by it's cover" thing as a rule. I think we all pick up books sometimes just because something grabs us about the cover. That's how it was for me with this one. The cover grabbed me, the premise was interesting, and I was hooked. I did almost threw it across the room towards the end and then I picked it back up, finished it, and now haven't stopped talking about it. 

This is the story of a teenage girl who's literally allergic to everything (everything). She has never been anywhere because she might die. Of course she meets a love interest who she communicates with through web messages. And everything (everything) gets more complicated from there. To really live her life, she will have to challenge everything (everything) she's ever known. As a mom, this book made me cry good tears thinking about the utter joy and grief of raising children to grow up and make their own choices. As a person who loves teens and teen books, it made me soar. I've recommended it to every teen book reader I know. It's quick and has everything (everything) I like in a teen book. Angst. Romance. True Love. Meaning of life questions. Voice. Compelling characters. To quote School Library Journal, it's just "wonderful, wonderful."   


The Dinner

Two couples, the men are brothers, meet over dinner. The conversation starts out casually but eventually turns to the real reason they are meeting: a discussion of an unspeakable crime their teenage boys have committed. There are political as well as moral issues; one of the brothers is on the cusp of becoming prime minister of the Netherlands. One of the wives has known and will do whatever it takes to protect her son.

As they inch through an excruciating meal, they don’t agree on how to handle the situation. The book moves slowly but is riveting. As the dinner progresses, the reader trusts Paul, the brother who is narrating the story, less and less.

This is a Book Club in a Bag title from our collection. My book group had a spirited discussion about it – how far will parents go to protect a child?

No baggage

Can you picture yourself hopping on a flight to another country for a 3 week trip with literally just the shirt on your back? In No baggage : a minimalist tale of love & wandering, poet Clara Bensen chronicles how she did just that…only a few months out of a 2 year anxiety/depression-ridden slump…with a guy she had met just a month before on the match site OKCupid. With no luggage (not even a backpack), the pair travels from Istanbul to London, through 8 countries. I am only about 100 pages in, but I can’t put this book down! Everything in this book is fascinating – the minimalism, the newness of their relationship which has only been defined so far as “travel partners,” and the poetic descriptions of the places they’ve been already, such as the “cobbled streets” of Istanbul “stitched together in spiderlike grids.” I love travelogues, but this is by far the most intriguing one I’ve read so far.

All American Boys

Stop everything you are doing and read this book. Then, share this book with someone else. If you know a high school teacher, tell them to have every student that crosses their path read this book. Need a book for a book discussion, reader’s theater, or classroom read aloud? Here is your choice! Let all of the teenage youth in your life read this book. Parents - read this book and talk with your children about racism in America. Talk about violence and the moments that change you forever. Talk about the small things, like stopping for a bag of chips; that lead to big things like a protest with a die in. This unforgettable story of two teenagers is an opening to essential conversation. All American Boys takes place over one week in the lives of Rashad and Quinn, told in alternating voices from award winning authors, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.

“Rashad is absent again today.” – The graffiti is a reminder of what has happened and a call to action for students and teachers at Springfield High School. This short phrase will stick with the reader long after the end.

The Walter Award

Jason Reynolds

2016 gives us the inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature – Youth Literature Category. The Walter Dean Myers Award, also known as “The Walter,” is named for prolific children’s and young adult author Walter Dean Myers (1937 – 2014). Myers was a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature as well as a champion of diversity in children’s and YA books. We Need Diverse Books announced on Monday that All American Boys is the first winner of this prestigious award! Congratulations to Jason and Brendan! The American Library Association also awarded All American Boys the 2016 Coretta Scott King Honor Award earlier this month. When Walter Dean Myers visited Kalamazoo Public Library in August 2013, he told us that “Reading is Not Optional.” Take his advice, make reading All American Boys not optional for you!

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Laughter is the Best Medicine by Dave Coverly
ISBN: 9781416245094

Dave Coverly grew up in Plainwell, Michigan and now makes his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dave is the famed cartoonist of the “Speed Bump” comic strip that appears daily in the Kalamazoo Gazette in addition to over 400 newspapers.
Laughter Is The Best Medicine is a small volume of medical jokes and it may be just what you need to put a chuckle in your day during these cold winter months.
Here is a sampling:
The sign on the Cardiologist’s door reads: Back in a Heartbeat.
Mabel, the patient, complains: "The nurses here are so slow. Could this blanket be any thinner? The buttons on the TV remote are too darn small…."     Caption: Although her health had improved, Mabel’s condition remained critical.
A new mother is sitting on a hospital bed with her newborn baby in her arms. There are two balloons and one balllon reads: It’s a Girl! The other balloon reads: It’s a Mom!
Adult Man heads toward door with sign that reads: Ear, Nose, & Throat. Little boy heads toward door with sign that reads: Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes.
Enjoy this terrific book of jokes by Dave Coverly!