Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

Mighty Queens

They don't always look particularly regal, but most of us can name our own "Mighty Queens" . . . those women who have been our mentors, supporters, and prodders in life. Despite the fact that Amy Dickinson writes a daily, syndicated advice column and is a regular guest on NPR's "Wait,  Wait, Don't Tell Me" radio game show, she says, "I'm surrounded by people who are not impressed by me."  Freeville, New York is the place Dickinson left behind and the place to which she has now returned . . . the place where the Mighty Queens still rule.  Even if you're not an NPR fan or a seeker of advice, give this engaging memoir a try.



The Mighty Queens of Freeville

Still there after all these years

On March 24, Tuesday as I was reading the afternoon Kalamazoo Gazette, I saw a picture which brought me up short.......A United States Marine on patrol in what the caption said was "near the demilitarized zone in South Korea".  I guess I knew we were still there, but seeing the picture of an American young man in uniform, carrying a gun really brought the idea home. We have been a military presence in Korea for a very long time. My further thought was along the lines that we should not rush into any conflict in any country unless we are prepared to stay for another very long time and are prepared for our presence to alter both that country and ourselves.

Last year when I was laid up recovering from a very dicey surgery I ran into a series of books which the Kalamazoo Public Library does not own, but which can be obtained through MelCat if anyone wants to read them.  They are five books by a Hispanic American writer named Martin Limon and they are about two plain-clothes investigators in the Army's Criminal Investigation Division named Ernie Bascom and George Sueno. The setting is South Korea, and the time is the 1970's during the Vietnam War. Both George and Ernie have been in Korea so long that it is home to them and the home that is America is just a distant dream. Ernie and George work out of a base near Seoul but their favorite hanging place is a red light district know as the "Ville", the people they hang with are not the cream of the Korean society, but Ernie and George like them well enough and they understand them well enough and the language well enough that very few of their cases remain in the "open" file. Below is a list of George and Ernie titles in chronological order:

     Jade Lady Burning, c1992

     Slicky Boys, c1997

     Buddha's Money, c1998

     The Door to Bitterness, c2005

     The Wandering Ghost, c2007

            The author, Martin Limon is retired from military service after 20 years in the U.S. Army,  including a total of ten years in Korea. He returned home with a Korean bride. He and his wife live in Seattle. He is the father of three.



Jade Lady Burning

This Week in Science History Mar. 24

Here are some highlights from this week in science history. To learn more about these intriguing science topics, just click on the underlined words in blue print to access the library catalog.  I hope they pique your interest!

Mar. 23, 1937 American scientist Robert C. Gallo was born. Gallo co-discovered the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) responsible for AIDS in 1984. He also developed the HIV blood test. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. His continued research discovered the natural compound, chemokines, which can block the HIV virus and slow the progression of AIDS. Gallo worked for the National Cancer Institute for 30 years and also was the head of the Institute of Virology.

Mar. 24, 1882 Robert Koch reported that he had discovered the bacillus responsible for tuberculosis to the Berlin Physiological Society. The German scientist published two articles about tuberculosis both titled The Etiology of Tuberculosis. In his second article published in 1884, he explained “Koch’s postulates” which have become basic to the studies all diseases.

Mar. 28, 1793 American explorer and ethnologist Henry Rowe Schoolcraft was born. Schoolcraft is recognized for discovering the source of the Mississippi River in a Northern Minnesota lake he named Lake Itasca. He led a geological survey expedition, was a map-maker and a government agent on the Northwest Frontier (near Lake Superior). Schoolcraft also developed a great interest in Native Americans and wrote many studies about their lives, beliefs, culture and history.

Mar. 28, 1979 the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island nuclear plant took place near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The accident, a result of human and mechanical error, involved cooling system malfunction which permitted a partial meltdown of the reactor’s core. Although major disaster was averted and no evacuation was ordered, thousands of people fled the area. Cleanup began in August 1979 and officially ended in December 1993 with a cost around 975 million dollars.


Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective



Cooking for Baby

One of my friends just gave birth and another is due this summer. Both are excellent cooks who enjoy creating tasty and healthy dishes. I think they’d both like to read Cooking for Baby: Wholesome, homemade, delicious foods for 6 to 18 months. The author, Lisa Barnes, is founder of Petit Appetit, an in-home cooking school that teaches parents how to make healthy meals for their children.

Barnes says that “if you feed your baby only bland, processed jarred baby food and cereal, your baby will become accustomed to bland, processed food.” If baby is given a variety of flavors, then he or she will be more accustomed to the good habit of eating healthy foods. Food safety and saving money are other reasons for making your own baby food. Barnes encourages cooks to choose organic ingredients whenever possible.

The recipes and color photographs are organized according to age groups: 6 months, 7 to 8 months, 9 to 11 months, 12 to 18 months. Each recipe includes directions for preparation as well as storage, including freezing. Barnes includes a list of foods that are usually agreeable with babies starting out on real food, a list of foods that may make gassiness worse, and a list of foods that are more likely to cause allergic reactions.

Little ones just starting out will enjoy a variety of purees. As baby gets older, her meals will have  more texture and flavors. By the time baby is 12 to 18 months, she (and her parents) can feast on such tasty-sounding dishes as chicken and mango quesadillas, lentil burgers with mint-yogurt sauce, and buckwheat crepes.

Perhaps my friends will invite me over to dinner.


Cooking for Baby


Breakfast at Sally's

In mid 2002,Richard LeMieux, the author of Breakfast at Sally’s, embarks on an 18-month journey discovering what it’s like to be a homeless person. No this is not a young author deciding to pose as a homeless person during the day, and then return to his real home at night, just to write a expose on this topic.  It is in fact a memoir of an older man, once affluent and “living the good life”, finding his business collapsing and losing it all including family, friends and all the connections he ever had as a wealthy individual.

LeMieux’s only companion during this period is his dog who lives with him in a beat up van and at times is his only reason for living, even when depression sets in and he considers jumping off a bridge and ending his struggle. 

Along the way he encounters many unique people, some homeless like himself, and some compassionate and caring , who both give meaning to his life and enrich him beyond what he could ever imagine.  This is a must read book for those interested in seeing how many live, and especially during our current hard economic times.


Breakfast at Sally's

The Sisters 8 Ate Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Fans of the Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket unite!
Something new has hit the publishing world!  It’s called The Sisters 8 and centers around octuplets, all girls, who find themselves alone on New Year’s Eve of the year they are to turn eight years old.  Written by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, the adventures of Annie, Durinda, Georgia, Jackie, Marcia, Petal, Rebecca and Zinnia and their eight cats (named Anthrax, Dandruff, Greatorex, Jaguar, Minx, Precious, Rambunctious and Zither) will draw you in almost before you finish the Prologue of the first, and of all the other (“The story always begins the same.” p. v, Annie’s Adventures) stories.

Left to their own devices, or almost, the sisters 8 begin to really explore what might have happened to their mother and father, who mysteriously went missing as previously stated, on New Year’s Eve the year the girls were 7 and about to turn 8 years old.  Someone leaves notes behind a stone in the wall of the great room, notes that indicate that each girl has both a power and a gift, and she must discover for herself what her gift/power is. 

Dealing with everyday tasks (cooking, cleaning cat litter boxes, paying bills, driving, school, etc.) proves accomplishable for “the eights”, but arouses suspicions, as the reader would figure it might.  Eight girls and no visible adults?

Keep your hopes up though, for the author has said that there will be a story for each girl, and so far, it’s Annie and Durinda who have come to the surface, and who have begun to help solve the mystery of the disappearing parents.  Boys should not despair, because even though there are 8 girls in these stories, “girls can be just as grubby as boys—you just have to give them half a chance” (Prologue, Annie’s Adventures, p. vi), and who knows but you will enjoy them too, if you give them half a chance!


Annie's Adventures

...but I know what I like.

Sarah Thorton’s amusing Seven Days in the Art World leads its reader on a voyeuristic trip through seven distinct but interwoven sectors of the contemporary art world. An art world insider herself, Thorton is a New Yorker and contributor, the author’s status allows her access to the upper echelons of the modern art world. The inner workings of a Christie’s auction, a critiquing session at the California Institute of Arts, the corporate like studio’s of the artist Takashi Murakami, and more are seperate chapters in which Thorton presents just the right mix of detail (In the hyper status-aware world of modern art, I think it does matter what the people are wearing and Thornton lets you know),  subjectivity, and straight reporting. Weather you consider contemporary art worthy of the attention, and exorbitant prices, it commands or hold to the “a child could do that!” school of thought, you won’t find anything in the book that will sway your opinion either way. But no matter what side of the argument you fall, you will surely be entertained by Thorton's conversational style and the fascinating, absurd, and rich world she describes. For more insight into the contemporary art world see Donald Thompson’s The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art.


Seven Days in the Art World



This Week in Science History Mar. 18

Here are some highlights from this week in science history. For further reading on these intriguing topics, just click on the underlined words in blue print to access the library catalog. Happy reading!

Mar. 16, 1750 astronomer Caroline Herschel was born. Caroline, the sister of Sir William Herschel, went to live with Sir William at the age of 22 and served as his apprentice in his work in astronomy and making telescopes. Sir William is famous for discovering the planet Uranus which I talked about last week. Caroline helped him develop the modern mathematical approach to astronomy. She also made some discoveries of her own documenting eight comets (1786-97) and three nebulae (1783). She was the first woman to discover a comet! Caroline catalogued every discovery they made and two of her astronomical catalogues are still used today. On her 96th birthday she was awarded the Gold Medal of Science by the King of Prussia. It is interesting to note that Caroline was struck with typhus at the age of ten and remained frail throughout her life never growing taller than 4’3”. An intriguing woman of science!

Mar. 16, 1819 as we head into spring this week and another hay fever season, I thought you might like to know that the first clinical description of the allergyhay fever, was delivered by Dr. John Bostock to a meeting of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society in London on this day. Hay fever was referred to as “Bostock’s catarrh” for many years. The main causes of this type of allergy are pollens of grasses, weeds and trees and many of us are miserably affected by it. 

Mar. 20, 1904 American psychologist B. F. Skinner was born. Skinner’s pioneering work centers around the concept of behaviorism and operant conditioning. He is famous for his 1930 experiments using the “Skinner box” in which he observed animal behavior. Animals placed in the box learned to activate a simple lever which would reward them with food/water or to ignore the lever when it did not reward them. The reward of food or water acted as a primary reinforcer of the behavior. Skinner extended his theories to the behavior of humans and verbal behavior as well. If you have never studied his work, it is well worth your time to check it out!

Mar. 21, 1859 the Charter establishing the first Zoological Society was approved and signed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Due to the Civil War, though, it was another fifteen years before the zoo was opened on July 1, 1874. More than 3000 visitors attended with admission .25 for adults and .10 for children. Thezoo had 813 animals. Dr. William Carmac, a prominent Philadelphia physician, is credited as the zoo’s founding father in taking the lead to make the zoo a reality.


The Georgian Star: How William and Caroline Herschel Revolutionized Our Understanding of the Cosmos



Staff Picks favorites

 This month’s Staff Picks display at Central Library is featuring favorite books by the Oshtemo/bookmobile staff. One staff member recommends Where the wild things are by Maurice Sendak “My dad and I always loved this book. I would have him read this at least once a week when I was growing up. Any kid would love the artwork and adventures Max goes on.” Peter Jenkins Looking for Alaska was chosen by a staff member who regularly visits relatives in Alaska: “The author travels across Alaska experiencing various modes of travel from float planes to dog sledding.” This staff member liked Anatomy of a murder by Robert Traver: “I like this book because it is a mystery story that takes place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and involves courtroom drama. This story was made into a movie. It is based on a true crime.”

Next month’s Staff Picks will showcase choices by the Alma Powell branch staff.


anatomy of a murder


Joanna L

Life is So Good

In 1996, a literacy volunteer knocked on Mr. Dawson's door and told him adult education courses were being taught a few blocks away. Mr. Dawson responded eagerly, "Wait, I'll get my coat."

"I agreed to take it on temporarily, and in walks this 98-year-old man wanting to read," his teacher Carl Henry, retired head of the music program for the Dallas schools, recalled.

George Dawson never learned to read or write, but in this biography, we get a real glimpse of what life was like for the son of a sharecropper in  the Jim Crow era. From his early life, when he was sent away to work because his family was so poor, to the time he finally began to accomplish his life-long desire to read, we get a glimpse of a peaceful, grateful man who is an inspiration to read about.

When writing this book, Dawson told people that he felt he had been granted a long life, so he could tell his story:

“I am a witness to the truth. That's why I am still here. I can't let the truth die with me.”

 Dawson died in 2001 at the age of 103.  Life was so good.


Life is So Good


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