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Staff Picks: Books

somethingtofoodabout

Somethingtofoodabout is a testament to what you can do when you reach the upper echelons of pop cultural cool. By all accounts, Questlove (drummer, producer, musical director, NYT bestselling author and culinary bon vivant) has reached the highest heights of hipness and now is basically tenured in the university of cool and can seemingly do whatever he pleases. Thankfully, Questlove’s celebrity was earned the old-fashioned way, through hard work and talent, as opposed to the "Kardashian" way, and he continuously makes interesting creative choices, including this new book. Instead of creating a celebrity cookbook or turning himself into yet another made-for-tv food impresario, Questlove gives us a book about the creative aspect of high-level cooking, filled with interesting photographs and rich conversations with chefs at the white-hot center of the food world. The book is artistic, unexpected, and casually but totally unapologetically cool. Check it out.


Rise of the Rocket Girls

We often think of the women astronauts as breaking gender barriers, but a whole generation of women came before them in the early days of the space program.

Rise of the Rocket Girls follows an elite group of women in the 1940’s and 50’s who broke gender and scientific barriers in the early days of rocket design and helped lay the groundwork for our space program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Interestingly, they were referred to as computers because they performed the math computations that determined speed, trajectory, combustion, and other factors for rocket and propellant development. These women computed thus they were labeled computers.

This book is very readable. Interspersed with their space work, are stories of their challenges of balancing home and family with a career, their struggles in a male-dominated workplace, and their pride in their role in launching American into space.


Save the Orangutans

Orangutan Orphanage was written and photographed by Suzi Eszterhas, a wildlife photographer whose work has appeared in numerous periodicals. She is also an advocate for conservation and helps raise money for various wildlife organizations throughout the world.

In this informative, endearing and just plain sweet book, she documents her visit to the Orangutan Foundation International’s Orangutan Care Center, where they actively care for rescued orangutans, most of which are orphaned youngsters.

The Center is located in the jungles of Borneo, Indonesia, just outside the Tanjung Puting National Park. Some three hundred orangutans are cared for by a hundred or so good-hearted, local villagers who are specially trained in orangutan care and development. Taking care of the youngest orphans is a 24 hour a day, seven day a week task, where the caretaker plays the role of surrogate mom. This includes round-the-clock bottle feedings, bath times, playtimes and educational outings to teach their charges about their environment and how to get along with other orangs. After years of effort, and a little luck, many or most of these animals will be released back into the wild to live the life that they were intended to live.

This is a wonderfully appealing visual book for animal lovers, both young and old. Additional information is provided on Doctor Birute Mary Galdikas, founder and president of the Orangutan Foundation International, as well as ecotourism, conservation, and how we can all help orangutans survive.

Check it out! You’ll be glad you did.


Squid for President!

Jokes about presidential candidates are just too easy this time around so I’m going to skip that part and get right to Aaron Reynolds new picture book President Squid. It is true that no giant squid has ever been president before, but this might be the right time. Squid wears a tie, lives in a big house (a sunken cruise liner), is famous (he’s in a book), does all the talking, and likes to boss people around so he thinks he is perfect for the job. Will he be the fifth president carved into Mt. Rushmore? If you aren’t already having enough fun during this year’s presidential race, check out President Squid for even more laughs. 

 
Speaking of storybook characters running for president, stay tuned for our mock election this Fall where each library location will nominate and campaign for one for president. Of course, Washington Square’s nominee, Dora the Explorer, will win!


Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride

 Summer is the perfect time for light reading, so I have another graphic novel to tell you all about! Lucy Knisley, an artist with a knack for turning her personal experiences into entertaining graphic memoirs, is back with Something New! Literally—that’s the name of the book

 

Knisley has written about the important role of food in her life, and some of her exciting travel adventures, but this time she’s covering her experiences grappling with the beautiful and incredibly stressful task of getting married. This lovely memoir includes many fun components, such as, a section on to buy, or DIY, how she and her husband met, and wedding traditions from around the world. I’d recommend this to book to anyone, whether they’re married, engaged, or single, because honestly, it’s just fun going on this wedding journey with Lucy Knisley.

Looking for more books by Lucy Knisley? Be sure to check out some of her other titles here. 


The Poisoning of Michigan

The environmental history of Michigan in the twentieth century (and beyond) has been one characterized by intermittent disasters with wide-ranging implications for the health and well-being of its citizens. One need only examine the Environmental Protection Agency’s maps of Superfund sites (specially-designated toxic waste remediation locations) in Michigan to better understand the current scope of the problems.

We have seen recent examples play out over the last year including the Flint water crisis and the discovery of water contamination stemming from a decommissioned Air Force Base in Oscoda. Citizens of Kalamazoo will be well-aware of the Allied Paper Mill / Portage Creek / Kalamazoo River Superfund PCB remediation process that has dominated the environmental consciousness of Kalamazoo and Allegan counties since the early 1990s - not to mention the subsequent Enbridge oil spill.

As alarming as these scenarios have been, the effects and general contamination produced by each could be described as relatively localized, at least in comparison to a 1973 disaster which resulted in the poisoning of the general population (approximately 9 million individuals) of Michigan through compromised dairy products. This is the subject of The Poisoning of Michigan by Joyce Egginton.

Egginton begins by summarizing the broad strokes of the accident, which began at the Michigan Chemical Corporation where a variety of industrial chemicals were produced. Among these were Nutrimaster, an additive for livestock feed which was shown to increase milk production in dairy cows and have other beneficial effects, and Firemaster, a polybrominated biphenyl (a type of chemical very similar to PCBs) that was being used at the time as a top-notch industrial fire-retardant. The chemicals were nearly indistinguishable to the naked eye, and a paper shortage had led to some extremely questionable techniques being implemented to label the 50-pound brown paper bags in which both Nutrimaster and Firemaster were shipped.

The outcome of this unconscionable confluence of circumstances was that in the Spring of 1973 a truck driver delivered several thousand pounds of Firemaster to the largest agricultural feed plant in Michigan where it was unknowingly combined with livestock feed, dispersed to more than 5,000 farms all over the state and fed to a variety of farm animals for nearly a year before being positively identified.

Egginton goes on to discuss in great detail the efforts of a handful of individuals, including a dairy farmer with a chemistry degree, who worked to pinpoint the cause of what followed: cows lost weight precipitously, milk production plummeted, chickens were born with tumors, animals in general refused to eat and perished. Similar outcomes awaited humans who consumed the products produced by those animals to the degree that a measurable decline in the athletic prowess of Michigan sports teams was noted during the years of peak contamination. All of this took place within an atmosphere which Egginton describes as one characterized by bureaucratic denial, industrial indifference, and the isolation of the afflicted.

Even when viewed alongside such well-known environmental disasters as Love Canal, which would be brought to light five years later, the degree of contamination stemming from the accident remains unparalleled in the United States. Occasionally the event is revisited by the media, and the ongoing effects are measured and discussed, but proportional to its impact, it seems to have become a little-known chapter in the environmental and agricultural history of Michigan.


Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed A Neighborhood

Mira loves to "doodle, draw, color, and paint" so her room is filled with vibrant pictures that she created herself.  Her neighborhood, on the other hand, is dull and gray.  Until the day a muralist moved in.  Together the two of them set off to paint the town.

Based on a true story, this picture book is about the East Village neighborhood in San Diego.  It tells the story of a community that Rafael and Candace Lopez brings together and the creation of the Urban Art Trail.  Lopez (who is also the illustrator of the book) along with community leaders, teachers, artists, and residents worked together to turn their neighborhood into a walkable piece of art.  This picture book is an inspiring story with wonderful illustrations that young children will love.


Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida

I was just on MelCat, minding my own business, when a message caught my eye. It flashed across the banner on the homepage, and it said "No Flying, No Tights". When I clicked on it, a site full of librarians' recommendations for anime, manga, graphic novels, and other non-superhero related materials opened up. SWEET!

http://noflyingnotights.com/ 

I am always hunting for new titles in these categories. I read about Tokyo Ghoul, and placed a hold through MelCat for the first volume of the manga series. Manga are Japanese comic books. They read from right to left. This supernatural title features flesh-eating ghouls trying to blend into human society to avoid ghoul investigators and stay safe among their own often violent, territorial peers. People know about ghouls; their existence isn't a secret, so they have even more reason to protect their true identities. The main character, Ken Kaneki, unwillingly becomes a part of this dark underground world, and it changes his life forever. Since reading the first volume, I've already received and began reading the second one, and requested the third. The series was made into an anime show, but I can't vouch for it. However, I do highly recommend the manga to teen and adult horror fans. Enjoy!


What Should I Read Next?

Full Disclosure: I haven’t read The Grownup by Gillian Flynn yet, but it’s on my list of books to read next. I discovered The Grownup while using our new database, NoveList, to find reading recommendations based on books I love. NoveList is an online resource that makes it easy to find books to read; it offers read-alike recommendations, reading lists, and an “appeal” feature that helps readers determine why they enjoy a book and whether a particular book will fit their style. I looked up my favorite book that I’ve read this year: Mr. Splitfoot, a contemporary gothic novel by Samantha Hunt. It was atmospheric, unsettling, and full of great character development. I wanted more! NoveList gave me list of ten recommendations based on that title, and due to its description, The Grownup appealed to me the most. Why did NoveList recommend The Grownup based on my love of Mr. Splitfoot? According to the recommendation, “These books are Creepy and Compelling, and they share: the genre 'Gothic fiction' and the subject 'Swindlers and swindling'.” All right, I’m sold.

NoveList is accessible with your library card on our website.


School's First Day of School

 Everyone is just a little bit nervous on the first day of school, even the brand-new school building.  “A sign above the door read, FREDERICK DOUGLASS ELEMENTARY.  ‘That’s a good name for me,’ thought the school.”  On this first day, some kids learn about rectangles, some cry, some are bored, some play on the jungle gym.  “So that’s what that is for,’ thought the school.”  Be sure to take a look at this book before school starts . . . School’s First Day of School is a reassuring story about new beginnings for everyone.