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Staff Picks: Books

Lowriders in Space

Lowriders in Space is a really imaginative flight-of-fancy in a graphic novel format that children and adults will love. With awesome illustrations by Raúl the Third, the story by Cathy Camper features Lupe Impala, the finest mechanic south of Vacaville. She and her friends El Chavo Flapjack and Elirio Malaria (he's a male mosquito so he doesn't bite), have the skills to restore a junker to compete in a contest for the best car around. They need to win so they can use the prize money to open up their own shop. With original characters and illustrations from out of this world, this is the first book in a great new series!

 


The Girl on the Train

I don’t usually seek out psychological thrillers but I did enjoy The Girl on the Train, often compared to Gone Girl.

The story centers on Rachel who takes the train into London each day, traveling past the backyard of a happy-looking couple she names Jess and Jason. One day, Rachel sees “Jess” kissing another man and the next day “Jess” is missing.

The story is told through the eyes of three characters with plenty of inventive twists and surprising developments – at least to me. This is a page turner, perhaps to be saved for a summer beach read.


Back in the Day Bakery: Made with Love

Cheryl and Griffin Day own a bakery in Savannah, Georgia and their second recipe book, Back in the Day Bakery: Made with Love, is full of customer favorites and family recipes.  While they lean toward Southern favorites, I think that west Michigan peaches will work just fine in their peach pie recipe! 

 

 

 


How We Got to Now

This 2014 book by Steven Johnson is subtitled Six Innovations That Made the Modern World. Those six are each described in chapters which are entitled glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light. Various inventions are recalled under each heading. For example, the chapter on cold discusses the development of refrigeration and the chapter on clean covers advances in public health. The illustrations and photographs by themselves make this book worthy of examination. One of my favorites is the reproduction of the old Clorox ad on page 153. Available in four formats: e-book, digital audiobook, compact disc, and print.


It’s Time For Global Reading Challenges

April is the accumulation of school team work for Global Reading Challenges here at Kalamazoo Public Library.

In March, 4th and 5th graders who participated in the school challenges showed off their skills for reading and remembering facts from 10 specifically selected titles. After reading, studying, and determining their team strategy each team met their challenge with a battle of other teams at their school. Each school then had 1 team, the team with the most points, selected as their school’s representative team that advances to the Branch Global Reading Challenge.

Oshtemo Branch Library will host our Branch Global Reading Challenge on Monday April 20, 2015 at 7 pm in the community room. Three schools will be represented:

  • Razzle-Dazzle Readers from Martin Luther King – Westwood Elementary
  • Radical Readers from Prairie Ridge Elementary
  • Candy Lollipops from Heritage Christian Academy

The teams will again battle for the chance to advance to the City-Wide Challenge. There each branch library, including Central will have one team. Teams will battle one last time for the chance to become the 2015 Global Reading Challenge Champion. Last year’s Challenge (2014) was won by the Crazy Cougars from Prairie Ridge Elementary. Can Oshtemo’s team do it again?

As you can imagine each Battle is a bit more intense. Same 10 books but not the same questions – each battle requires the questions to be more challenging, more specific in nature – just plain harder! If you have not participated by being in a challenge, being a coaching, being the parent of a team member or a family member you should think about coming to watch this great program. You will be amazed at the skill these students have for remembering the smallest detail from the 10 books.

Join us for some fast paced competition!

Visit our website for more information


Guardians of Ga'Hoole

Want to hook a young reader on a fantasy series? Try out the Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. 15 books of classic good vs. evil in a land run by owls. Owlet snatching, moon blinking, chaw building, battle claws, trees, weather, flashbacks, ceremonies, maps, sorcery, polar bears, nest maid snakes….it’s all in this series! Fun fast paced chapters that always end on a cliff hanger. Each book leaves you rushing to get the next one. Readers will find many correlations to human social psychology and politics using real owl science. This has been a fun series to read aloud with my tween. The movie is a fun tie in too, check it out!


I'm afraid you shouldn't read this Dave

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, Oxford University Philosophy Professor Nick Bostrom’s exploration of the complexity of potential consequences of introducing a machine with superhuman intelligence into our world. The book first defines and explores possible paths to an “artificial intelligence” that surpasses human capability, and then goes on to speculate on the, mostly catastrophic, consequences of doing so, and finally discusses ways that humanity could better orchestrate the inevitable development of a super intelligent technology that would not necessarily result in our total subservience to our new machine overlords or lead to a quick and utterly efficient snuffing out of humanity in toto. All of this, while sounding like a complete fantasy, is handled by Bostrom with a seriousness and rigor that forces it out of the realm of sci-fi and into a realization that this is exactly where technology is headed and we better hope that those who are pushing us toward better and better AI are taking heed. The stakes could not possibly be higher.


A Happily-Ever-After Story

In these times, it’s rare to find a story, whether written for kids or adults, that has an unabashedly “...and they lived happily-ever-after” ending to it. That’s not surprising since we live in a cynical period, where to show any interest in a tale soaked through with unrealistic happiness sometimes feels like an unpardonable sin. Well, I fear that I have committed just such a sin by falling in love with Cat & Dog, a picture book written and illustrated by Michael Foreman. And it feels great!

The story is very simple. Homeless mother cat finds a dry place under a highway bridge to curl up with her three kittens. Next morning, she sniffs out a fish delivery van and tells her youngsters that she will be back soon with breakfast. But the van drives off as soon as the cat jumps inside.

While mom is away on her accidental adventure, a scruffy old dog comes sniffing around and ends up befriending the feline brood. Before long they are all asleep in one cozy heap together. Mom returns with stories of the seaside; fish, fresh salt tinged air and of the very nice van driver who finds her in the back and returns her to her kittens.

At the end of the tale, all agree that they should move to the seaside which, thanks to the good graces of the fish van driver, they then do. The van driver also lets them all move into a shed he owns by the harbor, and together they watch the wonderful aquatic world that lays before them at the end of a pier.

This is a touching story with beautiful watercolor illustrations; (the kittens’ facial expressions are especially endearing). It is a heartwarming, gentle tale of new found friends and salvation, that should appeal to young children and all other human beings willing to temporarily suspend reality in the pursuit of joyful feelings.


Trigger Warning

In the introduction to this short story collection, Neil Gaiman wonders, “Are fictions a safe place?” and then, “Should they be safe places?” Certainly, many of his works explore dark and upsetting themes, and this collection is no different. However, there is also kindness inherent in these stories and some characters even have happy endings. I see this as a reflection of the real world, where there is always a mix of good and bad.  

As a storyteller, Gaiman’s mastery lies in his ability to create an immersive world, which then opens for the reader, encouraging them to follow along on an adventure within that world. His short stories deliver all of that depth and engagement in bite-sized pieces, and can be enjoyed in the little bits of free time life offers, or in one satisfying binge session on a lazy Saturday. This book also includes the background of how each story came to be, what inspired it, and perhaps Gaiman’s underlying purpose or intention. Some readers may prefer to imagine that great works are created by geniuses far removed from society, but I take comfort in the idea that even great authors are just people too.


Citizen: An American Lyric

Citizen: An American Lyric is a powerful meditation on race from author Claudia Rankine. It adorned many ‘best of’ lists in 2014 and was nominated for several literary awards. The slender book is an intense yet lyrical portrait of American racism in 2015 that explores both the veiled and unambiguous manifestations of this most insidious fact of life. Rankine possesses a spirited voice and expresses audacious candor in linking everyday racism with its corrosive impact upon the marginalized and powerless. Rankine’s book, characterized by a hybrid form that mixes prose, essay, memoir, and the occasional image investigates the relationship between race, invisibility and the notion of citizenship. April is National Poetry Month and for those who have not read this powerful, timely book, place it on your future reading list.