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Staff Picks: Books

Who Squeezed the Sasquatch?

Don't Squish the Sasquatch is my go to choice right now to read aloud with kids of all ages.  While boarding an empty bus, Señor Sasquatch lets the driver know that he hopes it doesn't get too crowded because he does not like to get squished.  But what else could happen when the bus goes on to pick up Miss Elephant Shark, Mr. Octo-Rhino, Miss Goat-Whale, and Miss Loch Ness Monster Space Alien?  The combination proves to be explosive.

How will they revive Señor Sasquatch?

Kent Redeker's silly story mixed with Bob Staake's goofy illustrations just beg for you to ham this one up.  Check this one out and start practicing your Sasquatch voice.  

I just found out that there is a sequel: Don't Splash the Sasquatch!  Don't get in my way as I run to get it or you might get squished.


For the Love of Bunnies and Books

Bunny's Book Club by Annie Silvestro is all about a Bunny's love of books! It all starts one day when he happens to hear a librarian reading outside to local kids. Bunny realizes right away that books could take him to faraway places where he can experience adventure and excitement!

When summer ends, story time moves inside the library, a place that Bunny didn't think he was allowed to enter. But one night his longing for books gets the better of him, and he decides to venture over to the library. But alas it is locked! What to do? Being an ingenious rabbit, he leaps at the bar of the book return, lands inside the slot and through it into the confines of the library itself. He gets very excited seeing all the books that are available. Bunny spends the night exploring the various sections of the building, picking up tomes of interest along the way. With a towering stack of books, he makes his way back to his burrow ready to read his newly found treasures. This behavior becomes a habit, and he returns night after night. Pretty soon he invites some of his animal buddies to join him in exploring the wonderful world of books. Somehow, all the animals are able to fit through the book return, even Bear but only after a good deal of squeezing and wriggling.

One particular evening, all the animals are so immersed in their book finds inside the library, that they don't notice or hear a librarian arriving to work early. Not knowing what to expect, Bunny and his friends are delighted that she points out that the library has strict rules and the first rule of business is that "every book lover must have one of these"- a library card. Each animal receives a shiny, new card allowing them to borrow books legitimately, as long as they are returned.

Back inside the confines of Bunny's home, they inaugurate Bunny's Book Club as proud founding members.

This is a truly whimsical story with lively and attractive illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, that is sure to please kids and even adults. It's very pro-library, pro-books, and pro-book club to boot. What's there not to like?

Although, I own a pet bunny named Patrick, adopted from the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary on St. Patrick's day six years ago, he is not much into books or reading. Being only four and one-half pounds, he makes up for his small stature with a very big assertive personality. He also happens to be very smart and as a result, he rules the roost in our house that he shares with three large male cats. Basically,whatever Patrick wants he eventually gets by manipulating both cats and humans who cohabit  in our house. In the past five or six months, nine year old Patrick or Patricio, as we sometimes fondly call him, has become quite cat-like in his behavior and tastes. He started to use the cats' litter box, sleeps in their cat beds, likes to sneak in a few cat kibbles for a snack and actively seeks out the cats for play time. He hasn't eaten Timothy Hay for years now and instead has trained his humans to purchase fresh greens for him three times a week. His favorites are cilantro,parsley, mint, and the super food for both humans and apparently bunnies- kale!

As my husband is fond of saying in referring to him, "What a guy!"

 

 

 

 


Piecing Me Together

Jade’s mother tells her to take every opportunity that becomes available to her, but she also knows the word opportunity is laced with coded messages. When the opportunity to join Woman to Woman is put in front of her, Jade is not interested. Until she finds out that completing the program means getting a scholarship to college. Paired up with a mentor that doesn’t seem to have her life together any better than Jade, wondering why her white friend can’t see that sometimes it IS about race, and wanting more out of this so-called opportunity, Jade begins to learn more about herself, her place in the world, and that if she wants to see change, she needs to speak up for herself and others.

This book was so amazing. From the very beginning I was hooked. Jade’s voice is clear and strong, and, as the story progresses, I love that her character development is subtle, yet major. Finishing it, I felt inspired. I have a feeling this book will be making its way into my personal collection very soon.


American Street

American Street follows the story of a Haitian teenage girl named Fabiola who planned on coming to stay with her aunt and cousins in Detroit, Michigan. Though Fabiola was born in the US, and is an American citizen, her mother is not, and she ends up getting detained at the JFK airport.  As a result, Fabiola is forced to start a brand new life on her own-- creating a new identity in an unfamiliar country, with family she doesn't know, all the while trying to find a way to be reunited with her mother.

It's always interesting to see your home through someone else's eyes, and this debut novel by Ibi Zoboi, a Haitian immigrant herself, provides a fresh and unique perspective on the American Dream, and the compromises one has to make along the way.  


News of the World

The Civil War is over. Army Captain Jefferson Kidd is traveling through Texas from one remote community to another reading the news to residents from newspapers around the country, telling them about distant countries, scientific experiments, an upcoming census, explorations. Along the way, he is asked to escort a 10-year old girl, captive for four years among the Kiowa, back to her aunt and uncle in southern Texas. She is the sole survivor from an Indian raid and has few memories.

In one sense, this is a western – the wild west, Indians, good guys and bad guys – but in the boarder sense it is a snapshot of a time and place, a sense of duty, and ultimately of love.

This slim volume was a National Book Award Finalist and on many “best of” lists for 2016. Reviewers have described is a “jewel”, “not to be missed”, “excellent in every respect”, “beautifully written”. I agree.


Lincoln in the Bardo

The outstanding short-story writer George Saunders seems to have expanded the boundaries of fiction and kinda the whole concept of a “ghost story” with his first novel Lincoln in the Bardo. Using the death of President Lincoln’s eleven-year-old son Willie and the story of Lincoln, in a state of deep mourning, visiting the boys tomb and physically holding the body as a jumping off point, the novel unfurls through a whole chorus of character’s each with a unique voice and each being….well…ghosts. The novel takes place in the bardo - a Tibetan word that refers to an intermediate space between life and death - and reads much like a play with characters coming and going at a dizzying pace, yet Saunders holds it all together with his considerable skill. Lincoln in the Bardo is heartbreaking, but unlike anything you are likely to read for some time. Check it out and read it now or wait for what sounds like a truly incredible audio version coming to the KPL collection soon.


Taking Candy From Baby Unicorns?

I really enjoyed reading Dragon Was Terrible by Kelly DiPucchio at the preschools that I visited this month.  How terrible is the dragon?  He stomps on flowers, pops birthday balloons, takes candy from baby unicorns, and spits on cupcakes.  Then just when you think he cannot get any worse, he burps in church.  

The King offers a reward to any knight that can tame the dragon.  Neither the knights nor other townspeople have any luck.  Who will tame the terrible dragon?  

Do you want to hear the rest of the story?  Check out this book.  You will be rewarded. 


Sandra Brown is still cranking them out!

 It has been many years since I have read any of Sandra Brown’s books. I mean decades. However, because I’m boycotting TV I picked a couple of her books up recently. Saying that I’m boycotting TV is really saying a lot. Normally I watch a lot of movies and Netflix but since January, I have been reading in my leisure time. The lighter the content the better. So, I’m catching up on Sandra Brown.

 

I started with reading Friction. It had a decent story line but more importantly I found it relaxing to read  rather than watching the news. Right now, I’m reading Sting. Sting caught my attention because the book jacket said the main male character is a hitman. He’s the hottie of the story, most of the time his character is the hero, but in Sting, so far he is looking like a criminal. I’m sure Sandra is going to throw a twist in there somewhere. If she is going to surprise me I haven’t figured out how yet. If not, I don’t think I can wrap my mind around rooting for a killer. I don’t care how much of a honey he is, I don’t want to see him romance the savvy businesswoman.

Anyway, Sandra Brown is one of the better-known romance writers and I’m sure she knows what she is doing. I hope so because I was planning to read Mean Streak next or maybe I’ll be ready for a good nonfiction.

Maybe the next 4 years won’t be so long after all! I just finished Sting and there are a couple of surprises. One I never expected but it was a zinger!


Chicago

Chicago is Brian Doyle’s most recent novel. It almost doesn't seem like a novel at all, but a series of poetic vignettes and character sketches. It very much reminds me of his essays, in which his joyful and generous spirit is clear through humorous, vivid, and sometimes fantastical observations about his family, sports, nature, and life in general. The narrator of Chicago is a recent college graduate who has just moved to the city for work, and the book mostly describes his encounters with the people who live in his apartment building and his own explorations of the city. Knowing Doyle’s writing, it’s pretty clear the narrator is based on the author, and his love for the city is obvious and believable.

I may not be entirely impartial because I grew up outside Chicago during the time of the novel (it takes place over a little more than a year in the late 70’s), so it was a nostalgic read. However, you don’t need to know the place to be charmed by the many colorful characters, especially Edward the dog.

Sadly, Doyle was diagnosed with a brain tumor last fall, and I fear he might not be writing anything new, but I encourage you to look up his body of work, which includes several novels and many collections of stories, essays, and poetry.


Passing

 It’s Black History Month! A time to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans, but also a great time to examine some of the social issues and complexities of race in America.  For all of the insistence upon inherent difference between races, it is actually just a social construct based on appearance with a few cultural differences thrown in for good measure. Or as Maya Angelou put it in her poem Human Family, “we are more alike, my friends/ than we are unalike.” 

In the 1920’s when Black Americans were treated poorly and granted way less opportunities for success, many fair-skinned Black Americans decided to cut ties with their family and friends to  try and live out the American Dream the best way they knew how—by pretending to be White. Americans were all too aware of this, and as a result, there were many films and novels focused on the subject of passing.

My absolute favorite novel from this time period is Passing by Nella Larsen. Published in 1929, during the Harlem Renaissance, the story follows two women, Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, childhood friends who meet later as adults. Irene is married, and living in Harlem right in the hub of the Black social circle, while Clare, a wealthy socialite who married a racist White man, is passing for White.

Passing explores themes of deception, jealousy, loyalty and betrayal. It’s a tale of fashionable frenemies, scandalous parties, and a crazy twist ending I’d love to talk to you about if you get a chance to read it. I love it to pieces and hope you will too.